Berlin is a sprawling metropolis with historic sites, an eclectic mix of subcultures and distinctive neighborhoods filled with local and world cuisines.
Compared to other popular, expensive European capitals such as London, Amsterdam or Paris, Berlin is a city that travelers can enjoy on a budget.
Where to stay in Berlin on a budget
As a popular backpacking destination, affordable accommodation in Berlin is plentiful no matter which district you’re in. From well-known backpacking hostel chains such as a&o Hostels, Meininger, St Christopher’s Inn or Generator, to more unique places like the Eastern & Western Comfort Hostelboats, you can find a dorm bed starting around $USD14 (11€) or a private room from $56 (50€) depending on the season.
Stay at the Circus hostel and get lost every morning in Prenzlauer Berg’s picturesque streets as you search for an intimate café. Spend the night at Industriepalast Hostel if you’re looking to party all night long at one of Friedrichshain’s notorious techno clubs.
Hostels are not the only form of affordable accommodations within Berlin. Modest design hotels all around the city offer a fantastic option for those looking for a more private space. NH Hotels are located all over Berlin and provide a stylish and comfortable stay starting from $80 (70€) for a double room.
Dine in Berlin like a king
Find budget-friendly fare on every corner in Berlin. Enjoy Germany’s “unofficial” national dish, the döner kebab, at the famous Mustafa's Gemüse Kebap next to the Mehringdamm U-Bahn Station, or taste a more traditional German bite, a currywurst, from a local hotspot, Curry 36.
As one of the most multicultural cities in the world, Berlin's international cuisine is affordable and tasty. Turkish restaurants serving traditional lunches starting at $7 (6€) are located all over the city, along with Vietnamese and Lebanese spots, which have become a staple in a Berliner’s diet.
Italian, Polish and Greek are always popular choices, but Sudanese, Thai and Venezuelan are beginning to leave a footprint in the city. Stop by the Thai Park in Charlottenburg district and enjoy Europe’s largest Thai street food market (only open on the weekends). This is a place where you can spoil yourself with delicious Pad Thai or Tom Yum Goong, starting at $7 (6€).
Take in Berlin's famous sights for free
Many of Berlin's must-see destinations are free and within walking distance of one another. Pass by Checkpoint Charlie, admire the Brandenburger Tor, visit the Reichstag, pay respects at the Holocaust Memorial, and walk along the Unter den Linden avenue till you arrive to Germany’s tallest structure, the Fernseherturm. This can be done in a half-day with plenty of other sights to see along the way.
If you want to enter the Reichstag and walk inside its crystal dome, you’ll need to pre-register at least three to four days in advance on the German Bundestag’s official website.
Explore Berlin’s diverse neighborhoods
Berlin has a multitude of neighborhoods, each with its own feel. Hip Kreuzberg is a popular spot to grab a drink, enjoy the international vibe, and discover one-of-a-kind street art. Friedrichshain is the place to go dancing until dawn and Mitte is a must to learn more about Berlin’s culture and history.
Less-visited neighborhoods like Schöneberg, Neukölln, Wedding and Tiergarten offer a more “laid back” and local atmosphere but still provide plenty of activities to do, restaurants to enjoy or bars to hang out all night.
Enjoy the outdoors
Get lost in Berlin’s greenest park – Tiergarten – a favorite among Berliners to jog, stroll or sunbathe (clothing optional sometimes). Head to the Große Stern, a roundabout which feeds into five avenues, and home of the Victory Column, an ornate 220ft (67m) symbol of Prussian military victories in the 19th century.
For only $3 (3€), visitors can enter via neoclassical temples and climb the column's 270 steps for fantastic views over the park and the city.
Another great place for a stroll is along The Spree river. Start at Berlin’s main train station (HBF) and pass the modern governmental buildings at Regierungsviertel, followed by the charming Nicholas Quarter, restored to look like the medieval and baroque eras.
On the way, don’t forget to check out the magnificent views of the Berliner Dom and Museum Island. If your legs allow it, keep walking until the East Side Gallery, the largest open-air art gallery in the world.
Want to explore Berlin’s outdoors? Backstage Tourism rents kayaks or canoes starting $28 (25€) and tours along the Spree river starting $40 (35€).
Explore Berlin's museums with a Museum Pass
One of many ways to explore Berlin’s impressive range of museums in a budget-friendly way is to invest in a Museum Pass for $33 (29€) ($16/14,50€ for students). If the Museum Pass is not within your budget, head to the Urban Nation museum in Schöneberg. It’s Germany’s first museum dedicated to urban art.
Private galleries are also another great way to explore new and contemporary local art for free.
The first Sunday of the month is Museum Sonntag (Museum Sunday) which offers free admission to most museums like the iconic Bode Museum or the German National Gallery. Don’t forget to reserve your spot way in advance; spots are limited and run out fast.
Browse Berlin's food and flea markets for bargains
An always-affordable activity in any city is to visit the local markets. Luckily, Berlin has many to offer. Head over to Kreuzberg district to enjoy the classic Marheineke Market Hall or visit the more popular Markthalle Neun. Both markets serve up local products and tasty, budget-friendly bites. Markthalle Neun is also home to Street Food Thursdays, a day when additional vendors set up food stalls from all over the world.
Interested in Cold War memorabilia, thrifting, local souvenirs or simply strolling around somewhere new? Berlin’s flea markets during the weekends are always the right choice. The most eccentric of all, Mauerpark, is a perfect place to visit on Sundays. Enjoy the variety of street food next to its flea market, find that vintage postcard you forgot to send or simply enjoy the outdoor events taking place in the park.
Discover Berlin on a budget-friendly walking tour
With an option suiting every budget, visiting Berlin without going on a walking tour should be considered a crime. Dive into Berlin's fascinating history and culture via one of many city tours. From the famous Sandemans New Europe tip-based tours to budget-friendly walking tours starting at $11 (10€). The choices are endless: Berlin’s top sights, alternative culture, Germans history or street art. You name it, Berlin has it.
How to get around Berlin on a budget
Berlin is a massive city that can be difficult to cover by foot, a transit pass is a worthwhile investment. But buying the right ticket for the first time can be a bit overwhelming.
Tickets are broken out by zones: AB, BC, or ABC, the tickets are valid for all forms of public transportation.
An AB zone ticket should cover enough of Berlin for most tourists unless you are planning to visit Potsdam or need to go to the airport.
Once you know which zones you plan to visit, you can purchase a single ride ticket ($3/3€ for the AB zone), 24 hour pass ($10/8.80€ for the AB zone) or a week-long pass ($40.75/36€ for the AB zone). If you're a group of up to five people traveling together for a long weekend, purchasing a group 24h pass for $29 (25.50€) for the AB zone each day would be worthwhile.
More information about fares, network maps and ticket options is available at the BVG official website.
This article was originally published by Caroline Hadamitzy.
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