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  • Writer's pictureDr Julien Drouart

Berlin on a large budget: pedagogical tips

Updated: Jan 11, 2022

Dear visitor, you are planning a trip to Berlin, alone, as a couple or in a group. Your budget is comfortable and you want to make the most of the cultural offer. A large budget will allow you to discover the German capital in depth. Let me guide you through this process.

The basics for a complete cultural stay in Berlin

Your budget allows you to enjoy a wide range of cultural activities. Keep in mind that the price of an activity is not a guarantee of quality. This is also not a tour package or luxury tourism. You won't stay away from popular places and you will take the initiative for your activities.

Let yourself be surprised by going off the beaten track. Indeed, some local initiatives outside the tourist circuits will allow you to discover the city and its neighbourhoods more intensely. A trip on a comfortable budget widens the field of possibilities, multiplies experiences, for personal and intellectual enrichment. It is also a way of getting to know Berlin and understanding its diversity, its pluralism and its current identity. Therefore, it is best to use public transport to get around during the day.

Depending on your wishes and interests, you can take advantage of the services of a tour guide for certain city and museum visits. In addition to this, there are the indispensable cultural, musical and gastronomic outings that will enrich your stay. Finally, your budget offers you peace of mind. Don't hesitate to adapt your stay to the dynamics of the group and to lower your ambitions once you are there.

Use professional guides

The importance of the tour guide

Through his or her speech, the tour guide will try to instil the spirit of the city and help you to understand it. He or she is a dedicated contact who will save you time, optimise your stay and answer your questions.

Paradoxically, it will deprive you of discovering the city for yourself, which is also an experience in itself. The important thing is to find a balance between informed guidance and personal discovery. Some themes, especially as an introduction, require good guidance to give you the keys to the city.

However, do not give up the idea of exploring the city on your own. You should select the points of interest that you feel deserve the guidance of an educator.

Which guided tours should be prioritised in the city?

Generally speaking, there are four categories of guided tours in the city. The introductory tour is a must on your arrival, to get an overview and some orientation. The historical tour gives a misleading view of a public space that is lived in the present. More relevant, the memorial tour seeks to understand the present through its relationship with the past. Finally, the tour of a city district allows you to move around in the places of everyday life.

If you have to choose between a public or private tour, I would say that it depends on the number of people in your group. Taking part in a public tour also allows you to blend in with the group dynamics and can lead to great encounters. From six people onwards, the alternative of a private tour is necessary because your group already has its own dynamic.

My advice is as follows: have someone accompany you on an introductory tour and possibly on a second, more memorable one. At the same time, take the historical tours (free or guided) directly to the museums dedicated to the desired theme. Finally, have fun exploring the districts on your own.

For example, you can take several short, relevant routes through the gentrified districts on your own. In Scheunenviertel, a free route takes you from the inner courtyards of the Hackesche Höfe and Haus Schwarzenberg to the New Synagogue and the Heckmann Höfe. In Prenzlauer-Berg, explore the Kollwitzkiez and Helmholzkiez in search of rehabilitated spaces (Kultulbrauerei). In each case, a one-hour walk is sufficient.

Visiting museums and memorial sites

In addition to the guided or self-guided tours of the city, I suggest a selection of cultural sites to be visited on your own or with a guide.

Places to go on a guided tour

I recommend that you take one or two guided tours of a museum or memorial per day. The maximum length of 90 minutes is sufficient to get a good overview and to remain relatively independent.

On the East German theme, I recommend the Berlin Wall Memorial for an excellent approach to the division of the city. Afterwards, go to the Stasi Prison Memorial on the site of the origin of psychological terror during the GDR. Finally, you can go to the Allied Museum to visit the exhibition of large objects.

On the National Socialist theme, the Unterwelten association offers a public tour in English to discover the air raid shelters of the Second World War. More intimately, the small Otto Weidt Museum gives a local experience of the Shoah. Finally, a private tour of the Olympic Stadium offers a glimpse of one of the last great architectural achievements of the Third Reich in Berlin.

Finally, you will not miss the lecture offered at the Reichstag Palace. You will be at the heart of the German parliamentary system and you will also have access to the dome of the building.

Cultural places to discover on your own

You will also have the opportunity to visit cultural areas on your own. However, you should not visit the places of remembrance on your own.

On historical themes, I invite you to visit the Jewish Museum, whose building itself is a real architectural feat. Then, in the district of Prenzlauer-Berg, you can visit the Museum of the Everyday Life in the GDR, an attractive approach in a magnificently rehabilitated industrial complex

For an encounter with classical art, I suggest the Pergamonmuseum with its monumental collections on ancient and Mesopotamian cultures. Also, the Berlinische Galerie is worth a visit to explore the leaders of modern art in Berlin. Finally, you will be introduced to the gems of medieval painting at the Gemäldegalerie.

Be open to conceptual and experimental experiences

Accept that you may be surprised, bewildered and even bewildered by an unusual visit. Whether positive or negative, the experience does not leave you indifferent.

The Designpanoptikum Museum represents the ultimate in surreal experiences. The visit, which is absolutely disconcerting, only makes sense when you come into contact with the artist who runs the place. Even stranger, the Feuerle Collection presents a bizarre and disturbing scenography in a former National Socialist bunker. Finally, you can discover contemporary art at the KINDL centre in a renovated former brewery.

What about the cultural budget?

On the basis of a 6 day and 5 night stay in Berlin for a group of 4 adults, I suggest a programme including 14 activities: 1 guided city tour (150€), 2 free city tours (0€), 4 guided memorial tours (240€), 5 free museum visits (170€), 1 historical site with a lecture (0€) and at least one musical evening of your choice (160€). So a cultural budget of about 720€, or 30€ per person per day.

Such a programme is realistic because its allows you to enjoy the cultural or gastronomic evenings of your choice from 6pm onwards. The historical themes are tackled in depth with the diversity of the activities giving no opportunity to disengage emotionally rather quickly. In the end, a large budget has the advantage of offering a condensed version of the best to see and the most relevant to understand, while respecting a certain freedom of movement, outside the framework of trips organised by tourist agencies.

I wish you a successful holiday in Berlin. Welcome to the German capital.

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