Introduction: Welcome to Berlin
I am proud to call Berlin my home and base for the last 6 years. As the second biggest city in the EU and the capital of Germany, you might think it would be an expensive place to visit, and of course, like any big city it can be, but it really doesn’t have to be. Just like my other favourite city in Germany, Hamburg, the thing I love about Berlin is how accessible and open it is to everyone -irrespective of your colour, race or economic means, this city has something for everyone. I’ve listed in the post below my list of my favourite things to in Berlin. Some of the best Berlin attractions like the Brandenburg Gate, Mauerpark and the East Side Gallery are free while some of activities like doing a Street Art Tour of Berlin or maybe the Cold War Berlin Tour will include a fee. I have also included a small section below of some of the best places to eat and drink in Berlin. I hope you find my 26 free things to do in Berlin useful for planning your trip. I have also listed at the end the most overrated tourist attraction in Berlin and the one thing not to do in Berlin. PS: Worth noting that from the 5th January 2023, there is free entry to the Neue Nationalgalerie every Thursday, from 4 to 8 pm as part of the Volkswagen Art4All initiative.
Best free things to do in Berlin
1. Hang out on Tempelhofer Feld
A former airfield right in the middle of the city, Tempelhof has been a public park since 2008 when it closed as an airport. You won’t find much shade here (it used to be an airport so the few trees there are are still very young!) but it’s a great place to cycle, rollerblade or even windsurf as well as have a barbecue, or just a picnic with friends.
2. Walk through Neukölln – multicultural heart of Berlin
Combine a trip to Tempelhof to explore the streets of Berlin’s most colourful multicultural neighborhood Neukölln. To get a feel of the multikulti vibe of this hood, pop into Café Refugio, a project of the Berlin City Mission where 35 people from nine different cultures live and work together on its six floors. Another great aspect of Neukolln is its rich Turkish community. Berlin has the biggest Turkish community outside of Turkey, who came to the city in the 1950s, 60s and 70s as part of a post-war employment treaty called Gastarbeiter. A great way to explore the culture is through the cuisine and my favourite Turkish restaurant in Neukolln is Azzam-arguably the best hummus in town. My other favourite place to eat in the area is Sahara Imbiss: they do a falafel roll with peanut sauce! Just €2.50- so good!
3. Check out the flea markets
Berlin has many flea markets happening all over the city. Some specialising in antiques, others in art, but most are general flea markets with old trinkets, GDR memorabilia, records, furniture and the like for sale.
4. Watch outdoor karaoke at Mauerpark on Sundays
Mauerpark which translates to ‘Wall Park’ is a park in the Prenzlauer Berg district. Its name derives from the fact that it formed part of the Berlin Wall. This urban park was historically the Northern Railway Station and in 1946 after the division of Berlin, the land was split between the French and the Soviets.
One of the largest and most famous flea markets ( There are lots of items to hunt through- all from aged vinyl records to vintage fashions to antiques and nicknacks ) takes place here every Sunday, from 7am to 5pm. One reason for its fame is the associated outdoor karaoke in an amphitheatre where brave souls can belt out their favourite tunes in front of a large crowd in the so-called bear pit. This starts at 3pm.
5. Visit the David Hasselhof Museum, Circus Hostel
If you know anything anything about the strong relationship between David Hasselhoff and the German nation- you’ll know that it’s not a good thing to hassle with the Hoff. Nobody knows it better than the good folks at the Circus Hostel Berlin, who have come up with the sweet idea of setting up a permanent memorial to the Hoff in the form of a Museum in the basement of the Hostel.
This museum definitely ticks all the boxes for being quirky and memorable.
Address: Circus Hostel Berlin : Weinbergsweg 1A, 10119 Berlin, Germany.
Tip: Combine the trip to the Hasselhoff Museum with some of the finest Craft Beers in the Backpacking World
Ever thought of finding your perfectly palatable craft beer at a hostel? No, me neither. That is until I stepped into the basement of the Circus Hostel. The hostel has a microbrewery and makes its own craft beers. Come for the beer, come for the friendly atmosphere, and while you are here, pop into the Hasselhof Museum next door.
