an Instagram guide to Berlin, Germany: 10 spots for free photos in the city

It’s true that Berlin isn’t as classically beautiful as Vienna or as aesthetically pleasing initially as Paris. It might even be fair to say that Berlin isn’t in the running to be one of the most visually stunning cities in Europe. However, there are so many quirky spots in the city that offer unique photo opportunities. Urban photographers love Berlin, and if you open your eyes, it’s clear to see why. In my multiple visits to Berlin, especially as an adult on my own, I’ve realized that the city blends old history with modern architecture so that there’s something for everyone to find easy on the eyes.

You should know that are also countless photo-worthy spots in Berlin that exist inside places that charge an admission fee and, while all of them are undoubtedly worth the entrance ticket cost, I’ve focused on the freebies so that those who are ballin’ on a budget can make take advantage of the free beauty of the city.


KEEP READING FOR MY 10 FAVE FREE PHOTO SPOTS IN BERLIN


SCHNEE ALLEE IN BERLIN, ONE OF MY FAVOURITE NEIGHBOURHOODS IN THE CITY

SCHNEE ALLEE IN BERLIN, ONE OF MY FAVOURITE NEIGHBOURHOODS IN THE CITY

REICHSTAG BUILDING

Like many buildings in Berlin, after World War II, the Reichstag Building fell into disuse. It was then renovated in the 1960s, but full restoration attempts weren’t started until 1990 when Germany was reunified. Nine years later, it was opened again as the official meeting place of German parliament.

Today, the Reichstag Building has a beautiful glass dome that offers 360-degree views of the cityscape below. is free and open to the public for those who want to grab stellar views of the city and learn a bit of architectural history in the process. Audio guides are free and available in many different languages. The audio guide will lead you around the dome giving you historic information about the buildings you see as you move around. Make sure you pack a jacket if you visit in the winter! The dome isn’t enclosed…the top if actually open to the elements, so it gets proper chilly.

HOW TO GET IN: The nearest U-Bahn stop is Brandenburg Tor, Budestag, . You’ll need to book your visit time slot and register online here. It’s absolutely free, so make sure you register with the official website. Other websites will try and sell you a tour— if it asks for your credit card, you’re on the wrong page. Bring an official identification card {your passport or other official government ID} and the confirmation email you receive with

HOW I GOT MY SHOT: I explained my vision to Luke and he snapped it. I had to edit out someone in a bright blue jacket at the bottom {still learning the art of the magic Lightroom cloning tool}, but otherwise, I was pretty happy with the cold, urban feel of the shot.

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Marie-Elisabeth-Lüders-Haus

Marie-Elisabeth-Lüders-Haus is a group of government-owned buildings containing offices and meeting rooms. The building is named after the liberal social politician , Marie-Elisabeth Lüders, who was a major representative of the women's movement in Germany. Night photographers . might like the building best at night when neon lights make it glow different colours depending on the season and whether you visit on a special occasion.

HOW TO GET THERE: This dreamy building is directly across the road from the Reichstag Building, so all you have to do is walk across the road.

HOW I GOT MY SHOT: I got my photo by shooting from the pedestrian bridge over the river. Since I was wearing darker colours {like almost always}, I knew I needed to set myself up in front of the concrete wall to avoid blending in too much.

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BRANDENBURG GATE

During the Cold War, the Brandenburg Gate became a symbol of Germany’s divide. The Berlin Wall shut off access to Brandenburg Gate for both East and West Germans. It’s also famous thanks to the famous speech of former President Ronald Regan, who told Gorbachev {the Soviet leader} to “tear down this wall.” If you’re not familiar with the Cold War {you probably should be}, you might recognize the hotel near the Brandenburg Gate where Michael Jackson dangled his child.

Regardless of how or if you know about the gate, it is another major landmark in Berlin that is free to visit and looks good in just about any photo you grab of it.

HOW TO GET THERE: Ride the U-Bahn of the S-Bahn to Brandenburger Tor. You will see the gate and the people crowding it from the bahn exit straight ahead, I promise.

