Berlin: How to Thrive on a Budget

In Berlin, Travel Guides
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I always had a good feeling about Berlin. It was my first visit to Europe, and I was one of those pre-travelers daydreaming about far away destinations like it was my day job. I mean that literally, hours were spent scrolling through Lonely Planet and TripAdvisor and beyond while I was at my day job (and if my former boss ever reads this, I’m not even sorry). Berlin was the second city I stepped foot in, and I ended up staying for quite some time. It is a black hole for activities, and its cool, carefree nature makes it hard to leave.

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Berlin has had arguably one of the most turbulent histories of the 20th century, and has emerged as a vibrant, captivating city. Whether you are a traveler passing through for the weekend or a long term stayer, the city can be an extremely fulfilling place to be, particularly if you (like me) don’t have much to call your own other than the $20 in your pocket and your mother’s love. While the accommodation costs in Germany are around the same as other parts of Western Europe, the food and the beer is cheap and delicious. With one euro beer waiting at your nearest convenience store, backpacking on a budget certainly becomes a lot merrier. Staying in the center of Berlin is not necessary as the outer suburbs are just as alive with activities as Alexanderplatz, which is also easily accessible by the underground train system. I spent a large amount of time in the areas Neukölln, Kreuzberg and Prenzlauer Berg, all of which I’d recommend for scoping out potential accommodation.

For those of you keen to get your teeth into the city, you will never fall short of things to do in Berlin. The place is buzzing with life, and whether you’re into football, gigs, walking, clubbing, ping pong, lying in the sun with a beer, or just sitting in a cafe and reading your book, you can do so with maximum style and with minimum guilt about your bank account. And being the frugal cheapskate that I am, I’ve compiled a list of activities you can do while spending close to zilch.

 

Have the Ultimate Sunday Picnic at Mauerpark

Budget: $0 – Whatever you decide!

Time: Set aside an entire day or at least an afternoon for this baby

This makes me really excited. I have this philosophy that one of life’s many keys to happiness is doing an activity on a Sunday and this, my dear reader, is the Sunday activity of Sunday activities. Mauerpark is located in the suburb Prenzlauer Berg, and is easily accessible by train. What once was a Death Strip and former part of the Berlin Wall, has become a green, bustling, vibrant park full of people dancing and singing, and a never ending fleamarket.

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The fleamarket is at the entrance of the park, and contains stalls selling a variety of items. From scarves to camera lenses, tote bags to fox ornaments, there’s bound to be something inside that tickles your fancy. It also houses a boutique stall by every single Hipster living in Berlin. While the market is pricier than average, the items really are beautiful, and there are good deals hidden in there. I managed to score myself a bag for five euros, and a cap for 10.

Do you know what goes really well with fleamarkets? Karaoke. In 2009 a group decided that it would be cool to set up a karaoke stand beside the market, and now seven years later the idea has exploded. The Bearpit Karaoke Show takes place towards the left hand side of the park, directly opposite the basketball court. A concrete stage is surrounded by a natural amphitheater on the hillside, and on a sunny day there can be hundreds of Berliners congregating around the stage, cheering performers on. Grab a beer, find a seat in the crowd and enjoy the free live music. Or even better, have another beer and get up on the stage yourself!

 

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Go on a Späti Crawl

Budget: 10-30 euros

Time: An evening out

An even classier version of the pub crawl, the Späti crawl is quite possibly the most fun you can have outside a convenience store. Created by a Couchsurfing member, this event usually happens on a Friday night and can found through the Couchsurfing Berlin events page. As it is legal to drink alcohol on the streets of Berlin, this activity is centered around purchasing beer from a späti (a dairy), drinking the beer, and moving onto the next späti which is usually only a street away. Simplicity at its best. With groups ranging between 30 to 100 (weather depending) and beer starting at less than an euro, the Späti crawl is something you should set time aside for no matter how long your stay is in Berlin.

Grab a Bike and Explore the Canals:

Budget: 10 euros

Time: 1-3 hours

For a large international city, Berlin is surprisingly green. Trees line the streets and vines stretch up on the outside of buildings as though plants are attempting to take the city hostage. There are many canals that run through the city, and if you start from an outer suburb, you can follow them into the centre, using the TV Tower building as your guiding beacon. This is a really great way to see parts of the city that you may have otherwise overlooked, many little bars and cafes that line the canals are worth stopping at and are cheaper than those in the city centre as they are off the beaten track. If you can’t find or afford to hire a bike, walking the tracks alongside the canals is also just as enjoyable and 100% free.

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Visit the East Side Gallery:

Budget: $0

Time: 1-3 hours

An obvious one, but an important activity to mention nonetheless. Because Berlin is so beautiful and carefree, it’s easy to forget the history that it’s built on. As a visitor to the city I personally think it’s important to not only appreciate all that it is but also respect all that it’s been through. The East Side Gallery is an artwork display on a remaining segment of the Berlin Wall, which divided East and West Berlin until 1989. Words are limiting when describing subjects such as these, and perhaps a visit to the East Side Gallery is something that should be experienced rather than described.

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Eat a Donor Kebab and Play Some Ping Pong:

Budget: 5-10 euros

Time: However long you can hold down a table for

Have you ever entered a friend’s room for the first time, and discovered that they have a bizarre secret obsession that completely blindsides you? Like they have a dead bug collection, or an entire wall devoted to Nickelback? Well Berlin is serious about ping pong. And in areas like Neukölln and Kreuzberg, every second store is a kebab shop. Both of these things are amazing. It would be almost rude not to combine them. In the local parks and green areas lining the canals, ping pong tables can be found, free to use for members of the public. If you are in need of a cheap activity in the sun, then these ping pong tables are calling your name (if they are not already taken for some very serious ping pong matches). You will need to purchase your own ping pong bats and balls, but these can be done so easily at local nick knack stores (also which are surprisingly common). Grab your three euro donor kebab, roll down to your nearest park, and enjoy the outdoor entertainment that Berlin has to offer.

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