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Free things to do in Berlin, Germany

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Brandenburg Gate, Berlin, Germany

Ah, Berlin. Now, this is a city where I could feel at home. Modern conveniences, good coffee, entertainment venues, green space, lots of vegan food, and nobody is pretentiously over-dressed for everything. I like it. And what’s more, there are plenty of free things to do in this city just brimming with history! Start searching for flights, ’cause you’re gonna want to pay this metropolitan center a visit.

Getting Around Berlin

Public transportation in Berlin is as good as it gets in Europe. There are clear signs, everything is in English, and screens often alert you when your stop is approaching. So get yourself a ticket and ride the rails without fear.

From the airport

You can take the S-Bahn Railway, Regional Railway (Airport Express) or the bus. It costs €3.30 for any and all methods, so take your pick depending on where you’re headed.

Trains, Buses and Trams

All forms of public transport (s-Bahn, U-Bahn, buses) in Berlin are super easy to use and it’s cheap. Tickets are on the honor system, so you buy one at a time or a pass or a whole pack of tickets at a ticket machine at most stops and stamp or swipe it as you board. We never saw anyone checking tickets, but we heard from locals that especially in high tourist areas random checks were semi-frequent, so don’t risk it. At €2.80 for a ticket that gets you on any method of transport for two hours, why would you need to? There’s also a short-haul ticket for €1.70 if you’re going three stops or less in a single direction. It’s €7 for a day pass and €30 for a week.

Nextbike

This is Berlin’s public bike-share company. You can download the app or register on their website then pay as little as €1 per half-hour or €3 for unlimited 30-minute trips in a 24-hour period. Just pick up a bike and return it to the most convenient location to your destination.

A walk through Großer Tiergarten unearths all sorts of little garden-y surprises

Free things to do in Berlin, Germany

There are enough free events and activities in Berlin to keep you busy for several days at least. So spend that money on more exciting things. Like vegan food.

Brandenburg Gate

Not only is this where all the free tours meet, it’s where all the tourists come to hang out on their first day in town. You can take a look at the huge gate, look up at the balcony where Michael Jackson dangled a baby, and get crappy coffee from Starbucks if that’s your thing. Take a couple snaps and use the free WiFi if you need it. I know I did! Nothing like making a business phone call beneath Brandenburg Gate and trying not to freeze my butt off on the cold stone structure.

The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

Just down the street from Brandenburg Gate is this eerie and haunting memorial. Made up of 2,711 concrete slabs, all different heights, spaced evenly to create echoing hallways of sorts, it evokes a sense of quiet and reverie. It’s free to take a walk through the cement structures, just don’t climb on them; it’s a memorial, after all. There’s also a museum beneath the monuments where you can read stories and see faces of Jews who lost their lives during WWII. It’s a dark, solemn place, so be prepared.

Checkpoint Charlie. Not a lot to look at, but I guess you’ve got to at least go look.

Checkpoint Charlie

This point is literally just a checkpoint for troops leaving or entering East Berlin. There’s not much to see other than a big photo of an American soldier. But on the corner is a little outdoor gallery where you can look at photos and read about some of what went down at or near Checkpoint Charlie and the way things were during that era of tension.

Plan to spend at least an hour at the Topography of Terror
The Berlin Wall Memorial

Topography of Terror (Topographie des Terrors)

A short walk from Checkpoint Charlie is this museum/photography exhibit about the terrors of WWII. It’s right next to one of the longest remaining sections of the wall that’s still intact, The Berlin Wall Memorial, which is lined with it’s own photo-timeline of happenings, but inside the building you can spend hours reading about the horrors that were done to not only Jews, but homosexuals, gypsies, and so many more in nearly every country in Europe. This is the stuff you didn’t hear about in school.

Weekend Markets

Saturdays and Sundays offer a wealth of farmers markets and flea markets. If you’re in Berlin over a weekend, it’s worth taking an hour or two to peruse the aisles of second-hand, antique, or hand-made wares filling the stalls. Our favorite was Mauerpark.

Just one of the many murals part of East Side Gallery

East Side Gallery

The longest section of the Berlin Wall still remaining has been turned into an art gallery. The city brought in artists from all over the world to turn the concrete structure into something beautiful. So grab a lunch to go (for a picnic along the river) and take a walk down the 2 kilometer stretch of road.

Alexanderplatz

Have a wander in this modern, touristy square for the requisite craning up at the famous TV Tower. Snap your photos, grab a snack and check out some of the shops nearby for souvenirs (or sunglasses to replace the ones you lost the previous afternoon…).

A statue in Großer Tiergarten

Großer Tiergarten and Victory Column

In Berlin’s largest and oldest park you could walk for hours. And hours. It’s huge. But near the middle is the famous Victory Column commemorating victory in the Prussian-Danish war. The park is a great place to have a picnic, admire some sculptures, or play on a playground.

