Compared to other West European capitals, Berlin still remains a relatively cheap destination. Of course, you can easily spend a lot of money while there. But there are also a lot of free attractions in Berlin that you can visit. In this post I will try to explain to you what to do in Berlin when you are on a budget.
As a local travel blogger, I am always on the lookout for exciting and new Berlin attractions that are free to visit. So, in this list you will find not just free things to do in Berlin but also some off-the-beaten-path ideas.
After brainstorming for this guide I came up with a total of 100 free attractions! To make it easier for you, the list is split into themes: A) Free museums and attractions that are indoors (perfect for rainy, cold and windy days), B) free outdoor things to do, C) my most favourite parks and playgrounds (great for families and hot days), D) interesting self-guided walking tours, E) exciting street art hotspots, and F) the best lakes for summer.
Lastly, I also added some cool money-saving tips for your next trip to Berlin – how to eat and drink cheaply, get around, and save money when visiting the major sights.
A) Free Museums, Attractions, and Stuff to do on Rainy Days in Berlin
Berlin has a wide variety of museums, some of them are even UNESCO world heritage listed. Unfortunately, those museums that are well known, in particular the Museum Island museums, are not free to visit. Rarely will you find a day where they will open to the public for free.
However, there are many more museums in Berlin that are indeed free. I have included these museums in this list, together with many other free indoor attractions.
The historic German parliament is indeed free to visit, and it really is one of my top tips for visiting Berlin. Why? Because not only do you get a free history lesson and learn a little bit about the recent history of Germany. You will also get the opportunity to run up this funky spiral inside the glass dome (great fun for kids!) and look down into the parliamentary chamber. Lastly, the views from the roof top are decent, and if you look carefully you will even see graffiti from Russian soldiers carved for eternity into the stone. Tip: Although free, you will need to pre-book your stay. Bookings open up to three months in advance. Come in as early as possible in summer! (Platz der Republik 1, Mitte)
A fairly new art gallery in Berlin, Urban Nation is all about contemporary urban and street art. A fantastic museum to learn more about these new ways of artistic expression and see works of some of the best known artists. All around the museum on Bülowstrasse you will find lots of commissioned street art as well, which is, of course, a free attraction in itself. (Bülowstrasse 7, Schöneberg)
Topography of Terror
This is one of the most popular museums for visitors in Berlin. Topography of Terror does a great job at looking into the atrocities and crimes committed by the Nazi regime. There are free guided tours in English that will take you around the site. The museum is located at the site of the former headquarters of the German Secret Police and the SS. (Niederkirchnerstr. 8, Kreuzberg)
Clock of Flowing Time and Set Theory Clock, Europa Center
Many people have heard of the World Time Clock at Alexanderplatz, but these two clocks are rather unknown. Both can be found in or in vicinity of the Europa-Center, an American-style shopping mall in the City West. The Clock of Flowing Time is an impressive feat of engineering consisting of glass baubles filled with a yellow liquid that slowly trickles down with time. The other is just outside the Europa-Center and will challenge your mathematical understanding. Blinking lights indicate the time, using the concept of Set Theory. (Tauentzienstr. 9-12, Charlottenburg)
Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church
For many years, Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church was a symbol for West Berlin. Located in the centre of West Berlin, is stood broken, ruined and blackened as a reminder of the terrors of WWII. Who wants to look at a broken church, I ask you? But while you are in the area, I urge you to have a look inside, because this church is much prettier than you might think. Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church has some wonderful painted ceilings and church art on display. The modern cubistic ersatz church next door plays a similar trick on you. I dare you to have a look inside and get wowed by the blue light that falls through the glass bricks. (Breitscheidplatz, Charlottenburg)
Funnel at Galeries Lafayette
Berlin has with Galeries Lafayette in Mitte its own version of the Parisian luxury department store. Of course, shopping here is not the free attraction. Instead, have a look inside and check out the amazing glass funnel that occupies the inner space of the store. It was designed by French architect Jean Nouvel who designed also the Lyon Opera and the Arab World Institute in Paris. A striking feature that you don’t want to miss when in the area! (Friedrichstraße 76-78, Mitte)
Free Concerts at Berlin Philharmonie
Love classical music? Then head to Berlin Philharmonie at 1pm on Tuesdays for a free concert! But hurry, spaces at the Lunch Concerts are strictly limited! (Herbert-von-Karajan-Str. 1, Tiergarten)
For international foods from around the world, check out Markthalle Neun in Kreuzberg. On Saturdays, the farmer’s market is an important institution in Berlin, and on Sundays Berliners like to meet friends at the Breakfast Market. A great atmosphere with lots of different scents, sights and sounds. Open daily. (Eisenbahnstr. 42/42, Kreuzberg)
PalaisPopulaire (free on Mondays)
Deutsche Bank considers the promotion of the arts an essential part of the company culture. As such, there has been a presence of Deutsche Bank in the Berlin art scene for decades. The latest opening is PalaisPopulaire (September 2018). This is a brand-new cultural centre with exhibitions, workshops and concerts celebrating the arts, sports and music. Check the website for current exhibitions and events. Entry is free on Mondays. (Unter den Linden 5, Mitte)
Monkeys at Bikini Shopping Center
No budget to visit Berlin Zoo? Go to Bikini Shopping Center instead! Bikini is one of the newest shopping malls in the city, and its located right next to Berlin Zoo. Grab a cheap eat from the foodhall and position yourself right in front of the panorama Monkey Window. You will find the zoo’s monkeys on the other side highly entertaining! (Budapester Str. 38-50, Charlottenburg)
