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Berlin on a budget

Cheap thrills: Things to do for free in Berlin

From dancing to comedy to sightseeing, here’s our guide to enjoying the city on a budget.

A great alternative to pricey boat tours: the BVG ferries. Photo: IMAGO / Jürgen Ritter

Sightseeing & boating for the price of a BVG ticket

A hop-on, hop-off bus excursion, or a cruise across Berlin’s most beautiful lakes? All included in the price of your €9 monthly ticket.

Bus lines

Jump on bus line 200 at Zoologischer Garten and enjoy a ride past Gedächtniskirche and the zoo on Ku’damm, the Philharmonie and Sony Center near Potsdamer Platz and finally the Rotes Rathaus near Alexanderplatz. After that, the bus leaves the city centre and continues on a less interesting route to P’Berg, so we suggest getting off at Alexanderplatz/ Memhardstraße and hopping on the line 100 in the opposite direction. On this line, you’ll see Museum Island as the bus pulls into Unter den Linden towards the Brandenburg Gate, Schloss Bellevue, the Siegessäule and the Nordic embassies at Tiergarten before returning to Zoologischer Garten.

For a more extensive tour of the city, the line 300 takes you through the same main sights and then continues eastwards all the way to Friedrichshain. Get on at Philharmonie for the full tour or hop on at Alexanderplatz/ Memhardstraße. You’ll then ride along the entirety of the East Side Gallery, although if you want to see what’s currently covered by construction sites, you’ll have to get off the bus. The line ends at noted busking and party tourist hotspot Warschauer Straße.

Jump on the 100 and enjoy a ride along Unter den Linden. Photo: Wanda Sachs.

Public ferries

On a hot day, sitting on a bus might not be the ideal pastime, so why not escape the city and take a public ferry? For a cruise through the ‘German Riviera’, take the F10 across Wannsee to Kladow, a charming suburb of Spandau. When you reach Wannsee on the S1, look out for the BVG logo peeking through the selection of pricey boat tours. Although you can’t sit outside, the big glass windows offer a great panoramic view of the lake, as well as the mansions and private boats owned by well-heeled locals. There’s plenty to enjoy here after the 20-minute cruise. Two beautiful beer gardens, for example, as soon as you step off the boat. You can also treat yourself to a great trout if you’re hungry, or go for a romantic stroll along the edge of the water through the weeping willows before heading back to Wannsee and taking the S1 back into the tumult of the city.

For a cruise through the ‘German Riviera’, take the F10

Another nice route is the F23. Get on the S3 to Rahnsdorf, then take the bus one stop and get off at Rahnsdorf/Waldschänke. From there, take a stroll through the village, past two gelaterias and then down Müggelwerderweg to the lake. A ferry with outside seating will take you through the Müggelspree and past Kleiner Müggelsee with its houseboats, jet skis, swimmers and stand-up paddlers. For a break, get off at Kruggasse, where you can sit under willow trees, put your feet in the sand and, if you go on the weekend, enjoy a fresh Bismarckbrötchen from Müggelseefischerei. From here, you can either get on the F24, a little rowboat that takes you to the opposite bank, or walk back to the bus stop through the village.

  • F10, Mon-Fri 6:00-20:00, Sat 7:00-20:00, Sun 9:00-20:00 hourly, on the hour.
  • F23, Tue-Fri, 10:00-19:00, Sat/Sun 10:00-20:00, hourly, on the hour.
  • F24, Sat/Sun 11:00-19:00
Ferry F23 takes you across Kleiner Müggelsee and the Müggelspree. Photo: Wanda Sachs.

Comedy for all

The Hauptstadt is a Mecca for budding English-speaking comedians with an abundance of free entertainment along with it. You might even score yourself a free shot. The only price: getting roasted by the host in the process.

Dare to sit in the front row at Midweek Crisis and earn a free shot. Photo: James Mottram.

Trippy-looking Kreuzberg venue Space Meduza plays host to The Real Show! Ten comedians, mainly amateur but seriously funny, take to the tiny stage in the corner of the bar, getting about four minutes of stand-up time with interludes from the house band. The show is free, but donations are highly appreciated – all money collected goes to war relief efforts in the owners’ native Ukraine. Keep in mind that you might see some sets twice if you go again.

