This is the centre of Berlin, where the original city grew on the banks of the River Spree and where visitors flock to explore the historic and cultural landmarks. In Mitte, you’ll find many of the German capital’s best museums and other cultural highlights, from world-class opera and theatre to excellent art galleries, cosy cafés and welcoming neighbourhood bars. It would be impossible to pack everything that Berlin offers into a guide like this, but here are some favourites to help you make the best of your time in Berlin-Mitte.
The ultimate guide to the first and most central borough in the German capital
How to get there and around
If you’re flying into either of Berlin’s two main airports, you’ll find easy connections on public transport going into the city and the neighbourhood of Mitte. From Tegel, the TXL bus links the airport with Alexanderplatz and other destinations in the district. And from Schönefeld Airport, the regional trains and S-Bahn will whisk you quickly into the city, calling at Alexanderplatz and Friedrichstraße stations, where you can get the U-Bahn, bus or tram to complete your journey.
Although Berlin is Germany’s largest city, Mitte is relatively compact and public transport makes it easy to get around. You could also explore by foot as most of the main landmarks and attractions are within walking distance of each other. For bike rental, check out Fat Tire Bike Tours beneath the TV Tower, close to Alexanderplatz.
Where to stay
If you want to make Mitte your Berlin-break base, you’ll be spoiled for choice – the historic city centre is loaded with excellent hostels, apartments and hotels, including two of the city’s finest five-star establishments. The Hotel de Rome is in the old headquarters of a Berlin bank, just behind the State Opera and a short walk from Museum Island, and many of the decadent hotel’s features speak of the building’s history, including a swimming pool in the old vault. Overlooking the Brandenburg Gate, the Hotel Adlon Kempinski is arguably Berlin’s best address, with upmarket restaurants and bars and a luxurious spa for a spot of pre-opera pampering.
The luxury five-star Hotel de Rome boasts gourmet cuisine and a state-of-the-art spa
Mitte also has some great three- and four-star design hotels. Check out the friendly and hip Casa Camper Hotel and the stylish Hotel AMANO, with rooftop bar and spectacular views. Increasingly popular in Mitte are the apartment houses offering designer style and comfort, hotel services and also the chance to live like a local. If that appeals to you, Lux 11 on Rosa-Luxemburg-Straße and Gorki Apartments, close to Rosenthaler Platz, are both great options. If you’re on a budget, you’ll be delighted to learn that Mitte has some of Berlin’s best hostels. Stay at Circus Hostel where you can either go for a traditional dorm bed or splash out on a private single or double room. There are even studio apartments with their own top-floor terrace.
What to see and do
Many of Berlin’s iconic landmarks are in Mitte, and the two highlights – the TV Tower and the Brandenburg Gate – are at either end of Unter den Linden. A walk from one to the other will take you past both the Komische and State Opera houses, the German History Museum, the Berliner Dom cathedral and the five world-class museums that make up the Unesco-listed Museum Island. Pay a visit to the collection of antiquities at the Pergamon Museum and see the old masters on show at the Old National Gallery if you’re short on time.
But if you can indulge your cultural side, you’re perfectly placed in Mitte. The Natural History Museum, close to the main train station, is extremely popular with kids of all ages. The German Currywurst Museum is an unusual dedication, as the name suggests, to one of Berlin’s culinary contributions to the world. If art is your thing, take a walk along Auguststraße, stopping off at its galleries and exhibition spaces, including the excellent KW Institute for Contemporary Art.
During your time in Mitte, find time to explore Gendarmenmarkt square with its two cathedrals and the beautiful golden dome of the New Synagogue on Oranienburger Straße. A sobering must is the Memorial for the Murdered Jews of Europe, a sombre and powerful installation occupying a whole city block across the street from the Tiergarten park, between the Brandenburg Gate and the towers of Potsdamer Platz.
After WWII, Mitte was part of East Berlin. Learn about the division of the city at the DDR Museum on the embankment of the River Spree, at the Berlin Wall Memorial and Documentation Centre on Bernauer Straße. And at the Tränenpalast exhibition, hear the story of everyday life at the border at Friedrichstraße station and legendary Checkpoint Charlie, where Mitte meets Kreuzberg.
If you’re in town for a spot of retail therapy, Mitte has some of the best shopping in the city. Friedrichstraße has the big names in fashion and the high-end Galeries Lafayette shopping mall. Alexanderplatz is the place to go for high-street brands and familiar names, while the streets between Hackescher Markt and Rosa-Luxemburg-Straße are ideal for pottering around small boutiques and flagship stores of contemporary international and Berlin-based designers.
A trip to Berlin isn’t complete without a visit to the historic Berlin Wall Memorial
Where to eat and drink
Breakfast is serious business in Berlin, and Mitte is no exception. Kick start your day with classic Berlin plates of cold cuts, cheese and hot dishes at Zimt und Zucker, a traditional Berlin coffee house on the banks of the river close to Friedrichstraße station, or try the excellent coffee and cooked breakfasts at Commonground on Rosenthaler Platz.
For lunch, head to the triangle between Hackescher Markt, Rosenthaler Platz and Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz, where you’ll find classic Berlin cafés to grab a bite to eat in. Local favourites include Gorki Park, one of East Berlin’s oldest cafés, with a menu of Russian specialties on Weinbergsweg, and Oliv Café on Münzstraße. Or you could head to the S-Bahn arches behind Humboldt University – join the students queuing for Deponie’s menu of no-nonsense German dishes.
For traditional Berlin cuisine in the evening, head to the historic Nikolai Quarter near Alexanderplatz and find Zum Nussbaum, reputedly Berlin’s oldest pub. Keep wandering, and you’ll find other traditional German restaurants in the streets nearby, including Georgbäu brewpub on the banks of the river. For burgers, get to Tommi’s Burger Joint on Invalidenstraße, or for Vietnamese try the ever-popular Monsieur Vuong.
If you’re on the hunt for an extra-special meal, book a table at Michelin-starred Weinbar Rutz a stylish and elegant restaurant on Chausseestraße, with an upstairs restaurant and more relaxed wine bar on the ground floor.