Delicatessen at KaDeWe
KaDeWe is Germany’s best known department store. Opened in 1905, it today offers designer ware and lots of other items on 60,000 sqm floorspace. Even if you are not here to shop, you simply have to walk in to fathom the enormous size of this building. Most visitors will want to head straight to the delicatessens though. While the food might be expensive, it’s still fun to check out what’s on offer. And if you are lucky you might spot a celebrity or two at the Oyster Bar. (Tauentzienstr. 21-24, Charlottenburg)
Skywalk Berlin Marzahn
Arguably some of the best free views of Berlin can be had in far-away Marzahn. If you are not afraid of heights, book yourself in now. The Skywalk is a thrilling rooftop experience some 70 metres above ground (that’s 23 storeys). The one-hour guided walk is a free attraction but you need to call in advance to make a booking. Further info here. (Raoul-Wallenberg-Str. 42, Marzahn)
Plötzensee Memorial Center
One of the saddest chapters in German history was that of the Nazi regime, something that can be easily explored in Berlin. Many political opponents were unjustly arrested and executed at Plötzensee, a prison at that time. The execution chamber can be visited for free, and the adjoining rooms explain the background and the mechanics behind the juridical system of Nazi Germany. It’s a small memorial center since most of the prison was destroyed in air raids in WWII but it is still worth the time. (Hüttigpfad 16, Charlottenburg)
Knoblauchhaus Museum is a family residence from the first half of the 19th century which has been converted into a small city museum. It shows some remarkable period rooms with beautiful antique furniture, wallpaper and artwork. The Knoblauchs were a well-off Berlin family who made their fortune in the trade of silks. They were academics, politicians and architects. Entry to Knoblauchhaus Museum is free. (Poststr. 23, Mitte)
Exhibition “Everyday Life in Communist Germany” at Kulturbrauerei
What was life like in East Germany before the fall of the Wall? The thoroughly enjoyable permanent exhibition “Everyday Life in Communist Germany” at Kulturbrauerei Museum is a wonderful way to get a better understanding of circumstances in East Germany for normal citizens. The exhibition looks at taverns and living rooms, construction sites and workspaces. Entrance is free of charge. (Knaackstr. 97, Prenzlauer Berg)
Rathaus Schöneberg is actually the town hall of the suburb of the same name. People come here to apply for new passports, to register their residence and to get married. But it is also an old and striking building with lots of history. After WWII, it was the city hall of West Berlin in a city divided. In the 60s, President John F. Kennedy proclaimed on the front steps “Ich bin ein Berliner!”. And the Liberty Bell in the tower is modelled after the bell in Philadelphia. Inside, view the impressive 1914 entrance hall with a total length of 63 metres. (John-F.-Kennedy-Platz, Schöneberg)
Mies van der Rohe House
Before architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe left Germany for the US in the 1930s, he designed his family home in Berlin following the principles of the Bauhaus style. Lemke House, as it is also known, can be visited for free. The clean lines, wide open spaces and minimalistic style offer the perfect framework for changing exhibitions. Mies van der Rohe’s works include the Chicago Federal Complex and the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, making him one of the most important architects of the 20th century. (Oberseestr. 60, ALt-Hohenschönhausen)
Tränenpalast – the Palace of Tears. This poetic name was given to the departure hall at Friedrichstrasse Station, one of the legal border crossings between East and West Germany. Today it is a free museum, but back in the day it was the place where families would say goodbye for an unknown period of time. Of course, this caused a lot of grief and frustration, hence the name. The permanent exhibition at Tränenpalast is free and includes an English language audio guide with personal stories of families affected by the division. (Reichstagufer 17, Mitte)
Ephraim Palace (only 1st Wednesday of the Month)
Ephraim Palace is a beautiful rococo palace in the historic quarter of Berlin, Nicolai Quarter. Built by the Royal Jeweller of Friedrich II, the house has one of the most beautiful oval-shaped staircases in Germany. The house is home to various changing exhibitions about the history of the city. Free entry on every first Wednesday of the month. (Poststr. 16, Mitte)
Märkisches Museum (only 1st Wednesday of the Month)
Märkisches Museum is another excellent free museum in Berlin. It focuses on exhibitions and everyday objects that tell Berlin’s history and give insights into the local culture. The building itself of Märkisches Museum is more than 100 years old and reflects the different building styles over time. Normally, entry is not free except for one day per month. (Am Köllnischen Park 5, Mitte)
Marienkirche is one of the oldest churches in Berlin. Built in 1250, it is the only surviving building that is still used as a church. The style is Gothic and Baroque. You can visit anytime between 10am and 4pm between January and Easter except during service and concerts. (Karl-Liebknecht-Str. 8, Mitte)
Daimler Contemporary Kunstausstellung
Daimler, the company behind the German car brand Mercedes, offer Daimler Contemporary Kunstausstellung at Potsdamer Platz. The exhibitions show mainly paintings from the 20th century with a focus of those that come from South-Western Germany and Stuttgart (which is where Daimler is headquartered). The exhibition is hard to find and is getting mixed reviews. But if you are in the area anyway and are looking for some free art, this is where you should have a look. (Alte Potsdamer Str. 5, Mitte)
Views From TU Skyline Canteen
Lunch with a view? Yes please! At TU University, the canteen (aka “Mensa”) offers cheap meals in contemporary surroundings and with some of the best views of the city. For more information and the menu, visit the website. (Ernst-Reuter-Platz 7, Charlottenburg)
BonbonMacherei (literally: Sweets Manufacture) is a small speciality shop with an open kitchen. Visitors can watch the team prepare colourful sweets following traditional recipes using a pre-war machine. A fun experience not just for children! The sweet smells are to die for. (Oranienburger Str. 32, Mitte)
