European capital cities are some of the most exciting vacation destinations of all, summing up all of the finest features of their respective countries. Amsterdam and Berlin are two terrific examples, providing the very best in Dutch and German culture, history, and cuisine.
Both of these cities rank among the most-visited in Western Europe, and it’s not hard to see why. They’re both fascinating places to spend time, with long lists of landmarks, attractions, and activities to fill up your days and nights. But they also have some big differences….
For example, Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands, is renowned for its pretty canals, unusual layout, quirky locals, and progressive lifestyle, alongside its one-of-a-kind museums and galleries, like the Anne Frank Museum and Van Gogh Museum.
Then, there’s Berlin, capital of Germany, famed for its extraordinary past and historic relevance. It’s the site of the infamous Berlin Wall, which once split the city in two, along with other powerful landmarks of the past, like the Reichstag.
There’s a lot to love about both of these cities, but you may not have the time or budget to see both on the same trip.
So, if you’re only able to pick one, which city should you choose? The Venice-like canals of Amsterdam, or the historic hub of Berlin?
Well, that’s what this guide is here to help with! Below, we’ll put Berlin and Amsterdam side-by-side, comparing them in lots of key areas, from their average weather conditions to their attractions and average prices. Let’s get started!
- A Quick Overview
- Which Is Best For Activities?
- Which Is Better For Day Trips?
- Which Is Better For Nightlife?
- Which Is Best For Shopping?
- Which Has The Best Food?
- Which Is Better For A Family Trip?
- Which Is Better For Couples?
- Which Is Better For Backpackers?
- Which Is Cheaper?
- Where To Stay According To Your Budget
- Which Has Better Weather?
- Which Is The Better Choice?
A Quick Overview: Amsterdam vs Berlin
Amsterdam: A Quick Overview
Amsterdam is the biggest city and capital of the Netherlands. It’s home to more than 920,000 people at the latest count, with over 2.4 million in its full metropolitan area.
This big population, combined with the somewhat compact nature of Amsterdam’s touristic center, makes it feel like a very busy, bustling place.
The history of Amsterdam goes back to the 12th century. It began its life as a pretty small, sleepy fishing village, a far cry from the sprawling touristic haven of today.
Its name comes from the fact that it was founded around a dam on the river Amstel, and the city’s coastal location helped it set up strong trade links across Europe and beyond.
Indeed, those same trade links helped Amsterdam become one of the wealthiest cities of the Middle Ages. However, its influence slowly waned, and nowadays, the city relies more heavily on its finance industry and touristic appeal, drawing in millions of visitors from all over the world with its unique beauty and attractions.
With its charming Nine Streets historic area, scenic canals, and fascinating museums, Amsterdam looks and feels like a very romantic and peaceful place.
But the city also has another side to it, with cannabis cafes on street corners and a world-renowned Red Light District bursting to life once the sun has set. In many ways, it’s like two cities rolled into one, making it a very special vacation destination.
Berlin: A Quick Overview
Berlin is the biggest city and capital of Germany. It has a total population in excess of 3.85 million people, which puts it at the No. 1 spot in the European Union’s most populous cities.
It’s significantly larger than Amsterdam, and it’s situated in the northeast part of the country, not too far from the border with Poland.
Berlin was officially founded in 1237. It was formed at a key intersection of two prosperous trade routes across Europe, and it quickly developed into a prosperous and influential city.
It was the capital city of various kingdoms and empires throughout the ages, and was once the third-largest city on the planet.
The German capital is perhaps best-known for its iconic Berlin Wall, which divided the city in two after World War II. The wall was eventually torn down in 1989, and Berlin then became the capital of a newly-reunified Germany.
It’s a very important and influential city in the fields of politics, culture, science, and technology, while also being a popular touristic destination.
Many people flock to Berlin to admire its many historic landmarks and learn more about its storied past, visiting the remnants of the Berlin Wall, for example, or touring the Reichstag.
But, along with its historic sites, Berlin also has plenty of family attractions, world-class restaurants, great places to shop, and a lively nightlife scene.
Which Is Best For Activities?
Both Amsterdam and Berlin are known for being interesting cities to visit, with plenty of big landmarks to visit and sights to see.
But there are some key differences when it comes to their main activities and attractions, with Amsterdam having more quirky landmarks and Berlin being much more oriented around history and culture.
Amsterdam: The Activities
Visitors to Amsterdam will most likely spend a lot of time exploring the relatively compact city center on foot. That’s where you’ll find most of the main landmarks, and the pretty Nine Streets area is one of the best places to get started.
