Berlin insider tips

Berlin is cheaper than many other European cities but you can save even more money by following some of my tips below.

Eating and drinking

With its huge Turkish population, there are thousands of food stands with the sign "Imbiss" above them. Cheap, filling food awaits.

Moderately-priced eateries abound in the Nikolaiviertel area, a restored neighbourhood with Berlin’s oldest church at its centre.

Kreuzberg and Neukolln are great places to find cheap Indian, pizza, and döner kebab restaurants. Prices start at €1.50 for a kebab or Turkish pizza.

For €2-3, Joseph Roth Diele on Potsdamer Straße will serve you a sandwich or one of the daily specials in a charming environment.

One of the cheapest ways to enjoy a drink in Berlin is to purchase alcohol in a grocery store and stake out a spot in a park or along one of the canals crossing the Kreuzberg.

At the three Weinerei bars, (Perlin on Griebenowstraße, Fra Rosa on Zionskirchstraße and Forum on Fehrbelliner Straße) it’s pay-what-you-want after 8pm (though the staff have been getting much tighter on letting people in recently, so don't roll up already drunk or wearing an expression that suggests you're about to empty the bar and leave only a pittance).

Garage is a reasonably-priced bistro with good service. Entrees run from €8-13, glasses of wine start at €3.50, and dessert is free. It’s popular with locals and can get crowded, so reserve in advance.

Hoppegarten has good food and a great beer and wine selection, all at reasonable prices.

Mensa cafeterias are state-run, and are great places to sample local cuisine. The food is healthy and inexpensive.

Getting around

Buses 100 and 200 pass most of the tourist sites and attractions in Berlin, and public transportation is a lot cheaper than paying for a tour. Sitting on the top deck provides a great sightseeing opportunity.

Travelling to other parts of Germany is made easy with the Schönes Wochenende Ticket (SWT), a train ticket that allows unlimited weekend travel for €37. SW tickets allow the holder to bring up to four other travellers along for no extra cost.

Fat Tire Bike Tours runs a handful of leisurely, informative tours around Berlin. They cost €20 for adults and €18 for students. Check the Berlin Things to do section for those and for Segway tours too.

Sights and attractions

The East Side Gallery consists of about 100 paintings on the east side of the Berlin Wall. It was recently re-painted and remains a fascinating monument to freedom.

The lines are often long in the summer to get up to the enormous glass dome of the Reichstag building. Plan your visit during an off-peak time (Sundays or weekday evenings) to take in panoramic views of the city.

One of the largest parks in Germany, Tiergarten is punctuated by the Victory Column at its centre and also houses the famous Brandenburg Gate.

The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe takes up an entire city block. Below it is a free museum.

The impressive Berlin Cathedral is free and less crowded during the mornings and late afternoons. There are also free organ concerts offered.

The Topography of Terror, a free outdoor museum, was built on the site where the SS and Gestapo headquarters once were. It’s one of the most visited memorials in Europe.

Another free museum is the Memorial to German Resistance, which showcases both large and small-scale opposition to the Nazi regime through photographs and documents.

Alternative Berlin tours convene daily at 11am and 1pm at Starbucks under the Alexanderplatz TV Tower. Tours cover street art, bizarre shops, and subculture hangouts. They’re free, but guides do expect tips.

It’s free to enter any of the approximately 70 state-run museums in Berlin from 6-10pm on Thursdays, although this usually doesn’t include special exhibits.

Nikolaikirche, the oldest church in Berlin, dates to the 13th century. It doesn’t actually operate as a church, but instead has free, rotating exhibits.

Destroyed during the war, the impressive glass high-rises of Potsdamer Platz offer some interesting modern architecture.

New Berlin offers free walking tours that last 3.5 hours, hit the major landmarks, and cover the history of the city.

Other useful tips

With a three-day Schaulust-Museen Berlin pass, several museums are free. Passes cost €19.

If you plan to visit several museums and tourist sites, consider buying the Berlin Welcome Card. Passes come in two, three and five-day versions, and include free trips on public transportation and 50 per cent off the entrance fees to more than 140 museums and sites.