The Top 11 Free Things To Do In Berlin
There's no question that Berlin is one of Europe's most vibrant and exciting cities, and that's been the case for decades. The German capital has been a haven for artists and countercultural types since before the Berlin Wall came down. Part of the reason for that is because Berlin has always been surprisingly cheap for a European capital. And although that's less true than it used to be, there are still some bargains to be had in the city.
If you're visiting Berlin on a budget, you can make your money stretch a lot further by taking advantage of some of the many great free things to do in Berlin. Historic attractions, street art, monuments, and scenic green spaces can all be found in this big city, all of them technically free. With a little planning, you can see much of the best of Berlin without spending a penny. And even those attractions that do cost a little bit of money to visit can often be very reasonable if you plan ahead.
Of course, traveling cheaply is much easier when you travel light. The last thing you want to do while you explore this fascinating city is carry heavy bags with you. That's why Bounce makes it easy to store bags in Berlin and anywhere around the world you find yourself. Drop off your belongings with Bounce, and you'll soon see there's so many free things to do in Berlin, you can enjoy much of the city for next to nothing.
Berlin Wall Memorial
No matter where you go in Berlin, you can't escape the past. After all, as the capital of a newly unified Germany at the start of the 20th century, Berlin then became the capital of the Third Reich, and was almost destroyed in the world war that followed. Berlin then spent decades divided between the capitalist and communist victors of the war, making it a meeting point for two entirely different worldviews.
This sense of division can still be felt in the city today, and nowhere more clearly than at the Berlin Wall Memorial. Located in the middle of the city on Bernauer Strasse, this outdoor museum preserves the longest remaining stretch of the wall and the so-called death strip behind it, giving visitors a great insight into the oppressive atmosphere of Berlin during the Cold War. It's a great place to understand not only why the wall was built, but the ongoing legacy of its construction and removal.
The Nazi regime that ruled Berlin and all of Germany in the middle of the 20th century committed so many atrocities, but none are more famous or more horrific than the Holocaust. Berlin is a city that doesn't shy away from its past, no matter how painful, and so the city is the site of a moving Holocaust Memorial that is totally free to visit. Known uncompromisingly as the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, this 19,000 m² site is composed of massive concrete blocks that make a somber but striking tribute to the lives lost at nearby Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp plus dozens of other extermination camps throughout the Nazi empire.
Berlin is a city that embraces all aspects of the past, both horrific and heroic. Germany's 20th-century history may be a mostly sad story, but you can learn more about other chapters of both German and world history at the city's famous Museum Island. This is one of Berlin's main attractions, and the beautiful buildings of the centrally located island house a variety of museums dedicated to different chapters of history. In fact, the island is home to five museums: the Altes Museum, the Neues Museum, the Alte Nationalgalerie, the Bose Museum, and the Pergamon Museum. Whether you want to explore an art gallery full of masterpieces of Western art or see the archaeological remains of some of the world's oldest civilizations, you can do it here.
Ordinarily, an adult ticket to all of these museums would set you back €19, which is still a pretty good bargain considering how much you get to see. However, the city often puts on a Museum Sunday event, which takes place on the first Sunday of every month. On these days, many of the best Berlin museums offer completely free entry, including those on Museum Island.
The monumental Brandenburg Gate is a true icon of Berlin, and a must-visit photo opportunity while you're in the city. Built to commemorate the victories of the Prussian military and subsequently used for triumphal processions by the forces of Napoleon, Hitler, and the Soviet army, the Brandenburg Gate, located in West Berlin, has become a symbol of the tumultuous history of the city.
The Brandenburg Gate is worth visiting just to see and imagine the huge historic events that have taken place here. But a lot of visitors are unaware that the gate also contains a quiet room where you can take a break from the chaos of the city and treat yourself to some chillout time. This unique way to enjoy Berlin is also completely free.
Free Walking Tour
Berlin has packed so many historical sites and monuments into its streets that can almost be overwhelming. To get a better overview of the complex history of the city and of Germany itself, a guided tour is a good idea. Several companies offer free walking tours of the city's central district that will take you to many of the top attractions Berlin has to offer, including the Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag. The companies often use these free tours as sales tools for their more expensive offerings, but there's no obligation to buy. However, if you're going to take advantage of a free walking tour in the city center, you should at least tip your guide for their hard work.
Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church
This striking church, often compared to a hollow tooth, is an illuminating place to visit on your next trip to Berlin. Built in the 1890s, the church was damaged during a 1943 bombing raid, and only the damaged former spire of the church remains. The ground floor of the building is now a memorial hall that commemorates the bombing and the air raids that damaged so much of Berlin during the war, and the ruined church has become a monument to peace and reconciliation. With no admission fee at all, this is one of the best free things to do in Berlin.
Those who enjoy a good walk will find plenty of free hikes they can take both in and around the German capital. Check out the best hikes in Berlin to get some ideas.
The Reichstag building is the home of the German parliament and is located just a short walk from the Brandenburg Gate. Opened in 1894, the Reichstag was famously damaged in a fire that Hitler used to justify sweeping emergency powers that made him the dictator of Germany. Later, at the end of the war, the Reichstag was invaded by Russian soldiers, and the bullet holes and graffiti from the conflict can still be seen in certain areas of the building. However, it remains the home of the German parliament to this day.
Famous for its glass dome, the Reichstag is free to visit. Tours take in the Reichstag dome and the roof terrace that offers sweeping views over central Berlin, and also include a 20-minute audio guide that will explain more about the history of the building. Given that it occupies such a central place in the history of the 20th century, the Reichstag represents one of the best value attractions in the city, and easily makes any list of the best free things to do in Berlin. It's also only a short walk from Berlin Hauptbahnhof, the city's main train station, making it easy to get to from just about anywhere in Berlin.
Many of the best free things to do in Berlin center around the city's history. After all, there's just so much of it. But the past isn't everyone's cup of tea, and that's especially true if you're traveling with family. No matter how impressive Berlin's free museums may be, they are unlikely to appeal to little ones.
This in-depth guide on things to do in Berlin with kids will help you find activities to keep children entertained. But sometimes, you can't beat an old-fashioned day at the park. Prenzlauer Berg is an up-and-coming neighborhood near East Berlin that has some of the best family-friendly attractions in the city, including lots of children's stores and parks where the kids can run around and burn off some energy. But there's plenty for adults here too, with some of the city's hippest bars and restaurants in the area. Also, don't miss the popular Sunday flea market at Mauerpark. Admission is free, but it will be a challenge not to spend some money on a souvenir of the city from one of the eclectic stalls here.
The East Side Gallery
Located in East Berlin, the East Side Gallery is one of Berlin's top destinations for street art, and one of the best free things to do in Berlin for fans of culture. The gallery itself is a preserved section of the Berlin Wall, and the wall has been covered in vibrant murals by both local and internationally-renowned street artists. To call these artworks graffiti would be doing them an injustice. Instead, the gallery forms an ever-changing exhibition of the best street art Berlin has to offer.
As you might expect, Berlin is home to a Philharmonic Orchestra that rivals any in the world. That makes Berlin a fantastic destination for fans of classical music as well as history lovers. What you may not know is that the world-renowned Berlin Philharmonic regularly offers a free lunchtime concert in the lobby of the Kammermusiksaal. These concerts only take place when the orchestra is in town and not touring, and they are not held during July and August, so whether you get to take in a concert depends on when you visit Berlin. But if you get the chance, there's no denying that this is one of the best free things to do in Berlin, and is guaranteed to be a highlight of any trip to the city.
For decades, Berlin was the meeting point between East and West. Checkpoint Charlie was one of the few crossings between the capitalist and communist spheres of influence represented by East and West Berlin. Now, the checkpoint has been almost overrun by shops and office buildings, but it remains in the heart of the city to remind residents and visitors of how the city used to be divided. It's a fun tourist attraction to visit and see the old signs that warn people of the dangers of crossing from one side to the other, especially since now it's as easy as walking across the street. You can even get your passport stamped by an official at the Checkpoint Charlie Museum.
Visiting the capital cities of Europe can quickly get expensive, but Berlin remains a relative bargain compared to other cities. Still, if you really want to make your euros stretch further, some of these free things to do in Berlin can help to make a memorable trip at a very low price. A little bit of planning can go a long way to help you enjoy Berlin on a budget. Check out these top attractions and see some of the best of Berlin without spending a penny.