6. Walk through the Brandenburg Gate
The Brandenburg is famously where the Berlin wall first fell in November 1989, so any visit to Berlin would not be complete without a trip here. Nowadays you can walk through the gate freely of course and try to imagine what it must have been like to be there the day the wall came down.
PS: On 9th November 2019, Berlin celebrated the 30 year anniversary of the fall of the wall. To commemorate this event, there are a number of really nice events taking place in the city that you should consider-for an uptodate list of what’s happening, checkout the Visit Berlin website for more details.
Tip: Once you have passed through the Brandenburg Gate, you will see the Berlin Victory Column aka ‘Golden Lizzy’ which you might recognise from the Wim Wenders classic, the ‘Wings of Desire’ ( Plus in U2’s Faraway So Close music video)
Not free but pretty awesome: I recommend climbing the 270 steps (Entrance fee €2.20, reduced: €1.50 ) and from the top enjoying one of the best views of Berlin- you have the panoramic views of the green, lush Tiergarten on one side and the Soviet War Memorial plus the Brandenburg Gate in the distance.
7. Visit the Deutsche Guggenheim for free on Mondays
Yes, Berlin has its own Guggenheim museum, and it’s free if you visit on Mondays! The museum houses a collection of contemporary art and has frequently changing exhibits from artists from around the world.
8. Get lost in the Holocaust Memorial
Close to the Brandenburg Gate are two important memorials to victims of persecution under the Nazis. The more famous one, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, is an area the size of a city block filled with grey concrete pillars set on a sloping field which you can walk between. Entering into the middle of the pillars, the sounds of the city fade away and you are surrounded only by grey, the effect of which is particularly haunting. Just don’t climb or sit on top of the pillars – you’ll get told off by the security guards.
9. Visit the Memorial to Homosexuals Persecuted Under Nazism
Across the street just inside the largest of Berlin’s parks, Tiergarten, is a lesser known but just as important Memorial to Homosexuals Persecuted Under Nazism. The memorial is a single concrete block with a window behind which images of same sex couples kissing are displayed on a screen.
10. Take a free walking tour
There are multiple free walking tours on offer in Berlin, which operate on a donation basis. Try out the tour of the most famous sights such as Checkpoint Charlie and the Holocaust Memorial or check out the hip neighbourhoods of Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain to see an alternative side of the city. Also on offer are a tour of Potsdam, a city outside Berlin which was the former residence of the Prussian kings and a tour of the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp.
11. Attend a chamber concert at lunchtime
Outside of the summer months, the Berliner Philharmoniker puts on free weekly concerts on Tuesdays at 1pm. The concerts are made up not only of members of the Philharmoniker, but also from the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester and the Staatskapelle Berlin. Places are limited, some come early to make sure you get in.
12. Walk along the longest remaining stretch of the Berlin Wall at the East Side Gallery
Right by the river Spree, the main waterway running through Berlin between Oberbaumbrücke and An der Schillingbrücke is the East Side Gallery, where you can see the longest stretch of the Berlin Wall that still remains. In 1990, the city commissioned 105 different artists from around the world to create murals along the wall in celebration of freedom and the reunification of Germany, essentially turning the wall into an outdoor art gallery.
Tip : Before seeing the East Side Gallery, recommend paying a visit to the fantastic Michelberger Hotel , home to all bands visiting Berlin. They have a fab bar serving their own Gin and Tonics plus their very own coconut water, Fountain of Youth. Sometimes they have secret concerts in their basement ( signup to their newsletter! ) You’ll also find before the East Side Gallery one of the famous ‘Photoautomat’ (few dotted across the city) where you can all pile in for the mother of all group photos and the ultimate Berlin souvenir. Costs just €2 for 4 photos.
13. Get a view over Berlin from the dome of the Reichstag building
Nowadays the Reichstag building is the meeting place of the Bundestag, the German parliamentary body. In 1999, it was fully renovated after having stood is disrepair for many decades prior, and anyone can visit, the highlight of which is the glass dome on top designed to symbolise the reunification of Germany. From there, you can get wonderful panoramic views of the city, all you need to do is register in advance for a time slot. You’ll even get a certificate proving your visit afterwards!
