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List Words : Daisy Cropper | 03 July

10 things to do for free in Berlin

Daisy Cropper discovers how to explore Germany's cool capital city on the cheap

1. Get a great view

The Reichstag building is one of the city's most popular landmarks and offers Neo-Classical architecture along with an insight into Germany's past. Modern additions, the roof terrace and the building's iconic glass cupola, can be visited for free; and host spectacular views over the entire city.

The cupola is a big attraction with visitors to the city – visit in the early morning or late afternoon to skip the queues. Registration is required before you visit.

2. Wonder at the Wall

Take in the East Side Gallery, a 1.3km section of the Berlin Wall adorned with murals, paintings and graffiti from international artists. Dubbed the largest open-air gallery in the world, the murals here were created just after the Wall fell in 1989, and showcase fascinating, satirical, imaginative and political messages from Germany's past.

Efforts are being made to preserve the original artworks, however the gallery is under threat from the weather, air pollution, vandals and time. Scramble through one of the Wall's many holes to peer at modern graffiti artists' additions to the side overlooking the River Spree.

3. Stroll Berlin’s green heart

Enjoy nature in the centre of the city in the Tiergarten – Berlin’s largest park. Discover war memorials and victory statues over 23km of pathways and trails, while temporarily escaping the hustle and bustle of city life.

During World War II, much of the park was destroyed, and cold Berliners chopped down many of the trees for firewood. Now the park is popular with joggers, dog-walkers, and city dwellers. Pack a picnic and enjoy the summer sun or explore the sculptures, columns, lakes and ponds on foot.

4. Wander Museum Island

Berlin’s state museums are free for the last four hours (6-10pm) of opening time on Thursday evenings. Five of Germany's most important museums are on the UNESCO-listed Museum Island; try the Old National Gallery for classical antiquities (Roman and Greek collections) and the Bode Museum for one of Europe's best sculpture collections.

Opening times are changeable with the different tourist seasons. Check www.smb.spk-berlin.de before your trip to the city.

5. Take a moment to remember

A five-acre site close to the Reichstag, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews in Europe is a depressing sight yet one which should be seen by visitors. Filled with 2,700 slabs of charcoal-coloured concrete of varying heights, the memorial is disorientating and serves as a bleak reminder of the horrors of the Nazi rule.

Underground, there is an information centre, which is home to tributes to the six million Jewish people who died during the Holocaust. More information can be found at: www.stiftung-denkmal.de/en.

6. Appreciate art

Browse the Mitte area’s galleries (most are free). From up-market chic to down-right funky there are plenty of galleries to explore. Start a tour of Mitte's gallery scene at the eastern end of Auguststrasse. Window-shop your way along the road popping in to the places you like the look of – it's that simple.

Head out in the early evening and, if you're lucky, you might chance upon an opening show and enjoy free wine and snacks.

7. Take an alternative tour

See Berlin like a Berliner and experience a different kind of tour: visit graffiti hotspots, flea markets, bizarre shops and urban farms, all within the city centre. On foot, take to the streets with knowledgeable local guides who'll surprise you with myths and legends from Berlin's neighbourhoods.

Tours are free and run daily at 11am and 1pm. Groups are small to ensure an intimate and enlightening view of the city. See www.alternativeberlin.com for more information and meeting spots.

8. Escape the city

Although technically you'll have to pay to get to Grunewald (a forested area outside of the city), once you're there the hikes, trails, swimmable lakes and picnic spots are all free to enjoy.

Making up around 32 sq. km of mixed woodland, the area provides the perfect opportunity to lace up your hiking boots and avoid the hum-drum of city life. For sun-seekers there's a large sandy beach to lounge on around the Wannsee lake at Grunewald's southern edge.

9. Visit a gateway of history

The Brandenburg Gate has become a symbol of Germany unity. It was the scene of many significant events from the past 200 years, and another iconic site not to miss.

Inspired by the Acropolis in Athens, the landmark's sandstone gates are topped by a sculpture of a Quadriga – a four-horsed chariot driven by the winged Goddess of victory, who looms overhead. Napoleon admired it so much that he took it to France in 1806.

Later the gate was home to Nazi parades and marches, and during the Cold War the Gate marked the divide between the East and West Berlin. It finally became the symbol of the national unity when the Wall fell.

10. Discover a gem or two

Hallentrödelmarkt Treptow is a gigantic indoor flea market offering travellers the perfect rainy day option. Completely chaotic and thoroughly bizarre, the permanent stalls here offer something for everyone. Wander through the sellers while searching for odd trinkets in this full-to-bursting Aladdin’s cave of random junk.

Market is open Saturday and Sunday from 10am until 4pm.

Ever wanted to improve your travel writing skills? Join Wanderlust for a weekend of writing in Berlin, Germany this autumn for a fun and insightful workshop in a city packed full of history. Find out more here

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