Expats share what it’s like to visit Berlin during the coronavirus pandemic and tips for traveling in Berlin and Germany during COVID.
With some countries relaxing travel restrictions and slowly opening borders across Europe. We thought it would be useful to share what it’s like to visit Berlin during the coronavirus pandemic.
Berlin and Germany is considered to be one of the lower risk countries to travel to during COVID, but please bear in mind that low risk doesn’t mean no risk.
We’ve personally decided to minimise travelling where possible and have opted for day trips instead. But we hope that those who need to travel for work or personal reasons will find this first hand account useful.
Note: For quarantine rules or for an updated list of border restrictions for international travel from Germany, please check the Robert Koch Institute for additional resources.
Berlin Public Transportation During COVID
It’s easy to forget that we’re still in the midst of a global pandemic when you’re traveling in and around Berlin during COVID. That’s because you’re not required to wear masks when you’re outdoors walking in the streets or taking a stroll at a park.
You’re only reminded of the ‘new normal’ when you need to enter enclosed spaces like taking public transportation, going into shops or attending large public gatherings.
If you’re planning to take public transportation in Berlin (or in the rest of Germany), wearing a mask that covers both your mouth and nose are now mandatory.
This wasn’t the case a month or so ago in Berlin, but now it has become compulsory. The public transportation controllers can now fine you for not wearing a mask and ask you to leave the train or bus.
There are no restrictions to the number of people that are allowed on trains or buses in Berlin. But on the few occasions that we had taken public transportation, it was never crowded.
We’re guessing that’s because more people are working from home. Plus more people are getting around Berlin by bike during the warmer spring and summer months.
To encourage more people to cycle, the city council has actually expanded bike lanes across the city to make Berlin even more bike friendly during COVID, which is awesome!
So if you’re planning to visit Berlin during the coronavirus pandemic, you can do it more responsibly (and sustainably) by renting a bike to get around the city. As a tourist or traveller, you can easily rent a bike for cheap in Berlin with bike sharing.
Never used bike sharing before? Don’t worry. Read our Berlin Bike Sharing guide to find out which bike share will be the best option for you in our cost comparison guide.
Travel Tip: Always have masks and hand sanitiser on you if you’re planning to visit Berlin during the coronavirus pandemic.
Eating Out At Restaurants in Berlin
Restaurants could only do take-outs or deliveries a few months ago. But now you can sit and eat in restaurants when you’re visiting Berlin during coronavirus times.
Most restaurants have tried to adapt their seating arrangements so that people can sit further apart and outside where possible. But we have seen a few restaurants that don’t abide to social distancing rules.
If you’re traveling to Berlin during COVID, we’d recommend eating out at restaurants that have enough space between tables for you to stay at a safe distance away from other guests.
Another tip is to reserve and book a table online. Most restaurants are not operating at full capacity so that they can allow sufficient distance between guests. This means that you might have to queue if you haven’t reserved a table.
In Berlin, sit-in guests at restaurants, bars and pubs ask visitors to fill out contact forms on arrival. This is to allow authorities to track infections and contact guests if there’s a chance that they were exposed.
Travel Tip: If you’re travelling to Germany during COVID, download the Corona-Warn App to help the government track infections. It will also let you know whether you’ve come in contact with any infected individuals.
Shopping in Berlin During Coronavirus
For those that love a bit of retail therapy. You’ll be happy to know that all the malls in Berlin are now open and trading.
Only essential shops like supermarkets, grocery stores and pharmacies were open during strict lockdown. But now with the easing of restriction measures, non-essential stores like clothing, electronics and cosmetics are trading too.
You’ll have to wear masks when entering any shops or malls in Berlin, of course. Another thing to be wary of, is the maximum number of people who may enter the store at a time.
Usually shops (especially the smaller stores in the malls of Berlin), will have a sign or notice on their storefront, indicating the maximum number of guests that are allowed in the store at any one time.
