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Visiting Berlin on a budget

Brandenburg Gate, Berlin

When it comes to city breaks, Berlin’s got a bit of something for everyone. There’s the fascinating history, both the recent stories of the Berlin Wall but also the wartime history and the museums with their artifacts dating back thousands of years. Then there’s the modern vibrant, multicultural culture of street art and music that mixes in influences from around the world. And there’s also the great nightlife, whether you’re looking for a lazy afternoon in a biergarten or a clubbing marathon to last past dawn. It’s also one of Europe’s cheaper capital cities, but prices can still start to add up after a few days. So here are my top tips for making the most of your trip to Berlin without blowing the budget.

More budget city guides: London, Edinburgh, Paris, Amsterdam, Vienna, Copenhagen, Madrid, New York, Las Vegas, Cape Town
Berlin's Tiergarten in winter

A frozen lake in the Tiergarten in winter

Things to see and do

Many of Berlin’s most famous sights are free to visit, like the Brandenburg Gate, Holocaust Memorial, Checkpoint Charlie and the East Side Gallery – an open-air art gallery along a section of the old Berlin Wall. You can also get free entry to the Reichstag and Berlin Wall Memorial on Bernauer Strasse. For a good introduction to the city, there are a few different companies offering free walking tours, where you just tip your guide. For general city tours, Sandeman’s New Europe have a 2.5-hour tour from the Brandenburg Gate multiple times a day and Brewer’s Berlin Tours have a 3.5-hour tour from Friedrichstrasse station at 1pm every day. Or for something a bit different, Alternative Berlin Tours run a 3-hour tour of street art and subculture in the Kreuzberg district, starting from the Alexanderplatz TV Tower at 11am and 1pm.

If you’re in Berlin in summer, head to the huge Tiergarten park for a picnic among its 600 acres of lawns, paths and lakes. Or if you fancy an afternoon on the beach, take a 20-minute train ride south-west of the city to Strandbad Wannsee, a lido with over a kilometre of sandy beach. There’s also the smaller Strandbar Mitte urban beach along the River Spree by Museum Island between April and September.

For classical music fans, there are free lunchtime concerts at 1pm on Tuesdays in the foyer of the Berlin Philharmonic. They’re performed by members of the orchestra and music students and last around 40 minutes. Get there early though as they’re limited to 1500 spaces. There’s also the annual Fête de la Musique on 21 June with free concerts of every type of music, from classical and jazz to reggae and punk, being performed in over 100 venues across the city between 4pm and 10pm.

The Reichstag, Berlin

The Reichstag parliament building

Museums and galleries

Berlin’s Museum Island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site home to five museums with artefacts from 6000 years of history. Each museum charges €10–12 entry (half price for concessions), or you can get a combined one-day Museum Island area ticket for €18 (€9 concessions). Entry is also free for under 18s.

There are also a couple of city passes which include discounts on museum entry as well as other attractions and public transport. The Museums Pass lasts three days and gives entry to the permanent collections at 34 museums and exhibitions, including those on Museum Island, for €29 (or €14.50 for students). Or there’s the more general Berlin Pass which gives you free entry to 60 museums, attractions and tours, as well as a hop on hop off bus tour. You can also get a version with city transport included. A 2-day pass costs €99 (€115 with travel) or a 3-day pass costs €119 (€145 with travel), with discounts for children under 15s.

Many of the city’s other museums are free to enter, including the Palace of Tears, Allied Museum and the Topography of Terror – see this site for a full list. Other museums have free entry on certain days. The Märkisches city history museum, Nikolaikirche church, Ephraim-Palais palace and Bröhan museum of art nouveau and art deco all have free entry on the first Wednesday of each month.

Berlin's Palace of Tears

Exhibits in the Palace of Tears

Top city views

For one of the best views across Berlin, head to the glass dome on top of the Reichstag parliament building. Entry is free but you need to book in advance either on the Bundestag website or at the office on Scheidemann Strasse. It’s is normally open daily from 8am to midnight (with the last admission at 10pm), but can sometimes be closed if the weather’s bad or when parliament is sitting.