Berlin Fish Market
Berlin may not be by the sea, but this doesn’t mean that a fish market wasn’t a good idea. Visit this place to check out the huge tank with live fish (kids will love this), to see the selection of European ocean fish, local sweet water fish, crustaceans. If you have some money to spare, you may also want to dig into some of the German fish specialities right here and there, for example Bismarckhering, fish cakes, or Rollmops. Visit Berliner Fischmarkt in the morning before the best fish is sold out. (Rothenbachstr. 48-50, Pankow)
Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp
When staying in Berlin, Sachsenhausen will be the easiest to access concentration camp. It is located just outside of Berlin in the small town of Oranienburg. You can get there easily by public transport. At Sachsenhausen, you can learn about the terrible things that the Nazi regime did to the Jewish community during the 1930s and 1940s. It’s a huge site (which means you better visit on a dry and preferably sunny day) that is best discovered with a tour guide. The guide will ask for a fee, but entry to the site is free. For more info visit the website. (Str. der Nationen 22, Oranienburg outside of Berlin)
AquaDom Radisson Blu
If you cannot afford the costly tickets to SeaLife, head to the Radisson Blu hotel next door. Inside the lobby, a huge fish tank awaits you. The Aquadom is the world’s largest free standing aquarium. Visitors to SeaLife will be able to take a lift inside the tank but visitors and guests of the hotel may admire the outside from the lobby. (Karl-Liebknecht-Str. 3, Mitte)
The Hoff Museum at Circus Hostel
Berlin’s best known “citizen of honour” is David Hasselhoff, who Germans simply adore. His song “Looking for Freedom” is eternally linked to the fall of the Berlin Wall. A bit of a tongue-in-cheek attraction in Berlin, the Hoff Museum can be found in the bar of Circus Hostel. Apparently, David loved it when he visited in 2017. The hostel is currently campaigning to have the street renamed David-Hasselhoff-Strasse. (Weinbergsweg 1A, Mitte)
My former alma mater, Humboldt University, is open to the public on weekdays. All you need to do is step inside and walk the ancient halls of the former prince’s palace. It sounds grander than it actually is though. The interior is a fine example of 1950s East German civic architecture. But if you keep on looking you will find a string of framed photos from 29 Nobel prize winners that taught at Humboldt Uni including Albert Einstein and Robert Koch – just head up the stairs in the lobby. Plus, female pioneers in the academic world are also commemorated in a hallway gallery. You will even see ancient artwork that is some 1,800 years old if you visit the west wing. (Unter den Linden 6, Mitte)
Raum der Stille (Room of Silence)
Situated in Brandenburg Gate, the Room of Silence is a 30sqm room that invites visitors to take time to step away from the busy city to contemplate in silence. The room is free of any religious affiliations and is open to all. (Pariser Platz 7, Mitte)
The Best Free Outdoor Attractions in Berlin
Truth be told, the weather is not always nice in Berlin. In fact, the city can be horribly cold and the weather totally miserable.
But thankfully it is not always like this. When you travel to Berlin some time between April and Oktober, chances are that you will have nice warm days with no rain or nasty winds. The closer you get to summer, the better, of course. This is the perfect time to explore some of Berlin’s amazing outdoor attractions such as interesting buildings, open-air memorials, gardens and markets.
This list starts with the obvious and will end with some ideas off-the-beaten path. Read here which outdoor ideas I recommend!
Berlin’s most iconic landmark, Brandenburg Gate, is a must-see for any visitor to the city. It is a symbol for a Germany divided and reunited, the place where history was made and the first East German citizens were able to cross the German-German border into the West. If you want to take pictures without tourists, come early in the day because this place can get pretty busy!
Checkpoint Charlie is one of the former border checkpoints between the two Berlins – the one that was controlled by the Russians and the one that was controlled by the Americans. Today, you can visit the area to see an interesting open-air photo exhibition with explanations about the place. There is also a left-over control point and oversized photographs of an American and a Russian soldier. You may be lucky and find an re-enactor soldier at Checkpoint Charlie to take a photograph with for a small donation. (Friedrichstraße 43-45, Kreuzberg/Mitte)
Officially named the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, this mind-blowing place is another must-see when visiting Berlin. Just a couple of steps from the Brandenburg Gate, the two attractions can be easily visited in one go. The memorial consists of a field of stone blocks (stelae) that visitors are invited to walk through as if it was a confusing and disorientating maze. The underground information centre completes the visit. (Cora-Berliner-Strafe 1, Mitte)
Berlin’s best example of interconnected courtyard design can be found at Hackescher Markt. The “Höfe”, i.e. courtyards were a common feature of Berlin apartment blocks, where many poorer tenants would live in houses that were built far into the block, away from the street front. Today, Hackesche Höfe are no longer a collection of tenements, workshops and shops but rather a mix of art galleries, boutiques and speciality stores. The apartment blocks have been restored and show beautiful art-deco features. (Rosenthaler Str. 39, Mitte)
Berlin Wall Memorial
Many Berlin visitors are surprised to find that not much of the hated Berlin Wall has survived. However, if you want to know how things sort of looked like before the end of the Cold War, head to the Berlin Wall Memorial. It is a two-part exhibition: On the one hand, there is a park with different installations, foundations and instalments of the Berlin border. On the other, there is a free interpretation center with a viewing platform from which you can see the border zone from above. (Bernauer Straße 111, Mitte)
