Poor but sexy*
Not only did our former mayor famously describe our city with these words back in 2003, but these were indeed formative attributes for the German capital. The Wowereit era is now consigned to history and Berlin, too, has seen some changes over the years. Nevertheless, in comparison with other European cities, Berlin remains quite affordable. And the most beautiful things in life are free, after all! No matter when or how long you’re going to be in Berlin, I have collected a few special tips for each day of the week to ensure that your budget won’t be busted.
Mondays in Berlin
While most of the city’s museums, galleries and memorial sites are closed on Mondays, most of the city’s exhibition halls remain open. The Deutsche Bank Kunsthalle even has free admission on Mondays.
At Clärchens Ballhaus, the legendary dance hall dating back to 1913, offers a variety of dance classes all week long, but on Mondays from 9 pm, the rhythms of salsa take over the ballroom and everyone’s invited onto the dance floor with free admission.
Those who prefer to get their groove on to classic disco will want to check out Hungry Monday at Alte Kantine. For just €3, this club at the Kulturbrauerei not only turns up the dance music from 10 pm, but also offers a delicious buffet and a ping-pong table.
Tuesdays in Berlin
A free concert world-class chamber music is offered every Tuesday in the foyer of the Philharmonie. The Musikschule Reinickendorf presents also free classical music and jazz lunchtime concerts in the Tegel-Center concert lounge (Gorkistraße 11–21, 13507 Berlin).
While a match at Berlin’s legendary Olympic Stadium is a highlight for many football fans, if you can’t get a ticket, you can still check out the guys from Hertha BSC live at a public training session. To find out when these training sessions at the Olympic Stadium on Hanns-Braun-Straße are offered, check out the club’s training schedule.
If you look up Schokoladen on Google translate, it will probably tell you that this is a chocolate shop, but that’s not the case. Instead, the Schokoladen is a dance club that not only hosts concerts and parties throughout the week, but also holds readings every Tuesday night from 9:30. This free event is perfect for everyone who loves slam poetry, comedy, and music.
Wednesdays in Berlin
While children and young people under 18 years can visit numerous Berlin museums for free all week long, adults get free admission to the different facilities of the Stadtmuseum Berlin on the first Wednesday of each month. The Bröhan Museum, home to a fine collection of decorative arts, is also free on the first Wednesday of each month.
FreiRaum at Schönhauser Allee 134a offers Brot & Butter every Wednesday between 7 and 9 pm. All are welcome at the dinner table, which, when the weather allows, moves outdoors to the rear courtyard. So if you’d like some company with your evening meal, bring fixings for your favourite sandwich; the bread and butter are provided.
Thursdays in Berlin
Music club ORWOhaus (the former site of the East German film factory Original Wolfen) not only provides a commanding view of Marzahn’s concrete high rises, but also invites musicians and music fans to a jam session on the second Thursday of each month starting at 10 pm.
If you love films and filmmaking, then you’ll want to check out Café-Bar Herman Schulz, where young filmmakers showcase their works in the Flimmerzimmer also on the second and last Thursday of each month. This is a great way to check out new films and speak with others interested in the art form, from amateurs and students to professionals.
For years, the Dunckerclub in Prenzlauer Berg has been home to Gnadenlos Kostenlos Konzerte every Thursdays from 10 o’clock. Independent and alternative rockers perform in the listed 1913 building for an eclectic crowd of old-timers and new Berliners.
Fridays in Berlin
Friday is family day at the Labyrinth Museum, with €1 off tickets to the interactive exhibition between 1 and 6 pm.
When I was a student, I always entered the State Library with a sense of awe, and not just because of the strict entry controls. Just imagine how many people who have poured over books here since the reading room opened in 1914! Every Friday at 5 pm, the Baroque interior of the former royal library is opened to the public for a one-hour tour that provides information on the history, architecture and functions of the facility. Advance registration is not required.
A somewhat different city tour takes place the last Friday of every month: the Critical Mass cycles together through the city to make a quiet and peaceful demonstration seeking safe roadways for cyclists. This movement, by the way, is not just found in Berlin.
Saturdays in Berlin
Would you like to check out the nerve centre of German news coverage? A free tour of the ARD Infocenter is offered every Saturday at 2 pm. Advance registration required. The tour gives insight into what goes on behind the scenes of the public station’s television and sound studios.
It is one of Berlin’s landmarks: the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. Twice a month at 6 o’clock on Saturdays, a free organ vespers service is held, where you can hear the Karl-Schuke organ (1962-63); with 63 stops, it is one of the city’s major organs.
The Babylon, which showed its first silent film in 1929, is probably one of the city’s most beautiful cinemas. The tradition continues in the midnight silent film series every Saturday night. And the cost: €0.
Sundays in Berlin
I’ll admit that it might not be cheap to shop at Bikini Berlin, but the 1950s-era building at the centre of the Zoo Station development has a rooftop terrace offering wonderful views of the zoo. There’s no charge to sit here in the sun and watch the antics of the monkeys in the zoo.
At 9:30 pm every second Sunday of the month, there’s excitement in the air at Heimathafen Neukölln because that’s when it’s time for audio theatre night. In the darkened room, you can listen to radio plays (in German) and then often meet with the authors, speakers or writers.
My secret insider tip is actually a piano concert in an old factory building in Wedding. Piano Salon Christophori is not only a shop where historic pianos are restored, but it also periodically brings in selected pianists to play the various instruments. Seats for these free chamber music concerts can be reserved on the company’s website. For such a unique experience that makes you feel like you’re in a Parisian salon of the romantic era, I’ve always been prepared to leave a donation.
*Klaus Wowereit about Berlin in an interview with Focus Money (2003)
Written by Anna Bockhoff