It offers lovely views over the city’s famous canals, while also being home to some of its prettiest old buildings and most charming shops.
For art, culture, and history, travelers can check out some of the city’s many museums, most of which are situated in the Museum District.
The Rijksmuseum is a fine place to start off, boasting amazing artwork from the likes of Rembrandt and Vermeer, while the Van Gogh Museum is the best place to admire some of the iconic artist’s greatest works.
The Anne Frank Museum is another of Amsterdam’s most-visited sites, housed in the very same building where Anne and her family hid during the Second World War.
Or, for something totally different and a little quirky, check out some of the city’s more unusual attractions, like the Heineken Experience beer tasting tour or the Body Worlds science museum, with real human remains on display.
Quirkiness is definitely a big feature of Amsterdam. Visitors looking for one-of-a-kind experiences might also like to stop off at one of the city’s cannabis cafes or tour the Red Light District, which is quite a pleasant and charming spot during the daytime.
On sunny days, the city’s green spaces, like Vondelpark, are also lovely to see.
Berlin: The Activities
Berlin is a city steeped in history, and many visitors to the German capital will want to check out the main historic landmarks.
Brandenburg Gate is a great place to start, built back in the 18th century during the days of the Kingdom of Prussia. The renowned Reichstag is another must-see, famously captured by the Red Army at the end of the World War II.
Of course, even though the Berlin Wall fell several decades ago, parts of it still stand for visitors to see.
The Berlin Wall Memorial provides a fascinating look into the history of the structure, while the East Side Gallery is an open-air museum, where artists from around the world have painted colorful, evocative murals along the longest section of the wall still standing.
For an even deeper dive into history and culture, visitors can check out Berlin’s Museum Island. This complex dates back to the days of Prussia, housing the city’s best museums and most extraordinary artifacts.
From Greek sculptures to Ancient Egyptian papyrus scrolls, the collections of these museums are some of the most incredible in all of Europe.
Beyond all the historical sites and museums, Berlin has even more to offer. From the gigantic Tiergarten park to the Berlin Zoo, Charlottenburg Palace, Brandenburg Lakes, open-air cinemas, hipster bars, covered markets, street festivals, there’s more than enough here to keep travelers busy and entertained for days on end.
Overall, Berlin definitely has more things to do than Amsterdam. It’s a much better choice for history fans and museum lovers, and has a wider range of activities to appeal to all sorts of travelers.
At the same time, Amsterdam offers more of a laid-back vibe, with lots of unusual activities you won’t find in most other European cities.
Which Is Better For Day Trips?
If you’re looking to see somewhere else during your stay in Berlin or Amsterdam, you could take a day trip out of either city.
Both capitals have strong transport links, with trains and buses to connect you with other major cities and surrounding locations.
Those based in Amsterdam, for example, can easily access other Dutch cities like Rotterdam or Utrecht to experience more of the country’s culture and history.
Belgium is also a potential day trip destination, with the historic capital of Brussels only a couple of hours away, and the beautiful medieval city of Bruges just three hours by train.
Meanwhile, if you’re based in Berlin, you can easily take a high-speed train to other cities around Germany.
The hip and trendy city of Leipzig is a super spot to spend a day, for example, and Dresden is a fascinating city for history buffs, having been destroyed during World War II. It’s even possible to head over the border into Polish cities like Poznan.
Overall, both cities work well for day trips, but Amsterdam has more notable touristic sites nearby, with the likes of Brussels, Antwerp, Bruges, and Rotterdam.
Which Is Better For Nightlife?
There’s plenty to do during the day in both Amsterdam and Berlin. But what about when the sun sets? Well, both cities are famed for their lively nightlife scenes, with plenty of bars, clubs, and other evening hotspots to check out.
Many people head to Amsterdam specifically for its wild nightlife. The city’s Red Light District is well-known, lighting up the nights with its multitude of pubs and clubs.
Other areas, like Rembrandtplein, also have plenty of great places to grab a drink with your fellow travelers or dance the night away, and most clubs stay open deep into the early hours.
Berlin is also a top-tier nightlife capital, with some of the finest and wildest clubs in all of Germany. There are so many places to party across this city, from thumping dance clubs to crazy raves.
Or, for those seeking something a little more subdued, Berlin also has lots of friendly taverns, bars, and luxury rooftop lounges.
Overall, both cities have more than enough to satisfy nightlife-lovers. Berlin is bigger, with more diverse places to hang out in the evenings, but Amsterdam is just as much fun.