Berlin’s oldest quarter on the River Spree is home to a number of history museums, not all of them free. Still, you can take a stroll around the cobblestone streets of Nicolai Quarter and take in some of that Medieval flair around you. Highlights include the Nicolai church and the house that poet Ephraim Lessing used to stay at. Alas, it’s not as romantic as it might sound as almost all of it is a reconstruction after the destruction in WWII. You will find some good traditional German restaurants here though. (Spreeufer 2, Mitte)
East Side Gallery
The East Side Gallery is one of the last pieces of the Berlin Wall still standing. But it is no longer the dull grey wall that you might know from the pictures. Rather, it’s an open-air art gallery that shows impressions and ideas from artists that have experienced Berlin before, during and shortly after the fall of the Iron Curtain. The East Side Gallery is about 1.3km long and can be easily explored on a walk. (Mühlenstraße 3-100, Friedrichshain)
Mauerpark with Bearpit Karaoke and Flea Market
Mauerpark is no longer an off-the-beaten path attraction, and every weekend thousands of locals and visitors come here to enjoy the markets and the lively atmosphere of the park. We love to shop at Mauerpark flea market for Berlin souvenirs, cool designer ware and second-hand stuff. The park next door is home to the “bear pit” where mass karaoke and live entertainment please the crowds. Come here on a Sunday for all the Mauerpark fun and the flea market. (Bernauer Str. 63-64, Mitte)
The poetic name of Prinzessinnengärten translates to Princesses Gardens. This community project on a busy roundabout in Kreuzberg is a wonderful urban garden that was initiated by locals who no longer wanted to see the unused land go to waste. Today, visitors are invited to explore the gardens and farms, learn about green living and maybe stay for a snack or a cold beer. (Prinzenstraße 35-38, Kreuzberg)
I will not list Lustgarten under the parks category simply because I find it too small to be featured there. Still, it’s a lovely square with a beautiful fountain that is surrounded by some of Berlin’s most iconic buildings. Lustgarten used to be the kitchen garden of the nearby city palace (which is currently rebuilt). Today, it’s a popular spot to hang out or meet friends before exploring the Museum Island or the historic centre of Berlin. (Am Lustgarten 1, Mitte)
Alexanderplatz is the former central square of East Berlin and still one of the most prominent parts of the city. It is home to a number of important sights such as the TV tower, the World Time Clock and the Red City Hall. You will also find plenty of shopping, movie theatres and restaurants here. Additionally, Alexanderplatz is an important transport hub. Other than that, I think you can give this square a miss – it is a hot spot for petty crime and generally lacks aesthetics and appeal.
The unused land along the German-German border, aka the Berlin Wall, was a heaven for some creatures who disappeared as soon as the Wall came down. I am talking of rabbits, of course. An artist has come up with memorial stones that are set in the pavement to commemorate the fluffy beasts. You will see them easily north of U Schwarzkopffstr. on Chauseestr. in Mitte.
Truth be told, Potsdamer Platz is not my favourite place in Berlin as it’s really loud, touristy and overpriced. But you cannot deny that there is a lot of history here and that you can see some of the most exciting contemporary German architecture. Highlights of the area include a visit to the Mall of Berlin, the Sony Centre, and Potsdamer Platz Arkaden.
Gendarmenmarkt is a romantic square with beautiful old buildings such as the French Cathedral, the German Dom, and the Concert House. It is particularly pretty around Christmas time when there’s the Christmas market and an ice-rink to add an additional layer of magic to the experience.
It is easy to overlook Bebelplatz in the historic centre of Berlin as it fits in smoothly with the overall look of the area. However, do not walk past but investigate further. In the centre of the square you will find an underground memorial with rows of empty bookcases – a memorial to the book burning during the Nazi regime.
Celebs at Dorotheenstädtisch-Friedrichswerderscher Friedhof (Cemetery)
With its angels, tombs and mature trees, Dorotheenstädtisch-Friedrichswerderscher Friedhof is one my most favourite cemeteries in Berlin. A number of famous people from the last two centuries lay buried here. Some of them are of international fame, for example poet Heinrich Mann, philosopher Hegel and architect Schinkel.
Gas Lantern Open-Air Museum
A nice free installation can be found in the middle of Tiergarten: The gas lantern installation showcases 90 different street lights from 1826 to 1956. The lanterns have been collected from all over Europe and they are a mix of originals and replicas. They are lit every dawn and give off a warm orange glow which you cannot miss. (Strasse des 17. Juni/Ecke Klopstockstr.)
Berliner Christmas Markets
Berlin is not just home to some really good flea markets. Wait with your visit until December, and you get to enjoy the many wonderful Christmas Markets around town. My most favourite ones can be found on Gendarmenmarkt, at Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, at Charlottenburg Palace and at Kulturbrauerei in Prenzlauer Berg. More info here.
Johann Georg Elser Monument
This striking monument is shaped like a face in profile. It is to remind us of Johann Georg Elser, a carpenter, who unsuccessfully tried to assassinate Hitler in 1939. After dusk, LED lamps illuminate the monument. (Wilhelms. 49, Mitte)
House of David Bowie in Schöneberg
It is a little known fact except for those in the inner circle that David Bowie once lived in Berlin for a number of years. Not only that: He also shared the apartment with Iggy Pop. The address is Hauptstr. 15 in Schöneberg. It is an ordinary apartment house, so not a museum and you won’t be able to go inside. However, if you want to learn more about Bowie’s time in Berlin, read this interesting article on Fotostrasse blog.
Boulevard of Stars
Maybe you’ve been to Hollywood Boulevard to see the stars there? Berlin has its very own version, and of course it comes with a German twist. All stars featured are tied to the German movie and entertainment world. But of course there are also some well-known international names such as Wim Wenders, Diane Kruger and Armin Mueller-Stahl. You will find the Boulevard of Stars at Potsdamer Platz just next to Sony Centre.
