Berlin is beautiful, hip and at the moment THE place to be. Besides having hundreds of articles about Berlin, from where to stay all the way to places to take photos, we never explored the world of tourist traps in Berlin and why they are sold as attractions.
We did write a long piece on why you should not visit Check Point Charlie, but this time we’ll talk about all things you must try to avoid for the perfect Berlin experience.
Before digging into the tourist traps, let’s start with your flights.
Edit 2021: Both airports we talk about here are closed, and now we have one main airport in Berlin, the BER. It is a bit further than Schönefeld (which is now one of the BER’s terminals!), but now there are more options to get there from the city. It continues to be Area C, so you must get the correct ticket to use the trains and the taxi will be a little more than a few years ago. We also have Uber, FreeNow and Bolt in the city, and Bolt and Freenow give you access to electric scooters in the city with the same login. But only FreeNow gives you 10 bucks for signing up with the link I just gave you, just to let you know.
One of the most common errors I see people making when planning their trip to Berlin is booking their flight. I know it is desirable to get that cheap ticket you saw but arriving at 6 am on a Monday in Schönefeld is unrealistic. Tegel, maybe you can try to book a taxi and make it to your flight, but it is still not ideal. The BVG, Berlin’s public transport company, says that the trains will start running around 4(ish) am. But I can guarantee that it is not the case on some days. Delays cancelled departures, and other factors must be taken into account.
A taxi will probably do the job for the Tegel Airport (TXL), which is inside the B area. But from Neukölln is a good 35-40 euros trip. Schönefeld is area C, which means that it is outside of Berlin’s perimeter. A taxi will be out of the table if you are going for the cheap side of life, and if you start in Prenzlauer Berg, it will be more than 1 hour until you get there.
Berlin is great but tricky. Keep reading because we’ll touch on some other key points here. If after this post you still have questions, join us on our Facebook Group. Loads of folks there can help you with their experience, besides the locals that can help you no matter where is your hotel or Airbnb.
Welcome card or Berlin Pass?
Fotostrasse is a great fan of a card like this. We tested and approved similar versions of cities like Amsterdam and Turku. Here in Berlin, we know you can find two options, the Welcome Card provided by the city of Berlin and Partners and the Berlin Pass, which we believe is a private company offering a similar product. The main difference between them two is the price and what is included. (I know, we’re so helpful, right?)
I want to point out that those two options are super worth it if your main thing is visiting museums and other attractions. They both can help you save precious Euros on entrance fees and transport. We also found a good review of the Berlin Pass and Welcome Card to help you decide.
And how about those boat rides along the spree?
A few companies are offering this sort of service here in Berlin; we tried some, and to be honest, we saw no difference between them. Just pay attention to the route and see if you would like more nature, more sightseeing and go either way. Some companies are even included on the passes I mentioned above so that you can add that to the list of pros.
I didn’t like about any of the companies was how hard it was to find information online. It is somewhat confusing, and the staff was not helpful. Their online presence is as old and the decoration inside the boats. At least was the case with Reederei Riedel and Stern Und Kreis, two of the main ones offering you boat tours.
Fotostrasse did the Landwehr Kanal route with Reederei Riedel and the Treptow-Köpenick with Sternfahrt. Both are good, both with overpriced beer and snacks, both with not so clean bathrooms. But if you’re choosing a boat to drink beer and go to pee, you’re clearly in the wrong place. Go to a bar for this. Both rides were super pretty, nobody got motion sick and if you speak German, informative.
Alexanderplatz and the TV Tower
We have a full review of the TV Tower’s brunch option, and, to be honest, it is the only thing that is not a complete rip-off.
Fotostrasse is a massive fan of panoramic views, and this is not a secret to anyone; just go and check our Instagram. Or even Felipe’s or private mine accounts! We’re always trying to show you how to see the city from above. But paying 16 euros to have the view from up there is a bit too much for what it is. A great alternative is to pay less than 5 and go to the top of the hotel across Alexanderplatz. You can have a great view and photograph Berlin with its iconic tower in the frame. Nothing beats that!
On our alternative guide for 24hrs in Berlin, we even show you a few other places you can go to have a panoramic view of Berlin. Some are also free of charge.
Biergartens and Oktoberfest
We think that if you ask anybody from Berlin about biergartens and Oktoberfest, the chances of getting a rude answer are high. Bavaria is Bavaria and Berlin is Berlin. People, we cannot stress this enough. What the world knows as “German” is actually from down south. Berlin is a whole different world.
But with that said, there are some great places for you to enjoy a beer in a German way in the Hauptstadt. We told you about Prater but during the summer, most of the German restaurant – and sometimes even non-German restaurants – will open their biergarten. But I must warn you that it is nothing like going for a Biergarten in Munich, ok?
On the tourist traps in Berlin list, I will also add breweries that use this marketing of “super German” to the list. They are fantastic to visit in Bavaria and just overpriced traps here in Berlin. Hofbräu, Augustiner, and others are some of the examples we want to point it out. Instead of going there and seeing the only tourist, why don’t visit a Berliner craft beer brewery? They are also very nice. Eschenbräu in Wedding is a personal favorite. But if your thing is to surround yourself with tourists and pay more then you should, try BRLO or Stone Brewery. They are full of expats, hipsters, startup people and tourists but at least they are honest about it. They know that they are for this side of Berlin and they don’t try to sell you a vibe that historically does not belong here.
And if you want to know about the Oktoberfest in Berlin, I suggest you to stop reading now since makes no sense. Yes, there is something like that happening here during September. Yes, it is one of the biggest tourist traps you can find.
Urban Exploration in Berlin is so amazing!
Yes, indeed it is. But the amount of tourist traps in Berlin’s urbex scene is out of this world. For example, the world-famous Teufelsberg. It is crap! 100% crap!
The same is for any place that sells you an idea of being abandoned but in reality, has an entrance fee and a line to get in. For f*cks sake, some even have a guided tour! People, this means that the place is not abandoned! OMG!
But yes, Berlin’s tourist traps know no bounders. What used to be cool and abandoned, now is a money machine. Beelitz Heilstätten, Teufelsberg, Spreepark and others… all crap. Don’t fall for it. And if you still want to visit, fine. But know that you’re not doing urban exploration, you’re not visiting anything abandoned. You are just contributing to the “Disneyfication” of it all. But your choice.
If you want to experience Urban Exploration in Berlin, visit Abandoned Berlin or even the tag we have here. It is way more authentic and fun. It is also a bit more dangerous and illegal so if you get caught or hurt, don’t blame us. We’re warning you here. But rules are made to be broken. And the tourist traps in Berlin’s urbex scene are for people who never leave the comfort zone.
I guess we covered everything that we haven’t covered before in our article on how to ruin your Berlin trip. But if you have a personal place or thing you think the world needs to hear, please tell us in the comments! We are always looking for personal experiences and stories.