Update: February 2021 !
Berlin and the rest of Germany is current on lockdown till middle of February. While the city remains closed for tourism, public transport is running as normal. Plus it is possible to visit Tierpark and the Zoo with an advance reservation. Bookshops remain open. For the latest updates on the situation in Berlin, please checkout the Visit Berlin website. Fingers crossed the situation improves soon.
Berin the creative capital of Europe and a city I’ve been proud to call home for the past 4 years. 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. There’s always something fun and interesting to do in the city -I’ve got a bunch of posts that will help kickstart your Berlin adventure. Be sure to checkout my newest post- a FREE self guided walking tour of Berlin Mitte plus my self guided free walking tour of Berlin Wedding . Also checkout my guide to my favourite budget places to stay in Berlin. This post about the best free things to do in Berlin was written by expat and professional travel blogger, Sam Wood from Indefinite Adventure. PS: If you’re looking for anymore tips or help with planning your Berlin adventure, please drop me a line via the contact form below.
Berlin might be the perfect European capital for the budget traveller.
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. There are plenty of ways to save money in Berlin and of course many wonderful free things to do in Berlin, especially if you plan on visiting in summer, which I definitely recommend. Here are my top tips.
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 Cuty 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 avourite 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
One of the largest and most famous flat markets is at Mauerpark, which takes place 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.
Not free but amazing: 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.
5. 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 celebrates 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.
6. 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.
7. 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.
8. 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.
9. Take a 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.
Not free but worth a splurge: The Cold War/Third Reich Tour via GetYourGuide
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.
10. 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.
11. Doing it for the Gram? Checkout 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.
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.
11. 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!
13. 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!
14. 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.
15. 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.
16. 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!
17. 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.
For the latest of what’s happening in Berlin, checkout this link.
Further Berlin resources and guides to checkout
- 7 of the best budget places to stay in Berlin
- 15 Free Things to do in Berlin
- 10 Cool things to do in Berlin on a budget
- 10 Movies that inspired me to visit Berlin
- How to hack to Berlin Transport System
- 6 free iPhone apps for exploring Berlin
- Cheap eats guide to Berlin