Granted, entry to the Jewish Museum is not free (it is around 8 EUR per person). But – you can admire the fantastic architecture from the outside. The museum was designed by world-renown architect Daniel Libeskind who also worked on the World Trade Center master plan and the National Holocaust Memorial in Ottawa. The focus of the museum is on an artistic interpretation of the Jewish fate during the Nazi regime rather than recounting the facts. The buildings fit right in with that and the garden surrounding it (with lots of installations) is free to visit.
Art Market Museum Island
The art market on Museum Island near Zeughaus is one my favourite free places to visit in Berlin on a weekend. This market right by the water offers the very latest in Berlin arts and craft including fashion, jewellery, photography and paintings. It is open every Saturday and Sunday.
This oddity from the 1970 looks like a 47 metre high concrete treehouse gone wrong. The Bierpinsel (literally: beer brush) is so colourful and so wrong, you have to see it with your own eyes. It is currently closed but definitely a great destination for photos. (Schloßstr. 17, Steglitz)
Sinti and Roma Memorial
One mustn’t forget that it was not just the Jews who were persecuted and murdered by the Nazi regime. Other groups of people were under threat as well: the homosexuals, the Communists, the disabled. Among those that were victims of the time were also the Sinti and Roma. See their touching memorial just a couple of steps from Reichstag at the northern end of Tiergarten. (Simsonweg, Mitte)
Führerbunker (Adolf Hitler’s Bunker)
Some people are keen to know where Adolf Hitler spent his last days before the fall of Berlin. His bunker is no more but you can find a sign in Gertrud-Kolmar-Straße that explains the history of the place. Today, the bunker made way to a parking lot, purposely. Contrary to what many believe, the leader’s bunker was nothing special in terms of facilities or size, it just happened to be close to the government quarter. (In den Ministergärten, Mitte)
Stolpersteine literally means “Tumbling Stones”. They are slightly elevated cobblestones set in the pavement. Pay attention as you are walking around Berlin and you will notice them in several places. The cobbles are there to remind us of the Berlin citizens who were deported and murdered during the Nazi regime. The names on the stones correlate with the place – these people used to live in the houses right in front of you.
Soviet War Memorial Treptow
If size matters to you, visit the Soviet War Memorial at Treptow Park. The memorial and attached cemetery covers a lot of ground and is framed by tall trees. Great if you like to climb on things to look down and if you have a knack for oversized things. Treptow Park is right next door, so you can easily combine these two free attractions in one go. (Puschkinallee, Treptow)
Thaipark is not exactly a place but I want to list it anyway. Thaipark is Germany’s biggest Asian street food market. It takes place every Friday to Sunday at Preussenpark in Berlin Wilmersdorf. The food is said to be very authentic (I’ll let the Thais be the judge of that!) Even when you are not hungry and don’t have money to spend – the people, the smells, the exotic dishes all make for a great experience. (Brandenburgische Strasse, Wilmersdorf)
First Traffic Light of Berlin
One of the many nice little details easily overlooked in busy Berlin, the first traffic light can be found at Potsdamer Platz. It is just on front of the flat roofed S-Bahn exit and looks like a clock with lights to all directions. The replica looks exactly like the first traffic light that was erected in 1924 to control the traffic at one of the busiest intersections in Europe at the time. (Potsdamer Platz, Mitte)
Similar to better known Hackesche Höfe, Heckmann Höfe is a series of converted courtyards which have quickly developed into an off-the-beaten track favourite with visitors. A number of cafés, art galleries and speciality shops have found a home here and are perfect to spend a relaxing hour or two just strolling and taking in the atmosphere. (Oranienburger Str. 32, Mitte)
On the backside of the Reichstag building, on the banks of the River Spree, you will find a small memorial which consists of a row of seven white crosses. They stand for those people that have lost their lives in the attempt of crossing the German-German border. You can read the names of the victims on the crosses. (Friedrich-Ebert-Platz 2, Mitte)
Heinrich von Kleist Park
Heinrich von Kleist was a German poet who lived in the 18th century and Kleistpark is named in his honour. What is striking about this park are the beautiful colonnades which were originally planned as part of a bridge leading to Alexanderplatz. The equally striking Pallasseum apartment block which you can see from the park is heritage-listed and sits on top of an above ground bunker. (Potsdamer Straße 186, Schöneberg)
Leise Park is a little hidden oasis in the middle of Prenzlauer Berg. There are still tombstones scattered around this former cemetery. But today locals like to use it as a meeting place, playground and a picknick spot. There are even some hammocks between the trees. (Heinrich-Roller-Straße 24, Prenzlauer Berg)
The Missing House
A rather obscure Berlin attraction that is little known even with locals, the Missing House is yet another reminder of the great loss of lives that the city suffered in the 1940’s. On the site of a destroyed apartment house at Große Hamburger Str. 15, you will see several big name plaques on the walls of the adjoining houses. They show names, dates and professions of former residents. The house was hit by a bomb in WWII and burned down to its foundations. Click here for more detailed information in German. (Hamburger Str. 15, Mitte)
Jungfernbrücke is a small old bridge that it easily overlooked but has some historic significance. The bridge connects Museum Island with the city to the west and is the oldest bridge still standing. The current version dates from 1798. Check out the wood constructions and the intricate draw mechanism. (Friedrichsgracht, Mitte)
Street Musicians at Oberbaumbrücke
Street musicians can be found at selected spots all around town (they need to have a license to perform). Keep an eye out for them at Oberbaumbrücke, Mauerpark, Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, Maybachufer, and Alexanderplatz. There are also some subway stations with legal street musicians, for example Schlesisches Tor, Yorkstrasse, Hallesches Tor and Wedding.
