Berlin on a budget

Berlin on a budget

Here are a few suggestions for an exciting trip to Berlin that won´t cost you an arm and a leg:

Writen by Kyria Sobrinho

Truth be told, Berlin is not the slackers' capital anymore, nor is it the social democratic wonderland many respectable news outlets often make it out to be.

While the city got a lot more expensive during the last few years, it is still quite affordable, especially in comparison to other Western European capitals, and there are tons of free fun activities.

Here are a few suggestions for an exciting trip to Berlin that won´t cost you an arm and a leg:

Save on a city tour.

Many travelers prefer to start their city exploration from a hop on/hop off bus tour. Berlin has a great budget alternative to expansive branded tourist bus lanes – buy a publick transit day pass on board the number 100 bus at Alexander Platz. This route was created after the reunification of Germany as the first bus route connecting East and West Berlin thus linking so many of the sightseeing attractions that Berlin has to offer.

The endpoint of the bus journey is at the Berlin Zoologischer Garten, commonly known as the Zoo Station, which was established in 1882 initially for local transit and two years later for long-distance trains. The station is named after the adjacent Zoologischer Garten, which is one of the most frequented attractions in the city, featuring the world's most extensive collection of animal species. As of 2011, it was home to over 1,500 animal species and a total of more than 17,500 animals. It is worth noting that the tour can be done in reverse, starting from the Zoo Station and concluding at Alexanderplatz.

When you done exploring the number 100 rout you can try the 200 bus. And if you prefer walking just download the Berlin Guide App and choose the First Acquaintance Sightseeing Track to visit the most important sites on foot in 4 to 5 hours time.

Find "Paris" in Berlin

Berlin is not exactly a city associated with art nouveau; a style of art mostly associated with Paris (most notably the cute underground stations) but there are some very hidden gems where this style can be admired. To discover one, just go to Alexanderplatz and strutt down to Littenstraße 12-17. You will find yourself in front of random building with unspectactular architecture but open the door and find yourself in a parallel universe consisting of a neo baroque art nouveau princessy type of palace. It is important to note that it is only open during normal business hours. If you are already in the area, you can check out the oldest still existing restaurant “Zur letzten Instanz” (from the 16hundreds) as well as the remnants of the medieval city wall. From there it is not far to Nikolaiviertel which seems like a cute little idyllic village cut out of Swabia and glued into the abyss that is Berlin. Deffo worth a little march and will save you a trip to every village in Southern Germany that ever existed.

And to make it even better, here are some cool ideas for a long weekend in Berlin on a budget:

Wicked Wednesday.

Berliner Philharmonie Concert Hall is an architectural masterpiece combining organic, functional, and expressionist architecture. And it is the home of the Berliner Philharmoniker, which is one of the top three orchestras on the planet!

On Wednesdays at 1 pm, there is a free lunch concert in the foyer. It is recommended to arrive a bit earlier because the concert hall can get quite full quickly.

In the foyer of the Philharmony you will find a big photo by photo artist Martin Liebscher. The principle of his photos is always the same, he duplicates himself a gazillion times into factories, beaches and so on and so on. But while he is the artist, there is one person who does the dirty work and who is that? His girlfriend because OF COURSE! Ok all accusations aside, he hides her in every one of his works, so check out the picture and see if you see a female among all the Martin Liebschers.

And while you are at the Kulturforum, you could make the most of your time and check out the Staatsbibliothek (Potsdamer Str. 33, 10785 Berlin), which is another architectural gem created by the famous German expressionist architect - Hans Scharoun.

Those of you, who could never get enough of the Where is Waldo books will have a field day as well!

The 300 bus is now available to travel from the Philharmonie to Warschauer Straße in Friedrichshain, and it is highly recommended for budget-friendly sightseeing. The bus route includes a journey through Potsdamer Platz and Leipziger Platz, where you will see the Mall of Berlin and the Bundesrat, and then it will proceed onto Unter den Linden via Wilhelmstraße and Behrenstraße. While traveling on this impressive boulevard, you will have a glimpse of the Humboldt University, the Neue Wache Memorial, the State Opera, and the Museum Island up to Alexanderplatz. Once the bus reaches Alexanderplatz, it will turn into Alexanderstraße and continue to pass the Jannowitzbrücke, the Ostbahnhof, and the East Side Gallery, until it finally reaches the S-Bahnhof Warschauer Straße. What makes the 300 bus unique is that it is gradually introducing electric buses into its fleet.

