Are you trying to decide whether to visit London or Berlin? I love traveling in both European capitals, but they are very different travel destinations. Here are twelve points to consider when deciding whether Berlin or London is right for you.
Pick London if…
Here are the reasons you should pick London over Berlin.
…You love all things Tudors.
I know many of you are obsessed with Tudor history (and most likely also the show). So if you want to see where Anne Boleyn was held and executed, then you need to visit the Tower of London. Other places in London where you can learn about the Tudors include Hampton Court Palace, Lambeth Palace, and the Globe Theater.
…You’ve been dreaming of Stonehenge
For many, a trip to see Stonehenge in person is on their travel bucket list. It was pretty high on mine before I got to go! In person, Stonehenge looks both smaller in photos and more mysterious. Of course, it’s also an important historic site and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. According to UNESCO:
Stonehenge is the most architecturally sophisticated prehistoric stone circle in the world, while Avebury is the largest. Together with inter-related monuments, and their associated landscapes, they demonstrate Neolithic and Bronze Age ceremonial and mortuary practices resulting from around 2000 years of continuous use and monument building between circa 3700 and 1600 BC. As such they represent a unique embodiment of our collective heritage.
You can visit Stonehenge as a day trip from London. Most organized tours will combine Stonehenge with the Roman Baths.
…You want a night out at the theater
One of the first things I did in London was head to a production of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. While the Globe Theater is one of the most famous theaters in the world (if not the most famous), London’s theater scene is much larger than just Shakespeare.
You can get theater tickets to West End shows for much less than what those same productions cost on Broadway. For example, seeing Hamilton on Broadway in NYC was one of my favorite trips of all time. Yet you could buy a plane ticket to London, book a hotel room, and see the musical in London for less than the cost of just the theater tickets in NYC.
…You aren’t worried about your budget
London is an expensive city to travel in. If you’re trying to stick to a strict budget of less than $75 a day, you’re going to really have to pay attention to what you’re spending. However, it’s an amazing city to visit. If you aren’t super budget conscious or if you’re planning on spending closer to $100-$200 a day (plus airfare), then you can have an amazing trip.
Accommodations are the biggest expense since it’s really hard to find budget hotel rooms in places where you actually want to stay. So if you’re willing to spend more to stay in a good location, you’ll have an absolutely amazing time.
Pick Berlin if…
Pick Berlin instead of London if you care about these four things.
…You want to explore a non-English speaking culture
Not everyone who reads my site comes from an English-speaking country, but the majority do. If you’re from the US, Canada, the UK, etc., and you want to travel the world, you should get out of the English-speaking regions.
Berlin is a great place to dip your toe in. While almost everyone in the service industry here speaks English, you’ll still get to experience what it’s like to be in a non-English speaking country. While both London or Berlin are amazing world-class cities, only one will truly push your boundaries and travel skills if you’ve only been in English-speaking parts of the world before.
…You want to do some Red Tourism
If you’re interested in learning more about the legacy of Communism in Europe and what life was like behind the Iron Curtain, then you should pick Berlin. Here you can learn about the Berlin Wall, what life was like for East Germans, and what the legacy of this era is for modern Berlin. (Hint: there’s more of a legacy than you might think. It has only been thirty years, after all).
I love doing Red Tourism, which is traveling to Communist and post-Communist places to learn about this era of history. Berlin is a great place to dip your toe in before heading to places like Hungary, Ukraine, or Georgia,
…You travel for Christmas Markets
You could have a wonderful Christmas trip to either Berlin or London, but there’s nothing like the real German Christmas Markets in Germany and Austria to celebrate this time of year. Berlin is full of amazing Christmas Markets to explore (I went to ten on my last trip!). After being in Europe for a few years, it’s starting to feel like it’s not even Christmas time until I’ve been to at least one market.
…You’re traveling on a strict budget
I mentioned this a bit in the London section, but London is an expensive city. By contrast, Berlin is much more affordable. You can travel here for $75 a day plus airfare, provided you stay in a hostel or have someone to split your budget hotel room costs with.
Public transportation is much less expensive here (and much more pleasant), so you can get around the city with ease. Many of the best things to do here are free (or fairly inexpensive). Groceries are fairly cheap, or you can even buy cheap street food.
The other reason to pick Berlin over London if you’re a budget traveler is that you will be able to enjoy your trip more. Your money stretches farther, and making small travel mistakes, like getting lost and having to buy a second train ticket, won’t cost you as much. You can enjoy your trip more since there’s more room for error.
Pick Either London or Berlin for…
Whether you choose Berlin or London, you’ll find both cities have these things in common.
…Fantastic food scenes
Both cities have great local food and wonderful international scenes. My last trip to Berlin, I scarfed Vietnamese and Turkish food to my heart’s content, while the Indian food scene in London is off the charts.
While neither German food nor English food is too highly praised internationally, you can find great local food in both cities. Currywurst and fish and chips are so much better when made by the people who know exactly what they’re doing. Personally, I’m a fan of British pub food, especially the pies, and in Germany you pretty much have to enjoy some local sausage.
…Vibrant bar scenes
If you’re a fan of drinking beer, you’ll find a home in both cities. You can easily spend every evening of your trip in a new British pub or Berlin bar. Both cities also have great pub crawls and beer tours if you want to learn about the history of each city’s brew culture while you’re on your trip.
…Learning World War II history
While the two cities were on separate sides of Wolrd War II, the destruction caused by the war has left serious scars on both cities. You can learn all about what life was like during the war in both cities, seeing the landmarks that were affected, what was rebuilt afterward, and what both cities lost.
…Amazing street art
These are two of the best street art cities in the world. I personally think it’s easier to find in Berlin, but London is the home of some of the world’s most famous working street artists. Whichever city you pick, you can go on a street art tour to learn all about the most important pieces in each city and what the best neighborhoods are for finding it.
London Travel Resources
Are you leaning towards London? Here are my London tips to help you plan your vacation.
Start with my London Packing List, so you know what to bring with you and what to wear each season.
If you’re interested in visiting UNESCO sites and historic places around London, check out my posts on How to Visit the Tower of London, How to Visit Westminster Abbey, and How to Visit Westminster Abbey.
Love to listen while you plan your travels? I have episodes about London on both of my podcasts. You can check my podcast episode about the Roman Baths, The History of Windsor Castle, and Banqueting House.
Berlin Travel Resources
Did you pick Berlin? If so, here are my Berlin travel resources to help you plan your trip!
Start with my list of Germany travel tips and what to pack for Germany, so you know what to bring with you and what to wear in each season. You can also see why I particularly love visiting Germany in autumn (the colors are insane)!
Love to listen while you plan your travels? I have episodes about Berlin on both of my podcasts. You can check my history podcast episode about wartime Berlin and my travel podcast episode about Berlin. Plus here are all the best travel podcasts I use to plan my own trips.
Finally, Don’t Forget Travel Insurance!
Whichever city you choose, make sure you have a valid Travel Insurance Policy because accidents happen on the road. I pay for World Nomads, and I happily recommend them. It’s especially important to get travel insurance if you’ll be hanging out in cities where tourists can be the victims of pickpockets.
I have been a paying customer of World Nomads for travel insurance for two years, and I happily recommend them. If you get sick, injured, or have your stuff stolen, you’ll be happy to have the ability to pay for your medical bills or replace what’s stolen or broken.