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This comprehensive guide includes our personal favorites in Berlin. These are our top choices to soak up the culture and feel of the German capital.
It is by no means final.
In this part of our 4-part Berlin Quick Guides, we are sharing our favorite parks, flea markets, lakes and other outdoor activities. While some of these things (markets, parks) can be visited year-round, it is mainly a summer guide. We have to admit that we think that Berlin is best visited in the summer, when you can enjoy all the outdoor things that make this city so amazing.
Check out our other Quick Guides for Berlin:
GlobetrotterGirls Quick Guide to Berlin: An overview of the German capital
GlobetrotterGirls Quick Guide to Berlin: Neighborhoods of Berlin
GlobetrotterGirls Quick Guide to Berlin: Our favorite restaurants, cafes and bars
Berlin in the summer
We have to say that Berlin is most enjoyable in the summer when it is hot and the whole city is outside. During the warmer months, cafes and restaurants put tables out on the sidewalks, the parks are filled with picnicking friends, beach bars pop up along the River Spree, the Badeschiff is open, karaoke takes place in the Mauerpark, it is more enjoyable to stroll through flea markets and markets. Thus, we recommend to visit Berlin anytime between May and September, to get the full experience of what Berlin has to offer. All the following are things that you shouldn’t miss in Berlin in the summer:
There are a number of beach bars that open up for the summer months every year along the river, complete with sun chairs and lovely river views.
- Strandbar Mitte (Monbijoustraße 3) is small, but the most central beach bar with a nice vibe with sand, sun chairs and even some palm trees. On some nights, there are free tango classes here.
- Capital Beach near the Reichstag is a bit more expensive, but has great views over the new parliament buildings.
- Yaam (Stralauer Platz 35) near the Osthafen attracts a more alternative crowd, and is probably the cheapest beach bar
- Ku’damm Beach is one of the fancier beach bars in Charlottenburg (Koenigsallee 5b)
The biggest flea market is on Straße des 17. Juni, (between Ernst-Reuter-Haus and S-Bahn: Tiergarten). Another cool one is on Sundays at Mauerpark (next to Friedrich-Ludwig-Jahn Sportpark in Prenzlauer Berg (Subway: Eberswalder Straße). Mauerpark has the typical flea market goodies like furniture, antiques, books and vintage clothes, but also a number of good and inexpensive food stalls, so come hungry. Nearby is the flea market at Arkonaplatz, a smaller flea market, held also on Sundays – you can actually combine a visit to both.
Something that you shouldn’t miss if you happen to be in Berlin in the summer is the free karaoke at Mauerpark on Sunday afternoons. Weather permitting, up to 10,000 people show up for it! No worries – you don’t have to sing if you don’t want to, but it is great fun to watch it, and you can combine it with a visit to the Mauerpark flea market.
The Badeschiff (Eichenstraße 4) is a unique outdoor swimming pool in the Spree River. It is basically a boat that has been transformed into a swimming pool, with a small beach area attached. The Badeschiff is super popular on hot summer days though, but avoid weekends when you’ll have to stand in line for hours just to get in the pool. We went on a weekday around noon and there was already a huge line, but it was worth the wait. Admission is €5 for the day and food and drinks, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic, are available for purchase inside but they are way overpriced. Unfortunately, cameras and food/drinks can‘t be brought inside.
Berlin’s largest park offers more than 23km (14 miles) of pathways, lakes and different, more specific, sections, such as a popular nudist area. The walk from Brandenburg Gate to Victory Column (see above) alone is tiring, which is why Tiergarten Park is definitely easiest to explore by bike. You could just pick up some picnic food at a Kaiser’s supermarket and enjoy a sunny afternoon in the park. The Café am Neuen See is a great beer garden, there’s a rose garden, an English Garden with Tea House, and you can visit Bellevue Palace.
Berlin’s oldest park is popular with the hipster crowd of Friedrichshain as well as big Turkish families who spend their Sundays barbequing at the Kleiner Bunkerberg, the area of the park where grilling is allowed. The gorgeous Fairytale Fountain is well worth a visit, even if you’re not that into fairytales.
Treptower Park stretches over four kilometers along the River Spree, and is filled with sunbathers during the summer months. The Haus Zenner is a large beer garden with views over the river and the nearby Island of Youth has several places where you can rent pedal or rowing boats.
The Park am Gleisdreieck is one of Berlin’s newest park – the eastern part opened in late 2011, and the western part only opened in May 2013. The triangular-shaped former waste ground around the rail tracks was transformed into a park after decades of neglecting, and provides now one of the largest recreational areas in the city. There are playgrounds, skate parks, cafés, table tennis areas and boule grounds, rose gardens and viewing platforms that invite to escape the city noise around you for a while with a good book.
The Tempelhofer Freiheit is a huge green space on what was Tempelhof Airport, Berlin’s main airport until 2008. Since then, it has been transformed into a community park, much of it left in its original state, with added community gardens, barbeque areas and an artsy mini golf facility. It’s a great place to hang out for a picnic, just read a book, or stay for sunset, but it’s HUGE – just walking across the landing strip takes at least half an hour, so we’d also recommend exploring it by bike.
Berlin is known for its dozens of lakes just outside the city, and it seems that in the summer months, everybody escapes the heat of the capital and rushes to one of the many lakes. Some are harder to get to without a car, some easier, but a Saturday at the lake is a quintessential Berlin experience. Just pick one and head there early, because all of the lakes tend to get crowded on weekends.
Wannsee is the most popular lake around Berlin, and since it is connected to the city via S-Bahn, it gets really busy. Up to 30,000 people at once can be accommodated here – Wannsee offers the largest swimming area at a lake in all of Europe! The beach has beach chairs, beach volleyball fields, and water slides for kids, you can rent boats, there are restaurants and cafes, and a nudist area.
How to get there: Take the S-1 to Potsdam and get out at Wannsee.
Lake Tegel is the second largest lake in Berlin and often named as the most beautiful one. There are seven islands and it is a great lake for sailing, boating or taking a steamboat ride. There are smaller beaches along the west side of the lake, some restaurants and trails through the surrounding forests. The Greenwich Promenade is lined with places to eat and benches to take in the scenery.
How to get there: Take the U-6 to Alt-Tegel and get out at either Alt-Tegel or Borsigwerke.
Schlachtensee is apparently the cleanest of Berlin’s lakes, and you’ll see lots of fishermen out on little boats or in the woods that line the shores of this beautiful lake. You can actually walk around the lake on a 7km (4.3miles) boardwalk, making it a perfect destination for a long walk until you find the perfect spot to soak up the sun. The Fischerhütte Am Schlachtensee is a historical guest house with beer garden where you can relax after a long stroll, or rent a boat to spend time on the lake.
How to get there: Take the S-1 to Potsdam and get out at Schlachtensee.
Müggelsee is the largest lake near Berlin, and is basically East Berlin’s counterpart to the Wannsee. You can hike here, rent boats or canoes, sunbathe or enjoy the nudist area. If you make your way to Müggelsee, you might want to combine it with the quaint former fishing village of Rahnsdorf. Here, you’ll still find cobble-stone streets, hundred-year old houses and a muscle-powered ferry you can take a cross the lake.
How to get there: Take the S-3 to Erkner and get off at Friedrichshagen or Rahnsdorf.
Have something to add?
This is our ever-growing list of our personal Berlin favorites, and we would love to add your own comments or advice to this list! Please help this guide be as comprehensive as possible – and leave your suggestions in the comments below and we’ll add the best ones to the section where it belongs.