Berlin is top of the list for cities that are “in” right now and here’s how to do it on a budget. Twenty-six friends from California, New York, and London joined my partner and me last summer to share the cost of a modern, industrial loft for a week. We cooked many meals in the spacious kitchen, hung out in the living room and spent our days taking in history tours and biking through public parks. When the sun went down, we explored clubs and secret rooftop bars.
Gutsy Traveler Tip # 1: Rent an Airbnb with friends.
Convincing 26 friends to meet in Berlin was no easy feat. From teachers, entrepreneurs, social workers, tech, finance, government and business employees, we span a variety of career fields, yet we all have one thing in common; no desire to keep the cog spinning in this rat race we find ourselves in. Slowly, one by one, my peers are dropping out of high paying jobs (or in my case, a low paying teaching position) to volunteer abroad, travel or live another lifestyle. Privilege allows us to have these conversations and freedoms, but we’re not alone. More and more, people are throwing in the towel at work and picking up their backpacks. This is how we found ourselves piled into a loft on the 4th floor of an industrial building in the blinding heat of July in Berlin.
Gutsy Traveler Tip # 2. Research before you go.
Before we left, we began a group email with all twenty-six friends. Recommendations, articles and ideas began swirling. One of the most helpful tips was checking out Cee Cee Newsletter, a weekly email with recommendations for fun restaurants and events that might be taking place while you are in town. It got me excited about my upcoming adventure and clued me in to lots of local and affordable shows and events.
Gutsy Traveler Tip # 3: Take a Free Walking Tour
- Sandman: A 2.5 hour Free walking tour that hits all the big historical sites in Berlin. On the tour you hit: Brandenburg Gate, Site of Hitler’s bunker, Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, Checkpoint Charlie, Gendarmenmarkt, The Berlin Wall, Pariser Platz, Luftwaffe HQ, Bebelplatz, TV Tower and Book burning memorial
Gutsy Traveler Tip: Our first tour guide seemed like he had the worst hangover he had ever had in his life and we could barely hear him. We quietly and respectfully bowed out of his tour and tagged on to another happening at the same time. That tour guide blew it out of the park. Don’t be afraid to leave if a tour guide isn’t great. Always be respectful, but a bad tour guide can ruin an area. Take your experience into your own hands!
Gutsy Traveler Tip 3. Rent bikes.
Upon arriving, it was essential that you rent bikes to give yourself freedom and access to all parts of the city. Some recommended bike rentals straight from your phone are:
- Rent bikes by the hour or up to 3 days for up to 10 euro/day. After testing many different rental bike apps, Donkey Republic provided the most reliable and easy bike rental we found all across Europe, especially in Berlin. You don’t have to hassle with going to a bike rental store or worry about returning a bike on time. You simply download the app, find a bike near you (bright orange bikes, easy to find), remotely unlock it with your phone and it’s yours for hours or days. When you’re done, you drop it off in a “drop off zone” which are littered all around the city.
Gutsy Traveler Fun Fact: The best part about the Donkey Republic bikes are the individual names each bike has to help distinguish between all the orange bikes on the street. My bike was named “Adele” but my boyfriend’s bike was named “Mr. Rogers”. You decide which is better. We rented Donkey Republic all throughout Europe, and found them to be reliably sprinkled around all big European cities, easy to lock and convenient to swap bikes if yours doesn’t work perfectly.
Discount: Use Code DONKEYMAIL50 for 50% off your ride.
- Mobike/Byke: Download the app, register, find a bike on the map, and the lock will remotely unlock after you enter the code from the bike. First 30 minutes are free and subsequently charged in 30-minute slots after that.
Many more bike apps are available throughout Berlin. Do your research and find what fits your needs best.
After getting your bearings with a rental bike, it is important to understand a bit of the historical significance of Berlin and honor their deep history. Some not to miss opportunities are:
- A modern biking tour of Berlin through Fat Tire Bike Company. 5-hour bike tour throughout the city with a young, hip guide who starts the tour off with a detailed history lesson (see picture below of history lesson with chalk on the sidewalk). Then, they tour you around contemporary Berlin, stopping to explain the street art, non-conformists, gentrification, real-estate boom, and even tech boom.
- Tempelhof Airport: An old Nazi airport, recently converted into a huge public park. With a community garden, runways for biking and rollerblading, and even a brewery situated in the middle, this is not a site to be missed.
- Tour of the Bundestag: Berlin’s parliament building offers free tours, even while parliament is in session! Bundestag is not only a beautiful building, but it offers some of the most modern perspectives of German culture right from the headquarters itself.
Gutsy Traveler Tip 4 : Tickets for a tour of the Bundestag are free, but you have to register in advance! Many people miss out on this awesome opportunity because lack of planning. Do yourself a favor and set aside some time to register a ticket and check out Berlin’s Parliament, you won’t regret it.
After a long day of tours and biking, it is highly recommended to join the hoards of people lounging by the river and park your bike to enjoy some falafel and beer. Amazing parks and rivers to stop by:
- Admiralbrücke Bridge. Aritsts come out to play around 5pm with their keyboards and guitars, hundreds of people bask on blankets in the warm summer air, and everyone sips on their drinks. With no open container laws, people freely walk around with a beer and share wine by the river.
- Mauerpark: A park with an infamous thrift market, food trucks, and even Sunday karaoke.
- Viktoriapark: The local’s favorite urban park featuring a beautiful waterfall straight down the center.
- Teufelsberg: An abandoned military facility in the middle of a forest, now home to ton of art.
- The Weisser See (White Lake): A public lake with white sand, historic fountains, and even allows for nude swimming.
Your Gutsy Traveling Friend, Annalyse