Berlin is well-known as a budget location, rich in history. However, this does not always translate to its many museums. While cities like London have a plethora of free world-class museums, visiting all of Berlin’s prestigious collections can rack up quite a tab.
Luckily, there is room within the crowded market of museums in Berlin for some free museum sites. Often small, sometimes quite quirky, these establishments cover unique aspects of the city from moments in history to its extraordinary development as a modern capital.
Get ready to examine some of the lesser-known corners of the city with the best free museums in Berlin.
Walking around the popular neighborhoods (Kiez) of Friedrichshain and Kruezberg, divided by the river Spree and the old East German border, visitors can observe how old melds with new. Discreetly tucked away near Kottbusser Tor, this museum has a permanent exhibition that covers the 300 years of urban development. From immigrant beginnings to the gritty development of punk, to today’s gentrification, models of the streets portray how the city has changed over time. Paired with this replica are audio accounts and pictures of residents and their stories.
Address: Adalbertstraße 95A,10999 Berlin-Kreuzberg
Metro: U/S-Bahn Kottbusser Tor
Located in the southwest outskirts of Berlin near the American embassy, the AlliiertenMuseum documents the complicated political relationship of the Western Allies between 1945 and 1994.
With the information in German, English, and French, there are permanent exhibits covering the different sectors, tunnel escapes and communication between the lines. This museum complex also includes a watch tower and piece of the Berlin Wall, original DDR guardhouse from Checkpoint Charlie and British Handley Page Hastings transport plane.
Address: Clayallee 135 14195 Berlin
Metro: U-Bahn Oskar-Helene-Heim; S-Bahn Zehlendorf; Bus 115 to AlliiertenMuseum
Located in the historical heart of the city, Nikolaiviertel, the “Garlic House” has a nondescript entrance but this three-story museum is worth checking out. It covers the story of Johann Christian Knoblauch and his family in their former residence as an example of the Biedermeier movement. The building itself is a protected monument, erected in 1760 and one of the few townhouses in Berlin. The rooms are fully reconstructed as a rare glimpse into what life was like for middle-class families in the 18th century.
Address: Poststraße 23, 10178 Berlin
Metro: U/S-Bahn Alexanderplatz; Bus 248 to Nikolaiviertel
The tiny “Museum of Unheard of Things”, with a Harry Potter-esque address between two buildings in Schöneberg, is a collection of oddities from the fascinating mind of Roland Albrecht. Each random item is lovingly documented with an accompanying text. Items range from rubble from the forbidden Chernobyl “death zone” to Walter Benjamin’s typewriter to a reindeer’s antler and piece of fur. This museum is an example of the type of beautiful strange that Berliners naturally gravitate to.
Address: Crellestr. 5-6 10827 Berlin
Metro: U-Bahn Kleistpark; S-Bahn Julius-Leber-Brücke; Bus M48, 85, 104, 106, 187, 204
This neighborhood museum covers the regional history of Mitte to Tiergarten to Wedding. A 1900s yellow brick building that once operated as a school house, the museum presents the area's history, as well as the development of the neighborhoods and their boundaries. Reconstructions of living spaces, factories and even the 1986 school space are on display.
Address: Pankstraße 47, 13357 Berlin
Metro: U-Bahn Pankstraße
Many of the most poignant stories of Nazi-resistance are those of individuals who stood up when they had everything to lose. Otto Weidt was part of the secret opposition. He employed mostly blind and deaf employees in his factory and hid Jewish employees.
The museum is within the old factory, tucked above the corridors of Hackescher Markt and tells his story, as well as those who he helped.
Added bonus: look out for the German attendant with a truly extravagant mustache!
Address: Rosenthaler Straße 39, 10178 Berlin
Metro: U-Bahn Weinmeisterstrasse/Gipsstrasse; S-Bahn Hackescher Markt
Behind an unassuming apartment door lays the perfectly preserved world of DDR Berlin. This three room apartment is a time capsule of green velour furnishings, built-in kitchen, and even a children’s room. All of this could be yours back for just 109 Deutschmarks! This apartment was kept intact after a 2004 building remodel with furniture and accessories donated by tenants.
Address: Hellersdorfer Straße 179, 12627 Berlin
Metro: U-Bahn Cottbusser Platz
Entrance to all of these wonderful Berlin museums are free, but donations are encouraged. Show your support for these exhibits and the organizations that facilitate them.