The tallest city centre viewpoint is the Fernsehturm or TV Tower, but it’s also one of the priciest – a ‘fast view’ ticket with a timed slot costs €17.50 for adults or €10 for children aged 4–16. There are cheaper €13 tickets available where you might have to queue, or you can save €2 on fast-track tickets when it opens at 9am or in the evenings from 9.30pm–11pm. Other cheaper options where you can get great city view which includes the TV Tower are the Panoramapunkt Tower for €6.50 (€9 to skip the queue), the Victory Tower in the Tiergarten for €3 or the viewing platform on the Park Inn Alexanderplatz terrace for €3.

Berlin views from Panoramapunkt Tower

Views across Berlin from the Panoramapunkt Tower

Eating and drinking

Berlin has the largest Turkish population outside of Turkey, so it’s easy to find a cheap meal of a döner and pitta for a couple of euros, particularly in Kreuzberg. Or for a more home-grown street snack, try a currywurst – a pork sausage fried and coated with curry sauce and curry powder. On Thursday evenings the Markt Halle Neun holds a Street Food Thursdays from 5pm–10pm with food from around the world. There are also street food stalls at the Sunday Flea Market in Mauerpark, Berlin’s largest open air market, with karaoke to entertain you as you eat. Or if you’re self catering there are supermarkets across the city – the main chains are Aldi, Lidl and Netto, but you’ll also find plenty of small organic supermarkets.

Another good budget eating option is Berlin’s student canteens. They serve good-value meals and are open to everyone. You can even have a meal with a free panoramic city view at the Technical University’s Skyline Cafeteria on the 20th floor of the Telefunkenhochhaus tower (open for breakfast and lunch).

Germans take their beer seriously, and in some places a bottle of beer is cheaper than a bottle of water. On a summer’s evening, Berliners head to one of the city’s biergartens, or beer gardens, to cool down with a drink. You’ll find them all over the city, but some of the best-known are the historic Prater, the Café am Neuen See alongside a lake in the Tiergarten and the Turkish-style Burg am See.

Dome walkways

Inside the Reichstag by night

Travelling around

For travel within the city, the Berlin Pass gives unlimited free travel on Berlin’s S-Bahn, U-Bahn, buses, trams and ferries. Otherwise the city is divided up into three zones – a single ticket for zones AB costs €2.80 (see a map showing the zones). If you’re planning on travelling around a lot, you can get a Day Ticket for €7 that’s valid until 3am the next morning, or a Seven-Day Ticket for €30 that’s valid for any seven consecutive days – either cover one adult and up to three accompanying children aged 6–14.

You can get a sightseeing tour for the price of a single bus ticket on city bus route 100, which was the first bus route to connect East and West Berlin after reunification. The route starts at Alexanderplatz and runs past Museum Island, the Reichstag, Brandenburg Gate, Tiergarten, Victory Tower and Kurfürstendamm shopping street before ending at the zoo. There’s also a good city view from the raised platform of the S-Bahn train between Zoologischer Garten and Alexanderplatz stations.

Berlin’s public transport passes can also be used on the city’s ferries. Most are only short journeys but the trip across Lake Wannsee makes a good day trip on a sunny day. Take the S-Bahn to Wannsee station and then the ferry across to Kladow, which runs every hour and takes 20 minutes. Kladow has some good walking and cycling routes as well as restaurants and beer gardens on the water’s edge.

Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin

Checkpoint Charlie

So those are my tips for seeing Berlin on a budget – do you know of any more Berlin bargains or have any money-saving tips?

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 How to save money on sightseeing, museums and galleries, food and drink, city views and transport – showing you can see Berlin on a budget.

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38 Comments

  • Reply
    MiaMusings
    March 16, 2015 at 11:45 am

    Great tips! will definitely refer to it when planning my Germany trip. Thank you!

    • Reply
      Lucy
      March 18, 2015 at 5:04 pm

      You’re very welcome, hope it comes in useful!

  • Reply
    darwinontherocks
    March 16, 2015 at 12:47 pm

    Berlin looks like a very vibrant and cultural town ! I’ve heard a lot of good things about it.

    • Reply
      Lucy
      March 18, 2015 at 5:05 pm

      It’s a fantastic city with a really good mix of things to see and do, well worth a visit!

