Top 10 free to-dos in Berlin
A visit to the country's capital is simply a must when heading to the land of beer and sausage. With its amazing mix of quirky, cultural and cool, there is so much to do and see in Berlin. However, all this doing and seeing can certainly make an indent on the old credit card, especially once you add a few big nights out into the mix. Luckily, there is still heaps of fun activities that won’t blow the budget, allowing you to save your money for the important stuff, like steins of hearty Bavarian beer.
Here are my top ten free activities in Berlin:
1. Free walking tours
Free walking tours are an awesome idea when visiting any city. I always go the first day I arrive somewhere as it gives you a good bearing on location, and you can also score some great hints on places to eat, best bars to drink in and the sights worth seeing.
The Sandeman’s free walking tour I went on in Berlin was one of the best I had ever done. Throw into the mix two world wars, the world’s most infamous dictator and the Cold war, and you’ve got yourself a capital city with one hell of an interesting history.
If you would prefer to explore the cultural scene of Berlin, particularly its lively street art, then give Alternative Berlin free walking tours a go. Get insider tips from locals about the most happening night spots, day time raves, and quirky stores.
Note: Even though the word ‘free’ is in the title, it is expected you give your guide a tip. Start at a minimum of 10 euros and work your way up, depending on the entertainment value you felt you gained from the tour.
2. East Side Gallery
This epic 1.3 kilometres stretch of street art, in memorial of peace, is one of the coolest haunts in Berlin, hands down. The world’s largest open air gallery is situated along the longest remaining part of the Berlin Wall, and is home to the iconic mural of Soviet Leader Brezhnev smooching East German President Honecker.
Getting there: Subway station: Warschauer Strasse Station.S-Bahn station: Ostbahnhof, Warschauer Strasse Station
3. Reichstag Dome
This neo-renaissance government building with its glass dome atop is a perfect way to enjoy a 360 degree view of Berlin’s night skyline. Even the building itself is well worth the visit. Wandering up the spiral walkway of the futuristic bubble, you will feel like you have walked straight onto the set of Star Wars.
Note: You need to register beforehand to get allocated a time slot, and there can be a bit of a line at the registration booth. My advice is to head there when it opens in the morning to register for a place in the evening.
4. Picnic in a park
With more than 2500 gardens and parks in Berlin, you won’t be short of choice when searching for a spot with your picnic basket in hand. And you won’t have far to look, as smack bang in the middle of the city is the Tiergarten, the oldest and largest park in Berlin. If the picnic continues into the afternoon, make your way to the biergarten, in the west of the park, to enjoy a summer’s beer in the sunshine.
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5. Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Have a chance to see one of the best orchestras in the world for free every Tuesday at 1pm during its season from September to June. It’s very popular so give yourself plenty of time if you want to guarantee a seat.
Getting there: Subway station: Potsdamer Platz or Mendelssohn-Bartholdy-Park
6. Clarchens Ballhaus
The historic dance and live music venue of Clarchens Ballhaus was opened in 1913, and despite two world wars, is still standing today to offer free dance lessons. Embrace a bygone era on a Wednesday night with a swing class, or feel the latino vibe on a Thursday night with a little cha cha.
Getting there: Subway station: Rosenthaler Platz Station
7. Climb Kreuzberg Hill
Enjoy a foray into nature for the day, and climb Berlin’s tallest mountain for a panoramic view from Kreuzberg’s Viktoripark. Berlin is pretty much flat as a pancake so the climb to this point, at 66 metres above sea level, might give the glutes a bit of a workout. After the hike you can relax in one of the surrounding meadows before heading back down.
Getting there: Subway station: Platz der Luftbrucke station
8. Kunstquartier Bethanien Art Centre
This spectacular building and former hospital houses a complex of galleries and art spaces for the alternative art scene in Berlin. Many of the rotating exhibitions are free to view. If visiting between May and September, take the opportunity to catch an arthouse movie in the open air cinema located in the inner courtyard.
Getting there: Subway Station: Kottbusser Tor Station
9. Topography of Terror
If history sparks your interest then this indoor and outdoor museum is a must. Situated on the former site of the Gestapo headquarters, The Topographie des Terrors museum chronologically documents the terror of the Third Reich. A free guided tour is available in English every Sunday at 3.30pm.
Getting there: Subway station: Potsdamer Platz or Kochstraße. S-Bahn station: Anhalter Bahnhof or Potsdamer Platz
10. Berlin’s abandoned amusement park
Located along the river Spree is the abandoned theme park of Spreepark. The park closed its doors in 2001 and has been left to decay ever since. Take a half hour train ride out of the city, and walk alongside the river to spy the remains of the socialist theme park.
Getting there: S-Bahn station: Plänterwald or Treptower Park, and walk from there
It’s easy to do Berlin on a budget when there is so many amazing free activities available, leaving you all the more money for lip-smacking beer and finger-licking German food. Danke schon indeed.
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