Can’t decide between Berlin and London? This detailed comparison of the two European capitals should help you make up your mind!
I’ve compared everything from the quality of life to famous landmarks, to help you decide which city is the better option for you. Read on to learn more about the similarities and differences between the two European cities and see whether Berlin or London should be next on your list!
If you’re considering moving permanently and you’re willing to learn German, Berlin is the better option. It offers a higher quality of life, alongside cheaper rent and living necessities than are to be found in London.
But, if you’re just thinking of traveling and you want to explore a beautiful city with countless bucket-list landmarks, it’s London all the way. It’s about twice the size of Berlin, and it has many more fascinating sights for visitors!
One of the key differences between Berlin and London is the size. London is about twice the size of Berlin in the area but it has three times as many people living in it. There are about 9 million people in London, compared to a little over 3 million in Berlin. The population density is also much lower in Berlin, and you’ll generally encounter fewer people when you go out.
What this means in practice is that Berlin is a lot less crowded than London. There’s less traffic, there are fewer people on the streets, and it’s much easier to go out to a restaurant without making any reservations in advance.
Another key difference between the two cities is the language. German is the official language in Berlin, and you might have a tough time exploring the city if you don’t understand it all. On the other hand, at least the people in Berlin drive on the right side of the road.
It will likely take a while to get used to the London traffic that’s always going in the wrong direction if you’re from the EU or the US, but hey – it’s still easier than learning German.
One thing people might find weird about Berlin is how hard it is to buy anything on a Sunday. Most shops close, and this includes all grocery stores, fashion stores, and supermarkets. The only things that are open are museums, restaurants, and transportation centers. This isn’t the case with London, so if you don’t like shopping ahead, you might find this challenging in Berlin.
There’s also the subject of weather. It’s no secret that it rains a lot in the UK, but did you know that it also rains quite a lot in Germany? Berlin is not as bad as London, but it still gets more than a week of rain every month on average. The weather in London is usually mild – it’s warm in the summers but it’s not too warm, just like it’s cold in the winters but it’s rarely freezing cold.
Berlin is the total opposite. Sure it has mild weather in the spring and fall, but the summers are hot and the winters are freezing cold. If you prefer milder weather and you can deal with the rain, London is easily the better option.
Berlin highlights include a lot of buildings and landmarks from WWII and the Cold War. The city has an incredibly rich history – we are talking about the capital of Germany, after all. It’s a fascinating city for anyone who is even remotely interested in European history, and there are countless landmarks and remnants of earlier times throughout Berlin.
London, on the other hand, is likely the better option for all the artists and creative people. The city has 65 more museums than Berlin and 13 more universities, so it’s easily the better option for people who are looking to stay in academia, especially if it’s surrounding any of the arts.
If you’re a foodie you will absolutely love it in London – the culinary scene is amazing, with so many international options you can try different cuisines for every meal. Food is a big part of the culture in London and it’s evident in everything from the cupcakes that are served with your afternoon tea to the gastropubs that serve staple dishes alongside ice-cold beers.
Also, London has a much larger immigrant population than Berlin, so it makes sense that it has many more international restaurants as well. It’s even leading with Michelin-starred restaurants – London has 69, while Berlin has just 20.
But that’s not to say that the culinary scene in Berlin is nonexistent. It isn’t and it’s slowly starting to catch up with London. Fast food is very popular in the city, and you’ll find cheap go-to’s like kebabs and currywurst on practically every other corner. A lot of the restaurants will serve traditional German food, but the amount of international restaurants in the city is increasing by the day.
Getting around the city is much easier in Berlin than in London for multiple reasons. The first one is the size of the city – London is almost twice the size of Berlin, so it’s going to take longer to get from one point to another. Also, because the city is so much bigger, public transportation is much more expensive. Monthly passes for the Tube cost about three times as much as those for Berlin’s U-Bahn.
What’s worse is that the U-Bahn is better than the tube. The trains are newer and they work 24/7, even on weekends, so you’re not conditioned by public transport when you go out. It’s also worth noting that driving is very common in Berlin and traffic jams are not as hectic as they are in London.
Taxi and Uber are more expensive in Berlin than in London, but not by a lot. Both cities are considered bike-friendly, but it’s generally more pleasant to cycle around in Berlin than in London since you won’t encounter as many people along the way.
Although London is a more exciting city to visit, Berlin is the better option out of the two if you’re thinking of moving to a new place. The average salary is the same in both cities, but Berlin offers a better quality of life and is generally much cheaper. Rent is a lot more affordable in Berlin, as well as pretty much everything else from public transportation to groceries.
Also, keep the language barrier in mind. The official language in Berlin is German and, although a lot of the population speaks fluent English, they’re not exactly keen on speaking it with tourists who haven’t even bothered to learn Danke Schon.
You should learn some basic phrases in German before you travel to Berlin, but it shouldn’t be too hard to get around the city speaking only English either. If you’re going to move to Berlin and try to get a job, you will need to learn as much German as possible before you even buy the plane ticket.
English is the official language in London, so at least you don’t need to learn a new language if you’re going to move there. But there are other cons to consider, the cost being the main one. Crime rates are also generally higher in London, but that makes sense considering just how much bigger it is.
If you like going out to clubs and partying, Berlin is hands down the better city for you. People go out in London, but they usually go out to pubs with friends where they drink and enjoy all sorts of fried finger food snacks. Proper clubs exist in London, but they’re not quite as popular as in Berlin.
Also, a lot of people in London are conditioned by the tube’s operating hours, and they will desert the party earlier just because they won’t be able to return home otherwise.
