If you’re visiting Berlin in the summer, it might feel like the happiest city on earth. With the seemingly endless, sunless, cold, gray, dark winter behind them, Berliners want to be outside, as much as humanly possible.
With the sun just beginning to set as late as 9:30 p.m., the days are long and the selection of outdoor places to hang are seemingly endless.
Here’s a few of my picks to avoid endless spotty wifi scrolling decision fatigue and enjoy the moment.
Located on a section of the Spree running through the districts of Kreuzberg, Friedrichshain and Mitte, Holzmarkt (translation: “timber market”) is an open air assemblage of creative vendors offering delicious and fairly priced food and drink. As the name suggests, everything is very wooden (except for the hip Berliners of course) and the whole place teems with an arty, DIY vibe.
This adorably sustainable urban village describes itself as a space for “work and leisure, exchange and debate, creativity and dreams-and of course good food.”
Indeed, great eats can be had at Holzmarkt.
• You can have a proper waterfront restaurant experience at the lovely Katerschmaus or you can just grab a beer from the Spreelunke, a casual pub with major beach bar vibes, and a take-away snack from one of the many ever-changing food stalls.
• If wine is your thing, the aptly named Wine Shop has got you covered or if you need a pick-me-up, grab a coffee from Holzmarktperle, an absolute gem of a café and roastery.
I highly recommend enjoying Holzmarkt by first securing an easy beer from the bar and then taking a long, thumpy stroll along the wooden walkways to check out the whole space. After parsing through all the food options available that day (during my visit, bao buns were the winning choice) secure a snack and take a seat right on the bank of the Spree, ideally at sunset, with someone you like.
Depending on your appetite, you can enjoy multiple courses and if the mischievous siren song of Berlin nightlife calls upon you, it’s a very short walk to the adjacent techno club, Kater Blau, about which much can be said, but perhaps in another dispatch.
For the best rooftop bar experience in Berlin, your journey will take you all the way to the top floor of a parking garage in a giant mall in Neukölln. Klunker Kranich (“Clunker Kraine”) is a super chill roof bar, with pizza, pasta, good drinks, DJs and quite possibly the best panoramic view of the city available. This spot is highly recommended for those who Googled info about the Fernsehturm (“TV Tower,” that big giant needle tower-thing at Alexanderplatz) and were like, “Nah that’s too expensive.” There is a small cover and usually a line, but if you show up early you won’t have much of a wait.
The staff are super friendly and very bohemian, and the whole space feels like an ongoing art project, which in fact, it is. Getting there is a major part of the fun too: to reach Klunker Kranich, go to the Neukölln Arcaden and take the escalators or elevator to deck 5. Then walk up to deck 6 and there you will find the entrance to the best Aperol Spritz at dusk one could ever hope for.
For a laid back open air techno club with a very friendly door policy, head to CDV: a mellow, rustic, canalside venue located between Kreuzberg and Treptower Park that serves pizza as well as drinks. The dance floor is tiny and the sound system is nice and sharp, but not so loud that you can’t have a conversation.
Opening in the afternoon and sometimes going continuously all weekend without stopping, CDV is the perfect place to begin (or wind down from) your klubnacht and chill by the water or under the giant, colorfully lit weeping willow.
Humboldt Forum (Cool off with free art)
If you’re feeling a bit too hot and burned out from open air crowds and beer drinking, consider a visit to one of my favorite and less talked about museums in Berlin, The Humboldt Forum. Located in the Berlin Palace on the beautiful MuseumsInsel in Mitte, many call it the “German equivalent of the British Museum.” The Humboldt Forum is “dedicated to human history” and contains fascinating selections from the non-European collections of the Berlin State Museums as well as ice cool air and soft things to sit on. And it’s free!
Just get a Späti Beer
If you are simply thirsty, do not be seduced by the pink glowing walls of Aperol Spritz and get wrangled into one of Berlin’s many touristy terraces. Do as the Berliners do and go to a Spätkauf (“late buy”) and enjoy a crisp helles (it’s legal and normal to drink on the street,) a buzzy fritz cola or whatever your beverage of choice.
Of any establishment in Berlin, Spätis have the best and fastest service and the lowest price point, and most have outdoor seating too, if you really want to hang out with the locals.
At the Späti you can procure a Wegbier (“way-beer” or “road beer”) and take an aimless stroll along the Spree, watching the sun slowly descend behind the glorious Berliner Dom and feel the rapture of this European cultural capital, happy in the knowledge that this experience only cost 1.50 euros.
Jetzt bist du ein echter Berliner. (“Now you are a real Berliner.”)
Read more about Berlin here in Dispatches’ archives.