World Time Clock
The World Time Clock is a well-known attraction at Alexanderplatz. It is a 1960’s clock which shows the time in all 24 time zones. It is not particularly pretty or interesting in my view but an iconic photo opportunity. (Alexanderplatz, Mitte)
Tiergarten is the big park in the centre of Berlin. I always like to compare it to Hyde Park in London or Central Park in New York. It is big enough to let you forget that you are in the middle of a big city. Highlights of Tiergarten include the New Lake, the Victory Column, the Rose Garden, the Soviet War Memorial, and the Carillon Bell Tower.
Volkspark Friedrichshain and Fairytale Fountain
Volkspark Friedrichshain was the first park in Berlin that was built specifically for the public. It’s a popular meeting place in summer as it offers a mix of lawns, wooded areas, lakes and playgrounds. Highlights include the flak tower hill (with covered up remains of the destroyed flak tower from WWII), the gorgeous Fairytale Fountain and the toboggan run in winter.
While entry to Charlottenburg Palace is not free, the adjoining park and gardens are open to the public. I love to come here to enjoy the flowering beds and lush green of the lawns. Set right next to the River Spree, there are quite a few ponds and lakes, as well as a number of historic buildings such as the Belvedere and the Mausoleum.
Tempelhofer Feld in Tempelhof-Schöneberg is the site of the former Berlin Airport. It’s a perfect green space to ride your bike, run with a kite or have a picnic with friends. The site is historic and iconic, and there are several guided tours in the main building (which are not free, unfortunately).
Treptower Park is a pretty river-side park in Berlin’s east with an oversized Soviet War Memorial, a carp pond and a planetarium. Just south in Plänterpark, there is a notorious derelict theme park called Spreepark. You can only visit Spreepark via a guided tour at this stage, but Treptower Park next door is free and a destination in itself.
One thing people who visit Viktoriapark in Berlin rave about most after their visit is the pretty waterfall. But also the Prussian Monument for the Liberation Wars is worth a second glance. Great views from top of the peak!
Park at Gleisdreieck
The former railway site at Gleisdreieck has been transformed into a huge green space over the years that is today a favourite with locals. It is perfect for biking but you can also grab an ice-cream and stroll the quiet grounds or watch the kids in the skate park.
Just like Volkspark Friedrichshain, Volkspark Humboldthain offers a mix of wooded areas, flak tower hills and playgrounds. In the north, there is a pretty rose garden. The outdoor pool is not free but might be a lifesaver if you are visiting on a hot summer’s day and you are looking for refreshment.
Self-Guided Tour “Unter den Linden”: Berlin’s Historic Heart
Start your walk at Brandeburg Gate. If you have the time to spare, you may want to visit the Reichstag in the north or the Holocaust Memorial in the south before you set off. Then, just follow the broad boulevard straight to the east. The street is called Unter den Linden. On your way, you will come past the following sights (in that order): Brandenburg Gate, American Embassy, Pariser Platz, Hotel Adlon, Russian Embassy, French Palais, Microsoft Store, State Library, Humboldt University, Bebelplatz, Opera House, Neue Wache, Kronprinzenpalais, Humboldtforum, Zeughaus, Lustgarten, Berlin Cathedral, DDR Museum, TV Tower, Alexanderplatz. Total walking distance 2.5km, 30 mins.
Self-Guided Tour “Landwehrkanal”: Romantic and Alternative Berlin
This walk will take you along the canal that cuts through trendy Kreuzberg. You will see a mix of green spaces, alternative ways of living, cool shops and an international flair – everything that Kreuzberg stands for.You may want to start at Schlesisches Tor and find your way through Görlitzer Park to Landwehrkanal. Beware that this park is Berlin’s drug trafficking hotspot. Walk across the bridge to get to the southern side of the canal, then head right towards Lohmühlenplatz. You may see some alternative living concepts on your way, groups of people living a life of freedom in trailers. Cross the canal again to get to the western side at Lohmühlenplatz and turn right again. Take the next bridge to reach Paul-Link-Ufer and follow the canal until you reach the next bridge. Do not cross but turn around, follow the canal all the way until you get back to Schlesische Strasse. Here, you will find Lohmühleninsel which you crossed earlier with your first bridge. The area is packed with sights and attractions as well as parks and playgrounds. Have a look around before you finish your walk in one of the many cafes and restaurants. Total walking distance 6.2km, 70 mins.
Self-Guided Tour “Kurfürstendamm”: Shopping and Sightseeing
Kurfürstendamm, also known as Ku’damm, is considered one of the best known boulevards in the world. Walking down this street from east to west you will come past some of the finest examples of Berlin belle-epoque architecture, the most expensive fashion boutiques, lots of high street stores and cafes. Feel free to leave the big street to explore some of the side streets as well. Note that the name of the street changes to Tauentzienstrasse as you approach Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. Start your walking tour at Adenauerplatz and head east. Take note of the following areas and sights along the way: Luxury boutiques near Olivaer Platz, romantic streets with high-end cafes and shopping along Fasanenstr., Bleibtreustr. and Uhlandstr., first-class restaurants in Meinekestr., brand-new Kranzlereck shopping and office complex with bird cage in the courtyard, Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, Europa-Center Shopping Mall with Clock of Flowing Time, Main Street Shopping around Breitscheidplatz, KaDeWe, historic subway station Wittenbergplatz. Total walking distance 2.5km, 30 mins. (plus the side streets)
Self-Guided Tour “Berlin Wall Trail”: Tracing the Berlin Wall
Many first-time visitors to Berlin are surprised to find that very little remains of the Berlin Wall today. In the city centre, all you will see is a line of cobblestones that cuts through streets and follows sidewalks. East Side Gallery is probably the longest stretch of Wall that is still standing, although now as a curated street art gallery. Near Nordbahnhof, you can experience the brutal enforcement of segregation at the Wall Memorial. To follow the entire length of the Berlin Wall, however, check out this site which shows a map with detailed information on how to circumvent West Berlin following the Berlin Wall Trail.