Which Is Best For Shopping?
Shopping is another fun way to spend a day during your visit to either Amsterdam or Berlin. Just like other big European capitals, both of these cities have malls, markets, and many streets of stores and boutiques to explore and enjoy.
Amsterdam has some really pleasant places to shop. The Nine Streets area may be a bit of a tourist trap, but it also houses some of the city’s loveliest vintage stores.
There are also super markets dotted across the city, like the floating Bloemenmarkt flower market, and major malls, like Magna Plaza, with dozens of stores to check out.
Amsterdam’s shopping scene is terrific, but Berlin’s is even better. In fact, many people come from far and wide to this city purely to enjoy its shops, markets, and malls.
There are some charming bookshops to wander around for hours, lively flea markets, high-end boutiques, and more.
The Mall of Berlin is a super spot to start your shopping experience, with more than 300 shops to visit, including many of the big European high street brands.
Those who want even more luxury goods can check out the Kurfurstendamm – Berlin’s answer to the Champs-Elysees. Or, for something totally different, visit the weekly Boxhagener Platz Market, with all sorts of bargains and unique treasures to uncover.
Overall, for shopaholics, Berlin is the clear winner, but you can still have plenty of fun browsing the stores of Amsterdam.
Which Has The Best Food?
One of the best things about traveling in Europe is sampling all of the tasty food on offer. Capital cities like Amsterdam and Berlin tend to have some of the very best restaurants of their respective nations, and you can eat well in either of these cities, but one is a little ahead of the other in the culinary department.
And it’s Berlin that is the clear winner here. The German capital has a very long list of impressive, high quality restaurants, along with a super diverse culinary scene including all the German classics, like schnitzel and currywurst, along with Turkish food, French, Italian, Asian, Mexican, and more. In short, it’s a foodie’s paradise.
In contrast, Amsterdam’s culinary scene isn’t quite as deep or well-developed. It’s a great city to taste classic Dutch recipes, but Dutch cuisine isn’t quite as widely-loved as the likes of Spanish, Italian, or German.
This means that some visitors may find less to like on the menus of Amsterdam, as opposed to the broader eateries of Berlin.
Which Is Better For A Family Trip?
If you’re heading on vacation as a family, both Amsterdam and Berlin can prove to be ideal destinations. They both have their share of kid-friendly attractions and activities, but one city may be a little more suitable for your family getaway than the other.
Starting off with Amsterdam, some of the best things to do with kids in this city include the wonderful Royal Zoo, home of various exotic animals from around the world, along with the world-famous Van Gogh Museum.
The NEMO Science Museum is also super kid-friendly, with lots of interactive exhibits for almost all ages.
The Anne Frank Museum can also be a very educational eye-opener for children, while the massive Vondelpark is a fine place for walks, picnics, and playtime.
The only real downside with this city is that some parents may be a little put-off by the presence of cannabis cafes and the Red Light District, which can give Amsterdam a slightly seedy feel after-dark.
In contrast, Berlin has more of a safe and family-oriented vibe. It certainly has some mature and serious landmarks and activities, such as the Berlin Wall Memorial and Reichstag, but it’s also home to some fabulous family hotspots, like the fantastic Berlin Zoo, which is the oldest in all of Germany and houses an enormous array of animals from across the globe.
If one zoo wasn’t enough, Berlin also has a second animal attraction, the Tierpark, where visitors can admire thousands of animals like polar bears and elephants.
There’s also a Legoland in Berlin for little builders, along with some terrific museums oriented towards younger visitors, like the Computer Game Museum and ANOHA Children’s Museum.
Overall, families can have a fun time in either city, but Berlin has more traditional family attractions, a wider range of museums to explore, and more of a kid-friendly feel in general.
Which Is Better For Couples?
Couples can also have a tricky time choosing between Amsterdam and Berlin.
On the one hand, Amsterdam is arguably the prettier of the two, with its tranquil canals, hipster cafes, and lovely old buildings exuding a truly unique and special charm.
On the other hand, Berlin is a more vibrant, exciting, and action-packed destination, with more things to enjoy.
Both cities have great experiences to offer for couples of all ages. You can roam around the Nine Streets of Amsterdam hand-in-hand, for example, or even spend a night in one of the city’s famous houseboats.
Meanwhile, visitors to Berlin can tour the Charlottenburg Palace gardens or dine at one of many top class restaurants.
Overall, Berlin is probably the better choice for the majority of couples.