14. Check out the gardens of Charlottenburg palace
Strolling through the gardens of the Charlottenburg palace, you’d be forgiven for thinking that you were in fact in a city like Paris rather than Berlin! The palace itself is the only surviving royal residency in the city and ticket to enter are quite expensive. However, you can visit the gardens for free at any time and fantasise about living the life of an 18th century royal!
15. Join a Meetup group
There is something interesting happening every day in Berlin on Meetup. From photography walks, yoga classes and group picnics to programming seminars, acting workshops and language exchanges, there’s surely something for everyone. Some meet ups are not free or request a donation, but the majority are free to join and open to everyone, whether you’re moving to Berlin or just visiting for the weekend. Many are also conducted in English.
16. Relax by a lake on a hot day
When it’s hot in Berlin, take the chance to get out of town and immerse yourself in some nature at one of the many lakes surrounding the city that are accessible by public transport. Many even have beaches and places where you can swim. Check out this map for all the best ones and how to get there by U-bahn, S-bahn or bus.
17. Watch the sunset by the Landwehrkanal
On a warm evening, the green area along the south bank of the canal at Carl-Herz-Ufer is full of people hanging out, drinking beer and enjoying each others company while the sun goes down over the canal. Grab a spot amidst the group and soak up the atmosphere: the perfect way to end a day in Berlin!
18. Tränenpalast (Palace of Tears)
This is a place fraught with heavy emotions and tears- hence the name Palace of Tears. The site of a border station, Berlin Friedrichstraße Station, during the time of the Berlin Wall, this is where people travelling to West Germany from East Germany would say goodbye to their kith and kin who were detained in East Germany.
Today it is a permanent exhibition, serving as a reminder of the history of German separation and contains several original papers, photographs, artifacts, audio and video recordings documenting the history of the place.
Address: Reichstagufer 17, 10117 Berlin, Germany.
Not free but just for the price of a single ticket ( €2.80) , hop on the bus M100 and M200 ( grab a seat on the top of the bus for the best view) -their route which runs from Alexanderplatz to Bahnhof Zoo will take you past some of Berlin’s most iconic sites that includes Siegessaule ( Victory Column ) , north side of Tiergarten via Reichstag and Bellevue Palace.
Best things to do in Berlin ( Not free, but pretty amazing edition )
19. Do a Street Art Tour of Berlin
A prominent street artist himself, Curtis’s 3 hour GetYourGuide street art tour of Berlin is a no bullshit, real tour deforce that dives straight into the roots of the movement that originated in the birth of hip hop culture & the graffiti art boom of the 1970’s in his native New York. The art form has subsequently undergone successive reincarnations to achieve cult status as a tool of cultural consciousness and social awareness, finding a natural home in Berlin’s rich subcultures.
‘Graffiti artists are loud and are looking for fame while street artists wish to remain hidden and anonymous.’
The tour is unique in the sense that through the eyes of a local street artist like Curtis , you can get a great insight into the psyche of the artist and the vast universe they reside in where a diverse range of talents and personalities try to coexist.
As someone well embedded into the local scene, Curtis’s tour gives you the inside track of some famous and not so wellknown street art pieces of Berlin.
My favourite pieces from his tour is Sobr’s- ‘It’s Time to Dance’. Berlin as you know is all about freedom of expression which is where the dance culture & street art culture have a natural connection. The pieces by SOBR celebrates spirit of Berlin, a city where you can be yourself & the joy of the freedom here which is expressed in its rave culture.
This is an incredible tour and Curtis was an amazing guide- he opened up my eyes to the city in a different way and reminded me why I love this city so much.
How to book this tour
The GetYourGuide street art tour lasts 3 hours and costs €14, booked via GetYourGuide.
Bring comfy shoes and a bottle of water for this tour. There is a break in the middle for coffee and snacks if you get peckish.
20. Cold War Tour of Berlin
If you are considering investing in a paid walking tour, highly recommend The ColdWar/Third Reich walking tour I recently took via GetYourGuide. For just €19 and lasting 2 hours, the tour is a fantastic introduction to Berlin’s complex history.