  • Reply
    Kelly
    March 16, 2015 at 12:53 pm

    This is such a useful guide, thanks for sharing! Berlin seems like a really cool city. It’s never really been on my radar before, but I’ve seen a few posts on it lately and it seems like it has so much to offer.

    • Reply
      Lucy
      March 18, 2015 at 5:06 pm

      Thanks Kelly, it’s a really cool city with so much to see (and I didn’t even get started on the nightlife!).

  • Reply
    Madhu
    March 16, 2015 at 7:08 pm

    Great tips Lucy. And beautiful photos. Did you find time to visit the Berlin museum?

    • Reply
      Lucy
      March 18, 2015 at 5:07 pm

      Thanks Madhu, we did pop in briefly but it was a bit of a whistlestop trip as we only had a few days, but all the more reason to go back!

  • Reply
    Stacey @ One Trip at a Time
    March 17, 2015 at 1:37 am

    These are some fabulous tips and I’m definitely saving this post to help me out with a possible trip this summer. Thanks for taking the time to put this all together!

    • Reply
      Lucy
      March 18, 2015 at 5:08 pm

      Thanks Stacey, you;re very welcome, hope it comes in useful and have a great trip – Berlin in the summer sounds great!

      • Reply
        Stacey @ One Trip at a Time
        July 17, 2015 at 1:52 am

        Berlin was awesome! We visited this past weekend and used many of the things you suggested from the Welcome Card (so easy to get around the city with public transportation), to the combined museum ticket for Museum Island, to visiting many of the free places you mentioned like Reichstag and Topography of Terror. You really can get a lot of value for your money in Berlin and with all that history I would highly recommend it to everyone.
        Thanks again for a great post!

  • Reply
    Vlad
    March 17, 2015 at 9:33 am

    After researching prices for my Scandinavian trip, the prices in Berlin seem laughable, haha. Thanks for the tips, Berlin is one city I’d love to visit so I’ll definitely come back to your post once I book tickets. Beautiful photos, Lucy! 🙂

    • Reply
      Lucy
      March 18, 2015 at 5:10 pm

      Haha, yes those Scandinavian prices are a bit of a shocker! Berlin’s a lot more manageable, hope you get to make the trip out there soon.

  • Reply
    Jen
    March 17, 2015 at 6:40 pm

    Great tips! I’ll definitely use them one day.

    • Reply
      Lucy
      March 18, 2015 at 5:10 pm

      Thanks Jen, hope it comes in useful when you do.

  • Reply
    Suzanne Jones
    March 20, 2015 at 9:21 pm

    Will definitely refer back to this when I finally get myself to Berlin – really useful sightseeing guide.

    • Reply
      Lucy
      March 23, 2015 at 10:07 am

      Thanks Suzanne, sure you’d love it out there too!

  • Reply
    Rebeca
    March 22, 2015 at 1:32 pm

    Hey good tips! I bought the Museums Pass and it worthed! It’s good because if forces you a little bit to go to others not-so-famous museums and it can be very interesting. Also the free tours are very very good. I love Berlin and as you saed there’s so many things to do!!

    • Reply
      Lucy
      March 23, 2015 at 10:08 am

      There is so much to do I could definitely spend a few weeks out there! Good tip with the museums pass as you’re more likely to go and try out something new if you don’t have to pay extra.

  • Reply
    Uptourist
    March 24, 2015 at 12:54 am

    Thanks for the tips. For some people especially in Asian countries, traveling to Europe can be quite costly. These tips will help us cut on the costs.

    • Reply
      Lucy
      March 26, 2015 at 1:07 pm

      Yes Europe can get expensive, though Berlin is definitely better than some areas – I visited Scandinavia and Switzerland last year and got a shock at the prices!

  • Reply
    zascha
    March 24, 2015 at 2:00 pm

    In school we had the option once to visit Berlin. Unfortunately, back then travelling didn’t really rock my world so I never went. Oh do I regret it now! 🙂

    • Reply
      Lucy
      March 26, 2015 at 1:08 pm

      Hopefully you’ll get another chance to go and explore Berlin someday!

  • Reply
    zenghiskhan
    April 3, 2015 at 6:22 am

    wow
    great !!!!!