Self-Guided Tour “Bergmannkiez”: Multiculturalism and Old-World Charm
Bergmannkiez is a little oasis in the crazy and hectic inner city world of Kreuzberg. Locals in this suburb hail from all corners of the world, and they all enjoy the cosy and peaceful atmosphere of this kiez. The houses were thankfully not destroyed in WWII and offer their very own charm, sprinkled with historic courtyards, gas lanterns, street markets, cafes and cemeteries. Check out this self-guided walk of Bergmannkiez that is offered by the Berlin Tourism site.
Tip: Free Guided Tours
Looking for more ideas for walks around Berlin or maybe want to join a guided tour? The team behind Alternative Berlin offers daily free walking tours. More info here.
Urban Nation is a wonderful urban art museum which focuses on young and talented international artists that have come to fame thanks to their street artwork. The museum explains in detail the development and trends of this rebellious art, gives plenty of examples, and showcases different techniques and styles. Urban Nation is one of my most favourite art galleries in Berlin, not just because entry is free. I wrote more about it here. (Bülowstr. 7, Schöneberg)
Bülowstrasse and U1/U3
The subway does not always run underground in Berlin. Both U1 and U3 run as a high line for a couple of kilometres connecting the East of the city with the West. Along the line, take the opportunity to look out the windows and you will see some amazing street art along the way. In particular around Nollendorfplatz because this is where you will find Urban Nation, the street art museum.
One of my most favourite street art hot spots in Berlin can be found at Hackescher Markt in a courtyard right next to Hackesche Höfe. You will find it when you head to Anne-Frank-Zentrum. If you walk all the way to the end you will arrive at Haus Schwarzenberg which is home to a number of art galleries and other businesses. Have a look inside, you won’t regret it!
Oversized Murals in Art Park Tegel
For some awesome oversized murals on tall apartment blocks in Berlin’s outer suburbs, take a train to Tegel. The colourful murals can be found close together around Neheimer Str. and Bernauer Str. and are stunning due to their immense size.
Friedrichshain has a vivid left-wing and alternative scene. Consequently, graffiti and politically motivated street art is omnipresent in the streets. They are used as a sign of protest or simply to beautify old or occupied houses. Have a look around Boxhagener Platz in particular as well as Rigaer Strasse.
East Side Gallery
East Side Gallery is probably the best known urban art space in Berlin. The stretch of Berlin Wall is covered in protected art work by local and international artists who expressed their thoughts on the Cold War and the end of it on this medium. I wrote more about the background of this fantastic art installation here. (Mühlenstraße 3-100, Friedrichshain)
Street Art in Wedding
Murals can be found as you comb the side streets around Müllerstr., the main thoroughfare of Wedding between Seestr. and the S-Bahn train station.
Graffiti Wall of Fame
The Graffiti Wall of Fame is covered in street art. Just a short piece of wall that doesn’t quite justify the trip but if you are in the area anyway, have a look. Among the more entertaining pieces is an Adolf Hitler looking for a toilet. (Niederbarnimstr. 15, Friedrichshain)
Murals at Skalitzer Strasse, Kreuzberg
Wonderful murals can also be found if you walk down Skalitzer Strasse in the heart of Kreuzberg. Start at Kotbusser Tor and walk down the street until you reach Oberbaumbrücke. If you cross the bridge you can continue your street art journey at East Side Gallery.
Schlachtensee Lake in Berlin’s west is easy to access thanks to the S-Bahn station of the same name in close proximity. Still, it’s a beautiful, quiet lake where you can rent rowing boats and SUPs. There are a couple of small beaches all around the lake where you can set up your picknick blanket and go for a swim. (Am Schlachtensee 82, Zehlendorf)
Wannsee is probably Berlin’s most famous lake. Wedged between Berlin and Potsdam, it’s a popular day trip destination for Berliners who want to take the ferry to the other side. Lots of villas old and new stand on its shores, some of them with historical significance. There is also a public swimming spot with beach (Strandbad Wannsee) which is patrolled and serviced, but you will have to pay an entrance fee of around 5.50 EUR per person. If you rather want to save the money, look out for access points as you follow the shore north.
Lake Tegel offers some great swimming spots on its western shores. People also like to come here for boating, biking and sunbathing. It is easy to reach by public transport (U7) but for refreshments it lacks some snack bars and cafes. It summer it does get quite busy.
If you are staying in the east, Müggelsee is a great option for a day by the lake. Take the S-Bahn non-stop from Alexanderplatz for an 1-hour ride and then walk another 10 minutes through a forest to get to the lake. Müggelsee is surrounded by forest and small houses and has beautiful clear water. The beach is free. Unfortunately (or fortunately), depending on your view on this) there are restoration works scheduled for 2019.
In the north of Berlin, Liepnitzsee near Bernau can be reached after a short walk through the woods. It is said to have some of the bluest and clearest water in the area, and there is a little island in the middle that you can swim to. The serviced area of the lake is only accessible for a fee but there are many “wild” swimming spots along the shores too.
Beautiful Parks and Playgrounds
Despite its urban flair, Berlin is a green city. Lakes and forests offer lots of day trip opportunities. There are the River Spree and Landwehrkanal cutting through the urban landscape like blue ribbons. Small leafy squares and playgrounds add welcome places of relaxation and respite.
See in this list which parks are particularly beautiful and easy to reach!
Great Self-Guided Walking Tours
A walk along the broad Berlin boulevards or on the banks of a canal can be among the most relaxing things to do in Berlin. The city has some very charming areas which are best explored by foot. These self-guided walking tours will help you discover a very different side of the city.
