It's no secret that you can still get more bang for your euro in Berlin than in many other Western European capitals. Better still, there are plenty of ways to stretch your budget even further by cashing in on some tip-top freebies, including such sights as the Reichstag dome and the Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer (Berlin Wall Memorial).
Free History Exhibits
Given that Germany has played a disproportionate role in 20th-century history, it's only natural that there are plenty of memorial sites and exhibits shedding light on various (mostly grim) milestones. Best of all, they're all free.
Study up on the SS, Gestapo and other organisations of the Nazi power apparatus at the Topographie des Terrors exhibit, then see the desk where WWII ended with the signing of Germany's unconditional surrender at the Deutsch-Russisches Museum Berlin-Karlshorst. You can stand in the very room where the 'Final Solution' was planned at the Haus der Wannsee-Konferenz, get shivers while walking around the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, then pay your respects to Jewish Nazi victims at the Holocaust Memorial. German resistance against the Nazis is the focus of the Gedenkstätte Deutscher Widerstand, the Gedenkstätte Stille Helden and the Museum Blindenwerkstatt Otto Weidt.
- Cold War
The East Side Gallery may be the longest surviving section of the Berlin Wall, but to get the full picture of the Wall's physical appearance and human impact check out the Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer and the Tränenpalast. For an eyeful of what daily life was like behind the Iron Curtain, drop by the new Museum in der Kulturbrauerei. At Checkpoint Charlie, an outdoor exhibit chronicles milestones in Cold War history. For the Cold War years from the point of view of the western Allies, swing by the AlliiertenMuseum.
Free Museums & Galleries
- State museums
- Niche museums
Although the blockbuster state museums do charge admission for adults, a few niche museums don't. Learn about the history of German democracy at the Deutscher Dom, life during the Biedermeier at the Knoblauchhaus, and Berlin's equivalent of Oskar Schindler at the Museum Blindenwerkstatt Otto Weidt. The best among the art freebies are Urban Nation, a street art museum, and the Daimler Contemporary Berlin gallery. Unusual objects are on view at the Museum der Unerhörten Dinge. There are also free exhibits at the Rotes Rathaus. Military and airplane buffs should head to the city outskirts for the Militärhistorisches Museum – Flugplatz Berlin-Gatow.
- Sometimes free
Museums offering free admission at certain times include the Akademie der Künste from 4pm to 8pm Tuesday; Museum für Film und Fernsehen from 4pm to 8pm Thursday; and the Museum Ephraim-Palais and Museum Nikolaikirche on the first Wednesday of the month.
Free Guided Tours
Many museums and galleries include free multilingual audioguides in the admission price; some also offer free guided tours, although these are usually in German.
Free gigs and music events take place all the time, in pubs, bars, parks and churches. See the listings magazines for what's on during your stay.
- Summer concerts
In summer, many of Berlin's parks and gardens ring out with the free sound of jazz, pop, samba and classical music. Case in point: the lovely Teehaus im Englischen Garten presents two Sunday concerts (at 4pm and 7pm) in July and August.
The Mauerpark is a zoo-and-a-half on hot summer Sundays, thanks largely to the massively entertaining outdoor Bearpit Karaoke, which sees thousands of spectators cramming in to the stone bleachers to cheer and applaud crooners of various talent levels.
At 1pm on Tuesday from September to mid-June, the foyer of the Berliner Philharmonie fills with music lovers for free lunchtime chamber-music concerts. Students of the prestigious Hochschule für Musik Hanns Eisler also show off their skills at several free recitals weekly. At 12.30pm from Tuesday to Sunday, you can enjoy free organ recitals at the Matthäuskirche in the Kulturforum. The Französischer Dom has free organ concerts at the same time from Tuesday to Friday.
- Rock & jazz
For one-off free concerts, check the listings magazines. Jazz fans can bop gratis at A-Trane on Monday and at the late-night jam session after 12.30am on Saturday. On Wednesday, b-Flat has its own free jam sessions. Kunstfabrik Schlot is the go-to freebie several times a week.
Need to Know
- Websites Search for free stuff by date at www.gratis-in-berlin.de.
- Discount cards The Museumspass (adult/concession €29/14.50) is good for three days and valid at 30 major and minor museums.
- Public wi-fi For the locations of the city's 650 free public wi-fi access points, see www.berlin.de/stadtplan/w-lan-hotspots.