Berlin City Guide: events in Europe's coolest capital
Berlin has transformed from being divided in the 20th Century to a destination for culture, sports and world-class events coming into the 2000s.
With so many exciting things to do around town, it may have you wanting to exclaim, “Ich bin ein Berliner!” as United States President John F. Kennedy did in 1963 (fun fact: it’s an urban legend he accidentally called himself a doughnut).
The capital and largest city of Germany, Berlin’s metropolitan region is home to some 6 million people — many of whom are huge fans of sports, concerts as well as theatre and comedy shows. During the summer months between May and September, the northern city has long days that can be packed with trips to live music cafés, beer gardens and 24-hour dance clubs as well as festivals and other outdoor events.
Keep reading to explore our events guide to the German capital, with the best tickets to the biggest events in Berlin.
What’s happening in Berlin in 2019
- Sports: Eisbären Berlin vs Chicago Blackhawks, Archery World Cup, ISTAF Berlin
- Concerts: Take That, Christina Aguilera, Muse
- Festivals: Melt Festival, Fusion Festival, Hurricane Festival
- Theatre and Comedy: John Cleese, Sascha Grammel, Kurt Krömer
Things to know about Berlin
Though Berlin’s history stretches back to the 1100s, it only became the capital of the German Empire in 1871 during the height of the Industrial Revolution, and began to rapidly expand soon after. During the 1920s’ Weimar Republic, the city was a major metropolitan world capital, enjoying a thriving artistic, academic and athletic scene. In the following decade, Berlin would go on to host the 1936 Summer Olympic Games.
However, two World Wars left it the most-bombed city in history and, following the end of WWII, it was divided east-west by the Berlin Wall. Fortunately, the wall fell at the end of the Cold War in 1989 and Germany was reunified. Since then, Berlin has rapidly regained its position as a global hub for creativity and culture, technological innovation and events — across sports, music, theatre and comedy.
Berlin hosted the FIFA World Cup Final in 2006, the IAAF World Championships in Athletics in 2009, the UEFA Champions League Final in 2015 and the Special Olympics World Summer Games will be held there in 2023.
Berlin's annual events
- Berlin Triathlon
- Berlin Fashion Week
- Berlin Marathon
- Berlin Film Festival
- Berlin ePrix
- Prix Europa
- Berlin Pride
- Berlin Light Festival
- Fusion Festival
- Hurricane Festival
- Internationales Stadtfest (ISTAF)
Sports in Berlin
Berlin is a major athletics hub within both Germany and the European Union, and sports fans from everywhere will certainly find they have plenty of options. If catching a football match is your GOAAAAAL, there are two professional clubs in the city: Hertha BSC (playing at Olympiastadion) and 1. FC Union Berlin, whose home is Stadion An der Alten Försterei. The two compete in the Bundesliga, Germany’s leading league and the number-one in the world in terms of attendance (pro tip: be sure not to miss on grabbing some beer and bratwurst at halftime).
The Hertha BSC football club’s stadium, Olympiastadion, is also worth exploring if you fancy a bit of history. Built for the 1936 Berlin Summer Olympic Games, the venue allegedly held over 100,000 people during the event. Having been renovated numerous times over the years, today Olympiastadion has a permanent seating capacity of 74,475.
Other than football, Berlin is also home to a professional ice hockey team: the Eisbären Berlin, playing at Mercedes-Benz Arena and competing in the Deutsche Eishockey Liga (DEL) — Germany’s highest league in the sport. The club has won more DEL championships than any other and you should be there in September 2019 when they host the Chicago Blackhawks in an NHL Global Series Challenge.
Alba Berlin is the city’s professional basketball club, which also plays at Mercedes-Benz Arena and competes in both the Germany League and Euroleague. Berlin is also home court for a pro handball team, Füchse Berlin, and a volleyball team, the Berlin Recycling Volleys — both of whom play at the Max-Schmeling-Halle arena.
Not onside with team sports? Berlin is home to several annual sporting events including the Berlin ePrix Formula E electric car race, the Internationales Stadtfest (ISTAF) track and field competition, and the Berlin Marathon, one of the largest and most popular road races in the world.
Music and festivals in Berlin
While Berlin may best be known for the thumping beats of its thriving nightclub and underground scene (read: Berghain), the city offers opportunities to catch live music across a variety of venues. Its hedonistic reputation and open-minded attitude have long attracted artists, even before the end of the Cold War; David Bowie lived there in the 1970s with a rather famous flatmate: Iggy Pop.
For fans of alternative music and trendy bars, Kreuzberg is the perfect neighbourhood to explore. Bowie and Pop frequented the SO36 club in the area, which is still open today. Kreuzberg is best known as a central to the city’s punk scene, hip-hop, rap and breakdancing, though today it appeals to all wide variety of fans.
The biggest live-music venues in Berlin include the Mercedes-Benz Arena, Max-Schmeling-Halle and the Waldbühne amphitheatre. The city’s fun-loving attitude goes hand-in-hand with festival culture and there are many in and around it, including Melt Festival for rock, electronic and pop; Lollapalooza Berlin, the German edition of the legendary Chicago event; and Citadel Music Festival, among many others.
Prefer something more low-key? There is a huge tradition of classical music in Berlin including the world-class Berlin Philharmonic, who play at Berliner Philharmonie. If you are looking for an event that’s the perfect harmony of #culture and Instagrammable aesthetics? Berlin has three major opera houses —the Deutsche Oper, the Berlin State Opera and the Komische Oper— that offer the opportunity to immerse yourself in globally-leading performances and are decidedly quite photogenic.
Theatre and comedy shows in Berlin
As mentioned earlier, Berlin’s long, Nordic summer days are endlessly epic. There are plenty of outdoor theatre events to catch a live performance under the stars including the Waldbühne, the Parkbühne Wuhlheide and the Zitadelle Spandau.
Berlin is home to over 50 permanent theatres as well, so there is certainly no lack of choice — with the Deutsches Theater, the Schaubühne and the Berliner Ensemble being amongst the largest and most influential. There is even a venue known as the English Theatre Berlin, which is exactly what you’d expect.
The historic CHAMÄLEON Theater in Berlin-Mitte hosts everything from musicals to cabaret shows to circus acts. Or, see a traditional vaudeville performance at the Wintergarten Varieté by Tiergarten. For a truly unique Berlin experience, catch your favourite musicals like Mamma Mia in German at the Theater des Westens in Charlottenburg.
International comedians such as John Cleese often tour through the city, though smaller venues like Comedy Café Berlin, Quatsch Comedy Club and Maggie Café also host shows for English speakers. Berlin is additionally known as one of the most LGBTQ-friendly cities in the world and its gay district, Schöneberg, is packed with clubs hosting hilarious drag nights.
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