Street Art in Berlin
Street art is part of Berlin just like currywurst and tourist bashing. If you want to know what the latest trends in the art world are, you cannot close your eyes from the innovative, provocative and oftentimes funny urban artwork that celebrate the city. There is no real hotspot for street art in Berlin but if you have a look at the inner suburbs and neighbourhoods such as Kreuzberg, Friedrichshain and Hackescher Markt you may get lucky.
Here are my top spots for street art in Berlin.
The Best Lakes in Berlin
Berliners love their lakes. They tend to freeze over in winter and you may get the chance of ice skating on them. In summer, they turn into free open-air swimming pools, surrounded by nature. Between these two extremes, they are still beautiful places for relaxation and reflection. This list contains the best Berlin lakes that you may want to check out when staying in the city for a little while longer.
Bonus: A Local’s Berlin Guide – The Best Money-Saving Ideas
Berlin offers something for everybody. You can dine like a royal and sleep like a king, or you can go basic and enjoy the adventure. Trust me when I say that most Berliners live a very ordinary, down-to-earth lifestyle and that they do everything they can to save money in the process.
If you follow some of the tips below, you too will keep your budget under control and make this trip to Germany’s capital an affordable reality.
Get a Travel Pass
In Berlin, chances are that you will want to visit many different things that are not close together. Since distances can be wide, you will need to get around somehow. Luckily, a car is not needed because public transport is efficient and cheap. Look out for tourist passes that will allow you to ride busses, trains, trams and subways. They start at 7.00 EUR for one day, up to 5 days (they get cheaper the longer time they cover). Both, Berlin WelcomeCard and Berlin CityTourCard will also offer you discount for some of Berlin’s best known attractions. You should look out for tickets that cover zones A and B which will allow you rides within Berlin including the suburbs but not outside (Potsdam or Schönefeld Airport, for example). Click here for more info.
A Cheap Way to Tour the City: Bus Lines 100 and 200
There are plenty of tour operators in Berlin that offer the popular hop-on-hop-off bus tours around the city. Add to that a plethora of themed tours such as vintage tours, Trabi tours, and bike tours. But the easiest and cheapest way to see the city is by simply taking an ordinary bus that passes many well-known Berlin attractions. Bus 100 starts at Alexanderplatz and ends at Berlin Zoo. Between these stops you come past sights such as Brandenburg Gate, Reichstag, Bellevue Palace, Victory Column and KaDeWe. Alternatively, bus 200 drives by Alexanderplatz, Museum Island, Potsdamer Platz and Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. Since you are already owner of a Public Transport Pass (see above) all of this sightseeing will be free of charge.
Take the S-Bahn to Potsdam
The city of Potsdam is just outside of Berlin and can be easily reached by public transport. Just buy an extension ticket for zone C on the day that you would like to travel and enjoy the ride! Potsdam offers plenty of free attractions such as the Dutch Quarter, Sanssouci Parc and the beautiful villas of Berliner Vorstadt.
Shop at Supermarkets for Food and Drink
With the exception of the historic centre of Berlin around Museum Island and the Government Quarter, you will find plenty of supermarkets around. They offer great value on food and drinks including alcohol. In the front, there is usually a section for business people who are looking to grab a quick lunch: salads, wraps and cold meats. A word about alcohol: Drinking alcohol in public areas is not forbidden in Germany (as long as you behave). So particularly in summer you will see many people in Berlin’s parks and squares enjoy the warm evening breeze with a bottle of beer or wine in hand. It will save you the cost of going to one of the bars in town. Having said that, depending on where you end you partying at night, bars in Berlin can be pretty cheap too.
Make use of the Museum Pass
You’ve come all the way to Berlin but don’t want to miss out on the museums of the UNESCO world heritage listed Museum Island? Don’t worry, I understand. If you are keen to explore the cultural treasures from around the world that are displayed in Berlin, do yourself a favour and purchase a Museum Pass. For less than 30 EUR you will gain free access to 30 Berlin museums including Pergamon Museum and Old National Gallery over the course of 3 days. To get your Museum Pass now, click here. (Affiliate Link)
Introduce Currywurst to Your Life
When it comes to cheap eats in Berlin, currywurst is probably the best thing to try. Invented in Berlin (some say), you will even find a museum dedicated to the quick sausage dish in the city (Click here to read more about the Currywurst Museum). Buy it at any street vendor: For around 3.50 EUR you get a full meal consisting of a cut bratwurst with ketchup and curry powder, french fries and optionally ketchup and/or mayonnaise. Definitely not the healthiest option, but definitely cheap and delicious!
Have a BBQ in a Park With Friends
Staying with a group of friends and the weather is warm and beautiful? Get yourself one of these one-way aluminium BBQ sets and head for the nearest public park. Lighting a fire is not allowed everywhere but you can have a BBQ in some selected green spaces, for example Monbijou Park, Volkspark Friedrichshain and Mauerpark. Please ensure you stay within the designated areas and clean up after yourself.
Stay at a Hostel
There are quite a few good quality hostels in Berlin which offer dorm beds as well as private rooms. My favourites are Wombat Hostel, 25Hours Hostel, Generator Hostel and Circus Hostel. Click on the links to check rates and availability. (Affiliate links)
Free Berlin Guide: There Really are Hundreds of Free Things to do in Berlin
Berlin is a great destination for any budget – there are hundreds of free things to do in Berlin. Every day, new attractions pop up and free events are being scheduled. Look out for street parties such as the Carnival of Cultures (June), Christopher Street Day (July), International Beer Festival (August), and New Year’s Eve at Brandenburg Gate (December) to spice up your stay in the German capital!
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Berlin Guide Recommendation
Check out these great Berlin guides which come packed with exciting ideas! (Affiliate Links)