As David Bowie once said, “Berlin is the greatest cultural extravaganza that one could imagine.” …and let me tell ya something, it’s true! Berlin is without a doubt one of the quirkiest cities I’ve ever been to, and I loved every second of it.
So what makes Berlin so interesting? This Berlin Travel Guide will help you navigate the city while ballin’ on a budget.
WHAT YOU’LL FIND IN THIS BERLIN TRAVEL GUIDE
- Pros and Cons of Berlin
- Things to Do and See
- Best Berlin Hostels
- Cheap Food & Drink
- Berlin Nightlife
- How to Get Around Berlin
- More Resources
A bit of history on Berlin: From 1961 to 1989, The Berlin Wall separated the East and West side of the city. After the fall of the wall, Germans poured into East Berlin and inhabited many of the abandoned buildings. Artists and creatives used them for cheap housing, and this is what led to the expressive and modern city Berlin is today.
This city is quirky and unique….and cheaper than most European cities! Although, the rise in tourism has led Berlin to not be as cheap as it once was, it’s still majorly cheaper than other cities.
PROS AND CONS OF BERLIN
Pros: Berlin is a great option for solo or female travelers, as it’s a very safe city. Petty crimes are low occurrences in the city; however, be aware that Berlin is not free of terror threats. Berlin is a very historic city and there are many things to do and see, without spending a penny. Additionally, Berlin has more parks and green space than most other cities, so hanging out outside is an A+ when the weather is nice.
Cons: This is a massive city that is very industrial, so you aren’t going to get the traditional German atmosphere. With how huge Berlin is, it doesn’t make the city very walkable- which limited me when I was backpacking there. However, the public transportation is very accessible and Ubers are cheap.
THINGS TO DO AND SEE
Free Walking Tour
Walking tours are one of my favorite ways to see a city, and most of them are free! Additionally, as a solo traveler or small group, you have the opportunity to meet others who are touring the same city you are. The Original Free Berlin Tour will take you to a minimum of 10 different locations around Berlin, like the Reichstag, WWII Battlefields, the Brandenburg Gate, etc. Plus, your guide normally takes you to little hidden spots that you may not see otherwise. Note, that a tip is expected for your guide.
East Side Gallery
The East Side Gallery is easily one of the most interesting historical sites I’ve ever been to.
This is a 1316-meter long street art gallery, that is literally painted on the Berlin Wall. Over 100 artists have contributed to the gallery, and it is breathtaking. You have the ability to touch history as you walk down it. The paintings on the wall document change and euphoria for a greater future. As you walk along the wall, you can also see parts of the Berlin Wall that have remained untouched.The East Side Gallery is located in the center of Berlin, on Mühlenstraße in Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg.
Well contrary to what the name suggests, this is actually not a German McDonalds’s. Hamburger Banhof is a massive contemporary art museum in Berlin. Hamburger Banhof was originally a railway terminal, which connected Berlin to Hamburg, hence the name. The railway terminal was transformed into a museum in 1904. The museum features famous artists like Andy Warhol, Anselm Keifer, and Robert Rauschenburg. Admission is €14.
The Reichstag is one of the most significant historical buildings in Berlin, which houses the German parliament. The Reichstag was completed in 1894 and has been renovated since part of the building went up in flames in 1933. The building is available for tours and has various art, as well as a 360-panorama view of the city. Admission to the building is free, but you have to reserve your tour time online. You can access the Reichstag from the main rail station, Hauptbahnhof. When I was in Berlin we accidentally stumbled across the Reichstag after leaving Hauptbahnhof!
Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
The memorial, also known as the Holocaust Memorial, has over 2,500 concrete slabs that is said to symbolize a supposedly ordered system that has lost touch with humanity. The memorial is open concept so that you can walk around and pay tribute. The memorial is located just to the south of Brandenburg Gate and near Tiergarten Park.
