13 Free Things to Do in Berlin
This post provides 13 ideas to enjoy Berlin absolutely for free, with a few almost free ideas mixed in. This is the best city in the world for a lot of reasons but mostly because no matter where you come from you can enjoy this city on whatever budget and at whatever pace you choose. In Berlin we say, ‘come as you are’ and that’s it, everyone belongs here and everyone can enjoy themselves here. One of the best things about this city are all the free things that you can do. I highly encourage checking all of them out but if you find your time running short, don’t worry, Berlin is a place that you should always revisit because like its malleable and unforgettable history this city is always changing and forever evolving.
- (1) The Berlin Wall, various locations
Monuments tend to be outside and outside tends to be free. The Berlin Wall is the big one here. You can’t come to Berlin and not see the wall that divided this city in two for 28 years. Visit the East Side Gallery, the longest stretch of the wall that was painted by different artists after reunification. A must see is the official Berlin Wall Memorial at Bernauer Strasse. Here the wall has been fully reconstructed and offers a free viewing platform to get a top notch view of divided Berlin. Below is a 3 minute highlight video of the Berlin Wall Memorial.
- (2) The Reichstag, Platz der Republik (map)
It is free to enter Berlin’s parliament building but you must book an appointment online beforehand. (Read our post on getting tickets to the Reichstag). Marvel at the building that Hitler was elected Chancellor in, walk around the famous glass Dome constructed by Norman Foster and watch German parliament in action.
- (3) The Soviet War Memorial, Puschkinallee, (map)
This monument is located outside the tourist center in Treptower Park but worth the visit if you like Russian Propaganda. It’s easily accessed with mass transit. It commemorates the 5000 Soviet soldiers that died during the Battle of Berlin at the end of WWII. The impressively large monument is constructed from red marble looted from Hitler’s chancellery and includes a 13m (42 ft) tall statue of a Soviet soldier holding a child and a conquering sword. Tip: While you are in the neighbourhood, check out Berlin’s abandoned amusement park, Spree Park. Walk around the fenced in theme park of the past and watch the eerie ferris wheel turn in the wind.
- (4) The Memorial to the Murder Jews of Europe, Cora-Berliner-Straße 1 (map)
Commonly known as the Holocaust Memorial, this is one of the most unique and impressive monuments in Berlin. Dedicated to the six million victims of the Holocaust, the monument consists of 2711 concrete blocks arranged in labyrinth like rows. An easy place to lose yourself in thoughts about what Peter Eiseman was trying to say with his open ended construction.
- (5) Free Museums, various locations
The Germans are a cultured people. They want you to be cultured too. And they want this culture to be accessible to everyone. The city offers a huge range of free museums but the best ones include the Holocaust Memorial, The Topography of Terror and Tränenpalast (The Palace of Tears). For a complete listing of all the free museums in Berlin, check out http://www.museumsportal-berlin.de/en/museums/?free_entrance=1. Below is a video previewing what you will see at the Palace of Tears.
- (6) Flea Markets, various locations
Germans love being outdoors. Berlin often forgets to act like the northern landlocked city that it is and engages in the fabulous Mediterranean tradition of open air markets. Berlin offers a huge variety of flea markets all around the city that are open on Sundays, conveniently when most of the other shops here are closed. Some of the best flea markets around the city are located in Mauer Park (also a great place for buskers, beer, and karaoke), Klunkerkranich (a rooftop community garden, bar, and weekend flea market), the Turkish Market at Maybachufer (Tuesdays and Fridays), and RAW (located in a cool old abandoned railway yard). Read our post on the best Berlin Flea Markets.
- (7) Parks, various locations
Enjoy one of Berlin’s many green spaces while partaking in a typical Berlin tradition. Grab a cheap beer from a Späti (an all hours convenient store) and drink in the park while watching Frisbee fanatics, busking musicians and picnicking families all come together to appreciate green open space in a busy city. The best parks to check out are: Mauer Park (video below), where you can try your hand at one of the largest outdoor karaoke events at the theatre pit; Gorlizter Park, where you can sit in the Crater and observe all the interesting characters that Kreuzberg (the coolest neighbourhood in Berlin) draws; Or take a walk around Tiergarten, one of Europe’s largest parks and home to small lakes, memorials, and secluded picnic spots; and finally bring a grill or fly a kite at Berlin’s unique abandoned airport Templehof.
- (8) Check out the Zoo, Budapester Str. 38-50 (map)
If you want to see some animals and save the 15 Euro entrance fee, you can walk around the edge of Tiergarten and catch glimpses of animals that reside in Berlin’s most famous Zoo. If the weather isn’t cooperating walk into Berlin’s most unique shopping center, Bikini Berlin, and grab a coffee at the center of the mall between the art stores and racks of designer clothes and watch the monkeys of Berlin run around through a window viewing area that opens to the Zoo.
- (9) Go Swimming, various locations
Berlin may be landlocked but this does not stop the Berliners from enjoying a retreat from the city on the weekends with a swimsuit and a backpack full of beer. Berlin offers a wide range of lakes that surround the city and often in the summer these coveted spots get quite busy. Hop on a train and head 30 minutes west of the city to Schlachtensee. Walk through the serene forest and find an empty spot along the bank of the lake and jump in. If this spot seems too busy for you, head to the nearby Krumme Lanke, Schlachtensee’s smaller and less touristy sister. Tegelersee in the north by Tegel Airport offers row boats for hire and Wannsee in the west boasts a more traditional beach atmosphere.
- (10) Watch the Swans, (map)
If swimming isn’t your thing then head to Berlin’s famous canals and watch the beautiful swans swim instead. A favourite spot for Berliners is Admiralbrücke, a short walk from the busy and grungy Kottbusser Tor. Here you can find buskers, runners and picnickers along the river, watching the boats and the swans as the sun slowly sets over Berlin. After resting for a bit, be sure to walk around Kreuzberg and see all the street art and graffiti that make Berlin a famous haven for artists and squatters alike. Free guided tours of this area focusing on graffiti, squats, and cool bars provide you the best way to see the alternative side of Berlin.
- (11) Read a Book, various locations
Travelling and finished all of your books already? Not too comfortable reading German just yet? Not a problem! Berlin has many great English book stores. Dussmans by Friedrichstrasse train station offers one of the largest English sections in the city. They also have chairs and comfy coves to read and flip through books if you don’t have any space left in your suitcase to bring them home. If you are on a budget and don’t mind books with a little bit of history to them, head down to some of Berlin’s great used book stores. My favourites include St. Georges in Prenzlauer Berg, Another Country in Kreuzberg and Curious Fox Books in Neükolln.
- (12) Hear Some Classical Music, Herbert-von-Karajan-Straße 1 (map)
Every Tuesday at 1pm the foyer of the famous Berliner Philharmonie fills up with classical music fans for a free lunchtime concert. The concert lasts about 45 minutes and invites you to take refuge from busy sightseeing and treat your ears with musical offerings from members of the Berlin Philharmonic, the Orchestra Academy and also musicians and students from the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester.
- (13) Take Part in a Walking Tour, various locations
Learn about the history of Berlin with a local. Hear the stories of the tumultuous history of this city with guides who are passionate about what they do. Get insider tips and find out the best spots to check out in the city (in addition to this list of course!). The tours are technically free, and they operate on a voluntary pay-what-you-like or what you could afford model. Check out our full selection of free Berlin tours.
In conclusion, there are many free things to do in Berlin. We provided you with 13 ideas. Let us know if you think we should make it 14, and if you liked this post, please share it with your friends and family. Enjoy Berlin!