What to Do and Where to Play in Berlin Now
Berlin is one of Europe’s most exciting and innovative cities, with thriving art, design, food, and tech scenes, and landmark attractions that showcase the German capital's fascinating history. From the classics to new must-see spots, here's what to do in Berlin now.
Take in Contemporary Art
Housed in a former World War II bunker in Mitte, this unlikely exhibition space founded by collectors Christian and Karen Boros has become one of the the city’s hottest modern art galleries since opening its doors ten years ago. Viewings are only available via intimate guided tours (offered in German and English) which often sell out months ahead of time. Those who do get a coveted slot will see pieces from the Boros’ 700-piece strong collection from international contemporary artists including Martin Boyce, He Xiangyu, and Katja Novitskova.
Opened in 1913, Clärchens Ballhaus has survived two world wars, communist spies, and Quentin Tarantino’s film crew (scenes from “Inglorious Basterds” were filmed here) and remains a must for anyone who loves to dance. Classes ranging from tango to swing are offered in the early evening, followed by dance sessions that go until late. The Friday and Saturday “Schloff” is a no-holds-barred party for regulars of all ages, while Sunday evenings host classical musical concerts in the elegant, mirror-lined spiegelsaal on the upper floor. Fuel up for the night with German fare like wiener schnitzel and apple strudel, served at tables surrounding the dance floor.
Go for a Dip
Berlin’s indoor pools not only provide locals and visitors with the chance to swim year round—they’re also some of the city’s most photogenic spaces. Since its opening in 1914, Stadtbad Neukölln has held its own among Europe’s prettiest pool complexes with architectural details like travertine pillars and mosaics inspired by ancient thermal baths. After sitting unused for 30 years, Stadtbad Oderberger Straße in Prenzlauer Berg reopened in 2016 following extensive renovations and has become a favorite for its soaring ceilings, abundant natural light, and sauna. Stadtbad Charlottenburg - Alte Halle, the oldest indoor pool in the city, has a stunning Gothic exterior, while Bad am Spreewaldplatz is a favorite for families thanks to a wave pool and waterslide.
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Hit the Beach
It wouldn’t be summer in Berlin without beach bars, which pop up at the city’s lakes and along the river. Among the most unique is Badeschiff, where guests can go for dip in a pool floating in the middle of the Spree then take in views of the Oberbaumbrücke and the TV tower from the shore, cocktail in hand. Beach volleyball and stand-up paddleboarding keep visitors busy during the day, while open-air concerts get everyone dancing well into the night.
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Short for Kaufhaus des Westens (“Department Store of the West”) KaDeWe is the biggest department store in Germany and the second largest in all of Europe. Founded in 1907 and rebuilt after a plane crashed into the building during World War II, KaDeWe houses more than 645,000 square feet of shopping space filled with luxury clothing brands, home decor, toys, and souvenirs and is visited by about 50,000 people per day. It’s also a draw for food lovers: the 6th floor food hall features two football fields worth of food counters serving everything from bratwurst to oysters, while the top floor includes a restaurant with floor-to-ceiling views of Wittenbergplatz.
Visit a Biergarten
It isn’t a trip to Germany without a visit to a biergarten and Café am Neuen See is arguably Berlin’s prettiest. Located on a lakeshore in Tiergarten, a former royal hunting ground that was converted to a public park in the late 17th century by Friedrich III, the restaurant is surrounded by lush greenery, best enjoyed at outdoor tables or from the water via row boat. It’s the perfect place to end a morning of sightseeing given its proximity to top draws like Brandenburg Gate, and has a diverse menu with something for everyone (don’t leave without trying flammkuchen—a thin, savory pastry topped with crème fraîche, onions, and bacon). Wood-burning fireplaces and a cozy dining room with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the water keep the appeal going during colder months, too.
Ride a Boat Down the Spree
One of the best ways to take in Berlin is by water—the city has miles of waterways that pass by attractions like Berlin Cathedral, Reichstag, and Museum Island, and guided boat tour options are plentiful. Sky Blue Berlin offers a luxurious way to take in the city: after being picked up in a classic Mercedes-Benz convertible and driving passed the city sights, you’ll transfer to a 1930s yacht for a private guided tour down the Spree. If you’d prefer to navigate the River Spree on your own time, look into a rental with Spreeboote, which allows visitors to take small boats out skipper-free.
Tour the Food Markets
One of the best ways to get to know a place is by visiting its markets, and Berlin has several worth a stop. For some of the city’s best food under one roof hit Markthalle Neun in Kreuzberg. While it’s open throughout the week, one of the most popular times to go is for Street Food Night on Thursday, when dozens of dishes from around the world are served—from German cheese spaetzle to Nigerian fufu to Tibetan momos—all washed down with beer brewed fresh in the market’s basement. It’s also a testing ground for the city’s up-and-coming chefs, so be sure to come hungry and open to trying new flavours. Saturday afternoons see locals descend on the tree-lined Kollwitzplatz Market in trendy Prenzlauer Berg to browse handmade jewelry and clothing designs, pickup fresh organic produce, and stop for a lunch of wine and fresh pizza best enjoyed at tables set up in the middle of street (this market is also a good bet for families with young kids as it’s right next to two playgrounds). On Saturdays and Sundays, after taking in ancient treasures at the Pergamon, visitors can hunt for their own relics at the Antique and Bookmarket on Museum Island, which features around 60 stands of records, books, furniture, and handicrafts.
See Even More Art
A Jewish girls’ school until 1942, this striking brick building in Mitte now houses some of the city’s most renowned contemporary art galleries and, as of this year, a “Rooftop Playground” outdoor exhibition space with interactive artwork designed with kids in mind. The building is also home to two of the city’s best restaurants: the Michelin-starred Pauly Saal for fine dining and Mogg & Melzer, where the slow-cooked pastrami served on rye is worth a visit alone.
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