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Free Things to Do in Berlin

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This post provides ideas to enjoy Berlin absolutely for free, with a few almost free ideas mixed in.  

Berlin is a great city, and what's best, is that you can enjoy it on whatever budget and at whatever pace you choose.  


Brandenburg Gate

This monumental ceremonial gate was modeled after the “Propylaea”, the ancient entrance gate to the Acropolis in Athens.

It's 26 meters (85 feet) in height by 65 meters (215 feet) in width and is supported by 6 doric columns on both fronts.

It's topped by a quadriga with the goddess of victory, Victoria, holding the German cross.

It's a must-see landmark and is arguably the icon of Berlin, and we have a post that explains the monument in fuller detail.


The Berlin Wall Memorial

This moving memorial honors the victims of the GDR regime, stretching over 1.4 kilometers (roughly 1 mile) of the Berlin Wall's foundations.

The memorial and its documentation center detail the various ways by which its citizens sought to flee, including tunnels and, in particular, jumping from windows and roofs on Bernauer Strasse.

The memorial also explains the various methods used by the GDR, the East German regime, to keep its citizens from fleeing.

It is a completely free memorial and should be the first stop for anyone interested in Berlin's divided past.

Read our post covering the highlights of this memorial.


East Side Gallery

The East Side Gallery is not an art gallery, but rather a 1.3 km (.8 mile) section of the Berlin Wall.

This outdoor 'art gallery' runs alongside Mühlenstraße and the Ostbahnhof, close to the Spree.

Berlin East side gallery

There are over 100 murals created by artists from 21 countries, reflecting the political changes in Germany and the world at that time. 


Visit The Reichstag Building

This is certainly a must-see for visitors to Berlin, and there are a few things that you can do here.

Most people come to visit the glass dome, designed by Sir Norman Forster. Not only do you get great views of Berlin, but you can also get a bird's eye view of the Bundestag, the German parliament, in action.

You can age a guided tour of the building, and even sit in on a parliamentary session.

All three options are free of charge, but you must book appointments online beforehand.

Read our post on getting tickets to the Reichstag).  


The Memorial to the Murder Jews of Europe

Commonly known as the Holocaust Memorial, this is one of the most unique and impressive monuments in Berlin.

Dedicated to the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust, the monument consists of 2711 concrete blocks arranged in labyrinth-like rows.

There is also an information center, and an underground museum, with exhibits that tell the stories of the victims through artifacts and audio and video media.


Allied Museum (Alliiertenmuseum)

The Allied Museum is a museum that documents the Western Allies' political and military activities in Germany, particularly in Berlin.

Alliierten Museum (The Allied Museum)
Von Fridolin freudenfett (Peter Kuley) - Eigenes Werk, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17928641

The emphasis is on the Cold War era and the contributions of allies to liberating and their roles in administering Berlin between 1945 and 1994.

Willys MB jeeps, Handley Page's Hastings, a French military train, and a spy tunnel from West to East Berlin are among the popular exhibits.

Website


Walk Along the Spree River

The Spree River, or the River Spree, cuts across the center of the city and is a lovely walk with beautiful views both day and night.

Berlin-Spree-River-281x300

It flows past Schloss Charlottenburg, the Tiergarten, the Reichstag, Museum Island, the Berlin Cathedral, the TV Tower, the Humbolt Forum, and Treptower Park, just to name a few.

And all along its pathways, there are plenty of places to sit down, including a few "beach bars", where you could grab a drink and enjoy the views.


The Soviet War Memorial

This monument is located outside the tourist center in Treptower Park but is worth the visit if you have an interest in Berlin and the Second World War.  

It commemorates the 5000 Soviet soldiers that died during the Battle of Berlin at the end of WWII.

Panorama of the Russian War Memorial at Treptow

By Drrcs15 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The impressively large monument is rumored to be at least partly constructed from red marble removed from Hitler’s New Reich chancellery.

It includes a 13m (42 ft) tall statue of a Soviet soldier holding a child and a conquering sword.


Walk Unter den Linden

Unter den Linden is a boulevard whose name translates to "Under the Linden Trees" (or lime trees), which once again line its path.

Unter den Linden
Jess & Peter from Geneva, Switzerland, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

It connects the Brandenburg Gate, the Berlin Cathedral, and the Berlin Palace/Humboldt Forum, and has many important buildings and squares along its path.


Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp

During the war, this concentration and forced labor camp interned over 200,000 people, including prisoners of war, Jews, Roma, homosexuals, and anyone else considered "inferior" by the Nazis.

Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp

Thousands upon thousands of people were killed there.

This location is not technically inside Berlin, but it's reachable by Berlin's public transit. It is free, but donations are accepted.

We have a post with tips on visiting Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp, including tours.


Humbolt Forum (Berliner Schloss)

The motto of the Humbolt Forum is to be a place for culture, science, and the exchange of ideas.

It's housed in a mostly reconstruction of the 18th century Berliner Schloss (Berlin Palace), once the seat of the Hohenzollern dynasty.

There are several free things to experience here, including exhibits of the Ethnological Collections and Asian Art museums.

There is also a free and fascinating exhibit in the cellar of the building, where you can see remains of the previous palace and its related structures.

