What to do in Berlin on a Sunday

by Silke Elzner

Growing up in Germany, Sundays used to be my least favourite day of the week. Why? Because unless you were into watching the Pope on TV, going to church and endless walks in leafless forests, you would be bored to death.

You see, in Germany, Sundays are still considered “holy days” of some sort. This is best reflected in the Shop Closing Laws which regulate that shops mustn’t trade on Sundays. Bummer. This was one of my most favourite things to do in Australia, but now that I am back in Berlin I have to re-group and find new things to do. So the recurring question at our house is, what to do in Berlin on Sunday when the shops are closed?

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Luckily for me, I moved to Berlin and not to some small city in Germany. Because even thought most shops will be closed in Berlin on a Sunday, there are still plenty of cool things to do. Having lived through my first couple of Berlin Sundays already, I have come up with this great list of ideas which I am sure will inspire you to make the most out of your Sunday in the city.

Flea markets are always great fun in Berlin. The best place to find quirky, unexpected and unusual items to take home.

Visit a Market

Markets are a popular past-time for Berliners, and they come in all shapes and sizes. Not all of them are open on Sundays, but some of them are, and they are among the most popular ones. Try trendy Mauerpark for souvenirs, local design and flea market stuff. Check out also the flea market at Boxhagener Platz in Friedrichshain. Or head to the Art Market in Tiergarten (unless there is another event on). Visiting in December? Add a number of Christmas markets to the mix!

Have Brunch

Brunch is a big thing too in Berlin. It is perfect for those who like to sleep in and then spend all day with friends eating and drinking. It’s a great opportunity to try out new dishes and the perfect excuse to start drinking early. Brunch restaurants pop up all over the city at the moment, but have a look at the following: Zeit für Brot (Alte Schönhauser Allee 4) for great baked goods and authentic German bread, House of Small Wonder (Johannisstr. 20) for a tasty Japanese style brunch, 1900 Cafe Bistro (Knesebeckstr. 76) for good coffee and a cosy atmosphere, or Pasternak (Knaackstr. 22-24) for an all-you-can-eat brunch buffet. Make sure you don’t show up too late though, as brunch restaurants tend to fill up quickly.

Go for a Walk

If the weather is nice then Sundays are the perfect time to go for a walk. In Berlin, you have so much choice it really is hard to tell you where to begin. My personal favourites, however, include Grunewald, Schlosspark Charlottenburg, Volkspark Friedrichshain, Tiergarten and Treptower Park. It is also fun to just explore the historic centre if you haven’t been there for a while and marvel at the old buildings and historic structures.

Watch a Movie

A rainy Sunday is perfect for going to the movies, at least in my humble opinion. You can either check out one of the latest German films (which tend to get better each year and don’t necessarily have to deal with WWII or the German separation). Or you just opt for a OV English language movie. You can find find original versions at Cinestar Potsdamer Platz (use the filter to find the OV versions). It’s best to make reservations online in advance to avoid the box office queue.

German TV set
At the DDR Museum, visitors can experience private and public life in the former East German state.

Visit a Museum

Unlike shops, museums and tourist attractions are open on Sundays in Berlin. This leaves you with plenty of options if the weather is less favourable and you prefer to stay indoors. Kids will love the Natural History Museum or the German Technic Museum, but there are also the wonderful collections on Museum Island and the modern art galleries like Hamburger Bahnhof. For a bit of a twist, try one of the lesser known museum like the Computer Games Museum, the German Spy Museum, the Ramones Museum or the DDR Museum (read my review here).

Get Active

You don’t need to join a gym to get active in Berlin. There are plenty of parks that are great for jogging. You can make use of the bike rentals to explore the city by bike. And in summer there are lakes to swim in for free. You can play beach volleyball at Volkspark Friedrichshain (provided you join an existing team or organise a ball and net), rent a kayak on the River Spree near Oberbaumbrücke, or climb ropes and ladders at BergWerk or MountMitte.

Meet (new) Friends

You don’t know anyone in Berlin yet? Check out the free Meetup website for local events, meet-ups and networking opportunities within the very international Berlin community.

Go to the Zoo

When was the last time you went to the zoo? It is one of these places you never think of going to (unless you deal with children) and then when you are finally there you are amazed at how much you actually enjoy it. There are two zoos in Berlin. Berlin Zoo is quite busy and touristy and the one that gets all the attention. Tierpark in the city’s east is beautiful too and has a small rococo castle.

Even in winter, a Sunday trip to Potsdam can be highly rewarding.

Visit Potsdam

Potsdam on the outskirts of Berlin is a great day trip destination if you are staying in Berlin. It is less than half an hour away on public transport and cheap to visit. You may have heard of the beautiful palaces in Potsdam such as Sanssouci and the New Palace, but even if you are not keen to see these, there is still so much more to explore. Explore the many parks, stroll the quaint old town or check out the cool Film Museum.

