Berlin, Germany, is finally emerging as a popular travel destination in Europe. People are only now beginning to discover all the great things this historic, alternative city has to offer.
As such, Berlin remains a fairly cheap destination as far as major European cities go. But, even so, there are some pretty cool free things to do there.
Sandeman's New Europe offers free walking tours in major cities all across Europe – including in Berlin. These tours meet twice per day at the Brandenburg Gate, and cover all the major sites in the city center. You'll learn about Berlin's clouded history – from Hitler and the Nazis to the Cold War era when the city was literally divided in two – and hopefully be able to better appreciate the modern city as it is today.
Often referred to simply as “ the Holocaust Memorial,” this eerie field of stone boxes is an image that is now synonymous with Berlin. The memorial, completed in 2005 and designed by Peter Eisenmann, is designed to be abstract and open to interpretation. But the free museum beneath the memorial (reached by stairs on Cora-Berliner-Straße) is meant to deliver a specific message: that we must never forget, and that we must never let this happen again. The free museum is very emotionally heavy, but extremely well done and worth a visit if you want to learn more of the history behind the Holocaust and read/hear some very personal stories.
A remnant of the Soviet days, portions of the infamous Berlin Wall still stand in the city today. The largest section – roughly 1.3 kilometers long – is now one of the largest outdoor art galleries in the world. The East Side Gallery features murals and paintings by artists from all over the world, depicting hope and freedom and various other politically-driven messages. Located along the River Spree, the East Side Gallery is completely free to visit and wander along for as long as you'd like.
Perhaps you will have had enough of Hitler and the Nazis in Berlin. But, if not, consider visiting the Topographies of Terror on Niederkirchnerstraße, near where all the old Nazis government buildings used to stand before they got destroyed in WWII. Outside you'll find an old crumbling section of the Berlin Wall, as well as an exhibit with photos about 1933 and Hitler's rise to power in Germany. Inside the nearby museum, you can learn a lot more about how the Nazis went about carrying out their reign of terror. It requires a lot of reading to fully appreciate this one, but it won't cost you a thing.
Germany's Parliament building – dating back to the late 1800s when Germany was first unified – is an impressive building in its own right. But did you know that you can visit its big glass dome for absolutely nothing? As long as Parliament is not in session, you can enter the building and be whisked up to the dome for some cool views over Berlin. If you're interested in this, all you have to do is book your visit online at least a day or two before you want to go.
Lastly, if you find yourself in Berlin on a nice Sunday afternoon in the summer, head up to Mauerpark. Here you can visit the flea market, and then head over to the amphitheater space in the park to witness one of the largest public karaoke performance in the world. On a nice day, thousands of people turn up to watch talented singers belt out tunes. Bring a picnic lunch and make a day out of it. (The karaoke usually runs from about 3-7 p.m.).
What sights did you enjoy on your visit to Berlin?
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Graduate student by day and avid traveler and blogger by night (and on weekends and during holidays), Amanda is just a small-town Ohio girl trying to balance a "normal" life with a desire to discover the world beyond her Midwest bubble. Amanda's adventurous nature and inability to say "no" have led her to some pretty amazing adventures all around the world. But she has no desire to stop exploring anytime soon. Read Amanda's blog, A Dangerous Business, or follow her on Facebook, Twitter or Google Plus.
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