Berlin has become one of Europe’s must-see capitals. It’s bustling, exciting and unpredictable – but it can also be expensive. To help you look after your travel funds, here are five things you can do without spending a euro.
1. Admire the East Side Gallery
From its name alone, you might think that this was a conventional art gallery in an ordinary stone building. That couldn’t be further from the truth: in fact, it’s the longest remaining portion of the Berlin Wall. Since the border between West and East Berlin was opened in 1989, most of the Wall has disappeared, much of it ending up in the hands of collectors around the globe. Beside the River Spree, though, you’ll find an almost intact section running for about three-quarters of a mile. The Gallery gets its name because the Wall here is covered in colorful murals.
2. Visit the Reichstag
Germany’s strikingly designed new parliament building has been a hit with locals and visitors alike ever since it opened a few years ago. Norman Foster’s soaring glass dome is without doubt the highlight, and it looks superb even from ground level. A better option, though, is to visit the walkway that wends a spiral path around its top. You’re likely to have to register beforehand and wait in line for some time, and you’ll need to be prepared for airport-level security at the entrance, but it’s worth the hassle. The views of Berlin from the open platform are truly spectacular.
3. Admire the architecture of Museum Island
Berlin like Paris and many European cities boasts a complex of museums so outstanding that they’ve been granted the coveted status of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The exhibitions themselves do charge for admission, but there’s no need to shell out a single cent to admire the extraordinary buildings that house them. Whether it’s the Pergamon or the Neues, the Bode or the Altes Museum, wherever you look you’ll find a new angle. The island’s location on the River Spree allows an excellent vantage point or two from the bridges that criss-cross the water. The bridges themselves are beautifully intricate.
4. See the Brandenburg Gate at night
At the end of the long, tree-lined avenue named Unter den Linden – which is well worth exploring in its own right – is Berlin’s most famous landmark. This enormous, 18th-century gate spent decades inaccessible owing to its position on the East/West border, but it’s now become a symbol not only of German reunification but of the spirit of Berlin itself. You’ll certainly want to bring a camera with you when you visit, as the iconic structure is certainly worthy of a snap. Or two, or three, or four! Although it’s impressive in the daytime, when floodlit after dark it’s a truly wonderful sight.
5. Sing in the Mauerpark
Every Sunday, the so-called “Bear Pit” in the Mauerpark plays host to one of Berlin’s most unusual free attractions: a huge-scale, outdoor karaoke festival. The natural amphitheater formed by the grassy slopes around the rough stage are often packed with hundreds of people – and they’re not slow to show their opinions! If you’ve got the nerve for it – and can speak German – you can even have a go at singing yourself. Otherwise, settle down with a cold drink and relax with Berlin’s truly unique take on The X-Factor. For more information on these and other attractions to visit, we recommend looking at the Berlin Tourist Board Website.
Next time we are off to “Viva Las Vegas“!!