Mitte (“middle” in German) covers indeed the center of Berlin, the geographic center, including parts of former East and West. Since 2001 Mitte is officially including 2 others districts: Tiergarten and Wedding. But from a visitor perspective, this doesn’t really make sense: Tiergarten itself, the central park of Berlin can be part of your visit in Mitte but certainly not Wedding, a growing area which deserves its own tour.
So Mitte will be probably your main stop if you visit Berlin for the first time because yes, that’s how we do it. If it’s not the first time, there’s still many exclusive spots in this area, great bars and restaurants which worth a visit and still a good opportunity for shopping.
But even if we would cut the area in half one day would not be enough to do everything. It all depends what you’re up to: museums, historical visits, shopping or parties… We’ll try here to propose some thematic day visits in Mitte.
Nature & Art, the Perfect Mix in Mitte
One good option to visit Mitte whatever is the weather. It’s a mix between indoor and outdoor that you can balance as you wish depending on how blue or grey is the sky. You can start in any case by 1 of those 2 excellent museums, one about nature, one about contemporary art… but some would say it’s the same isn’t it?
Museum für Naturkunde: No need to have a biology PHD to enjoy a visit among dead stuffed animals. You can just be amazed by the true miracle of life as an intellectual hobbies. Plus, Tristan the Tyrannosaurus Rex just joined the collection and will give chills to the big kids we all remained.
Hamburger Bahnhof: An excellent location for modern and contemporary art (after 1960) located in this former train station. Big volumes and bright lights for impressive installations but also a huge part dedicated to art video and photography. The permanent exhibit have some outstanding pieces from Andy Warhol, Joseph Beuys, Cy Twombly, Gerhard Richter but also Bill Viola, John Cage and many more. The temporary exhibitions always keep an excellent level. The restaurant attached to the museum, Sarah Wiener is one of the top Berlin adresses.
If the weather is bad, keep visiting the 2 museums. If the weather is good, then choose and visit one them before heading up to the Tiergarten for a bit of green dives.
As you probably noticed, Tiergarten is actually massive (210 ha) so we recommend you to walk around the east part of the Strasse des 17 Juni. When you’re tired of it you can keep on with a sip of political visits with the Brandenburg Gate or the Reichstag (book in advance if you want to visit).
Historical Must-see in Mitte
Once again, practically everything is «historical» in Mitte, even empty spaces so this little guide doesn’t plan to be exhaustive but more efficient in the way that you have very few chances to be disappointed with the places described here.
So you can here start at the famous Potsdamer Platz, “the City” of Berlin whose architectural project provoked tons of debates when the time came to built something instead of this giant space where the Wall used to stand. You may like it or not, it’s still a very special side of Berlin you won’t see everywhere.
Walk north along the Tiergarten, in the Erberstrasse until you reach the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. It’s not an easy thing to judge or review a memorial and we can’t consider those as touristic monuments but this one, created by Peter Heisenman and Buro Happold is truly powerful. Keep further to the Brandenburg gate and walk down Unter den Linden, along embassies, luxury hotels, theaters and universities. Should you stop or not by CheckPoint Charlie is entirely up to you, but the majestic Gendarmenmarkt is worth a visit.
After that, you can go for one of the historical museums on the Insel Museum or head up to Alexander Platz. If you choose the museums and if it’s summer, you deserve a special treat: leave the Island by the back on the Monbijoubrücke and stop at the Strand bar for a nice drink and a fantastic view on the Spree. There’s even dancing evening sometimes.
Shopping, Galeries and Bars in Mitte
Because it’s a wide area, because it’s the district the most marked by history, because it has known so many profound changes, Mitte has many faces. As the geographical center of Berlin it has been the iconic meeting point of all the German youth from both sides. Over the 90’s, Mitte has been the center of Berlin night life, with mythical techno clubs such as Cookies (closed in 2014), the Bunker (closed in 1996) and the Tresor in Leipziger Strasse (closed in 2005).
Time has changed of course but there’s still many things to do in Mitte and it remains a big spot for sophisticated bars and restaurants, an interesting mix of traditional German taste, new hot chefs or posh bars. There’s also a strong concentration of shops and malls and because here the gentrification process is at its end, you’ll find mainly mainstream high street brands and among the most evils of them on an ethical level. On that perspective you’ll avoid the easthern part of the Alexander Platz, with the horrible mall Alexa or the overrate Galeria Kaufhof and will go beyond those.
Turn left in the Dirckenstrasse up to Hackescher Markt and visit all the streets between Dirckenstrasse and Torstrasse. You can find there different kind of stuff: high street brands from abroad (Urban Outfitters, Monki, Filipa Ka), High end german labels (Lala Berlin, Kaviar Gauche or Herr von Eden ) or exclusive 2nd hand shops such as Mankii or Garments).
If you have some energy left after so much shopping, you can visit a bunch of contemporary art galleries around the Augustrasse the Linienstrasse and around (find more at: “The Best 15 Art Galleries in Berlin“, most of them are in Mitte) and finally have a well deserved drink and swing dance at Clärchen Ballhaus.