Berlin (Germans Capital) is not only one of the most exciting cities in Europe but also one of the most affordable ones. It is the perfect place for travelers who love art, music, and good food but don’t want to spend a fortune.
Compared to the other big metropolis like Paris, London, or Rome, Berlin is cheap when it comes to public transport, accessing tourist attractions, eating out, or clubbing the night away.
Unlike other cities, Berlin hasn’t got a city center as such. Instead, each district has it’s own unique flair and atmosphere.
My favorite ones are Kreuzberg, Neukölln, and Schöneberg. My advice is to pick one neighborhood, walk around and explore the cafes, art galleries, and clubs.
Don’t be tempted to follow the crowd to search for the next hip and trendy area; you might miss a piece of the ‘real’ Berlin.
Your best bet is to get a multiday ticket for Berlins extensive public transport system. It is well organized; busses and trains even go the whole night. Berlin is a city that never sleeps.
I recommend getting the Berlin Welcome Card which will also give you up to a 50% rebate to over 200 attractions including the Museum Island, river cruises, or the Teletower.
The price for a 48 hours ticket starts at around US$ 23 and gives you unlimited access to the S-Bahn (city train), Subway, Tram, and Busses.
Places To Stay
I have got good news. People on a tight budget have got plenty of affordable accommodation options. Hostelworld.com has over hundreds of hostels on their list with prices starting at around US$ 20/night in a dorm.
If you travel as a couple or a family, you could also book affordable apartments through Airb&B or 9flat.com. Or, try Couchsurfing and stay with a local.
Either way, you surely will find something that will suit your taste and budget.
Just make sure that your preferred place is close to public transport; the subway is usually the quickest way to get around.
The best districts for accommodation (and the closest to most tourist attractions at the same time) are Mitte, Kreuzberg, Prenzlauer Berg, and Tiergarten.
Free Activities To Do In Berlin
Visit The Reichstag
The Reichstag is one of the most historically significant landmarks in Berlin besides the Brandenburg Gate. Both historical sites are only a short 5-minute walk apart.
From 1894 the Reichstag was home to the Imperial Diet until World War II. After a long period of neglect, this fantastic building got restored and is now the meeting place of the German parliament (Deutscher Bundestag).
The most popular part though is the massive glass dome and the rooftop terrace. Both are open to tourists and offer an incredible 360-degree view of Berlin. The glass domes architecture is impressive. From there you can even see the debating chamber of the Bundestag.
If you want to visit, you’ll need to register in advance which you can do online. Here is the link to register. All you need is your first name, last name, and date of birth.
The Dome is open every day from 8 am until midnight; the last admission is at 10 pm.
Museum For Free
For lovers of art, paintings, collections, and memorial sites you’ll find plenty of opportunities to visit for free. There are over 50 Berlin museums that offer free entry. For a complete list, please click here.
For all other museums, you can use the Berlin Welcome Card to get a discounted price.
Free Berlin Walking Tour
There is no better way than exploring Berlin by foot. Even though Berlin is a massive city, many historical sites are in close walking distance to each other.
Even better, when you can take a guided walking tour that doesn’t cost a dime and is conducted by a Local who has a lot of insider knowledge.
You can choose from three different tours (including a bike tour) that either focus on Berlin’s history or the Berlin Alternative tour. You can book your trip at OriginalFreeTours.
Bus Line 100
An inexpensive way to do some sightseeing is by using the public transport, especially Berlins much loved double-decker buses.
The most famous line is the public bus line 100 that takes you from Alexanderplatz (city east) to Zoological Garden (city west) or vice versa. Make sure you are first in the queue to get the best seats. 🙂
If you are lucky, the bus driver will also be a tour guide and explain a few sights along the way.
Busses leave every five to 10 minutes. Only take a double-decker bus even if it means you have to wait for one.
Another fantastic bus line is public bus M29 that takes you for a ride through Kreuzberg, Schöneberg, Charlottenburg including the Kurfüstendamm all the way to Grunewald.
The East Side Gallery
With over 1.3 km long, the East Side Gallery might be the longest open-air gallery in the world.
The artwork is painted on remains of the Berlin Wall that once divided Berlin into two parts. Located at Mühlenstrasse (Berlin-Friedrichshain) on the banks of the river Spree, take a stroll and enjoy these colorful murals.
Not only is it a remarkable collection of over a 100 paintings created by artists from around the world. The East Side Gallery is also a unique and significant memorial for freedom and a better future.
A Visit To The Turkish Market in Kreuzberg/Neukölln
Every Tuesday and Friday starting at 11 am, the quiet Maybachufer transforms into a colorful, busy open-air street market filled with an abundance of (cheap) fruit and vegetables, herbs, spices, Turkish bread, marinated olives, dips like hummus or tzatziki, food stalls and lots of other things.
On a sunny day, it can get jam-packed with locals and tourists alike. So grab yourself a bargain, fill your shopping bags with some delicious goodies and have a picnic at some of the nearby parks.
Live Music For Free
Now its time to dive into Berlins busy nightlife. The number of clubs, bars and theaters can be overwhelming. An excellent way to start off the night is with some live music.
My favorite place is the Madonna Bar in Kreuzberg, a pub that has been around for years. The Madonna bar has managed to preserve its own unique and rustic flair. Even the staff hasn’t changed since I walked through its doors for the first time 18 years ago.
Besides hanging out with the locals, sipping on beer and taking in the smokey atmosphere, you can enjoy live music every Wednesday. From rock music to chansons – everything is possible.
If you love jazz music, then the sister clubs A-Trane (Charlottenburg) and B-Flat(Mitte) are a must stop. The A-Trane jazz club offers free entry on Monday as well as the Late Night jam session every Saturday; at the B-Flat it’s all on every Wednesday evening.
One thing is for sure, you won’t go hungry in Berlin with food stalls, cafes, restaurants at literally every corner. The best part, eating out in Berlin is affordable.
Some of the must-try foods are the ever so popular Berliner Currywurst and the Döner Kebab which was introduced by Turkish guest workers in the 1960’s.
Restaurant “Mittmann’s” is a great location to try out rustic Berlin dishes like Eisbein (pork knuckle) with Sauerkraut, Berliner Bouletten (fried meatballs) or Kohlrouladen (cabbage leaves stuffed with beef mince). It is not the cheapest place but the portions are generous and taste delicious.
You’ll find “Mittmann’s” restaurant in Berlin-Mitte, Rungestrasse 11, just a short stroll from S-Bahn Jannowitzbrücke or U-Bahn Heinrich Heine Strasse.
Another of my favorite places to go for lunch or dinner is “Il Casolare” where you can indulge in authentic wood-fired pizza and Italian desserts. The atmosphere can get a bit hectic in the evening so it’s best to go there for lunch or an early dinner at around 5 pm.
The outdoor seating area has plenty of space and a nice view of the Landwehrkanal. “Il Casolare” is located in Grimmstrasse 30 in Berlin-Kreuzberg.
Wrapping It Up
Budget travelers can easily ‘survive’ on US$50/a day in Berlin which includes costs for accommodation, train tickets, and food. I think that is not too bad for a city right in the middle of Europe.
For more (insider) tips and things to do in Berlin, please check out my post 20 Things To Do With Kids In Berlin. Read more about Checkpoint Charlie, river cruises, a self-guided walking tour, and my favorite cafe that you can find in a place no one would expect.
Even though the post is aimed at traveling families, you sure will find cool things to discover in one of my favorite cities.