How to make the most of your Berlin summer - Part I
Summer in Berlin reveals the most beautiful and exciting side of this historic city. Every summer here has its own story - between warm nights and city lights, make sure you get the most out of every available ray of sunshine. Here are some of the best ideas how to spend your time during Berlin summer.
Picnic, bbq, or dance in a park
More than a third of Berlin is made up of green space - with over 2,500 public and recreational areas like Treptower Park, Körnerpark, Gleisdreieck, Tiergarten, and much more. Every space has something unique to offer, so don’t limit yourself to those mentioned here.
Once summer hits, everyone wants to be outdoors - the shade of leafy trees offers an accessible refuge from the stifling summer heat. What’s better than lounging in the sun or shade on the grass after grabbing snacks and beers at your local Späti (small late-night shop). A favourite spot among the locals is Insel der Jugend, a small island within Treptower Park with exceptional views of the water and surrounding landscape. Perfect for a picnic by the water, plus the park is completely dog-friendly.
Several public parks around the city allow you to have BBQs and some even provide the equipment, too (so you don’t have to bring the gear yourself). Some of the best barbecue spots in the city include Mauerpark and Tempelhofer Feld.
Right behind Monbijou Park is Strandbar Mitte, a tiki-style beach bar, located just off Museum Island with exotic cocktails, palm trees, and over 200 comfortable beach lounge chairs. In summer, the place comes alive with people dancing on the open-air platform set up alongside the river Spree. Try out blues on Monday, ballroom on Tuesday, tango on Wednesday, salsa on Thursdays and swing on Friday. Best of all - no ticket needed for the fun dancing nights under a sky full of stars.
Venture out to the lakes
Berlin has far more than 30 lakes nearby that are suitable for swimming, hence the city has a website where you can check the current water quality and features. Dotted around and just outside Berlin, these local water holes offer a chance to cool off, relax, or enjoy some water sports. Wherever you wind up, consult friends for the scoop on which lakes are filling up each weekend. The adventurous types can explore secluded swimming spots on the lakes where most tourists and newbies wouldn’t dare to venture. There is only one way to see what all the lakeside hype is about: grab a towel and go find out.
Krumme Lanke, taking its name from the lake’s curved shape, is a city favourite. Similar to the neighboring Schlachtensee, it is convenient to reach and therefore tends to get crowded at times: Sitting in the Grunewald forest area south-west of the city and still within the Berlin 'AB' ticket-zone, you can reach it easily by U-Bahn line U3. Featuring a boardwalk that circuits the entire lake, lots of greenery and little coves, Krumme Lanke, is a popular spot for walkers, joggers and swimmers alike. And for those who fancy going skinny dipping, the beach at Fischerhüttenstraße is open to nudists.
To get to Bernsteinsee in Ruhlsdorf, just past the town of Bernau, takes a bit more effort – though it’s certainly worth it. The lake has two big sandy beaches: one on the East side with a waterski facility, cafe, big parking place and camping site, and one in the South that is secluded and can only be reached by a hike through the woods.
Germans are always on the look-out for the mythical perfect lake, and Liepnitzsee fits the bill with its amazing crystal-clear waters and tiny island in the middle. Found in the North of Berlin near Bernau, it is one of the classic Berlin lakes. Although it has long ceased to be an insiders' tip, there are still some unofficial bathing spots around the lake invites you to swim in totally unspoilt nature – you can even go camping! The best route to reach it is by S-Bahn or regional train.
Cool off in a pool
Any Berliner would agree that the only way to combat long stints of stifling heat is to find a spot by the waterside. When a trek to one of the city’s surrounding lakes feels like too much, these pools are here to cool you.
The Badeschiff floating public swimming pool right inside the Spree began as an art installation. There is really nothing more ‘Berlin’ than Badeschiff, in that the people behind the pool decided to infuse it with techno music and clubby vibes. Visitors can take a dip in the water while catching views of some of Berlin’s most famous sights - including the TV Tower, Molecule Man, and Oberbaumbrücke. Or why not wind your way through the river on a stand-up paddleboard, a nifty cross between surfing and canoeing. You can rent a board from Stand Up Club, which is located inside the property.
The Haubentaucher, an urban outdoor pool in a very hip Cote D’Azur style, offers a shady garden lounge and a 7,000 sqm state-of-the-art indoor event space. Located in the former maintenance area of the German railway and on the premises of RAW, a famed nightlife site - Haubentaucher feels like a Mediterranean oasis in the midst of Berlin's concrete jungle.
If there can be such a thing as a cult swimming pool, it’s Kreuzberg’s Sommerbad. Known more commonly as Prinzenbad because of its proximity to U-Bahn Prinzenstrasse, it was featured in the much-admired documentary Prinzessinnenbad (Pool of Princesses), directed by Bettina Blümner (Germany, 2007). Its huge popularity with local Berliners rests on its easy accessibility and people watching.
Chill by the spree
One definition of summer in Berlin: sitting on the banks of the River Spree. Many Berliners love nothing more than hanging out by the waterside during the summer - it’s the place to be!
Float down the canal
What better way to enjoy the Spree than floating down a canal? Some locals opt for buying their own inflatable boats to cruise down the river or one of the smaller canals. Cruising the Spree becomes a pleasurable and sought-after pastime. Get your hands on a blow-up boat, rent your own house boat for a weekend or sign up for a day river cruise on a bigger boat.
Sip on a drink at a canal bar
Sip a cocktail on a wooden terrace under the shade of a willow tree and gaze out over the water or unwind with beer and friends by the river. Ditch Berghain for an open-air club like Katerblau or explore Holzmarkt25, a beautiful riverside bohemian artists’ playground on the Spree.
Continued in How to make the most of your Berlin summer - Part II
Text: Melissa Embury
Header Image: Felix Kayser