Lastly, there is a rooftop terrace where you could get pleasant views of Unter den Linden, the Berliner Dom, and Museum Island.


Tempelhof Field

Near the heart of Berlin is the decommissioned airport known as Tempelhof, which was shut down in 2008. It consists of airport buildings and runways.

Where the runways used to service the planes used in the Berlin Airlift, is today a sizable recreational park, where you can observe bikers, skateboarders, windsurfers, and people having picnics on sunny days.

It's a great place to meet locals.


Palace of Tears (The Tränenpalast)

The Palace of Tears, a former border crossing between East and West Berlin, was situated at the Berlin Friedrichstraße station between 1962 and 1989.

Berlin Palace of Tears

It now functions as a museum showing Berlin during the Cold War and telling the tale of the German reunification process.

Website


Topography of Terror

This free museum and memorial stand on the site of the former SS Reich Security Main Office and the Gestapo and SS Headquarters, near a small length of the original Berlin Wall.

There is a massive open-air museum as well as an indoor one. 

Berlin Topography of Terror

The permanent exhibit covers three areas: 

  • 1) the rise, chilling result of, and eventual fall of Nazism
  • 2) the propaganda employed by the Nazis
  • 3) an overview of the site in its prewar form and its conversion after. It also includes special exhibits.

For those interested in the history of Berlin in the 20th century, this is a must-see. 

There are display boards full of information and photographs, all telling the stories of people who lived through one of the darkest times in history.

Kulturbrauerei - Everyday Life in the GDR

The Kulturbrauerei (Culture Brewery) is a cultural and performing arts space on the grounds of a former brewery in the Prenzlauerberg District of Berlin.

One of the buildings is the Museum of Kulturbrauerei, which is a contemporary German history museum.

Museum of the Kulturbrauerei, via Wikimedia Commons">
Di © Stephan Klonk / Stiftung Haus der Geschichte - http://www.hdg.de/bonn/presse/pressefotos/2013-pressefotos/pressefotos-vom-07112013/, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=39700243

It's permanent exhibit, Everyday Life in the German Democratic Republic (GDR) focuses on everyday life of the citizens of East Germany.

This museum is a great free alternative to the DDR Museum next to Museum Island.


Free Museums

The Germans are quite a cultured people. They want you to be cultured too.  

The city offers a huge range of free museums. Click here for a complete listing of all the free museums in Berlin.


Flea Markets

Berlin often forgets to act like a northern European city and instead 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.


Parks

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.

You'll be watching Frisbee fanatics, busking musicians, and picnicking families all come together to appreciate green open space in a busy city.  

The best park to check out are:

Mauerpark (video above), where you can try your hand at one of the largest outdoor karaoke events at the theatre pit.

Gorlizter Park is 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;


Check out the Zoo

You can see some animals and save the Berlin Zoo's entrance fee.

Just walk around the edge of Tiergarten and catch glimpses of animals that reside in Berlin’s most famous zoo.  

Tierpark from Bikini Berlin

You could also 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 , you can watch the monkeys of Berlin run around through a window viewing area that opens to the Zoo.


Go Swimming

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.  


Take a Free Bus Tour on the 100 Bus

Berlin's public bus routes 100 and 200 are a dream come true for budget travelers.

Both bus routes stop in front of (or within easy walking distance of) many of Berlin's most popular attractions, though the 100 is the most relevant.

If you don't mind skipping live or recorded tourist commentary, you can save a lot of money and see a lot of attractions with this handy self-made hop-on-hop-off bus tour.

Urban Monkeys

Urban Monkeys is a new Berlin startup that offers an audio tour designed to ride the 100 bus.

It's a free app, and the tour is currently available for free download and use. They intend to add more tours in the near future.


Take a Free Walking Tour

Learn about the history of Berlin with a locally written self-guided tour of Berlin.

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!).

Berlin Walking Tours

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.


Watch the Swans

If swimming isn’t your thing then head to Berlin’s famous canals and watch the beautiful swans swim instead.  

A favorite spot for Berliners is Admiralbrücke, a short walk from the busy and grungy Kottbusser Tor.  

Best Free Things to Do in Berlin

Here you can find buskers, runners, and picnickers along the waterway, 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 with the best way to see the alternative side of Berlin.


Read a Book

Travelling and finished all of your books already? Not too comfortable reading German just yet?

Not a problem! Berlin has many great English bookstores.  

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 bookstores.

Our favorites include St. Georges in Prenzlauer Berg, Another Country in Kreuzberg, and Curious Fox Books in Neükolln.


Hear Some Classical Music

Herbert-von-Karajan-Straße 1 (map)

Every Tuesday at 1 pm 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.


About The Author

Anne Wittig

Anne was born in East Berlin and came of age in the unified city. She has an intimate relationship with her city of birth and still calls Berlin home. For the past 10 years, she has managed and written Free Tours by Foot's Berlin blog, detailing the best places to go, where to stay, and what to do in her hometown. This blog has been featured on Berlin's official website, mainstream press like Berlingske, and local blogs like Berlinforallthefamily.com. Over 14,000 visitors to Berlin have taken a tour from Free Tours by Foot.
Updated: January 29th, 2023
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