Have Kaffee und Kuchen

One of my fondest childhood memories is having Kaffee und Kuchen (literally, coffee and cake) on a Sunday afternoon. Forget Vienna, Berlin can give you this too. There are a couple of marvellous cafes in the city that are open on Sundays, may favourite being Franz Karl Kuchenkultur (Bötzowstr. 15).

Indulge in Some Ice-Cream

Berlin has some of the best ice-cream in the world. There, I said it, and now it must be true. Be it as it may, Berliners love to indulge on ice-cream, and there are a couple of great ice-cream shops around town that are perfect for a Sunday outing. I love, for example, the quirky ice-cream creations at Caffe a Gelato (Potsdamer Platz Arkaden), EisPiraten (Grünberger Str. 85), Chipi Chipi Bombón (Warschauer Str. 12) and Rosa Canina (Pasteuriser. 32). Try daring flavour combinations such as lime-chilli-coriander, pineapple-parsley or raspberry-cardamon.

Schwarzenberg Haus
Schwarzenberg Haus and the adjoining courtyard are among the street art hotspots in Berlin.

Check out new Street Art

The beautiful thing about street art is that it constantly re-invents itself. It’s like a free open-air art gallery that keeps on changing. So it is always fun to check out common corners of the city where you would expect to find street art. Berlin is an amazing city when it comes to urban art, it pretty much is part of the fabric. A good place to look at street art in Berlin is the courtyard at Haus Schwarzenberg (Hackescher Markt, Mitte) or the RAW area in Friedrichshain.

Go on a Cruise

In Paris, river cruises are part of what most people would want to do when in the city. But in Berlin, things a little bit more obscure although a river cruise is definitely a fun experience. I strongly recommend you book yourself on a full boat tour of the city. The three to four hour trip will take you down Landwehrkanal and up again on the Spree, taking you past sights like Oberbaumbrücke, the zoo and the Reichstag and government quarter. Have a look here.

Have a Beer

Germans love their beer. It’s omnipresent and part of the German culture. So don’t frown upon a German who likes to spend a sunny Sunday afternoon in a beer garden with a glass of Pilsener in hand. Join him instead! If the weather is nice, most restaurants and cafes will have chairs and tables available on the sidewalk. For more of a beer garden atmosphere in summer, check out Prater in Prenzlauer Berg or Strandbar Mitte.

Go Swimming

I touched on this before: Berlin has some great lakes for swimming. Some of them are free to use, others will attract a small fee to use the beach and the facilities. If you are not visiting in summer but fancy a swim, there are a number of indoor swimming pools to choose from, some of them with the added bonus of a sauna or wellness area. A brand-new indoor fun pool can be found in Potsdam. Beware that that in Germany you don’t wear clothes in saunas!

Explore a new Kiez

Berlin is a big city and even if you have lived here for a while, there is still so much more to explore. I really love walking the city’s streets, browsing the shop windows, watching the people, listening to street musicians, trying new foods in new restaurants. When you avoid the inner city parts you get to see some really beautiful things that are mostly local and not touristy, such as in Kreuzberg, Friedrichshain or Prenzlauer Berg. We call these inner city suburbs “kiez”. Some of them are prettier than others but I love the flair of Bergmannkiez, Kollwitzkiez and the area around Boxhagener Platz.

Near the Island of Youths you could hire canoes, pedalos as well as these tent-like wooden floats.
Near the Island of Youth you could hire canoes, pedalos as well as these tent-like wooden floats.

Rent a float

If you are in Berlin during the warmer months, consider renting a float at Floss und los. You can get them at Treptower Park, and they are great fun! They can be as small as an Indian tipi or as big as a houseboat. If required, you can have a BBQ fitted as well. You can even sleep on them!

Go Shopping

I know, this last one may come as a surprise because I just told you that on Sundays shops will be closed in Berlin. However, this does not apply to all shops and supermarkets. There are exceptions. In particular at larger railway stations like Bahnhof Zoo you may find that shops are open all year round. See here for a map.

On certain Sundays, there are city-wide exceptions that allow shops to open on Sundays, mostly the bigger chains and those that are located in a shopping mall. This happens more often in December as we approach Christmas. You can check the upcoming dates here.

Lastly, Spätis are the 7-Elevens of Berlin, and they may be open on Sundays too. Some petrol stations stock groceries and alcohol too.

The best Sunday Ideas for Berlin

I am sure this list of things to do in Berlin on a Sunday will help you overcome the weekend blues. The city has so much to offer, even on a Sunday, that there is really no excuse to just spend the day binge-watching Netflix shows. If you have another suggestion to add, please feel free to send me a message!

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