Reichstag Building

Visiting the interior, and the Dome on top, of Germany’s parliament building is free, but you have to register in advance. If you didn’t, you might still be able to go up to the dome, you just have to request tickets two hours to two days early at the Visitors’ Service Center nearby. If you register in advance, though, you can often get a tour of the building, visit the historical exhibits, or even watch a plenary sitting.

Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp

While entry is free, if you’re taking public transit it’ll cost you a few bucks to get there and back as it’s not actually in Berlin. There are guided tours available for 15 per person and plenty of tours from the city that’ll cost a pretty penny, but the exhibits at the site are all free. It’s 45-60 minutes away by train.

Berlin’s famous TV tower

TV Tower
Also known as the Berliner Fersehturm, tickets to ascend 203 meters into the sky for a look down on the city will run you €13. You can buy a fast track ticket online to avoid the lines once you get there, but depending on when you want to go it’ll cost a bit more at €14-17 per person.

Museum Island
Looking for museums? Look no further. This Unesco World Heritage Site houses five of the biggest and best museums in the city, including, but not limited to: The Neues, Altes and Pergamon Museums. They all have separate admission prices that range between €10-12. However, if you’re crunched for time or want to catch ’em all, you might consider the Museum Pass. It costs €29 but gets you admission to 35 museums all over the city and public transport for three days. There’s also the Museum Island Pass, which is €18 and grants entry to all five museums on the island for a day. You can pick one up in visitor centers or at the museums themselves.

Vegan food is everywhere in Berlin

Cheap Eats in Berlin

Want to find cheap food, cheap restaurants in Berlin? Maybe some of Berlin’s tasty (and cheap) vegan food? Look no further. Berlin is overflowing with it. In fact, it’s one of the most vegan-friendly cities in the world!

One of the many Goodies locations in Berlin

Goodies
This vegan and vegetarian joint has good prices for healthy (and not healthy but still delicious) brekky, lunch and dinner. Grab a sandwich to go for around €6.00, get a croissant and cappuccino for a couple bucks each, and pick up a raw dessert while you’re at it. There are several locations, some of which are all vegan and some of which have vegetarian options, so check if you need to, but stuff your face cause it’s all delish.

It may not look like much, But Curry at the Wall is a tasty, cheap snack

Curry at the Wall
You can’t leave Berlin without eating some currywurst (pronounced curryvurst), and that includes vegans. This little food trailer may not look like much, but it has vegan and non-vegan varieties and at only €3.50 per sausage, you can afford to get your own.

Coffee
Pick a spot. It’s all good and most places have free WiFi so you can sip your latte and check your email. Just skip the Starbucks, OK? Berlin has so many better options that you can’t experience at home.

Street Food Thursday at Markthalle Nuen is an amazing place for food from all over the world (including vegan food)

Markthalle Nuen Street Food Thursday
Once a week on Thursdays, this weekend market turns into a foodie’s paradise. Every inch of the warehouse-y space is packed full of vendors selling international food, everything from baked goods to pizza, sushi to Yemen cuisine. And alcohol. Lots of alcohol. Of course, you can spend a lot here on delightful full meals, but you can also just get your snack on, purchasing small bites for as little as €1.50 or so. If you’re in town, I highly recommend it. It runs from 5-10 pm and I suggest getting there early to avoid the crowds.

Gluck to Go has several different styles of veggie burgers with creative toppings

Glück To Go
For tasty vegan and vegetarian burgers and some pretty delicious fries, this is your place. There are several kinds of patties to choose from and less than standard condiments (think mango chutney or balsamic). Burger and fries together will run you about €6-7.

Wonder Waffle
When we were there, this uber-popular local chain was only serving vegan waffles at a handful of their locations one or two days a week, so if that’s what you want, check before you go. Otherwise, this joint basically serves up waffle omelets stuffed with fruit, candy, ice cream, whatever you want. They start at €3, but specialty fillings can cost extra.

Indoor and outdoor markets are a great way to grab locally made food and fresh produce

Markets
Or Markthalle and Wochenmarkt, as they’re known in German. These are indoor and outdoor markets all over the city. Markthalle are indoors and are generally open every day and have options ranging from fresh produce to homemade sausage and soap to food stalls. Many even have vegan food. So don’t be afraid to browse as you may just find a really great deal on lunch.

Savory Chat
This vegetarian Asian restaurant has Thai and Vietnamese deliciousness with all sorts of “mock meats.” Appetizers are under 4 and you can get a full meal for under €10, so all in all, not a bad deal. Plus it’s tasty!

Beer
I know that’s less of a place than a thing, but it plays. Beer is super cheap in Berlin. And Germans have strict standards for brewing, so you can count on a reasonably decent beverage. In the grocery store, you can buy single cans and bottles for less than a bottle of water, between .30-.80 cents. In a bar or restaurant, you can expect to pay a couple bucks.

Basically, Berlin wins. For everything. I’d go back just to eat more food, no joke. Have a fave spot in the city? Feel free to share! Wander on!