Part of my enduring fascination with Berlin lies in its complex history. This city witnessed a lot of pain, lot of darkness to evolve into the wonderful city it is today. The Cold War/Third Reich Tour gave me the chance to get under the skin of the city. Jamie, a professional archeologist who moved to Berlin in 1999 when the city was just a building site was our perfect guide to tell us about the transformation of the city.
Jamie kicked off the tour fittingly at the national symbol of Germany, the Brandenburg Gate which has seen it all- Napolean, Hitler, Kennedy and of course, the Fall of the Wall. On the tour you learn about pivotal moments in Berlin and world history like the Reichstag Fire Decree in 1933 which allowed Hitler to impose martial law for the protection of people and state, eventually paving the way for the Germany to become an authoritarian state, World War 2 & the I won’t name names but you can see echoes of 1933 in the current rise of a number of a few countries that are on the road to becoming authoritarian states.
The tour was a sobering reminder of what lies ahead if the current narrative doesn’t change.The tour is filled with lots of painful and surreal moments. One of the most bizarre and bone chilling moments when Jamie showed us the notorious Führerbunker where Hitler apparently committed suicide. The bunker is now fittingly hidden under the most ordinary parking lot.The tour later turns towards to the rise of the Cold War and how Berlin became the epicentre of a tense global conflict between the superpowers. In fact we were not far from a Third World War at Checkpoint Charlie. The story of what happened next…is one of many fascinating stories you’ll hear on the tour. In short, this tour is unmissable. If you are coming to Berlin, don’t miss it .The answers to our all our world’s problems lies in the past….educating yourself, meeting people like Jamie- so important. Literally, can change your life perspective.
How to book this tour
Tour costs €19 booked via GetYourGuide and last 2 hours. Group sizes are small so its personalised and also social distancing friendly. Bring comfortable shoes and a bottle of water. Plus expect to cover a distance of around 3 kms.
21. Visit the Neue Nationalgalerie
If you love art then do pay a visit to the newly refurbished Neue Nationalgalerie (New National Gallery, Potsdamer Straße 50), Berlin’s museum of modern art. It’s great to visit for 2 reasons- you can enjoy a stellar collection of the best of 20th century art with masterpieces of artists like Pablo Picasso, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Joan Miró, Wassily Kandinsky and Barnett Newman on show. The other highlight of my visit was the building itself, a beautiful steel and glass temple designed by Mies van der Rohe.
Entry is a hefty €14 but if you are planning to some more museums during your stay, I suggest investing in the excellent Museum Pass Berlin which allows you free entry to all the top museums on 3 consecutive days for just €29.
As I mentioned earlier, it is worth noting that there is free entry to the Neue Nationalgalerie every Thursday from Thursday 5 January 2023, admission to the Neue Nationalgalerie is free every Thursday from 4 to 8 pm as part of the Volkswagen Art4All initiative.
Tip: If you are planning to visit the Berlin Philharmonie for the free concert on Tuesday, it combines well with the Neue Nationalgalerie which is literally next door plus the Filmmuseum in the Sony Center on Potsdamer Platz. Also, if you love really nice cocktails, I recommend nipping into the Ritz Carlton on Potsdamer Platz for cocktails at the fabulous Curtain Club- pricey but probably one of the most amazing cocktails I have ever tasted.
22. Deutsche Kinemathek, Berlin
If you love movies and film history then a visit to the Deutsche Kinemathek, in the Sony Centre at Potsdamer Platz is a great way to spend a few hours and immerse yourself in an excellent multimedia experience of German film history. Highlights of the tour include a behind the scenes look of classic German expressionist masterpieces such as ‘The Cabinet of Dr Caligari’ and Fritz Lang’s ‘Metropolis’. Other areas covered include the films of the Weimar Republic; how the industry suffered in the years of Hitler and National Socialism, exile in Hollywood to the post-war years and contemporary cinema. The personal highlight for me was the section dedicated to the greatest German diva, Marlene Dietrich with a number of her personal objects
and memorabilia on show.