This sign is usually written in German. But you can easily decipher the notice by looking for the words ‘max (number) personnen’. This number is calculated depending on how large the store is and is there to ensure that guests can social distance whilst shopping.
Travel Tip: Do your shopping during the week if possible. Weekends tend to be a lot busier and you may find that you’ll need to queue to get into certain shops.
Flea Markets in Berlin
Flea markets are very popular in Berlin, especially during the warmer spring and summer months.
All the flea markets in Berlin are open again. Most of them are outdoors, but some require guests to wear masks, whilst others not.
Our tip? Wear masks when you visit flea markets in Berlin during the coronavirus pandemic. Especially when they are busy and it’s impossible to stand at least 1.5 meters apart.
Visiting Bars and Pubs in Berlin During COVID
Bars and pubs in Berlin are open again since the coronavirus pandemic started. The only difference is that they are only allowed to operate until 10PM. This rule applies to bars, pubs and restaurants too.
Similar to restaurants, you’ll be asked to fill out a contact form when visiting bars or pubs in Berlin during COVID.
Most bars and pubs have resorted to outdoor seating where possible. The ones that don’t, allow guests to enjoy their drinks on the sidewalk outside.
If you did not know, drinking in public is allowed in Berlin. It’s actually a popular summer pastime to enjoy a couple of beers outside at a park or next to the river.
You can enjoy yourself as long as you’re not a nuisance or make too much noise. And please, be a kind and considerate human and take your litter with you.
Berlin Night Clubs, Events and Festivals During Coronavirus
Most people travel to Berlin for its world renowned nightlife and clubs. But unfortunately, all large public gatherings for events, festivals and night clubs remain prohibited during the coronavirus pandemic.
Yup, it’s sad we know but it’s ultimately necessary. And hopefully by reducing the infection rate, we can all go back to hugging, celebrating and socialising without worrying about COVID.
There’s still plenty to do besides its nightlife if you choose to visit Berlin during the coronavirus pandemic. Many travellers don’t realise this, but Berlin is considered to be one of the greenest cities in Europe.
Between green spaces and water, almost half of Berlin is enveloped by Mother Nature. There are 3 rivers, 8 canals and more than 50 lakes in Berlin alone. So there’s no shortage of beautiful outdoor places to enjoy the long summer days in Germany’s capital city.
Need help to decide which outdoor places to visit? Check out our Best Outdoor Places To Visit in Berlin Guide.
Berlin Museums During COVID
Museum lovers will be happy to know that all the museums in Berlin (including the famous ones on Berlin’s Museum Island) are open!
If you plan to visit a Berlin museum during coronavirus times, you’ll need to reserve a time and date before your visit. The same applies if you’re visiting museums with free entrances as well.
Wearing masks are mandatory and hand sanitisers are widely available so that you can safely enjoy your museum visit.
Love museums but don’t want to risk visiting during the global pandemic? Why not ‘FaceTime’ your favourite museums from the comfort of your home on a free museum virtual tour? Berlin’s famous Pergamon Museum is included in this free list!
Head to our 60 Free Virtual Tours Guide to find more tours to travel around the world from home.
Berlin Tours During Coronavirus Pandemic
Popular Berlin Tours are in operation again. But it’s a lot quieter and less busy if you compare it to the summers before the pandemic. That’s great news for avoiding the tourist crowds. Especially since it’s more of a necessity rather than a ‘nice to have’.
The iconic sightseeing buses are up and running in Berlin. The few that we did see were only 20% full with most people sitting on the top open deck with no masks on.
Boat tours and cruises are also operating. Like sightseeing buses, there are fewer boat tours cruising along the city’s canals. The few that we did see were surprisingly full and we didn’t see people wearing masks either.
Travel Tip: Berlin may be one of the lower risk countries to travel to during COVID, but that doesn’t mean there are no risks. Avoid tours where social distancing is not possible. If you join a walking tour, make sure to go with an operator that follows social distancing rules. And if you prefer to go the extra safe route, follow our self guided Berlin tour by bike – it’s social distance approved!