HOW I GOT MY SHOT: Last summer I was really unhappy with the shot of the gate I got, and this visit I wanted to think a little further out of the box. Thus, I sat

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CHECKPOINT CHARLIE

Historically, Checkpoint Charlie is important because from 1961 to 1990 it functioned as the crossing point for diplomats and journalists. It’s also known for the US and Soviet tank encounters that occurred in 1961 when J.F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev's tanks faced each other in an acrimonious moment feared around the World as a possible lead up to World War III. Now. the checkpoint sits in the middle of a busy road surrounded by a KFC, a McDonald’s, a Starbucks, and too many souvenir shops to count. You can pay to take a photo with a man dressed in a Cold War-era uniform. You can also pay to get a “passport stamp” from East and/or West Berlin, but I’ve heard it’s not a good thing to do as it isn’t an official stamp that’s being put into your official passport, if you see what I mean?

HOW TO GET THERE: Take the U-Bahn to Kochstraße station.

HOW I GOT MY SHOT: You can pay to take a photo with a man dressed in a Cold War-era uniform, or you can pop around the back side of the wooden “guard station” and snap a picture like I did.

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SPREE PARK

Spree Park is an abandoned amusement park that is currently being made into a community park. I want to clarify that it is PROHIBITED TO ENTER THE PARK. I’d read that it was much like Yongma Land, Teufelsberg, or other derelict photo places I’d been where you either pay a small fee for admittance or bribe the security guard. Apparently, the blog I had read was severely out of date. When we arrived to the park we found out that it was no longer just frowned upon to enter but had become regulated with hired security and Rottweiler guard dogs! We walked the entire circumference of the park before deciding that being chased by dogs and yelled at in German wasn’t worth the risk. Instead, we hopped on the U-Bahn and grabbed a coffee out of the bitter cold.

HOW TO GET THERE: Take the S-Bahn to Planterworld on the S9 or S8 trains and walk for about 10 minutes straight out from the station exit.

HOW I GOT MY SHOT: I didn’t really. I had planned to grab shots with Alina near the creepy Cheshire Cat-looking roller coaster ride, which I’d found on urban photography Instagram accounts. Instead, Alina and Luke each grabbed a metal bar and pulled it back far enough for my camera lens to fit through for a quick snap of the dilapidated ferris wheel sitting eerily in the distance.

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PHOTOAUTOMATS

One of my absolute favourite little quirks of Berlin are the photo booths, called “photoautomats”, scattered throughout the city. These vintage photo booths were introduced to the city as a way to revive black and white photography of the 50s and 60s. I found this article really interesting, if you’re keen to find out more.

For €2 you can get seriously old school photos printed. No computer screen telling you if you’re in the frame or counting down before the picture is taken. Just an old fashion clicking noise that tells you you’ve been snapped! Not only do I love the photos we took in Berlin inside the photoautomats, but I love the quintessential Berliner photo I got of me sitting in the photo booth drinking Club Mate.

HOW TO GET THERE: You can find a whole list of photoautomats and their locations here.

HOW I GOT MY SHOT: Alina, my German sister, noticed my Everlane cashmere beanie matched the photo booth we’d stepped inside to grab photos in, and her and Luke helped me create this shot!

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BERLIN CATHEDRAL

There might not be a classical landmark more recognizable to Berlin than its cathedral church. It’s located in Mitte neighbourhood, which means “middle” or “heart”. The cathedral as you see it today was finished in 1905, though its history dates way, way back thanks to the complex religious background of Germany. You can pay to enter the cathedral and sit in awe of its high ceilings, murals, and gold details, but I fully believe the outside of the cathedral is more photogenic.

This is a major tourist stop, since it is such a landmark, so expect herds of people in good weather and small crowds in cooler months. Getting a shot without a soul in the background could be tricky {or a photoshop nightmare}, but there’s an alternative angle that cuts out photo-bombers {read below}.

