By Vicky · Published Jan. 31st, 2024
This walking tour leads you from the modern architecture of Potsdamer Platz to art galleries, and museums documenting Berlin’s dark history.
This walk starts at the square called Potsdamer Platz. It’s a large transport hub with trains, metro and several buses all stopping nearby.
Potsdamer Platz & Around Walking Tour Map
Tips for Potsdamer Platz & Around Walking Tour
- The museums in the Kulturforum are closed on Mondays.
- Most museums on this tour open open at 10am, so don’t arrive too early.
- Check out other walks on our Germany Hiking Page.
Top Things to near Potsdamer Platz
On this self-guided walking tour you’ll see the main sites and attractions of Munich. Two days is the perfect amount of time to spend in Munich, though you could spend twice that time if you want to visit several of the large museums. Munich, with great train connections, also makes a good base for exploring the rest of Bavaria. This is a self-guided walking tour of Munich, if you prefer there’s a great guided walking tour*.
- Potsdamer Platz
- German Resistance Memorial Center
- Martin-Gropius-Bau Art Museum
- Topography of Terror
- Checkpoint Charlie
Potsdamer Platz & Around Walking Tour Route
This walking tour starts from Potsdamer Platz in central Berlin.
1. Potsdamer Platz
Potsdamer Platz is a bustling square known for its modern architecture, entertainment options, and historical significance. During the division of Berlin, Potsdamer Platz became a “no man’s land” and a desolate area due to its location at the border between East and West Berlin. Today there’s a short section of the Berlin Wall here and several information panels explaining the wall’s history in this area.
The Panoramapunkt Berlin, an observation deck and cafe, is just off Potsdamer Platz. It’s open from 10am to 6pm and there’s a great view at the top. It’s a little scary in the cafe, especially if you sit in the window seats!
German Spy Museum
Key Information: Open every day 10am-8pm. Tickets cost between €8 and €17 – the earlier you book, the cheaper they are! Book in advance as it can sell out – go early or late in the day and try to avoid weekends for a less busy experience.
The German Spy Museum is a fun and very popular interactive museum on Leipziger Platz – the large grassy square next to Potsdamer Platz. Everything is in English and it’s fun for both kids and adults. You can go on ‘quests’ and solve puzzles, as well as learn about espionage in Berlin and elsewhere.
Directions: If you’re interested in art museums, head to the Kulturforum by walking west (towards the tall buildings) along the main Potsdamer Strasse. However, if you aren’t going to visit the museums it can be a pretty empty area of Berlin to walk around, so you could skip this stop.
The Kulturforum is a collection of several museums including the Gemäldegalerie, Neue Nationalgalerie, Museum of Decorative Arts, a couple of temporary exhibits and a Musical Instrument Museum. You can either buy tickets to individual museums or buy a Kuturforum ticket which costs €20/10 for entry to all the museums. If you just visit one museum, I’d recommend the Gemäldegalerei (Art Gallery with Old Masterpieces). You can also enter St. Matthew’s Church for free, which has several artworks on display inside.
Key Information: Open Tue-Sun from 10-6pm. Tickets cost €12/6, with an audioguide included.
The Gemaldegalerei houses a premier collection of European paintings from the 13th to the 18th centuries. It’s a fairly classic gallery that includes works by Botticelli, Durer, Rembrandt, Vermeer and many more. It’s worth getting the free audioguide to focus on a few paintings, rather than wandering aimlessly around.
Key Information: Open Tue-Sun from 10-6pm, apart from late-night Thursdays when it’s open until 8pm and has free entry after 4pm. Tickets cost €14/7 for adults/reductions.
The Neue Nationalgalerie is a relatively small modern art museum. The most striking thing is the building itself, a modernist glass box designed by the renowned architect Mies van der Rohe and completed in 1968. The collections are all underground and of 20th-century European art. There are a few interesting pieces but it’s quite expensive – try to visit on Thursday evenings when it’s free or as part of the Kuturforum ticket. Even if you don’t go in, walk around the building and view the few outdoor sculptures.
Museum of Decorative Arts
Key Information: Open Tue-Sun from 10-6pm. Tickets cost €10/5.
The Museum of Decorative Arts, or Kunstgewerbemuseum, has a collection of decorative arts and applied arts from various historical periods, including furniture, ceramics, glassware, textiles and jewelry.
Directions: After you’ve looked at the museums, head down the street by the Gemäldegalerei and turn left at the end. The next stop is on your right.
3. German Resistance Memorial Center
Key Information: Open Mon-Fri 9am-6pm, Sat-Sun 10am-6pm. Free entry.
The German Resistance Memorial Center (Gedenkstätte Deutscher Widerstand) is a history museum that honours those who resisted the Nazi Regime and Hitler. This includes members of the German military who were involved in the failed assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler in 1944 and were then executed.
Directions: Leave the center and turn right to the river. Turn left along the riverbanks, past the glassy Neue Nationalgalerie, across the road and then turn left just before the pond. You’ll reach a modern and sometimes slightly empty area of tall buildings. Walk through here to return to Potsdamer Platz. Turn right here, then take the first main road on your left.
