| |

The Best Alternative Things to Do in Berlin, Germany

Bombed out train depot, Berlin

Want to see a different side to Germany’s capital? Explore the best alternative things to do in Berlin with a street art and neighbourhoods walking tour.

It was 1pm on a Monday afternoon that I found myself awkwardly peering at a small group of people underneath the TV Tower in Alexanderplatz, Berlin. Obviously, it was the tour group I was looking for, but you know when you’re still not sure and feel ridiculously awkward asking?

That, friends, is my life. Thankfully I spotted an Alternative Berlin flyer in a friendly looking bearded bloke’s hand, reassuring me I was in the right place.

I’ve already gone on a fair bit about how much I was a fan of Berlin, sharing a two-day Berlin itinerary as well as my thoughts on the 25Hours Hotel. I’ve also shared a guide to how much I spent on my second trip to Berlin in 2024.

But the part that really sealed the deal for me was exploring the city’s more alternative districts, on one of my favourite ‘free tours’ I’ve been on to date. Having already seen some of the major and important sights (e.g Brandenburg Gate and the chilling Holocaust Memorial), I wanted to delve a little deeper in my short time in the city and explore the more alternative side of Berlin.

Alternative Berlin: Friedrichshain

Located in the East, Friedrichshain is one of the most notable alternative districts in Berlin. With a punky, artistic vibe, street art adorns the walls, doors and even the lamp posts of this vibrant, colourful district.

Friedrichshain: Street Art at Intimes Cinema

Exterior of Intimes Cinema covered in street art, Friedrichshain Berlin
Intimes Cinema, Friedrichshain
Door covered in street art, Friedrichshain Berlin
Street art in Friedrichshain

After a quick Metro journey, we arrived in Friedrichshain, located to the east of central Berlin.

Our first taster of the diversity within the street art scene came in the form of Intimes cinema. The cinema itself is now permanently closed – but the cinema’s exterior features a wall jam-packed with smaller sized pieces of artwork, constantly evolving as new works are added and older ones lost underneath.

There’s a real mixture of styles – from ‘wheatpasted’ paper works, to the 3D carved lions. Stickers are also pretty popular, filling up the smallest of spaces that wouldn’t fit a normal sized work. You could spend so long here, just looking at every detail. Thankfully, our tour leader Ben gave us plenty of time to explore the more hidden pieces, and talked to us about the artists and their styles.

Friedrichshain: A bombed out train depot given a new lease of life

Bombed out train depot with street art on walls
Street art in an old train depot
Street art on a wall in a bombed out train depot, Berlin
Street art all over the walls!
Phonebooth disco
The world’s smallest disco!
Exterior of Skatehalle Berlin with graffiti tags
Skatehalle Berlin

One of the coolest areas around on an alternative Berlin adventure definitely includes the bombed out train depot by Warschauer Straße Metro station. Stepping through one of the entrances to this space, every single wall has been covered with street art of a plethora of different styles. Murals sit alongside tags to create a colourful visual display that really pops against the industrial buildings.

As well as checking out the lively walls, there are plenty of alternative things to do in this area of Friedrichshain, including:

  • Nightlife: The space is home to clubs and bars including Cassiopeia, Astra and Suicide Circus. The venues cover a mix of genres, with ‘subculture’ being a real key element, from rock and metal to electronic music nights, and live shows. I really, really want to head back here at night to experience it all for myself once the sun goes down…
  • Phonebooth Disco: You’ll find one of the ‘world’s smallest discos’ here. In a converted phonebooth.
  • Skating: Skatehalle Berlin – skate fans (and old school PlayStation-ers) will be interested in the fact that skateboarding superstar Tony Hawk has skated here.

Friedrichshain: Urban Spree

Stickers on the gate of Urban Spree, Berlin
Stickers on the gate of Urban Spree, Berlin

As well as the club scene, skate park and climbing wall, the space is also home to Urban Spree, an artistic space for creative types to work, exhibit and meet. It’s a real key location for grassroots art in Berlin, and a huge contribution to the fact that the city has one of the best up-and-coming urban art scenes in Europe.

More things to do in Friedrichshain

  • Volkspark Friedrichshain: The oldest park in Berlin, with sculptures and fountains depicting characters from German fairytales.
  • Computer Games Museum: Gaming nerd? This one’s for you. Even if you’ve only got a passing interest, Berlin’s Computer Games Museum will take you back to the days of Pac Man and Mario Kart!

Alternative Berlin: The Kreuzberg District

Shop front covered in street art in the Kreuzberg district, Berlin
A shop front in Kreuzberg

As well as Friedrichshain, another area of interest for those looking for alternative things to do in Berlin is Kreuzberg. A former West Berlin neighbourhood, it’s been known as a hub for a range of diverse communities over the years and into the present day – from Turks to punk rockers and the city’s LGBTQ scene.

Although many of the local nightclubs have closed down (cheers, gentrification), but the famous SO36 club, which hosted the likes of Iggy Pop and David Bowie in the 70s, is still a fixture of the area. 