Berlin, on the other hand, has a 24-hour tube service so you never have to leave the party early just to get home. They’re known for an amazing nightclub scene that has everything from fabulous raves to clubs that are so exclusive the bouncers will only let the cool people in. It’s Berghain and we’ve all heard about it – if that’s the kind of stuff that you’re into, you’ll definitely love it in Berlin.
But if you’re into long nights out with friends with cold beers and fish and chips, the London pub scene might just be more up your alley.
London is about 50% more expensive than Berlin in general. That’s for everything from rent to a monthly tube pass. Restaurants and pubs are pricier, as are tickets to tourists attractions, and the cost of hotels and AirBnBs. If you’re trying to travel on a tighter budget, you’ll get more bang for your buck in Berlin.
It’s worth noting that neither city is exactly affordable. Bars and restaurants in Berlin can have exorbitant prices, especially in areas that are crawling with tourists. Try to find some tips from the locals where to go out for great service at reasonable prices.
Old Soviet bloc buildings, stunning city views, and phenomenal street art are very common in Berlin and they’re some of the first things newcomers go to see. Read more about those, and Berlin’s other iconic sights below!
For most people, the Berlin Wall Memorial is one of the first things they want to see when they just arrive. The city’s most iconic landmark is nowadays a beautiful park with lots of greenery. The remains of the Berlin Wall are still adorned with graffiti, and there’s an open-air exhibition with photographs that tell the wall’s history.
The Brandenburg Gate is another iconic Berlin landmark. It boasts 12 Doric columns, with a classical goddess statue at the very top. The 18th-century landmark gate is built in neoclassical architectural style, and it’s situated in the western part of Berlin’s city center. It’s a beautiful sight, as well as a symbol of Germany’s turbulent history.
Bode Museum is easily the best museum in Berlin. The museum building alone is spectacular, let alone the collection of sculptures and Byzantine art inside. The riverfront building was built in Baroque Revival style and it’s even a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Berlin has a lot of remnants of WWII and if you want to see as many as possible, the best thing to do is go on a guided WWII tour of the city. There are both walking tours and bike tours, and they can last anywhere from 3 to 7 hours. The tours feature experienced guides who tell you about the history of Berlin during the war, and they include as many WWII sites as possible within the given timespan.
Tours of East Berlin are very popular among tourists. It’s interesting to see what it was like to live behind the wall, in East Berlin’s former Soviet Sector. The building blocks certainly look out of place compared to the rest of the city, and a lot of them are abandoned and ruined.
Walking tours of East Berlin have become so popular that you can choose from a quick stroll around the best-known neighborhoods to 12-hour Cold War tours that teach you a whole’s semester worth of German history.
Teufelsberg is an old US listening station that was used in the Cold War. It sits on a man-made hill in the west part of the city, and it offers some beautiful panoramic views of Berlin. There are 90-minute historic tours of the place for anyone interested to learn more about the history of the place.
If you’re into street art, you will really like it here considering that the entire place is adorned with colorful graffiti. The best thing about Teufelsberg is that it’s not an extremely famous attraction, so it’s unlikely to be crowded!
Red phone booths, double-deckers, and the Big Ben – those are the top three things that come to my mind when I think of London. But they’re just a few of the things that make this city so incredible, so read on to see the other sights that are not to be missed in London!
Westminster has so many iconic landmarks that it’s just easier to go on a tour of the entire neighborhood. Trafalgar Square, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, the River Thames, Westminster Bridge, the House of Parliament, St. James Park, and many others.
The government area is extremely popular with tourists, which should come as no surprise considering it has the first five London landmarks on anyone’s list. It’s best to travel there really early in the day if you want to get some cool pics without really big crowds.
Notting Hill is the trendy London area that’s popular with the younger crowd. It has a lot of colorful cafes, high-end restaurants, and the vibrant Portobello Road with its pastel houses and countless shops. The area has a lot of vintage clothing stores so it’s a great place to do some thrift shopping.
The Shard is London’s tallest tower with the best city views. Head to The View from The Shard – the city’s highest viewing gallery with 360 panoramic views of London. There’s a champagne bar as well, so you can enjoy those scenic vistas with a glass of bubbly by your side.
Just remember that The Shard is one of the most Instagrammable places in London, so you might want to book your tickets early.
Tower of London is the city’s iconic medieval castle that’s home to the Crown Jewels. It’s one of the top sights in the city if you’re into British history and the royals. One of the best things to do in the museum is to go on the Beefeater tour.
It tells you more about Yeoman Warders, the men who have guarded the London Tower since the Tudor era. It’s a fascinating tour, and it’s one of the most interesting places to do in the Tower of London, in addition to the mesmerizing crown jewels.
Buckingham Palace is the home of the royal family and it’s one of those attractions that you should at least check out from a distance. It’s possible to tour the private and state rooms within the palace, but that’s hardly the most interesting thing about the palace. The changing of the guard is far more interesting, and it’s what draws both tourists and locals to this part of the city.
Warner Bros Studio in London is home to all the Harry Potter sets used in the films. You can go on a walk down Diagon Alley, visit Dumbledore’s office, and check out the Great Hall.
This is an absolute must for any Harry Potter fans out there, and it’s about a thousand times better than just going to King’s Cross. There are lots of souvenir shops at the studio, so you can easily get all the Harry Potter memorabilia that you don’t need but must-have.
One last thing worth noting about these two amazing European cities is that they’re only a 2-hour flight away from one another. Budget airlines like Ryanair will take you from Berlin to London or vice versa for some 30 Euros, so you can always just travel to the other city for a day!
Anna is the co-owner of expert world travel and can't wait to share her travel experience with the world. With over 54 countries under her belt she has a lot to write about! Including those insane encounters with black bears in Canada.