4. Martin-Gropius-Bau Art Museum
Key Information: Open 2-6pm, closed on Tuesdays. Ticket prices are variable depending on the exhibition.
The Martin-Gropius-Bau Art Museum is an exhibition hall that hosts a wide range of temporary exhibitions, including contemporary art, photography, architecture, and historical artifacts. The lovely building was constructed between 1877 and 1881 and was originally a museum of applied arts.
Directions: The following stop is just next door.
5. Topography of Terror
Key Information: Free entry. Indoor exhibits are open daily 10am-8pm, the outdoor area is officially closed when it’s dark. Audioguides are available.
The Topography of Terror Museum is a popular museum located at the former headquarters of the Nazi regime of terror, where the Gestapo and SS were based. It’s also next to the Berlin Wall, though the exhibits concentrate on the Nazis rather than the Cold War. There are three main parts to this site: 1) the indoor museum, 2) the outdoor exhibition trench, and 3) a walk around the grounds with information panels.
The indoor museum consists of informative panels, photographs, documents, and artifacts that chronicle the history of the Nazi security apparatus and its victims. The outdoor exhibition trench runs along the remains of the Berlin Wall. It’s not actually about the Wall or the Cold War, but about life in Berlin from 1933 until the end of the Second World War, and how the Nazis came to power.
Directions: Walk along the main road for another block, past the touristy big air balloon, and to the next road junction.
6. Checkpoint Charlie
Checkpoint Charlie was the renowned border crossing linking East and West Berlin within the Soviet and American sectors. It held significant political symbolism throughout the Cold War era, reflecting the heightened tensions between the opposing sides. Presently, a reconstructed checkpoint booth stands along with the iconic sign declaring “You are leaving the American Sector” in English, Russian, French, and German.
Apart from the checkpoint itself, there are several museums surrounding the old checkpoint:
Wall Museum – Checkpoint Charlie
Key Information: Open daily 10am-6pm. Tickets cost €17.50/9.50 per adult/child.
The Wall Museum – Checkpoint Charlie (or Mauermuseum – Museum Haus am Checkpoint Charlie) showcases the history of the Berlin Wall, escape attempts, and the broader context of the Cold War.
THE WALL – asisi Panorama
Key Information: Open daily 10am-6pm. Tickets cost €11/5 per adult/child.
THE WALL – asisi Panorama is an immersive museum revolving around a 360-degree panorama displaying a normal day in the life of Berlin citizens living near the Wall. There are also a couple of photo exhibits and films about the wall and daily life.
Cold War Black Box Checkpoint Charlie
Key Information: Open daily 10am-6pm. Tickets cost €5/3.50/free per adult/teenager/child.
The Cold War Black Box is a small, engaging museum that takes you through the chronological history of the wall. Explore the details of its construction, the significance of Checkpoint Charlie and the events surrounding it, the Cold Wall, and the eventual collapse of the Wall in 1989. The museum offers an array of interactive elements, including films to watch, firsthand accounts to listen to, various artifacts, a section of the wall, and more.
Directions: This is the end of the walking tour around Potsdamer Platz. There’s a U-Bahn and bus stops one block south of Checkpoint Charlie. There are four museums detailed below that are fairly close by. The Berlin Story Bunker and Jewish Museum are highly recommended.
Berlin Story Bunker
Key Information: Open every day 10am-7pm. Tickets cost €12/9 and include an audio guide.
The Berlin Story Bunker is a historical site and museum. The bunker itself is a massive concrete structure that served as an air-raid shelter during World War II. Today, the Berlin Story Bunker is a museum that focuses on Berlin’s history, especially the rise and fall of Hitler and the Nazis, and then from 1945 until the present.
Key Information: Open daily 10am-7pm. Free admission.
The Jewish Museum is a really interesting museum about 10 minutes walk south of Checkpoint Charlie. It has a small section on the Holocaust but most of it is about the history of Jewish people and their beliefs and customs. The museum is well laid out and well-explained, with interactive exhibits and lots of things to keep you engaged. The building itself is unusual and fun, with hardly any right angles. On the lowest floor, the corridors are inclined and you can easily get a bit confused and disoriented, which is the idea of the design.
Key Information: Open Tue-Fri 9am-5:30pm, Sat-Sun 10am-6pm. Tickets are €12/6.
The Deutsches Technikmuseum, or German Museum of Technology, covers a wide range of technological and scientific topics. Its collections include exhibits on transportation, communication, energy, manufacturing, and various other aspects of technology and industrial history. Notable highlights of the museum include a collection of historic aircraft, locomotives, and railway-related exhibits, and it’s housed partly in a former railway station called Anhalter Bahnhof.
Key Information: Open every day except Tuesday from 10am to 6pm. Tickets are €6/free for adults/children.
The Berlinische Galerie is dedicated to modern and contemporary art, with a focus on artists associated with Berlin. It includes paintings, sculptures, photography, multimedia installations, and more.
Guidebooks to explore more of Germany
For more walking tours and hikes in Germany, see our Germany hiking page.