Tiergarten Park is spot on in the middle of the city and stretches over 500 acres. Tiergarten was beautiful in the middle of July, and you can go for a walk, grab a coffee, skate, bike, or relax in the sun. There are typically street performers playing music, especially in the summer. There are many sites you can get to from Tiergarten, like Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag, Postdamer Platz, the Holocaust Memorial, and the Zoological Garden.
Find a Hidden Spot
Last but not least, this last must-do is to find your own hidden spot in the city. There are tons of little back-alley spots that open and close all of the time in Berlin. When I was there, we found a hidden beach in the center of the city (not kidding!). It was a euro to get in and Jamaican music, drinks, and food were all around you. This one of the most unique things I experienced in the city!
BEST BERLIN HOSTELS
To be honest, I prefer to stay in hostels when traveling in Europe. For one, they’re cheap. Two, you can meet so many people and I’ve made a ton of friends and traveled with them this way. My favorite way to pick a hostel is through the app Hostelworld. You can filter how far you would like to be from the city center, how much you would like to spend, see photos, and read reviews. Berlin has many nice hostels, ranging from €15-€35 a night.
Here are some of the top hostels in Berlin:
CHEAP FOOD & DRINK
My rule of thumb when traveling in a city is to eat street food and cheaper options for most of my meals, and have a nice, sit-down meal every couple of days. This keeps things inexpensive, but also lets me enjoy all levels of the culture. Here are some tips on keeping food and drink costs down:
- Eat Breakfast at your Hostel: Another reason I love to stay at hostels, is the free breakfast (make sure you choose one that includes this!). It may not be luxurious, but it’ll do the trick.
- Eat Street Food: Berlin has a ton of ethnic street food and it is delicious! After a night out, donner kebabs are a staple. Street food typically costs €3.5.
- Bring a Collapsible Water Bottle: Trust meeeee, water can be a sneaky way to run up your budget. Try a collapsible water bottle that wont take up much space and you can fill up for free. Fashion a carabiner on the bottle and hang it on your backpack or luggage.
- Beer is Cheaper than Water: You can get beer for less than €1 at a grocery store for pre-drinks. When out, beer typically runs about €3, and a cocktail will be around €5.
- Buy Snacks at a Grocery Store: I eat A LOT, so I tend to struggle a bit when meals aren’t on a routine. I love getting travel-able snacks at a grocery store that keeps me full, and keeps my food costs down. Typically, I go for granola bars, bananas, or something with protein.
Traditional German Foods: Bratwurst, Weiner Schnitzel, Currywurst, Pork Knuckles
Berlin nightlife is like no other, and there’s so many options. From techno to reggaeton to all out benders, Berlin is very inclusive in its clubs and its people. Most clubs have a dress code, so make sure you dress up a little bit (black is always a good option). I always suggest a pub crawl in new cities, as these can allow you to meet fun people and are relatively cheap. Most hostels will recommend a certain pub crawl company, but I went on Sandeman’s New Berlin Pub Crawl, which was €15.
Highly Recommended Clubs in Berlin:
HOW TO GET AROUND BERLIN
Like I’ve said, Berlin is a truly massive city…so walking won’t do you much good if you’re trying to get from one side of the city to the other. Berlin’s public transport system consists of the U-bahn (subway, underground), the S-bahn (light rail), and buses. The U-bahn and S-bahn systems are going to be the most convenient, cheapest, and efficient way of getting around the city, and you can find their transport maps located at their stations. Tickets can also be purchased at the vending machines at the stations.
If you are going out at night, the U-bahn runs all night long on Fridays and Saturdays. You can also catch an Uber if this its not a weekend.
If you are going to be taking more than two trips on the public transport a day, I would recommend getting the tegaskarte (day pass) for €7.
You can also rent a bike for the day for around €12.
- Check out the Berlin Welcome Card for free public transport, a city guidebook, and you can choose from up to 200 tourist attractions for €23.
- Berlin’s Best: Ice Cream Guide
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- The Top 10 Clubs in Berlin