Thespian Thursday

Instead of the usual “Thirsty Thirsday” why not try a Thespian Thursdays and swap booze for art? Both will nourish you in some ways, but the latter won´t give you a nasty hangover or an itchy crotch so here are some suggestions for Thursdays:

The following museums are free on Thursdays from 4-8 pm:

  • Neue Nationalgalerie, free from 4-8 pm;
  • Kw institute for contemporary art 6-9 pm;
  • Hamburger Bahnhof (every first Thursday of the month): 4-8 pm.

Freaky Friday

Berlin´s parks have a lot to offer. And the concrete jungle can get tiring so why not check out the biggest inner city forest area, the Grunewald and recharge! But it would not be Berlin if even the parks would not ooze culture so as a little challenge you could try to find Velvet Undergound´s singer´s Nico Icon´s grave. The High Priestess of Dark Wave decided early that she wanted to be buried here, because that is what goth kids do. Apart from her, the forest also harbours a lake where you can take a swim, although do yourself a favour and do not go on the weekends, it will be overcrowded with a capital O.

Friday afternoon/night you could check out the movie night at Wiesenstraße 55, the area is located in the traditionally rough-tough working-class neighborhood Wedding. Its a studio with a huge gorgous garden that regularly hosts art exhibition and organzes said movie night on Wednesdays. It would be almost blasphemous to reduce this former poorhouse and its many volunteers who keep it alive to movie night. Donations are very welcome, this is one of the last real areas of the cities and you can imagine that it´s not easy to maintain.

Satirical Saturday

Berlin is a film city! I can personally think of no better way to prepare your Berlin trip than checking out one of the many Berlinmovies. Run, Lola Run; Oh Boy; Goodbye Lenin are just a few critically acclaimed ones that are worth watching. Many Hollywood studios do film scenes here for budget reasons think the bourne identity....Berlin is also a lot more versatile than one would think and can pose as different cities. For the Netflix Tv-show Queen´s gambit, Berlin posed as Paris, Toronto, Moscow, Las Vegas, Lexington Kentucky, Cincinnati, Ohio and some ominous place in Mexico.

The filmmuseum walking tours on Original film locations with their museum guides with their very knowledgeable g guides. Alas in German, but this might change too. There will be 2-2,5 hour tours on Alexanderplatz, Prenzlauer Berg and Charlottenburg. You can book them for a fee, but they also regularly offer free ones on Saturdays and Sundays Dates will be announced here:

Those who are not (yet) able to speak German, you should deffo not leave the city without having checked out at least one of the legendary Hinterhöfe. Those are a dying breed so make sure to at least see one. A bigger famous one is at U8 Weinmeisterstraße to admire some fantabulous street art. There is a small movie theater called Kino central (that shows movies in Original versions, so recommended as well) and in order to get there you have to cross a courtyard with gorgeous murals little stencils and such. In general it is a good idea to remain curious and check out those courtyards, you will be pleasantly surprised many times and get glimpses of street art but also beautiful architecture.

Sonic Sunday

Mauerpark Karaoke from 2 pm 

If a Berliner is not still at Berghain or one of the other legendary clubs, he usually struts down to go to Mauerpark Karaoke at Mauerpark. Newcomers and professional singers alike come out to yodel out their high powered tunes in a massive open-air Amphitheatre. Queens like Gianna Nannini have visited and sang here. Come from 2 pm on. It is also worthwhile to visit the fleamarket next to it, which harbours a lot of design presents, records and garden variety fleamarket-gear. There are also truckloads of food trucks and small delicious eateries, so you won´t be starving for sure!

The open mic at Al-hamra from 9 pm 

This legendary open mic is located in an Egyptian restaurant Al-hamra (Raumerstraße 16 in Prenzlauer Berg that also serves palatable plates and dreamy drinks! The open mic starts at 9 pm, and if you want to eat outside you can come a bit earlier.

The first Sunday of the month, museums are free so you could swap out the sonic Sunday for a Serious Sunday and check out the following museums for free. A comprehensive list of all participating museums can be found here 

Some museums such as the filmmuseum on Potsdamer Platz the deutsche Kinemathek, are always free on Sundays and even offer a free guided tour in German at 3 pm. (On museum Sunday there are guided tours a 12pm, 3pm, and 5pm, alas all in German)

Please check out the sites of the museums if you found something that tickles your fancy!