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Berlin radiates in summer; the sun shines, the people are friendly and there’s plenty of mischief to be made. The only downfall is that high temperatures encourage tourists and locals to go outside, so getting to and from places can be a nightmare. Sticky, overcrowded and muggy sums up Berlin’s public transport in summer. For a weekend break, planning out your days by area is one way to minimise your time spent on clammy trains.
If it is your first time visiting, aim for one or two districts a day in order to get a real sense of what the German capital is about. There is a river running through the middle of the city, canals, lakes and plenty of parks, so overall, it is the perfect destination to explore by foot. Alternatively, there are plenty of bicycle rentals.
For a starter pack in Berlin weekending, tackle these three very different districts to maximise your time away.
Friday: Kreuzberg & Neukölln
In these areas, you can find some of the best coffee shops, restaurants and bars. Unpolished and cosmopolitan in equal parts, each possesses a character that is entirely their own.
Start the morning well with a little coffee and art. Grab a macchiato at Hallesches Haus and browse their stylish shop before making your way towards König Gallerie. In addition to holding regular exhibitions, König Gallerie also opens up their small sculpture garden during the summer months. There is a courtyard right outside the gallery, providing a nice resting spot in between galleries.
For those who haven’t been, the Jewish Museum located close by is well worth a visit. If galleries are more your thing, the Berlinishe Gallerie and the JM Berlin are two of the best and sure to occupy you for a couple of hours.
After this, you have two options about how to split your day. The first is to head for Tempelhofer Feld – Berlin’s abandoned airport runway. One of the most lively parks in the city in summer, walk, skate or cycle around the perimeter. History buffs and aviation aficionados should note that guided tours of the inside of the airport are also available. Next, grab some food and a cocktail at Umami; an acclaimed Vietnamese spot.
The second option is to walk by down towards Hallesches Haus and along the canal towards Maybach-Ufer and Paul-Lincke-Ufer. At the end of this trail, you will reach Admiralsbrücke – a local hangout in summer where people sit on the bridge with drinks from the Späti (Berlin’s convenience shops). There are often buskers hanging around the bridge, which adds to the area’s chilled summer atmosphere.
When you’re feeling peckish, & Five Elephant serves up cheesecake, lemon tart and soft-serve coffee ice cream. Concierge Coffee boasts one of the best blends in town, Brammibal’s Donuts is an excellent vegan café and Eismanufaktur sells the best chocolate sorbet in Berlin. Neighbouring Das Hotel Bar makes great cocktails and Nathanja & Heinrich is a favourite among Berliners.
Come evening, JAJA is a great little wine bar with small creative sharing plates, St Bart’s pub-inspired menu is distinctive yet cosy and La Lucha provides a light-hearted mood alongside flavourful Mexican dishes. Let’s not forget the open-air cinema in Kreuzberg, Freiluftkino – pretty self-explanatory and worth a visit.
Mitte is an atypical break away from the city’s trademark urban-grunge scene. Although Mitte is where the main sights are located, it is also populated with a number of smaller galleries boutique shops.
In the morning, head straight for the galleries around Auguststrasse. Before 12PM places are less crowded so it’s more comfortable to walk around. The KW Institute for Contemporary Art is a good starting point and a lovely place for a cold beverage and a snack in their courtyard post-visit. If you are in the mood for some more art, pop by next door to the Me Collectors Room or any of the smaller galleries in the area. Along the same street you will come across Do You Read Me? – a great little design magazine shop.
From here, stroll along the river towards Museum Island (even if you have already visited the museums it is always a nice walk by them when the sun is out). Thereafter, make your way to Hackescher Markt for some shopping.
When hunger hits, Zeit fur Brot is an excellent quick fix. Stocking an unprecedented amount of cinnamon rolls, they have every kind of roll you could imagine – be patient and you’ll catch them straight out of the oven. Distrikt Coffee, serves awesome pancakes and a particularly good caesar salad, while being an attractive brunch spot. Hermann’s focuses on healthier food, and offers a menu of experimental dishes and unconventional recipes. YAMYAM is a great casual Korean restaurant, ideal for catch-ups with friends. DUDU does sushi with a contemporary twist and Curry Mitte is a little grungy shack serving one of the best curry wurst in Berlin. If you haven’t yet tried the Berliner snack this is the place to do so. For something more high-end, the widely acclaimed Katz Orange lives up its hype; sharing dishes are the way to go here.
If you are still feeling energetic, wrap up your day with a drink at Weinerei. This lovely little place is always buzzing – probably because they serve their customers as much wine as they like for a price they think is fair. For something a little more sophisticated try Neue Odessa Bar for a great nightcap.
Next, grab lunch at Neni, a culinary mosaic of Persian, Russian, Arabic, Moroccan, Israeli, Turkish, Spanish, German and Austrian influences. Sample a little of everything with plates made for sharing. If it’s sunny, sit out on the balcony for panoramic views of Berlin and the Tiergarten.
After lunch, seek out Bikini Berlin, an unconventional shopping centre, home of many concept stores. As the day rolls on, it’s worth fitting in a brisk walk in Großer Tiergarten before catching your late-afternoon flight home.
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