Italian Renaissance Garden in Berlin-Marzahn (c) Gärten der WElt

Discovering European Culture in Berlin

Once a symbol of division, Berlin has transformed in recent years into the cultural and economic center of Europe, which hosts millions of people from all over the world. The colourful past and countless relations with other cities has left imprints throughout the German capital - Europe is represented in each corner and can be discovered over and over again with every walk through the city. Let us guide you through some interesting sights of European culture in Berlin.

Scandinavian culture

A piece of Scandinavia awaits on every corner of Berlin. The Nordic quarter in Prenzlauer Berg and Pankow, for example, represents different areas of Scandinavia. The quarter was renamed in the early 20th century and initially had Prussian city names. Now it includes names like Isländische Straße (Iceland), Dänenstraße (Denmark) and Malmöer Straße (Malmö in Sweden). Even famous Norwegian author Henrik Ibsen is honoured with the Ibsenstraße.

The new names on the street signs however are not the only trace of Scandinavian culture that can be found in Berlin. The felleshus of the Nordic embassies in Tiergarten functions as a shared space of the Scandinavian delegations; it holds concerts, exhibitions, readings and talks with a focus on Nordic artists and politicians. Even outside of the formal institutions, there are many events that focus on culture, traditions and hot topics of the Scandinavian countries: Lucia markets in winter, midsommar celebrations in the summertime, the Nordic film program curated by the kulturhus e.V. and even Scandinavian sweet shops give you to opportunity to feel close to the North all year round.

Fassade of the Nordic Embassies in Berlin (c) Nordische Botschaften/Abresch
© Nordic Embassies Berlin - Abresch


Cultural remains of the occupation time

It is noticeable that the previous occupation forces left a bit of their cultural heritage in Berlin, especially France and Great Britain. The French occupation zone was located in the north, covering the districts Wedding and Reinickendorf. Back then, streets, squares, estates and swimming baths had French names. French goods were offered in the shops and in schools French was taught. In 1994, the French occupiers – who were also friends by then – left Berlin, but cultural evidence of that era - like the Kulturhaus Centre Bagatelle and the Centre Français de Berlin , both in Reinickendorf - remain.

The Centre Francais de Berlin – A symbol of French-German friendship © Centre Francais de Berlin
The Centre Francais de Berlin – A symbol of French-German friendship © Centre Francais de Berlin

Just like France, Great Britain also had its impact on the Berlin cityscape. The British War Cemetery in Grunewald and the British School in Charlottenburg still attest to the time when Great Britain ruled over the districts of Charlottenburg, Spandau, Tiergarten and Wilmersdorf.

The diversity of European cultures can also be experienced in their cultivation of nature. In Berlin Marzahn, the Gardens of the World (Gärten der Welt) offer special insights into these differences. For example, the Italian Renaissance Garden has a clear structure and a moderate size just like Tuscany’s famous villa gardens. The English Garden, set around a thatched cottage, represents a break in the strict geometrical forms of earlier Baroque design. Or take a look at the Oriental Garden which represents Islamic gardening traditions with themes like the hidden spring, paradise, and the oasis.

The English Cottage Garden @ Gärten der Welt (c) Grün Berlin
The English Cottage Garden @ Gärten der Welt (c) Grün Berlin

Turkish culture

Even though not technically European, Turkish Immigrants have had a huge impact on Germany and especially Berlin. After the war, guest workers from Turkey contributed to the reconstruction of the country that was severely damaged. This work opportunity attracted a lot of Turkish families and resulted in a wave of Turkish immigrants in the 60s and 70s, who mostly settled in the previously cheap working district of Kreuzberg. The new influence changed the face of the district in essential ways: mosques , hamams , Turkish markets and bicultural institutions were built and made Kreuzberg and later also Neukölln the districts that they are today. Fun fact: According to legend, Turkish immigrants in Berlin-Kreuzberg also invented the classic döner kebap that we know and love today.

Southern European culture

From food and drinks to art, culture and more: What Berlin is missing from of the mediterranean climate it makes up for in Southern European culture options. There are countless places for authentic Italian pizza, aperitivos and antipasti that give you a feel of Tuscany. The Italian Film Festiva l brings classic drama back to the screen and shows cinematic treasures that you wouldn’t necessarily be able to find. If you’re on a budget, you can also get any needed item for that holiday feeling from mediterranean or Spanish stores and supermarkets like Super Iberico in Berlin-Mitte. For cultural input from Spain, the Instituto Cervantes offers a variety of Spanish culture events, from language lessons to movie screenings and art exhibitions.

The many Greek cafés, restaurants and boutiques in the city round out the broad Southern European culture experience in Berlin. Here you can get fresh olive oil, pita bread and fine delicacies from Greece and its many islands. The Hellas Filmbox is a filmfestival that focuses on Greek film and gives insight into the country, culture and modern trends and issues.

Jewish culture

Despite the dreadful events in German history, Jewish culture in Berlin can still be found and is reclaiming its space. The former Scheunenviertel , located in Berlin-Mitte, is keeping Jewish heritage alive: around the new synagogue close to Oranienburger Tor, restaurants, cafés and galleries represent Jewish culture in Berlin. Located on Tucholskystraße - named after famous Jewish-German writer Kurt Tucholsky - the Beth Café is offering classic Jewish and Israeli kosher specialities. Other delis around also offer delicious jewish foods, such as Mogg and the culinary peace project Hummus and Friends . The Hackesche Höfe , just a short walk away, used to be the center of Jewish life in the early 1900s. Now it’s filled with small shops and cafés and are always worth a stroll. Signs along the way explain the historical background of the former Jewish living space and give insight into the struggle of Jewish Berliners in darker days.

The Hackesche Höfe in Berlin Mitte used to be the center of Jewish life in the 20th Century.
The Hackesche Höfe in Berlin Mitte used to be the center of Jewish life in the 20th Century. © Claudia Hechtenberg

Apart from said spaces, you can basically find cultural input from every European country in Berlin, from Estonian film festivals and Swedish Christmas markets to French cultural institutes and Polish cuisine. With so much influence from all its neighbors, you can truly call Berlin the heart of Europe.

More information

If you want to know more about cultural activities and current events, we recommend the following blogs: iheartberlin.de | stilinberlin.de

Information about international Berlin for investors: businesslocationcenter.de

Text: Blogfabrik - Marlén Jacobshagen | Header Image: Italian Renaissance Garden @ GÄRTEN DER WELT in Berlin-Marzahn (c) GrünBerlin