If The Real Show! is generally reliable, Midweek Crisis is its messy counterpart. In the intimate open-air setting of Babette’s Garden, you’ll find three rows of wooden chairs in front of a stage that is really just a metal shipping container flanked by two speakers. Comedy shows might be the only events where the front row fills up last, a problem that the hosts of Midweek Crisis tackle by coaxing guests with free shots – which, in fairness, is exactly what’s needed right before being rinsed in front of everyone. You’ll see well-prepared sets, but also (more-or-less) successful improv. You can book a ticket in advance, but since the little square in front of the Kindl art centre is completely public, you don’t need one to watch the show. In fact, you could even bring your own drinks.

all money collected goes to war relief

At The Bear, it’s not about comedy – though it can certainly be funny – but rather storytelling. Held at various venues in both English and German, with a different theme each time, this event invites anyone with a fitting (true) story up on stage – stories of dares, firsts or secrets. The evening is recorded and presented on The Bear Radio as well as uploaded to YouTube, so if you’re keen to jump on stage, you can get your seven minutes of fame. Maybe your story will even be crowned the best of the evening! As for everyone else, grab a drink, sit back and enjoy some great stories in a friendly atmosphere. Tickets are donation-based: pay as much as you see fit.

  • The Real Show!, Space Meduza, Kreuzberg, every Tuesday. Starts 20:00. Donation strongly suggested.
  • Midweek Crisis, Babette’s Garden, Neukölln, every Wednesday. Starts 20:00. Donation appreciated.
  • The Bear Storytelling check website for dates. Donation required.

Costless Concerts

Berlin wouldn’t be Berlin without its buskers, some of whom – like Alice Phoebe Lou or Stephen Paul Taylor – have gone on to greater notoriety. Go to these spots and you might just discover the next big thing.

Watch Yuna perform on Alexanderplatz. Photo: Onno Szillis.

With more than 300,000 visitors a day, it’s not surprising that Alexanderplatz is a favourite spot for street musicians. You’ll mostly find them around the Weltzeituhr on summer evenings. While we’d avoid this tourist spot on any other occasion, artists like Yunah are a reason to go. With just a guitar and vocals, she has amassed over 13,000 Instagram followers on the strength of songs like single ‘Ruf nicht an’.

It’s gotten so popular that the Bezirksamt Pankow has built an ‘Acoustic Shell’

Another classic busking location is Mauerpark, with musicians competing for Flohmarkt visitors’ donations on Sundays. It’s gotten so popular that the Bezirksamt Pankow has built an ‘Acoustic Shell’ for musicians to play in without bringing (illegal) amplifiers. Our favourite here is Mellie Meteors, a Dutchman who’s been slinging his guitar across the city since moving here mid-pandemic. If you want a free classical concert, head over to James Simon Gallery, where you’ll often find violinists, saxophonists or even a double bass being played on the bridge leading onto Museum Island. Then, of course, there’s the Warschauer Straße station in Friedrichshain, where you’ll find everything from techno to punk to hip hop. After your city tour on the 300, enjoy some rap from e Randy or soulful tunes from Camilla Simon.

If you’d rather be indoors, there’s also excellent live music over at B-flat Jazz Club. Every Wednesday, a fee of €2 grants you entry to a long night of jam sessions by jazz combo Robin’s Nest, a group of five middle- aged men who may look unassuming but will impress you with their improv skills. The sessions start at 9pm, but if you want a seat by the stage, we suggest you arrive earlier. That way, you’ll also still be on time for Happy Hour, which ends at 9.30pm. If you do arrive late and can’t find a seat, it’s perfectly acceptable to perch on the stairs with your espresso martini. You’ll feel just as sophisticated.

Latin Dance Nights

Sultry summers are made for open-air dancing, and we don’t just mean your awkward rave moves. While tango, bachata or forró lessons can be a costly pastime, these locations and groups offer an opportunity to practice, show off or just gawk entirely for free.

Tango fans gather for an open-air Milonga at the Reichstagufer in fron of Paul-Löbe-Haus. Photo: IMAGO / David Heerde

Berlin is often referred to as the tango city after Buenos Aires, and one of its epicentres is (of course!) the German government building Paul-Löbe-Haus, just by the Spree. Here, mainly middle-aged tango fans gather for a slow, sensual Milonga every evening. As strange as the location may sound, it actually makes sense: the large stone panels make an excellent dance floor, almost level to the water. There, the couples will sit to take a little breather, as the setting sun reflected from the surrounding glass buildings bathes the area in a warm light. Utterly romantic.

Roughly 30 metres further up the river, opposite the Futurium (which is also free, by the way), you’ll bump into a much livelier group: bachata dancers, with fiercer, more fiery moves and a younger clientele, who will happily invite you for a sesh or to join their WhatsApp groups, which is an easy way to infiltrate the dancing community. With rhythmic reggaeton blasting from their boomboxes, you’ll hear the group before you see it.

The dance floor is open to anyone who’s keen to give it a go.

The Dominican bachata is also on the agenda of the Strandbar at Monbijoupark across from the Bode Museum. On Tuesday evenings, the dance floor is open to anyone who’s keen to give it a go. It’s not for the shy as the floor is surrounded by Strandbar guests as well as passers-by. If you and your partner love attention and personal space, make sure you arrive when it starts; if you don’t want to stand out from the crowd, wait a while until the dance floor has filled up with the very mixed clientele. Next to bachata, you can also come for salsa, tango, swing, standard, Latin, zouk and forró throughout the week.