Save Me For Later
We retraced the route we designed for our self guided Berlin Wall Tour to show what it’s like to visit Berlin during the coronavirus pandemic. We deliberately picked a sunny Sunday to tour the city by bike.
Berlin is usually teeming with tourists in summer, especially on weekends. Shops may be closed on Sundays, but restaurants, cafes and tourist attractions are open.
These are the scenes of what it’s like to travel to Berlin during COVID.
East Side Gallery
East Side Gallery is the most famous tourist attraction in Berlin. Whether you’re visiting this iconic monument during winter or summer, it’s usually always packed with tourists.
But not now if you’re travelling to Berlin during the coronavirus pandemic. You would never be able to take a photo like this pre-COVID.
Potsdamer Platz is a famous shopping and office district in Berlin, but it’s not usually this quiet even on Sundays. Locals come here for its bustling restaurants and cafes. And travellers come to see Germany’s Boulevard of Stars, visit the LegoLand Discovery Centre, the Museum Dali or the famous Spy Museum.
Now it’s pretty empty.
You’ll know Alexanderplatz if you’ve ever been to Berlin. It’s the centre of the city with the famous Berlin Fernsehturm or TV Tower.
Alexanderplatz is usually bustling with people every single day of the week. So you can imagine how surprised we were to find it empty on a sunny Sunday afternoon.
Brandenburg Gate is another icon to visit when you’re in Berlin. We found a few tourists here as well as a small demonstration, but other than that it was quite uneventful.
If you’re looking to take the perfect Instagram photos with Berlin’s most famous attractions, now is the perfect time to do so.
Local Hangout Spots in Berlin
If all the travellers and tourists are doing the responsible thing, how about the locals? We visited some of the popular local hangout spots in Berlin to find the answer.
Our first top was Holzmarkt. It’s a popular outdoor market along the Spree River with cute restaurants, cafes and bars. It was also pretty empty for a Sunday afternoon.
We came here a lot last summer and Holzmarkt is usually quite vibey with lots of people sitting along its wooden deck with a drink in hand.
Monbijoupark on the other hand, was much busier. Not as busy as previous summers in Berlin, but busy compared to all the Berlin attractions we visited earlier.
We also found locals (geese and swans included) along the Landwehr Canal in Berlin’s trendy and hip Kreuzberg area. It was busy but groups kept at a comfortable distance away from each other.
Travel Tip: If you plan to travel to Berlin during COVID, make sure to add a few parks and lakes to your itinerary so you can catch a glimpse of the local Berlin vibe.
Day Trips From Berlin to Potsdam
We took a day trip from Berlin to Potsdam as well, to see what it’s like during the pandemic.
If you’ve never heard of Potsdam, it’s the largest UNESCO World Heritage Site in Germany and the second most famous tourist attraction in the country after Neuschwanstein Castle.
It’s a must-visit if you’re planning to visit Berlin during the coronavirus pandemic. Not only is it an easy day trip from Berlin (only 45 – 50 minutes by train), it’s also ‘social distancing friendly’.
Most of the attractions in Potsdam are outdoors and you can easily enjoy an entire day there with our 1 day Self Guided Potsdam Itinerary.
Potsdam is usually packed with tourists during summer when the gardens are in full bloom. So it was really wonderful to experience it with a fraction of the crowds.
So there you have it. A first hand account of what it’s like to visit Berlin during the coronavirus pandemic. Please remember that low risk doesn’t mean no risk, so be mindful when traveling during COVID.
Here’s some extra tips to help you travel Berlin or Germany more safely and responsibly during the pandemic:
- Travel during the week (when it’s usually less busy) rather than weekends
- Include more outdoor activities and natural attractions in your travel itinerary
- Go on self guided tours rather than group tours
- Get around the city by bike instead of using public transportation
- Travel by train or rent a car instead of flying
- Experience day trips close to your city
- Always have at least 2 masks and hand sanitisers on you when leaving home
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