It’s one of Europe’s most popular cities and yet, despite the fame and flocks of tourists, it still doesn’t cost a fortune. Even beyond the best value money can buy, Germany’s creative and vibrant capital touts a raft of fab freebies and experiences to help keep the bank balance in check. Keep those Euros in your pocket with these top free things to do in Berlin.
The only remaining city gate of Berlin, this giant arch is one of the city’s most distinguished and important attractions, nodding to years of complex history and paradigm shifts. A symbol of turmoil, peace and ultimately unity, marvel in the grandeur of its significance as well as its detail, beautifully modelled after the Propyläen from the Acropolis of Athens.
From a distance it’s overwhelming for its extraordinary design and up close, for the stark reminder it delivers with impact. The striking Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe – also known as the The Field of Stelae – is profound, with more than 2,711 giant concrete pillars cascading over 19,073 square-metres in commemoration of the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust. Wander into this world of poignant pillars and don’t miss the underground information centre for historic insight.
Wind your way up the spiral walkway of the ethereal and strikingly modern glass dome set atop the historic Reichstag, the home of German Parliament. Symbolising transparency in government, it also offers far-reaching views across Berlin. Step out onto the wind-swept viewing platforms, admire the mesmerising mirror-clad core and breathe in the beauty of this fascinating fusion of old and new.
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History jumps out at every corner in Berlin, and what more fabulous way to unearth it than with a local as your knowledgeable guide. New Berlin offers free tours of the city every day, spanning three-and-a-half hours kicking off from the Brandenburg Gate. Take in sights and hear insider stories from the grand Gendarmenmarkt to Museum Island and the old royal gardens of Lustgarden. For a different view of the city, get off the beaten track with a free Alternative Berlin tour.
Running for just under a mile along Mühlenstraße, the longest remaining stretch of the Berlin Wall offers a buoyant account of this fascinating and symbolic remnant of what once divided Berlin into East and West. Known as the Eastside Gallery, today it’s smothered in colourful and meaningful art, both personal and political, including iconic images and works by international artists painted following the fall of the wall in 1989.
Berlin is laden with flea markets overflowing with all sorts of trash and treasure: antiques, kitsch souvenirs, clothes, local arts, jewellery, fresh flowers, old records, books and so much more. The markets also make for a wonderful chance to simply meet the locals, revel in the atmosphere and fill up on freshly made bites. Come December and don’t miss the festive frivolity of the region’s famous Christmas markets in full swing.
The green lungs of Berlin, Tiergarten was once the hunting ground of nobility but today offers scenic and peaceful respite from the hustle. Even bigger than London’s famed Hyde Park, it poses a patchwork of rolling lawns, wild forest, formal gardens and tranquil lakes intersected by weaving tracks, centred on the towering sandstone Victory Column. Do as the locals do and head here to unwind, or else enjoy a local brew in the traditional beer garden by the water’s edge.
Street musicians form a large part of Berlin’s appeal, injecting colour, soul and verve into even the shortest of wanders. Apart from stumbling across the curb-side beats, some great spots to soak up the ambiance include Mauerpark, Monbijoupark and Maybachufer, or else catch the B-flat Jazz Club’s funky jam session on Rosenthaler Straße on Wednesday nights. And if you like it, tip!
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