If you’re planning to spend some time in Germany, you’d be doing yourself a disservice if you didn’t stop by Berlin for at least a day or two of exploration and fun. You’ll find it all in Berlin – great food, compelling museums, impressive architecture, gorgeous parks and green spaces, spots where significant moments in history took place… and plenty of opportunities to have a great time.
But Berlin, like many European capitals, isn’t necessarily the cheapest spot to visit. If you’re on a budget, you’ll want to incorporate some low- or no-cost activities into your plans to balance out the attractions that charge admission and everything else you’re paying for. Lucky for you, this isn’t too hard to do. Many of Berlin’s most loved attractions are totally free to the public, making this city an excellent choice for folks who are trying to stick to a budget.
Looking for ways to enjoy Berlin without spending a ton of cash? Here are some of the best cheap and free things to do when you’re in Berlin:
Check Out the Brandenburg Gate
Of all the monuments, museums, and memorials in Berlin, there’s a good chance you’ve heard about this one. One of Europe’s most recognizable gates, the Brandenburg Gate, has set the stage for a number of moments in history, making it a main attraction for those who love the past – but you’ll appreciate the gate even if you don’t consider yourself a history buff.
The gate has been renovated in recent years to restore it to its original beauty – centuries of action finally took a toll in the early 2000’s, and the monument was shut down for refurbishment. Today, you can’t climb the gate or go inside, but it’s a great place to snap a few photos and people-watch for a bit. If you visit at night, you’ll be treated by views of the gate all lit up – a beautiful sight. And on certain holidays and memorials, you’ll find the gate bathed in a number of different colors in memorial or celebration.
Visit the Remnants of the Berlin Wall
The Berlin Wall split the city in two during the tense years of the Cold War, dividing the city of Berlin in half.
There are a few places around Berlin where you can see remnants of the wall, but the biggest and most impactful portion that remains stands along the Spree River. Unlike the graffiti that covered the wall during the Cold War, the wall now serves as a canvas for artists from all over the world, who have covered its surface with murals inspired by peace. Take a stroll along the wall, admire the art, and snap a few photos to capture this fragment of history.
Grab a Bite to Eat at the Marheinekeplatz Market
Public markets are a huge part of the culture in Europe, so it’s no surprise to learn they’re a big hit in Germany, too. Berlin is home to a number of markets, where local vendors can be found selling everything from sweets and snacks to antiques, crafts, clothes, and souvenirs.
The Marheinekeplatz is one of the most well-loved local markets, making it a great choice for visitors looking for an authentically “Berlin” experience. The market takes place indoors, so you won’t have to worry about the weather, and it places a focus on food over other stuff, so plan to arrive hungry! You’ll find lots of organic options, as well as stalls that serve up cuisine from all over Europe – Greek, Italian, and Spanish tapas and treats, are served alongside German comfort food favorites.
Pay Your Respects at the Holocaust Memorial
The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe can be found near the Brandenburg Gate and consists of 2,711 gray blocks, each one slightly different from the next. The surface undulates, and the pathways between the blocks are narrow, so stick together and watch your step. The memorial is perfect in its simplicity, and represents a moving tribute to honor those who lost their lives in the atrocities of World War II.
Spend some time strolling among the stones, paying your respects, before heading into the below-ground museum to learn more about the people lost to the Holocaust. You can see relics and artifacts from the time – letters, diaries, last notes – and discover the stories of families who suffered through persecution.
Visit the Reichstag
This government building, built in the late 1800s, is a stunning piece of architecture and a sight to behold. When Parliament is not in session, you can sign up for a number of different tours to learn about the building itself and the German government, but most guests prefer to skip this and head straight to the top of the building for a truly spectacular view.
The Reichstag is topped with a beautiful glass dome, which is the real attraction. You can actually climb to the top of the building and tour the dome for some unforgettable glimpses of the Berlin skyline. Plan to enjoy lunch at the rooftop restaurant to really get to soak in the views, or just take advantage of the dome tour, which is free.
It’s important to note that you do have to book this one in advance. You can register online, or you can register in person once you arrive – however, you’ll have to wait at least two hours to enter if you choose to sign up in person, and your ticket may not be valid until the following day.
Visit the Free Topography of Terror Museum
Fascinated by WWII history? You won’t want to miss an opportunity to check out this museum, which highlights the activities of the Gestapo and the S.S. during the Nazi regime. The building itself is built on the former site of the Gestapo headquarters, and it’s filled with artifacts, stories, and exhibits that highlight the atrocities performed by these groups during the Second World War. It serves as a stark reminder for a very dark time in history, and it’s well worth the experience.
Berlin isn’t the cheapest city in Europe, but incorporating a few of these free and cheap activities is a great way to keep things more affordable while still enjoying the best the city has to offer.