Entry €9, Reduced entry: €5
22. Visit the Pergamonmuseum
Lying in the middle of the Spree, Berlin the UNESCO-listed World Heritage Site listed Museum Island is home to five of Berlin’s most important museums and if you are on a short visit , one not to be missed is the spectacular Pergamonmuseum, one
of the world’s major archaeological museums. The highlights of the museum are a series of astounding structures, from a partial recreation of the Pergamon Altar (170–159 BC) to the two-storey Roman Gate of Miletus and the Ishtar Gate of
Babylon, dating from the reign of King Nebuchadnezzar (605–563 BC). Upstairs is
the Islamic Art collection.
You can access the museum with a day ticket which costs a hefty €14 (€7, reduced) but free with the 3 day Museum pass. ( also includes entry to the Neue Nationalgalerie )
23. Studio of Wonders
I have mixed feelings about ‘doing it for the gram’ but whatever your feelings are about the selfie generation and new generation of selfie museums like Studio of Wonders are undeniably a lot of fun.
With over 20 interactive installations to choose from, there’s plenty for you to indulge in and awaken your inner child.
As you can tell, both me and Sabrina had a ball! 😂
How to book
Tickets cost €19.90 and can be booked via GetYourGuide.
Where to eat and drink in Berlin
24. Visit the Sunday Breakfast Market at Markthalle Kreuzberg
Berliners love their Sunday brunch and this market, taking place every third Sunday of the month is definitely something you want to check out. Taking place in the Markthalle in Kreuzberg you can sample a wide variety of food options from Bloody Marys, Custard tarts and slices of focaccia to a good old Eggs Benedict
25…..Or visit the Arminius Market Hall in Moabit
I would argue that the Arminius Market Hall is the more authentic, local market hall in Berlin. You won’t see many tourists here- Moabit unusual offbeat location means you will mostly encounter locals here and that is reflected in the prices. My favourite burger joint in Berlin, Pound and Pence is located here- the chicken tikka burger is amazing as well as the dry aged beef burger and their ‘dirty fries’ are the bomb. There’s also Pilsner Urquell on draft here and they have a very cheap good Vietnamese restaurant here called Hanoi One – in terms of the price, it really is one of the best deals in town. Note: Avoid the Poutine joint here- not what I would consider proper poutine.
Meet the best sandwich in the world- the Banh Mi. Whenever I visit Berlin, I try to visit this wonderful unassuming Banh Mi Deli serving up the most delicious sandwiches in town. With very affordable 6 euro prices, you really can’t go wrong with this option for lunch or dinner or even both.
Address: Rosenthaler Str. 2, 10119, Berlin, Germany.
For the latest of what’s happening in Berlin, checkout this link.
The one thing not to do in Berlin: Visit Checkpoint Charlie
Checkpoint Charlie is the most overrated tourist attraction of Berlin. For those of you not in the know, Checkpoint Charlie was one of the few transit points where anyone that was not a West Berliner, who had valid passport, could exit West Berlin and visit East Berlin for the day. It was a place where you could see the drastic difference in life between West and East Berlin. West Berliners were busy rebuilding and tearing down post WWII apartments and building more modern blocks of flats. Shops were springing up and business was flourishing while in East Berlin, there were blocks of vacant land that while the rubble of WWII had been cleared, nothing had been built.
The building that was the Allied Checkpoint Charlie has been moved to another site and the Berlin Wall has been torn down. Even the sign you see, is not the original sign- you can find that in the Zeitgeschictliches Forum in Leipzig. ( Btw , if you haven’t planned a visit to Leipzig, please do plan a day or weekend visit. Here is a recent guide to the best things to do in Leipzig
Had Checkpoint Charlie been left in place with 100 meters of wall on either side (along with the East German Passport control) it would have been a better look back at history.
For those of you who are keen to learn more about what life was like behind the wall, I highly recommend a visit to the very moving and haunting Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer (Berlin Wall Memorial) : A memorial to the victims of the Berlin Wall, this stretches for 1.4km along Bernauer Strasse, along the actual course of the Wall. More on the Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer in my self guided free walking tour of Berlin Mitte
Further Berlin resources and guides to checkout
- 7 of the best budget places to stay in Berlin
- 10 Movies that inspired me to visit Berlin
- How to hack to Berlin Transport System
- Self guided free walking tour of Berlin’s coolest upcoming district: Wedding
- Best things to in Potsdam, the perfect daytrip from Berlin
- 48 Hours in Berlin: Outdoors edition