Berlin on a budget

In this guest post Lindsay Sydenham gives Europe a la Carte readers advice for a budget conscious trip to Berlin.

“It can be difficult to travel to Europe on a modest budget. With the weakness of the Dollar against the Euro, some travelers are hesitant to take any trips in this economy. Berlin is a relatively inexpensive city to travel to – especially in comparison to Paris and London. The purpose of this review is to provide peace of mind to future travelers and to inform readers about the many free and low-cost opportunities that exist in Berlin.

Brandenburg Gate, Berlin

Brandenburg Gate

Be sure to eat a heavy, traditional, German meal during your stay in Berlin, but remember that the best and most authentic German eats are ones that are cheap. Eat your daily breakfast at bakeries. Every morning bakers arise early and make all sorts of breads, pastries and croissants for Berliners to purchase on their way to work. An authentic, fresh breakfast could cost you one Euro – total. For lunch or dinner, consider the Turkish döner. While this does not sound like a taste of Germany, it is actually one of the best ways to enjoy Berlin as a true Berliner. The döner is a cheap, Berliner favorite for a quick bite to eat. The price of döners range anywhere between one to three Euros a piece. Döners can be purchased at many different street vendor locations and consist of pita bread, shaved meat (chicken or pork), lettuce, garlic sauce, onions and other vegetables you want to add. It is cheap, delicious and you can eat it on the go!

Most of the greatest sights to see in Berlin happen to be free. No visit to Berlin would be complete without walking under the famous Brandenburg Gate. The gate stands today as a symbol of freedom to Berliners and is a constant reminder of a painful past of separation and war. Visit the gate and think about the time when the gate was a separation between East and West Berlin. If you get the opportunity, ask locals about their feelings regarding the gate and the history of Germany.

Just around the corner stands a thought-provoking monument that should be visited by any tourist visiting Berlin. The Monument to the Murdered Jews of Europe consists of an entire street block filled with slabs of concrete – some two feet high and others 10 feet high. The purpose of the monument is to create a feeling of confusion and distortion, much like the feelings the Jews experienced as they were lead off to concentration camps all over Europe. It is perfectly acceptable to sit on one of the concrete slabs and to ponder the meaning of the monument. Many Berliners go to the monument to think, some go there to eat lunch and others go with flowers to remember their loved ones lost during the war. Many other monuments and museums about the Holocaust are scattered throughout the city and are free to individuals who want to see them.

Jewish memorial, Berlin

Monument to the murdered Jews of Europe

Another free option is to visit the impressive Potsdamer Platz. This area consists of high rise buildings, a movie theatre, trendy cafes and interesting architecture. The buildings in the area are built mainly with glass in order to symbolize the transparency of Germany and the German government. Potsdamer Platz was a bustling area during the 1930s with shops, theatre, restaurants and social activities. After the war and the separation of Germany, the area was destroyed and became a barren area known as “No Man’s Land.” The death of this bustling area was troubling for many Berliners as it had once symbolized the growth and prosperity of the city. Within the last 10 years, Potsdamer Platz has been reconstructed and has given the city of Berlin a new confidence of prosperity, wealth and happiness.

Potsdamer Platz, Berlin

Potsdamer Platz

After World War II, most of the beautiful buildings and churches in Berlin had been completely destroyed. One of the few buildings that were left standing majestically was Berlin Cathedral. This Baroque and even Neoclassical cathedral is free to visitors who want to admire both the outside and the inside of the historical building. Inside the cathedral, visitors will hear the music play from the pipe organ on the top deck. Some visitors find the peaceful nature of the church as a great place to write in their travel journals or ponder other matters. In front of the cathedral there is a giant lawn where many Berliners flock to during good weather. On warm days there are literally hundreds of people laying on the lawn and eating their lunches. Potsdamer Platz and Berlin Cathedral specifically, are places that locals love to spend their time on holidays and weekends. These are great opportunities to mingle with the locals and experience Berlin the way Berliners do.

Berliner Dom

Berlin Cathedral

Berliners are also incredibly dedicated to the arts, film and theatre. There are many opportunities to experience the arts in Berlin. See a show at one of the many opera and theatre houses in the city. You can also discover some of the city’s best museums in the Museum Island. There may be too many museums for you to see in one short visit. Pin point your interests to discover which museums are best for your visit. Are you interested in Greek artifacts? Would you like to see the Pergamon gate? Do you prefer Romanticism art such as pieces created by Caspar David Friedrich? All of these are options you can enjoy in one of Berlin’s many, impressive museums.

Unlike many other cities in Europe, Berlin is a city that can be visited on a moderate budget. The main costs that tend to arise come from food and accommodations. Other than that, many attractions and non-touristy opportunities are free to visitors or come at a low cost. Be sure that you mingle with the locals and ask them for their opinions about what you should enjoy during your stay in Berlin. Most Berliners speak excellent English and are more than willing to help you with any questions you might have.”

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