The number of tourists to visit Berlin continues to reach record highs. No doubt, some of its most well-trodden paths are quintessential to understanding and enjoying the city — we’re looking at you, East Side Gallery! What will make you truly fall in love with Berlin, however, is taking the road less traveled.
Let us tip you off with these six best-kept secrets:
Tucked on a quiet side street behind a row of shops and a department store in Spandau, a true hidden gem awaits those who know where to look. Turn the corner on Heidereuterstraße to find Linh Thuu Pagode, a Buddhist temple designed in traditional Vietnamese style.
It provides the perfect oasis of serenity amidst the bustle of city commerce. Linger in the impeccably-maintained oriental garden before crossing the temple’s threshold marked by two regal stone dragons. The rich scent of incense beckons you inside where 3-meter-high Buddha statues, located front and center, smile down from their pedestals.
Before moving onto a busy itinerary, stop here for a few moments of introspection disturbed only by the quiet shuffle of slippers as worshippers move in and out.
Nestled just beyond the line of sight in the rather unsightly Moritzplatz, is Prinzessinnengärten. Back in 2009, residents transformed what was once an overrun vacant lot into a flourishing community garden. Now, all are welcome to experience the fruits of their labor.
Even if getting acquainted with your own green thumb isn’t something that interests you, there is plenty of satisfaction to be had simply strolling amongst the dense vegetation that bursts out of its concrete surroundings. Definitely do make your way towards the back of the garden space to the café, which is set amongst a thicket of lanky saplings.
Every day starting at noon, the kitchen serves a set menu of affordable dishes made from fresh veggies cultivated from the gardens and surrounding organic farms. (Make sure it’s open before you go as the café staff occasionally takes a break.)
Situated just past Rummelsberg to the southwest of the city center, FEZ Berlin is a sprawling cultural center for youth and the largest of its kind in Europe. It is comprised of unusual architecture whose grounds hold many different surprises. Set within a forest, there is a large network of paths at FEZ Berlin for skating, running, skipping, jumping, and strolling around along with a cinema and even a small beach.
While it is advertised as a youth center, the rich and varied activities program is not simply catered towards children. FEZ also serves as festival grounds for techno lovers looking to escape the smoky stuffiness of Berlin’s inland clubs in favor of an open-air party experience.
Speaking of which, the festival grounds double as the site of the Wuhlheide Open Air where Berlin’s famed philharmonic plays concerts in the summer.
Germany has long been known for its iconic yet functional Bauhaus aesthetics. The Bauhaus Archive is home to the largest collection of objects from this movement, cataloging its development from its earliest beginnings in 1919.
What makes this a secret spot is its location at the odd juncture between Potsdamer Platz, Tiergarten, and the eastern border of Charlottenburg — just at the edge of a lesser frequented part of the Landwehr Canal. The white building itself, with its successive sawtooth roofing, is stunning and captures the spirit and prestige of this important and influential school of design.
The original building is currently closed because the house will be renovated and expanded during the next few years. The archive has relocated temporarily Knesebeckstraße 1-2. Be sure to check out their website for updates.
Being that there are countless bars, clubs, and other venues erected in Berlin’s notorious bohemian ramshackle style, it may feel that if you’ve seen one of them, you’ve seen them all. Yet, what makes Rummels Bucht special is that it is set off the beaten path and perched at the shores of the lake, Rummelsburgersee.
Unlike most lakes, though, this one is located just off of Hauptstraße not far from the heart of town and only a short bike ride from Kreuzberg. It’s relaxing and secluded surrounds mean that it is not as crowded with people as its aesthetically similar counterparts, but you still get the same hippy beatnik vibes we all crave along with an arguably better view.
The utterly unpretentious exterior of this Chinese restaurant in Schöneberg makes it a place you might pass a million times without a second glance. We recommend looking twice, as Da Jia Le serves up some of the most authentic Sichuanese and Dongbei fare in the city.
Start with the perfectly steamed-to-order dumplings — pork or vegetarian — served in bamboo baskets. Also be sure to opt for some cucumber salad as a side to quell the delicious heat of these spicy red and garlicky dishes. Oddly enough, Da Jia Le has an impressive array of craft beers that include a mixture of German and Asian varieties.
About the author:
Lily Cichanowicz is an American freelance writer and journalist currently based in Berlin. In the form of cultural analysis, her writing is a critical exploration of everything from the personal to the political, and her aim is to share the insights she has with readers.
On her website, you can find a curated selection of her favorite pieces.
You can see more of Lily’s posts about Germany and Berlin here: