I’m a big fan of walking tours. They’re really worth considering if you’re wondering how to fit everything into your itinerary. And most of the time, they’re “free,” or donation/tip based.
First of all, they’re simple, and usually cheap (or “free”). Second of all, you meet others from around the world who are also new to the city. Most of all, however, it’s a relatively quick way to see the “main pulls” of a city (the average tour lasting about two hours). This is a huge advantage if you have limited time in a city or just want to make sure you see “the stuff you ‘have’ to see.”
The last part was definitely true with Berlin.
I had about a week in Berlin, so it’s not like I was necessarily short on time. However, I was having the best time just working and hanging out in Friedrichshain, and didn’t necessarily want to spend too much time doing the touristy things. I took the tour my friend I was staying with recommended, one by Original Tours.
We met at Brandenburg Gate, an iconic landmark in Berlin, and coincidentally was where 95% of the city’s walking tours meet, so I had to pay close attention to make sure I was with the right group.
Indeed, we hit all of the major tourist attractions that I had wanted to at least say that I saw:
- Paris Square
- Hitler’s bunker/parking lot
- Holocaust Memorial
- Checkpoint Charlie
- Berlin Wall remnants
- TV Tower
- Former Nazi government building
- Concert hall/Gendarmenmarkt
Not surprisingly, most of the tour was very WWII-centric. It was great to hear the history as we walked along. The Holocaust Memorial was perhaps the most intriguing and engaging one, given the story, the art, the pivotal location (just shy of Hitler’s bunker, amongst other places).
Walking tours are also great for pointing out that some places are definitely not worth more time to see after the tour. Like Checkpoint Charlie. Nothing of the checkpoint is original, and all it is is a couple of actors posing for photos with tourists in a congested, high-traffic area.
Some neoclassical architecture greeted us as we ended the tour at Gendarmenmarkt, where the concert hall is. I had learned so much in the two hour walk and was satisfied that I had filled my “tourist” quota, and could comfortably go back to my portable office without feeling any guilt that I hadn’t seen the wall, or even just Brandenburg gate.
Although walking tours can seem like they’re a dime a dozen in major cities worldwide, you can more or less pick any which one and be sure to have a great experience. After all, the guides are there to make sure you have a good time and learn the most important facts about the various spots. It’s almost always worth its fee or donation!