HOW TO GET THERE: Catch the U-Bahn, S-Bahn, or tram to Alexanderplatz station and walk about 5 minutes. I walked from Marie-Elisabeth-Lüders-Haus around Museum Island to the cathedral as a second route option.

HOW I GOT MY SHOT: To avoid crowds of people getting in your shot, you can find an alternative angle for the cathedral on the opposite side. Walk towards Alexanderplatz and stop by the pedestrian bridge {as demonstrated by Luke below}. It’s a nice way to avoid ugly scaffolding and hoards of random faces in your photo!

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HOUSE OF SMALL WONDER

Instagrammers love House of Small Wonder, a cafe tucked away near Museum Island filled with plants and reclaimed wood. The entry way to the cafe features a gorgeous spiral staircase the leads up the the actual cafe seating. Menus in the form of small, antique books are delivered to your table by happy staff. It’s free to get a photo of the front staircase, but…don’t be a jerk. Go spend a few Euros on a coffee or a cocktail. Heck! Grab some hot vegan soup, sushi, or a famous sandwich {all at very affordable prices} to thank them for injecting photograph-worthy beauty into your day.

HOW TO GET THERE: Catch the U-Bahn to Oranienburger Tor station and walk for about 4 minutes.

HOW I GOT MY SHOT: I arrived at House of Small Wonder in an off-peak eating time, so the staircase was free and clear of other cafe patrons. By the time I finished my vegan soup and left, however, there were people taking turns taking pictures.

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EAST SIDE GALLERY

The East Side Gallery is an open-air gallery with murals painted on a remnant of the Berlin Wall. It’s located near the center of Berlin in the Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg part of the city. It’s an important landmark for the city and the world to remember how vital freedom is and how expressing ones self is a necessary part of the human experience.

In the summertime, the wall is loaded with tourists and tour groups, but in the winter it’s much quieter and, I found, the only really congested parts of the wall were the most famous murals, including the wall’s most well-known piece “My God Help Me to Survive This Deadly Love.

HOW TO GET THERE: Warschauer Straße U-Bahn stop is within a few minutes walk of East Side Gallery.

HOW I GOT MY SHOT: I found a less congested part of the wall, jumped in front, and Luke clicked away. While some people use tripods, the East Side Gallery is next to a very busy road, so make sure your gear is stable and out of the way of vehicle and bicycles if you’re using a three-legged friend to shoot.

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Galeries Lafayette

While it probably sounds strange to list a shopping complex as an “Instagrammable” location, you’ll have to trust me that this shopping center isn’t just another mall. Marble staircases, black and white block tiling, and grand pianos fill the main floor of the Galeries Lafayette. Unfortuantely, I didn’t know until after I’d snapped a few cheeky pics that photography inside is strictly PROHIBITED. What a bummer, right? Still, I thought I’d include it because it is incredibly beautiful and I’m hoping they change their policies so that people can capture the stunning design of the interior on camera.

HOW TO GET THERE: Take the U-Bahn to Friedrichstraße station and exit. You will see heaps of signage for the popular shopping center.

HOW I GOT MY SHOT: While almost no one was around, Luke snapped a photo after I framed the shot how I’d envisioned it. It turned out quite cool, and it’s definitely a different spot for photos than the typical Berlin tourist trail.

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Other tips for those Instagram-ming Berlin

-DOWNLOAD THE FREE MAPS.ME APP ON YOUR PHONE: You can save your intended routes so that you have access to maps even when you’re offline or without a working SIM card.

-WEAR COMFORTABLE SHOES: I wore my favourite black boots while traipsing around Europe this winter, and they were super comfortable. While I fully used the public transportation systems available to me {it was cold after all}, walking is the best way to see most places, so comfortable shoes are a must.

-GET A DAILY TRANSPORT PASS: For €7 you can use the U-Bahn, S-Bahn, and tram systems throughout Berlin an unlimited number of times in a day. It’s more affordable than buying single trip fares for every ride.


FIND ALL THE SPOTS IN THIS POST ON THE MAP BELOW


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