5 Things to do for Free in Berlin

Some minimal cost may be involved but nearly free doesn’t have the same ring to it.

1. Do a Walking Tour

There are a number of free walking tours available. Most visit in the main sites and take about 3 hours. It is generally practice to offer the tour guide a tip based on how much you have enjoyed the tour. I would generally give €5-€10. The good thing about these tours is that you will be brought to the main sights which you’ll probably want to see anyway and you might learn something along the way.
2. Visit the East Side Gallery

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Apart from the part of the Berlin Wall adjacent to the Topography of Terror is located, this is probably the best remaining example of the wall. There are murals with various  themes along both sides. It also isn’t a crazy busy place and there’s a nice little park along by the river. The area of Friedrichshain a short walk away contains many nice bars and cafes and is worth a look around.
3. Visit the Holocaust Memorial & Topography of Terrors

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These two are certainly not the most uplifting attractions to visit but are excellent in their own way.
Firstly, the memorial to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust is certainly appropriate and profound in a number of ways. The way it looks like a graveyard, the distorted effect of walking through it as well as the individual but orderly fashion in which each stone is placed. There is also a museum underground where you can learn more about the various Concentration Camps and the way Nazis systematically murdered so many people.
Secondly, the Topography of Terror details  the rise of the SS and the way that they operated their campaign of oppression and control whilst occupying countries during the war as well their role in the Holocaust. What most fascinated me was the details of how prominent Nazis fared once the war had ended and how some were allowed to lead relative normal lives without repercussions.
Most people feel a bit shit after visiting one or both of these places but we must never forget!
4. Drink in Public
Ok so you will actually have to buy a beer somewhere first, but it can be quite refreshing to stroll around and see Berlin with camera in one hand and bottle in the other. This option works well with 1. & 2. but don’t even think about doing it with 3.
5. Visit the Reichstag

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Although the politically correct name is the Bundestag. All the locals refer to it as the Bundestag. This is the big building near the Brandenburg Gate where the German Parliament sits. Entry is free although it is advisable that you book ahead of time on their website www.bundestag.de

The Barn

It can often be difficult to get really great coffee, particularly in a city which you are less than familiar with, not even mentioning the merciless bombardment by Starbucks this and Costa that.  Thankfully, Berlin has an abundance of people who value quality coffee and plenty of coffee connoisseurs to meet that demand.

Situated a little bit away from the main thoroughfares on Auguststrasse, The Barn is a compact little coffee shop whose owners offer an authentic “third-wave” experience. I went there mainly because it was close to where I was staying. But as soon as I got arrived, it was clear that these guys meant business. When you see the freshly roasted coffee on the shelves, it’s always a good sign.

They also have a second location which is used primarily  as their roastery and they host events there also. There was a talk by James Hoffmann of Squaremile Coffee Roasters on the same day. Unfortunately I didn’t make it but it clearly shows the approach of  “The Barn” to their craft.

As far the coffee itself, it was fantastic. From the first sip, there was smoothness and delicate flavours coming through.  A good flat white is hard to beat and this was up there.  Particularly when you get the aftertaste and caffeine buzz later.

Although not spacious inside, sitting outside it was the kind of place where you could go in for a quick espresso and spend the day there reading or watching the world go by.

 

Burgermeister

Situated in a disused Kreuzberg public toilet, Burgermeister certainly captures the quirkiness and vibe that defines Berlin. We arrived on a Tuesday evening and already there was a queue of about 15/20 people waiting to order.

As my friend waited in line, not being one to enjoy a queue, I hopped into the nearest bar, picking up a couple of takeaway (€2) pints. Drinking in public seems like such a novelty to someone who normally resides in Dublin.

Once we got in sight of the menu, I did a double take when I saw the prices. All (or nearly all) burgers were under €5, with sides available for just over €2.

I went for the Hausmeister and my friend had the Meisterburger along with two sides of chilli chips. Each burger was generous in size and cooked to perfection with enough juiciness present.  The buns were also just on the fluffy side which shows the attention the guys at Burgermeister put into each meal. The chips were unexceptional but certainly didn’t take from the enjoyment of the burger.

This place already has an excellent reputation,  and when I mentioned it to few locals, they recommended it whilst quickly insisting not to tell anyone. Go there!