Berlin for every budget

Paul Sullivan

Travel writer and photographer

Beyond its up-all-night vibe and edgy arts and culture scene, Europe’s ‘coolest city’ is so-called for its inclusivity. Whoever you are, whatever you’re into and whatever you’ve got to spend, Berlin has got you covered. Whether you’re visiting the city on a shoestring budget or not, here’s how to make your travel money go further and hit the town happy


Hotel California Berlin

Berlin’s accommodation scene runs the gamut from deluxe destination hotels to basic backpackers. Those visiting on a budget can find great hostels in virtually every neighbourhood, including PLUS Berlin in trendy Friedrichshain, the Amstel House in Mitte, Generator in Prenzlauer Berg and the 2A Hostel in quirky Neukölln – all of which offer friendly service, clean rooms and dorms, and a host of amenities and services at excellent prices.

There are also plenty of affordable mid-range options in the shape of charming, well-run pensions (bed and breakfasts) and comfortable and stylish hotels. Book your Berlin stay at one of the best-run hotels in the city centre, the Nikolai Residence, which lies in the heart of the city’s medieval district (Nikolaiviertel) and offers warm service and a homely ambience. Also central and welcoming is the Hotel Altberlin Am Potsdamer Platz and, in West Berlin, the elegant Hotel California am Kurfurstendamm.


Chutnify Berlin

Traditionally having developed as a working-class city, Berlin has affordable eats aplenty. As well as the ubiquitous Middle Eastern döner shops and cheap pizza slice outlets, there are German favourites like currywurst (chopped pork sausage served with a mix of tomato sauce and curry powder) and a range of small niche eateries serving everything from Mexican and Indian cuisine to vegan and vegetarian food. Popular haunts include Kreuzberg’s Mustafa’s, whose acclaimed vegetarian kebabs often draw long queues around the block; Dolores’ delicious build-your-own burritos; the perennially popular Dada Falafel in Mitte; and Konnopke’s in Prenzlauer Berg, which has been serving sausage-based snacks for close to a century.

The city also has a slew of good value, globally-minded dining ranging from American diners and Japanese sushi spots to Mexican canteens and Korean BBQs. Some of the most popular – and consistently delicious – burgers can be found at The Bird, which has outlets in Kreuzberg and Prenzlauer Berg, while fans of South Indian cuisine will love the colourful and excellently named Chutnify (pictured above); and ramen fans will not be disappointed with the small but perfectly formed Cocolo in Mitte.

Drinking and nightlife

Cafe am Neuen See Tiergarten Berlin

The city’s prevalent beer gardens provide atmospheric places to grab a frothy beer and a well-priced snack. Prenzlauer Berg’s Prater Garten is the city’s oldest, but the lakeside Café am Neuen See in the Tiergarten is perhaps the most attractive (pictured above). Newer spots like Emils Biergarten in Pankow carry a more contemporary vibe. For a night out, start at the buzzy Weinerei Forum, where you can pay what you want for the wines on sale before heading to a jazz club. Try A-Trane International Jazz Club or b-flat Berlin, all of which host free jam sessions.

Berlin also hosts many great places to dip into the craft beer trend. Prenzlauer Berg’s Badfish offers a range of great IPAs and stouts as well as a fairly boisterous atmosphere at weekends. Friedrichshain’s Hungarian Szimpla Bar has a wonderfully charming ambiance during the day and an ever-changing range of brews on tap, while the IPA Bar in trendy Neukölln has the advantage of a pleasant garden out back.


Bikini Mall Berlin

Bargain hunters will adore the city’s vast array of vintage and second-hand clothing stores, which range from Garage in Schöneberg – the largest second-hand clothes store in Europe, where you can buy jackets, coats and more by weight; to the retro threads and new designs of Kreuzberg’s Colours offering up a 30 per cent discount on Tuesdays; and the Humana chain of second-hand stores, the largest of which is at Frankfurter Tor.

The city also has a number of convenient malls. Aside from the “classic” mall-type such as the Galeria Kaufhof and Alexa Mall on Alexanderplatz, which contain numerous goods of all kinds from German brands as well as international ones, newer openings like the Bikini Mall in West Berlin (pictured above) take a slightly more curated approach, featuring smaller, independent boutiques that are often (but not always) from Berlin. Also try the Mall of Berlin on Leipziger Platz for something both comprehensive and swanky.


Museum fuer Naturkunde Berlin

There’s plenty to do around the city without spending so much as a euro. From visiting the Reichstag building where German parliament convenes (book well in advance to secure a place) to admiring the famous graffiti on the stretch of the Berlin Wall known as the East Side Gallery, or seeing sobering WW2 sites like the Topography of Terror and Sachsenhausen concentration camp (the latter is around an hour’s train ride from the city). There are many fascinating parks for picnics and strolls, too. Highlights include Tempelhof Park, a former airport where visitors can now fly kites and cycle along the runway; the sprawling Tiergarten, with its lakes, gardens, beer gardens and pathways; and Treptower Park, with its outsized Soviet memorial.

The city also offers a plethora of world-class cultural institutions that are affordable to explore. The UNESCO World Heritage Site Museum Island has no less than five excellent museums, including the fascinating Asiatic and Middle Eastern treasures on show at the Neues Museum and Pergamon Museum. Cold war aficionados will enjoy the interactive DDR Museum and the technologically impressive Spy Museum, while kids can check out the giant dinosaur skeletons and other natural treats at the Naturkunde Museum (pictured above).

Berlin’s ready and waiting for you. To see for yourself what this great city has to offer, search your dates and book your Berlin holiday now.

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