Top 10 Free Things To Do In Berlin
How to experience Berlin without paying a single euro
It’s not only Berlin who totes the philosophy ‘poor but sexy’, it’s often her expats too. But that is no reason you can’t enjoy the culture, history, architecture and fun Berlin is famous for. Live the local lifestyle, step back into the past or hang with the avant-grade; there are many things to do in Berlin for free. Here’s our pick of the best sights and activities which are on the house.
1. See the remains of the Berlin Wall
The longest remaining section of the infamous berlin Wall, known as the East Side Gallery, runs for 1.3km along the edge of the river Spree in the hip district of Kreuzberg-Friedrichshain. Colourfully painted with some of the most iconic artwork from 1989, this informal open-air gallery features 105 murals expressing the events and emotions at the time of Berlin’s unification. For a more realistic take on the wall, there is another stretch of the Wall left in its original state at the Topography of Terror Museum, a comprehensive exhibition of WWII, which is free to explore.
2. Join a free walking tour
There is no better way to get to know a city than by strolling its streets with a knowledgeable guide, and Berlin’s intricate history makes it the home to some of the most interesting walking tours. For the first timers, get your bearings on the New Berlin Free Walking Tour, an entertaining introduction covering all the main sights. For those looking to dig a little deeper, the Alternative Berlin Free Walking Tour is a great way to uncover Berlin’s famous counter culture, visiting street art, squat houses, key kiez and other local hangouts. Both tours last around 3 hours and run daily.
3. Enjoy and ariel view
Berlin is by no means a ‘pretty city’, but it has a fascinating range of architecture in distinct sections of the former east and west. There is no better way to appreciate this divide than from above. You could take elevator up the Berlin TV Tower for a price, but for those seeking a free option, visit the Reichstag Building. The house of the German parliament, and a popular landmark in its own right with its mix of old meets new architecture, offers panoramic views from its famous glass dome and roof terrace. Just be sure to register in advance!
4. Take a moment to remember
Although the walk through the looming columns of the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is a somber one, it is an emotional experience not to be missed. The haunting memorial with its gridded labyrinth of sloping pathways between towering concrete slabs encapsulates the disorientation and uncertainty of the victims of the Holocaust. The underground information center with personal stories of Jewish victims is also free to enter.
5. Mooch, shop and sing in Mauerpark
Berlin’s park culture is no better encapsulated than on the long strip of grass in the middle of Prenzlauerbeg’s Mauerpark. Visit on a Sunday to shop at the popular flea market, with stalls selling everything from local fashions to GDR memorabilia as well as some tasty eats. At 3pm from spring to autumn, join the sprawling crowd in the stone amphitheater for Bearpit Karaoke. Listen to a great mix of serious singing talent and amateurs in a carefree atmosphere, or, if you are daring, sing yourself.
6. Eye the iconic
As a national symbol, the Brandenburg Gate is the ideal backdrop for you token ‘me in Berlin’ photo. For those of you who are not fans of photo whoring, visit the site and take a moment to appreciate the depth of history this structure has witnessed. Since it’s construction in 1788, the Brandenburg Gate has been a symbol of Berlin politics. Quite a feat as this symbolism shifted from representing peace, to victory, to anti-semitism, to division, before finally freedom and unity. The gate is best viewed by night when its majesty shines under soft lights (and most of the annoying tourists have left).
7. Visit a concentration camp
While it will not be a fun day out, taking the day trip to Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp is an experience you will not easily forget. A free museum and memorial is now housed on the site which was both a Nazi concentration camp and Soviet gulag. The unbiased exhibit states in detail the crimes of both sides, giving you a glimpse into the horrors of political persecution. As you wander around the original buildings, you will learn the story of the camp, about its famous inhabitants and the fate of over 260,000 people.
8. Stroll through ‘the peoples park'
Boasting landscaped lawns, formal gardens, green forests and sparkling lakes, Berlin’s green heart Tiergarten is beautiful at any time of the year. But there is more to see in the park than nature alone. Lying within the park ground is an array of statues and memorials, the Victory Column, the Carilon, Scholss Bellevue, the Berlin Zoo and most importantly a couple of traditional German beer gardens. The perfect place for a relaxed afternoon.
9. Amuse yourself in a Museum
From 6pm Thursday evenings, the famous exhibits in Berlin’s state museums are free of charge. To get the best out of this deal, visit Museum Island. Boasting 5 of Germany's most important museums in one location, including the Pergamon Museum and Old National Gallery, you can pick and choose from culture, history, art or all three. For history buffs, these museums are the ultimate free things to do in Berlin.
10. Dance until sunrise
Berlin is not known as a party town for nothing, with free open air events regularly staged all over the city. Minimalistic house and techno are the most common music flavours. And best of all, unlike at Berghain and Co., you are guaranteed to get in. If you are more of a rock fan, the legendary SAGE club offers free entry every Thursday night between 8 and 10pm.
~BONUS~ 11. Explore off the beaten path
For the urban adventurers among you, Berlin is full of treasures. Berlin’s divided history has left many a house or factory abandoned, especially in the former east as well as the districts Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg. So get lost and see what you stumble across. Our favorites are the WWII listening station Teufelsberg, the ex-theme park Spreepark and Beelitz Sanatorium. But be warned, all of these places do involve trespassing.
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