Few other European capitals can compete with Berlin, a city that’s simultaneously funky, cultured, gritty and glamorous. And whether you want to see museums, or be seen at trendy galleries, there are enough free things to do in Berlin to keep you busy for a week or more.
For far-reaching views across Berlin, climb to the top of the glass dome that rises above Germany’s parliament building. Designed by Sir Norman Foster and completed in 1999, it has a rooftop terrace and restaurant, both of which are open to the public. Visiting is free, but advance registration is required.
Walking beside the longest remaining stretch of the Berlin Wall is a rite of passage for any first-time visitor, providing a chance to reflect on the city’s divided past. Known as the East Side Gallery, this mural-covered section of the wall follows the River Spree for more than 1.3km.
Centred on the towering sandstone Victory Column, Tiergarten is home to Berlin’s biggest park – and where locals come to picnic, barbecue and unwind. There are more than 23km of pathways and running tracks weaving through the park, linking flower-filled meadows with chiselled sculptures and beer gardens.
A sobering sight, the expansive Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe features more than 2,700 slate-grey blocks arranged in a series of disorientating lines. It’s free to wander among the slabs, and visitors are invited to explore the subterranean information centre, which documents the extermination of European Jews.
Berlin’s art scene moves at breakneck speed, with new exhibitions opening every month. To find out what’s hot right now, check out the free galleries on Auguststraße, in Berlin Mitte, many of which double as restaurants.
Every Wednesday at 9pm, the B-flat Jazz Club on Rosenthaler Straße hosts free-to-watch jam sessions led by double bass extraordinaire Robin Draganic. The quality of the musicianship is consistently top-notch.
Run by locals, Alternative Berlin aims to help tourists get closer to the city’s many subcultures. The company’s free tours, which run daily at 11am, 1pm and 3pm, call at artists’ squats, urban farms and daytime raves. Paid-for tours are also offered.
This ‘ecomarket’, which sets up in the trendy neighbourhood of Prenzlauer Berg every Thursday, isn’t the cheapest place to eat. But resist the bounty of organic goodies, from plump red berries to bratwurst, and browsing is still enjoyable. A predominantly organic market also sets up here on Saturdays.
This grand, tree-lined boulevard cuts an east-west line through the historic centre of Berlin, and is home to some of the city’s most imposing landmarks. At its western end is the Brandenburg Gate, the immense neo-classical arch that has come to symbolise unity in modern Germany.
The permanent indoor exhibition at this sombre museum, built on the site of old Nazi buildings, looks at the crimes committed by the Gestapo and the SS under the Third Reich. Outside, an “exhibition trench” shows how the Nazis gained support in Berlin and began using the city as a political base.
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