Amsterdam certainly has an edge in terms of romance and scenic appeal, with its Venice-like vibes, cute bridges, and romantic boat rides, but Berlin simply has more to do, with better food and deeper cultural experiences.
Which Is Better For Backpackers?
Backpackers might also be tempted with a trip to either Berlin or Amsterdam. Both cities can work pretty well for backpacking, with plenty of hostels, friendly locals, and fun vibes all around. But which one is best for the average adventurer?
Well, it’s no secret that Amsterdam is often cited as one of the best backpacking destinations in the whole of Europe. It has a ton of hostels, especially in the center, providing easy access to the main landmarks and attractions.
Backpackers also typically appreciate the wild nightlife of this city and its quirky, party-loving personality. It’s also a little more walkable than Berlin.
However, not to be outdone, Berlin is also a fabulous backpacking spot. It also has many hostels, including some that are cozier and more comfortable than those in Amsterdam.
Berlin also has cheaper accommodation rates, equally impressive nightlife, and more things to see and do in terms of museums, galleries, and cultural monuments.
So, there’s no clear winner here. It all depends on what sort of experience you’re looking for.
Backpackers who want great food, good quality accommodation, and lots of history should head to Berlin. Those who are looking for something a little out-of-the-ordinary may prefer Amsterdam instead.
Which Is Cheaper?
What about costs? Which of these two cities is cheaper than the other and more suitable for budget-conscious travelers?
Well, once again, it’s Berlin that emerges as the winner in this category. The German capital has distinctly lower average accommodation and public transport rates.
Food costs more or less the same in both cities, but you can more easily enjoy a budget trip to Berlin than Amsterdam.
At the same time, it’s still possible to have a relatively cheap stay in the Dutch capital, as long as you book in advance and pick a hotel outside of the main touristic center.
Where To Stay According To Your Budget
Budget: The 3-star Top Of The City bed & breakfast is set in the heart of the city within walking distance of many of the main attractions. The hotel is clean, modern and set right beside a canal so you’ll be staying in a fantastic setting too. See photos and rates!
Luxury: There’s many reasons for Hotel TwentySeven being one of the best rated 5-star hotels in Europe. For one, with just 16 suites the service is extremely personal, the decor is gorgeous, and the on-site restaurant even has a Michelin star. On top of that, the location is unbeatable. See photos and rates!
Budget: Located in the popular Hackescher Markt area, Casa Camper Berlin is a trendy hotel in an even trendier area. With the hotel lounge – compete with panoramic city views – serving free snacks and drinks all day, this is a budget choice with plenty of freebies thrown in for good measure. See photos and rates!
Luxury: Situated on Berlin’s Gendarmenmarkt Square, the gorgeously decorated 5-star Regent Berlin is as high class as you can get in the city. With stunning city views and a spa to relax in after a long day exploring the sights, staying here is something you’ll never forget. See photos and rates!
Which Has The Best Weather?
There are over 350 miles separating Berlin and Amsterdam, and they’re in quite different locations. The Dutch capital sits right on the coast, while Berlin has much more of an inland location.
In spite of their different settings, these cities have pretty similar weather conditions. However, there are a couple of key differences for travelers to note.
In general, both cities have warm summers, mild shoulder seasons, and cold winters.
However, average summer temperatures in Berlin are several degrees higher than Amsterdam, so you’ll have a better chance of warm weather if you pick the German capital.
Berlin also gets less rainfall than Amsterdam on average, so it has the better weather overall.
Amsterdam vs Berlin: Which Is The Better Choice?
So, which city is the best one to visit between Berlin and Amsterdam? Well, the answer to that question will depend on what kind of experience you’re looking for.
Both cities are quite different, with contrasting vibes and cultures. Some may love the laid-back feel and unique appearance of Amsterdam, others will favor the unparalleled historical depth of Berlin.
All in all, if we look back over this comparison, it’s Berlin that wins in many of the key categories. It has better food, a wider range of attractions, cheaper prices for most things, and so on.
So, for the majority of travelers, the German capital is the place to be. Many think that Berlin is only suitable for history fans, but this stunning city will surely surprise you with its rich culture, stunning culinary scene, and broad mix of activities.
With that said, Amsterdam shouldn’t be overlooked or ignored. It’s a fabulous city and a great choice for young adventurers and couples, in particular, with its progressive vibes, romantic canals, and chilled-out nature.
Just like Berlin, it’s a city that everyone should try to see at least once in their lifetime.