Yesterday’s post on Berlin main train station layovers described a lovely picnic location in a nearby park. If you can’t forgo sightseeing for two hours, however, there are two options within short distance of the station:
- Chancellory / Reichstag / Brandenburg Gate / Holocaust Monument
Check your luggage at the train station and head out from the Washingtonplatz entrance. You should already see the Chancellory waiting across the Spree. Cross the bridge over the river and head towards it. You’ll pass between the Chancellory and the Paul Löbe Haus (Bundestag offices) — from here, looking both left and right, you can see the architect’s intentional symbolism of transparency in government.
Around the corner, the Reichstag comes into view. In winter, or between 6 and 10 p.m. year-round, you may have a good chance of ascending to the top in 30 minutes or less — expect to spend at least 30 minutes inside the dome as well. At other times and on weekends, waits alone may exceed 2 hours. If you must get to the top on a limited schedule, the only other way in is to make (and keep!) reservations at Käfer, the restaurant atop the building. You can find an online reservation request form here. It offers spectacular views and reasonable value for the price — try to hit lunch (soups ~ 9 euros, salads ~ 14 euros) or Kaffee und Kuchen (coffee and cake ~ 7 euros) time instead of the pricier dinner hour.
With half a day, you could request a guided tour of the building, which all end at the viewing dome. It is best to send your requests in advance, but it is possible to pop over even at the last minute at the scheduled tour times to see if space is available (enjoy the sights, but don’t expect English explanations in such a case, however). Amazingly, all visits to and tours of the Reichstag are FREE!
From the rear of the building, follow the masses across the street and down the block to the Brandenburg Gate. If you have extra time, the Holocaust Memorial is just a bit further up the street. If instead you find yourself short on time, hop on the M85 bus (ask for the cheaper “Kurzstrecke” ticket) from either the Memorial or the Reichstag which will take you right back to the main train station.
Exiting the main station on Europaplatz, head towards the right, walking along Lehrter Str.; the museum is located about a 7-minute walk from the station, on the opposite side of the street. Closed Mondays; open Tuesday-Friday 10-18; Saturday 11-20; Sunday 11-18. Admission price: 8 euros for adults, 4 euros for students with valid ID. Admission free Thursdays after 2 p.m.
If this all still seems confusing, why don’t you try following my Google map?