That last one is a Brazilian social dance that enjoys great popularity in Berlin, not least because it’s relatively easy to learn and leaves quite a bit of room for creative expression. Every Wednesday, dancers gather at the open after-work party organised by Tome Forró at Atopia Kaffeehaus, where the tables are pushed aside to make room for some serious leg-brushing action. You don’t have to bring a partner; many people come alone, happy to mix and mingle. If you want to escape the stuffy indoors on a hot summer night, head to Tempelhofer Feld where parties are also held occasionally. Check the public Tome Forró Berlin Facebook group for all the deets. All of these dance events are free and open to anyone, though donations to the DJs and organisers are appreciated.

  • Paul-Löbe-Haus, Milonga, Mon-Sat from 20:00, Sunday 16-22
  • Futurium, Bachata, Tue, Thu + Sat from 19:00
  • Strandbar at Monbijoupark, Mon: Salsa, Tue: Bachata, Wed: Tango, Thu: Salsa, Fri: Tango, all 18-22; Forró + Zouk: Sat 14-17; Standard + Latin: Sat 17-22; Swing: Sun 16-22
  • Atopia Kaffeehaus, Forró, Wednesdays from 21:00, lessons from 20:00, more info here.

Culture for less

From free cinema to discounts at the theatre, entertainment in Berlin doesn’t have to be expensive. Here’s how to get cultured for a fraction of the price.

The ensemble of the Staatsballet embarking on a boat trip through Berlin to perform for the public. Photo: IMAGO / PEMAX.

Save the date

Jul 1-10: Summer Cinema #2030
Ten open-air feature films and documentaries will be screened for free, each focusing on a different one of the UN’s sustainable development goals with experts present for post-film talks.

  • Steinplatz, Charlottenburg, starts 19:00

Jul 3: Blue Sunday
Before they take their summer break in mid-July, the Deutsches Theater will have two “Blue Sundays”, where all tickets are just €12. On the 3rd, you can see Auslöschung. Ein Zerfall (with English surtitles) by Thomas Bernhard and on the 10th Liebe, einfach außerirdisch by René Pollesch.

  • Deutsches Theater, Mitte, starts 19:00

Museum Sunday
On every first Sunday of the month, over 60 Berlin museums open their doors to visitors free of charge. This summer’s Museum Sundays are on July 3, August 7 and September 4.

  • Check museumssonntag.berlin for participating museums.

Jul 10: Theatre Day
On Theatre Day at the Schaubühne, all tickets are 50 percent off. Have you been meaning to see Der Krieg mit den Molchen, as recommended by our Stage Editor last month? Now is your chance for half the price!

  • Schaubühne, Charlottenburg, starts 20:00

Aug 26: From Berlin With Love
The Staatsballett will take a boat tour on the Spree through as many of the city’s districts as possible, performing excerpts from various shows completely free of charge!

  • House of World Cultures, Tiergarten, starts 18:00

Through September: Kultursommer Festival
Every day from June through to mid-September, Berliners can look forward to events from all thinkable realms of culture taking place in all corners of the city. Dance, concerts, screenings, comedy, theatre, reading, workshops, speeches and more – outdoors and all free of charge.

  • Check draussenstadt.berlin/de/ kultursommerfestival/kalender for the programme.

Creative discounts

The Berliner Philharmoniker near Potsdammer Platz. Photo: IMAGO / Winfried Rothermel

Berliner Philharmoniker: If you’re under 28, the Berliner Philharmoniker saves 50 tickets for each concert that can be purchased at a discount. These tickets are €15 at the Philharmonie and €8 at the Chamber Music Hall.

Staatsoper: At the Staatsoper, you can buy a ticket for the Hörplätze for €10-14, if you don’t mind not actually being able to see the performers. Alternatively, go 30 minutes before the show starts, when you can buy any leftover tickets for €15 if you’re lucky.

Tischlerei: The Tischlerei is basically the experimentation lab of the Deutsche Oper, which is why tickets there are usually much cheaper. You’ll only pay up to €20.

Pierre Boulez Saal: At the Pierre Boulez Saal, youth tickets apply to everyone under 35. They cost €15 and are applicable to every seat. If there are any tickets left last-minute, they’ll be sold for €12 an hour before the show.

Classic Card: With a Classic Card you pay a yearly amount as high as your current age, as long as you’re under 30. With the card you can save up to 90 percent on tickets at Konzerthaus, Staatsoper, Deutsche Oper, Komische Oper, Staatsballett, Berliner Philharmoniker and Deutsches Symphonieorchester Berlin.