One of the city’s best-known pieces of street art also resides in Kreuzberg; Victor Ash’s ‘Astronaut Cosmonaut’ mural. Created as part of the 2007 Backjumps art festival, it’s inspired by the ‘space race’ between the Soviet Union and United States in the 1950s-60s, and the Cold War.

Mariannenplatz, Kreuzburg

Mariannenplatz park in the Kreuzburg district
Mariannenplatz Park
Hand holding a bottle of Rothaus Pils Beer
A mid afternoon beer!

Pit stop! Sunny days call for a drink, so we grabbed some beers and enjoyed them in Mariannenplatz, a park area at the edge of Kreuzberg. In the park, you’ll find the Bethanien, a former hospital now used as a creative and cultural space for events, exhibitions and local initiatives.

More things to do in Kreuzberg

  • Speciality coffee: If you’re into your coffee, Kreuzberg has it in spades, from local roasteries. Try Five Elephant, Concierge Coffee or Companion Coffee.
  • Berlin’s LGBTQ scene: Kreuzberg is a favourite district with the queer community of Berlin, so check out bars such as Südblock (try the currywurst!), Möbel-Olfe and Roses.
  • Markthalle Neun: On Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, Markthalle Neun hosts a weekly food market, and Thursdays are all about the best street food in Berlin.

Mitte District: The Treehouse Baumhaus an der Mauer

Treehouse Baumhaus an der Mauer
Treehouse Baumhaus an der Mauer

My favourite story of the tour came at the end, when we arrived at a wonderfully, charmingly higgledy-piggledy looking house at the north end of the Kreuzberg district – with a very interesting story behind it…

Osman Kalin, a Turkish immigrant, acquired the land and in 1983, began to develop the space as a garden with a small shack, which eventually became what’s referred to as ‘the treehouse’. Although the patch of land officially belonged to East Berlin, it was actually technically geographically part of West Berlin.

Despite numerous attempts to evict Kalin when the Wall fell, the retired father of six refused to give up his land. Nowadays, Kalin can sometimes be seen sitting outside in his garden space, soaking up the weather and waving to passing locals and tourists alike.

Despite it being only March, my visit just happened to coincide with one of the first sunny days of the year…and as we walked past, we spotted Kalin himself. The smallest thing I know, but hearing this quirky little story and then getting a smile and a wave from the actual man behind it was one of the most satisfying moments of the whole weekend.

Mitte District: YAAM Beach Bar

Graffiti wall at YAAM Beach bar Berlin
YAAM Beach Bar
Customers sat on seats at YAAM Beach bar Berlin
YAAM Beach Bar
YAAM Beach bar Berlin
YAAM Beach Bar

Our final stopping point on the tour was YAAM Beach. It isn’t an natural beach, because, y’know, Berlin’s kinda very inland. It’s actually a man-made urban beach, with a bar and art gallery, with ‘YAAM’ standing for ‘Young African Art Market‘. A super chilled out atmosphere, music, art, tasty Caribbean food and activities make it the perfect spot to kick back in the sunshine.

As I was exploring solo, it was nice to spend some time with a few of the tour group members who stuck around, as well as asking any leftover questions to Ben over a fruit beer or three. I left with a slightly giddy head, sand in my shoes, and a much better understanding of the city beyond the usual tourist limits.

Taking an Alternative Berlin Tour

The Alternative Berlin tour was fantastic for seeing loads of art, unusual spots and locals’ favourite hangouts, and I definitely wouldn’t have been able to see even half of these places in the time I had, or discover the stories behind them, without having a knowledgable guide. If you have three hours or so to spare and want to experience the alternative side of Berlin, I’d 100% recommend this tour. 

Alternative Berlin tours last approximately three hours, running daily at 11am and 1pm. The meeting point is Alexanderplatz, underneath the TV Tower outside Starbucks, and you’ll need a valid AB Metro ticket to take part.

(Although it’s a free tour, make sure you have a bit of cash to tip your guide for what you think the tour was worth. Not sure how much to tip? Have a look at what similar ‘paid’ tours go for!)

View of abandoned building in Berlin

Other ideas for alternative things to do in Berlin

Berlin has a wonderfully thriving alternative scene, from art and culture to music and nightlife.

Unusual things to do in Berlin

  • Berliner Unterwelten: Walk through underground tunnels, bunkers and subterranean architecture, hidden away below the city.
  • The Museum of Rescued Letters: Antique typographic signs from Berlin’s history.
  • Haus Schwarzenberg Street Art Alley: A chaotic and vibrant collection of Berlin street art.
  • Monster Kabinett: Creepy AF giant metal sculptures and spooky shows at this terrifying art exhibit.
  • Ramones Museum: For fans of The Ramones, quite obviously.
  • Hatch Sticker Museum: Celebrating the art of stickers, with around 6000 pieces.
  • SpreePark: This abandoned theme park just outside Berlin is a creepy adventure filled with the remnants of old rides and attractions. Tours are available at the weekend.

Alternative Bars & Clubs in Berlin

It’s pretty easy to find a rock pub or unusual bar in Berlin – these are a couple of favourites…

Pin it for later!

Similar Posts