  • Reply
    heliocentrixx
    April 7, 2015 at 9:15 am

    Hi there, I have really enjoyed reading your past updates and most recent post 🙂 I am planning to go to Berlin in the first week of May so found this particular post very useful.

    I have just started on WordPress since I am beginning my travels – not just as a recording of the journey for myself, but also to read the recommendations and insights of others. I would love to hear if you have any recommended travel bloggers that I can have a read of? I am 23 and my first blog post lists the places I will be travelling to. Thank you so much!

    • Reply
      Lucy
      April 7, 2015 at 1:10 pm

      Thanks so much – and hope you enjoy your trip to Berlin (should be a lot warmer than when I was there!). I have some of my favourite bloggers listed on my About me page (https://www.ontheluce.com/about-me/) which should give you lots of inspiration – and especially check out Vagabond Baker for the Trans-Siberian Railway.

  • Reply
    hannahtoughx
    January 25, 2016 at 11:15 pm

    Going to Berlin in April and your post has made me more excited! Thanks for sharing the recommendations, Hannah

    • Reply
      Lucy
      January 26, 2016 at 10:33 am

      That’s great to hear! Hope you have a fantastic trip

  • Reply
    Seb @ The Traveloid
    April 2, 2016 at 11:52 pm

    Great article! My money saving tip is to get a 7 day travel card even if you’re staying for just 5 days. The cost of the 7 day ticket breaks even at 4.2 days so it’s a good deal.

    The ticketing in Berlin is based on an honour system, so make sure you validate your ticket before you travel to avoid a hefty fine. Or if you’re feeling lucky, don’t get a ticket and enjoy free travel 😉

    • Reply
      Lucy
      April 5, 2016 at 6:57 pm

      Great, thanks for the tip (though probably best stick to the legal version!).

  • Reply
    Billy
    August 14, 2016 at 6:25 am

    So many fantastic free things to do in Berlin. The Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church is a must-see. Also, the Soviet Memorial in Treptower Park is a little challenging to get to but worth the effort. It’s even more impressive than the one in Tiergarten. In addition to the holocaust memorial, there’s the gay holocaust memorial directly across the street and also the Gypsy holocaust memorial between that and the Reichstag. There’s also great public art. In addition to the East Side Gallery, there’s the “Berlin” sculpture on Tauentzienstrasse just east of the Kaiser Wilhelm Church. There’s the giant Molecule Man structure that appears to stand on water in the River Spree near Treptower Park by Allianz HQ. I know there’s something I’m forgetting. All free! Good cheap eats: Soupkultur. Many locations around town.

  • Reply
    eric
    October 28, 2016 at 9:01 pm

    Just had to say I’m glad to see that you loved Berlin, I was born in the then east Germany in 1943 in a place called Chemnitz then to Carl Marx Stadt then back to Chemnitz when the wall came down,I have spent a lot of time there from 69 to 83 and only started to speak German my mother tongue out of necessity to work there I now speak and write faultlessly so if ever you need any help in anyway id be glad to help
    Im wery glad one of my pins helped you

    • Reply
      Lucy
      October 30, 2016 at 9:40 am

      Such a great city, and thanks for the offer I will definitely let you know when I’m heading back there.

  • Reply
    Natasha Kettle
    February 2, 2017 at 6:50 pm

    I can vouch for the free walking tour! I learned so much! There is so much history buried (literally) in this city.

    http://natashaoutsidethelines.blogspot.ca/2017/02/berlin-you-were-not-what-i-expected.html

    • Reply
      Lucy
      February 3, 2017 at 8:26 pm

      Sounds fascinating!

  • Reply
    Berlin Traveler
    February 10, 2017 at 12:13 pm

    These are some good tips! Thank you for the travel report and the beautiful photos. I love berlin 🙂 Berlin is a great town with many sights. The gardens of Berlin, Checkpoint Charly, the museums and so many other interesting places around the town.

  • Reply
    Sydney Elise
    July 5, 2017 at 11:05 pm

    This is so helpful, Lucy! Going to Berlin for a week for work in August, but definitely going to fit in as much of these suggestions as possible.

    • Reply
      Lucy
      July 7, 2017 at 10:14 am

      Have a great time, it’s such a fab city!

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