Berlin on a budget: Four free/cheap things to do

brandenburg tor gate at night berlin

Berlin is the place to be if you’re an arty, hip, vegan.

But even if you’re none of those things (like me), odds are you’re still going to fall in love with this colourful, vibrant city. We got to experience two sides of it during our visit – the quiet suburban neighbourhood, with blocky apartments and all – and the edgy eastern area. I think that one of the first sights we laid eyes on in Berlin sums up the city nicely: a skate park, bike trail and community garden, all slotted in tightly alongside a railway track.

Best of all, Berlin is ridiculously affordable in comparison to some other European cities (cough Munich cough). Our arty hostel cost 18 euros a bed, for example, and the awesome soup cafe down the road clocked in at under 5 euros a meal. Just walking around provides free entertainment in spades – my favourite surprise sights included a random abandoned-looking circus and a dodgy park where we napped in the sun and observed covert drug deals being done from afar.

berlin circus

Seriously, though, there are tons of frugal ways to enjoy yourself in Berlin. My recommendations:

Visit the Brandenburg Tor at night (free)
This imposing gate is impressive at any time of day, but it takes on an ethereal glow when lit up in the dark. Go, and thank me later.

It started raining on us about halfway there, but instead of turning back, we bought an umbrella from the nearest shop and forged on (which later served us equally well in the sweltering heat of Venice and Athens). Amidst the wind and wet, the Brandenburg Tor lit up the night like a beacon at the end of the road – a sight for sore eyes on our first night in Germany.

Buy strawberries from a street stand (cheap)
I’ve been horribly spoiled by European produce. This continent has shown me the light, with the sweetest berries and tomatoes I ever did taste, and in comparison, the stuff we get at home doesn’t even register. Buy a carton of strawberries from a street vendor, devour, and hold back tears of ecstasy. The fruit quite literally melts off the stem and drenches your mouth with its goodness. Once you start, you can’t stop.

Eat at Burgermeister (cheap)
Plunked firmly underneath a U-bahn station, Burgermeister dishes up a range of hearty burgers for under 5 euros. The tables go fast, so you might have to perch on one of the plastic crates, or head across the road to one of the nearby public benches. Be prepared to wait a while, and try not to think about the fact that the place used to be a public restroom.

Check out the rock climbing scene (free/cheap, depending on whether you watch or partake)
If you’re in the area, wander through Cassopeia on the East Side – the old industrial compound houses some outdoor climbing areas next to a few grungy bars. Alternatively, spend an afternoon exploring the Volkspark, which caters to everyone from bikers to beach volleyballers to climbers.

Ever been to Berlin? Any other budget-friendly recommendations for passing the time there?

8 thoughts on “Berlin on a budget: Four free/cheap things to do

  • Reply Michael @ The Student Loan Sherpa August 6, 2013 at 12:50

    I’ve never been to Berlin, but a visit to Germany is definitely on the bucket list.

  • Reply Debt Blag August 7, 2013 at 01:13

    Very nice write-up. Friends who’ve traveled to multiple places tell me that Berlin is the first city they’ve come across where the night life hasn’t been a disappointment. For that, and many other reasons, I’d like for it to be part of one of my next trips.

    • Reply Marissa @ Finance Triggers August 13, 2013 at 14:29

      “Night life” is definitely taken into consideration when traveling to another country, as well as “safety.”

  • Reply Michelle's Finance Journal August 7, 2013 at 02:10

    I never really thought about visiting Germany, but recently it moved up, way up to my travel priority list. These are some great tips.

  • Reply Manda August 7, 2013 at 02:57

    I loved Berlin! Did you wait in line at the Bundestag to go walk in the domed Reichstag building? I did that at night, and it was really cool to see the night view of Berlin from the dome. 😀

  • Reply Pauline @ Make Money Your Way August 8, 2013 at 11:59

    Climbing to the glass top of Reichstag is free too, but you have to queue quite a bit unless you go early in the morning. It is beautiful up there and great views over the city. Wait until you taste South American produce!

  • Reply Lindsey @ Sense & Sensibility August 8, 2013 at 14:18

    Berlin! Who would have thought? I don’t really know a lot about Germany and can’t say I’ve always though seriously about traveling there. I love these little tidbits you share about the different places you go – it really brings everything to life! Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply Marissa @ Thirty Six Months August 13, 2013 at 14:47

    Berlin is a must visit when you plan to go to Europe. You won’t be disappointed.

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