Konzerthaus Berlin. Photo by Sonja Gutschera
You might have heard the rumours: this Sunday, January 31, is “Berlin sagt Danke”. You might also have heard that a few things around Berlin are free for the day. Well, the rumours are true. But what exactly is this city-wide day of cultural freebies, and why is Berlin suddenly letting us into places without paying? We’ve got the lowdown.
“Berlin sagt Danke” – “Berlin says thank you”
On December 10, the Berlin House of Representatives released a decree. “In the past months, Berliners have received thousands of refugees with open arms and endless spirit,” it read. As a “sign of thanks” for the unconditional support shown by thousands of Berliners towards those seeking refuge, it called upon the Berlin Senat to open the doors of the city’s public places for one day. That day is now almost upon us – and true to its word, Berlin is going kostenlos. Well, to an extent. Full listings (in German) are available here, but for English-speakers and those struggling to get their head around it all, we’ve scoured the lists and put together a guide that’ll help you make the most of Berlin’s freebie day.
What could get in your way?
Many events have limited tickets available, and some need you to register beforehand. Some freebies are also just for Berliners who’ve directly helped refugees in the city. However, this is a “thank you” to the whole city of Berlin – and as such, there’s plenty to take advantage of, whether you’ve been volunteering or not. (That said, check out our tips for how to help if you feel guilty about being a freeloader.)
Here’s our pick of the “no strings attached” events – meaning the ones it seems you can just turn up and do, no tickets or registration required.
Become a museum buff
Loads of museums are offering free entry and exhibition tours. Get a taste of Berlin LGBT life at the Schwules Museum (2pm-6pm, free tour at 2:30pm), learn all about one famous young diarist at the Anne Frank Zentrum (10am-6pm) or even shudder through a visit to the Berlin Museum of Medical History (10am-5pm). The German Historical Museum is also free all day, as is the Berlin-Dahlem Botanical Museum and Gardens. Or for something a little more quirky, why not release your inner-Kind at the MACHmit! Museum for Children (10am-midday), or see a free “Sugar Art” performance (4pm) at the German Museum of Technology (free entry 10am-6pm)?
Check out the view from the 32m-high info tower at the new Berlin Brandenburg Airport (10am-4pm) or defy vertigo from the 126m-high Funkturm observation deck (10am-11pm). If you’ve got a thing for airports, the observation decks at Schönefeld and Tegel are also free to explore from 10am-4pm.
Do something a bit different
At the Babylon Cinema there’s a special screening of Ernst Lubitsch’s 1918 silent classic I Don’t Want to Be a Man at 6pm, while Horst Dohm ice-skating stadium is dishing out free entry all day (not including skate rental), as is the Konzerthaus Berlin – pop in here for a free tour at 2pm and organ recital at 3pm. For performances by artists and percussion "Mini Workshops" check out ufaFabrik at Tempelhof (12-6pm).
If none of these tickle your fancy, you can always try and bag some of the limited tickets to the following:
There’s a big long list of public swimming pools (Schwimmhallen and Stadtbäder) offering 50 free entrance passes. You might also want to try and reserve a pair of tickets for SEA LIFE (by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org), Berlin Dungeon (email@example.com), Madame Tussauds (MadameTussaudsBerlin@Merlinentertainments.biz) or LEGOLAND® Discovery Centre Berlin (firstname.lastname@example.org).
If you’ve been directly involved with helping refugees in Berlin, check out these special offers:
Lankwitz ice rink and Neukölln ice stadium are both offering free tickets (not including skate rental) to volunteers, as is the Berlin Musical Instrument Museum (10am-5pm, with a free performance at 2pm) and the Museum of Natural History (10am-6pm). Or go and see the beautiful Charlottenburg Palace or Schönhausen Palace (both 10am-5pm)!