One month in Berlin: In this series of 5 posts I will relive the amazing summer I spent in 2016 in Berlin on a travel writing programme.
This post is part 1: My 5 favourite places to visit in Berlin in the daytime.
One month in Berlin (Part 1): My 5 favourite places to visit in Berlin in the daytime
As a group of ten international students, we met in Berlin for one month to create a travel guide together. Before any writing or guide planning had begun, our first memorable trip as a team was to lake Schlachtensee in the south-west of the city. This day out was where the project really began for me as the previous days were spent moving into our apartments, meeting each other awkwardly and running the admin for the project.
From the station we walked through winding forest paths around the edge of a stunning, clear water lagoon. We were all surprised that such a place existed in Berlin – most of us had expectations of a rough and ready industrial city.
After a fifteen minute stroll we reached the main swimming area, stretched out our towels, sat down and took in the view. It reminded me of my time years ago in Cananda, with glorious shimmering blue water, surrounded by dense foliage.
The water is the perfect temperature on a hot summer’s day – it’s cooling, refreshing and clean. I swam for over an hour from one end to the other and can remember coming out feeling pysichally and mentally cleansed.
We spent the best part of six hours at this lake, and got to know one another over an ice cold beer at the lakeside cafe. I went back four times that month and have been many more times since I moved to Berlin.
Cafe am Neun see
Over in West Berlin, on the corner of the Tiergarten, close to the zoo, is cafe am Neun See (cafe on the new lake). It is a large outdoor space with many benches arranged in Oktoberfest style. Unlike the Bavarian festival, though, this is quite a civilsed affair.
I didn’t spend a great deal of time in the west of the city, but whenever I was near I tried to come to this spot. The tranquil setting by the lake makes it easy to wile away an afternoon in good company, or with a book. You can also take a rowing boat out for an hour for 8 euros and explore the scenic lake at your leisure.
The food offerings are pretty basic but nevertheless satisfying – you can get a meaty pizza, a vegan pizza or pretzels.. The beers, however, are really very good here, and I think this place boasts one of the meanest Hefeweizens (wheat beers) I have tried.
As it starts to get dark, Cafe am Neuen See is lit up by hundreds of little lights that run across poles dotted through the main seating area. This romantic setting makes it a strong contender for a date night.
Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday there’s an authentic Thai street food offering in the park next to Fehrberliner Platz U Bahn. It’s a colourful, culinary delight for all the senses, and has become a real staple for locals and tourists – especially the Sunday version.
You can meander through about 70 different little stalls, selling classic dishes such as red and green curry, pad thai and chicken satay. There’s also a wide selection of lesser known dishes, and if you’re feeling really adventurous you can try their deep-fried insects (I admittedly don’t have the stomach for this).
The park has a festival atmosphere to it, and while the food and drinks are predominantly Thai, you’ll find offerings from all over the globe. There always seems to be a big Cuban, Brazilian and Venezuelan contingent and, as such, there’s a lot of heady cocktails and loud music. The party goes on long after the food vendors have packed up..
Also worth checking out, as part of a trip to Thai Park, is the Parkcafe beer garden on the southernmost edge of the park. This is a quintessential German beer garden with great food, beer and local wine.
There are a great many parks in Berlin and, after much consideration, my favourite of the lot is Treptower Park. The appeal is as much to do with aesthetics of the place as it is to do with what’s on offer here. You can get involved in all sorts of daytime activities in this park, and also find a whole host of apetising food options.
As you walk along the river Spree at the main entrance to the park, you’ve got about twenty food stalls, with a global variety to choose from. This is Treptower park’s ‚street food mile’ and on a sunny day you can pick anything you like and chill by the river.
As you walk further down you’ll find the pedalo rental people. This can be found just after the most randomly placed Burger King of all time, which is housed in a beautiful palatial building.. A fantastic option, that we made use of many times, is to rent a boat and pedal over to the ‘Jugend Insel’ (the island of youth). Here you can moor up and sit at one of the coolest spots in Berlin, which hosts street food events, live music and open-air cinemas.
This part of the river Spree always attracts the funniest home-made boats – I’ve seen some amazing, hand crafted, wooden boats kitted out with high grade sound systems, floating along with parties of twenty on board. This particular park always brings a smile to my face, as beautiful surroundings always seem to be met with a moment or two of absurdity.
Many a summer afternoon was spent at the somewhat hipster locale of Admiralbrücke in Kreuzberg. This small, pedestrian bridge evokes memories of Amsterdam. It crosses the Landwehr canal and brings people from the heart of Kreuzberg over to next trendy district of Neükolln.
For many years now it has been a hang out spot for locals, and swathes of young internationals. On either end of the bridge there’s two comptetively priced Spätis, so the price of beer ranges from 1 to 2 euros. The place is so popular that you can often find live music here.
The main appeal of this bridge is that it’s always full of youthful cheer, and, for whatever reason, it’s remarkably easy to strike up a conversation here. My fellow project members and I met a lot of interesting Berliners in this spot, as well as many of young professionals, party animals and tourists.
Our normal route took us through Kreuzberg, walking from Kottbusser Tor, one of the liveliest parts of the city. As you head over to the Neükolln side you’ve got some of the nicest examples of Altbau buildings (old style buildings) I have seen in Berlin. These apartments are, in my opinion, some of the most desirable in the city. If you visit on a Tuesday or Friday you can also walk along the canal to the local Turkish market.
One month in Berlin Part 2 is coming soon!