One of our favorite areas in Berlin is the artsy cool Prenzlauer Berg, so our Prenzlauer Berg travel guide can be your personal map to just a few of the not-to-miss things in the neighborhoods there. There are so many wonderful places it is hard to pick a few to highlight! Farmers markets, street festivals, history, architecture, tree-lined streets and so much more are what you can find here.
To relate to and embrace the vibe in Prenzlauer Berg you have to understand a bit of history. Prenzlauer Berg was a section of Berlin entirely in East Berlin before the Berlin Wall came down in 1989. It is immediately adjacent to the hoppin’ “Mitte” (middle) – the center of Berlin that was also in the East. Being the center, Mitte developed at a quicker pace when the wall fell, with its monuments, museums and cathedrals gaining new faces. Right next door, however, Prenzlauer Berg remained more rundown with older historic buildings, which became a Bohemian mecca. Both areas edge the former West and the Mauerpark – or Berlin Wall Park — today, not only a living monument to the horror the wall embodied and the toll on citizens, but also a real community gathering point.
Only recently, has Prenzlauer Berg (considered a subsection of the Pankow borough) gained more attention. It is also being slowly transformed into a trendy residential neighborhood – much to the chagrin of some artsy and Bohemian types. Remaining is, however, wonderful historic architecture as well as factories finding second lives as shopping, sightseeing and club arcades. Since it was one of the few areas in Berlin that was not leveled by Allied bombing, many of the old buildings and apartments have been renovated, with exteriors that match the artistic and international flair of Prenzlauer Berg’s significant population of university students and young families.
Countless pubs, restaurants, cafes with sidewalk seating, art galleries and neighborhood boutique shops create an eclectic atmosphere that is unique from the rest of Berlin – day or night, particularly around the areas of Helmholtzplatz and Kollwitzplatz. Expect to hear plenty of English and languages other than German when sitting in cafes or wandering the streets. Prenzlauer Berg, along with several other neighborhoods in Berlin, remains a focal point of the international art scene due in part to the still more affordable apartment and studio space compared to other cosmopolitan destinations such as New York, Paris or London.
Read on for a quick Prenzlauer Berg travel guide highlighting things to see and do not far from Kollwitzplatz:
Eating, drinking, dawdling
Coffee, wine, beer or cake anyone? — Any direction you look, you will find enticing places to enjoy a chilled glass of Müller Thurgau wine or a hot coffee und home-baked “Kuchen” (cake) while taking in the street scene. One of our favorite destinations is Café Anna Blume with an incredible outside patio, perfect as a place to kick-back and enjoy any time of day (Kollwitzstrasse 83, +49 30 44048641, cafe-anna-blume.de/en.html.)
Another wonderful place to sit and while away time is at a sister location to Café Anna Blume, the “SowohlAlsAuch” restaurant and coffee house, diagonally across the street. Our team (that would be Therese) remains on a quest for the best cheesecake in Berlin, and while we cannot state for the record this location has the best cheesecake anywhere, it certainly ranks in the top tier. Testing continues of course. (Kollwitzstraße 88, +49 (0)30 4429311, tortenundkuchen.de.)
Museums – No Prenzlauer Berg travel guide would be complete without a few museum recommendations. And an absolute must-visit is the Museum in the Kulturbrauerie – “Alltag in Der DDR.” (Knaackstrasse 97; +49 30 46 77 77 9-0, www.hdg.de, Free admission). Open since 2014, this relatively new, very lively, interactive, permanent exhibit is stunningly well created, showing visitors what everyday life was really like in the DDR (former East Germany, a.k.a. GDR). Also far less known, but fascinating, is the Museum at Pankow, showing through pictures, video, audio and text life specifically in Prenzlauer Berg before, during and after the fall of the Berlin Wall. The exhibition is entirely in German, but if you hunt around (or ask, if you can find someone) there is a binder full of English translations for the exhibits in the “Green” room, with before and after photos and other area memorabilia. (Prenzlauer Allee 227/228 – though there is an entrance also on Kolmarer Strasse, +49 30 902953916, berlin.de/museum-pankow, Free admission.)
Tracing history’s steps
Jewish Cemetery, Schönhauser Allee – Recognized as Berlin’s second Jewish cemetery and opened in 1827, the setting of the “Jüdischer Friedhof” is as beautiful as it is somber. This is where you will find the grave sites of many famous Jewish people, including the artist Max Liebermann. Though it is not clear when you enter, men are requested to keep their heads covered (any hat will do), but if you are not wearing a hat, there is a basket of traditional kippots to use. Take a look at our video below. (Schönhauser Allee 23-25, +49 30 4419824, www.jg-berlin.org/en/judaism/cemeteries/schoenhauser-allee.html.)
The Judengang – Literally translated, the name means the “Jewish Walkway” and runs from Knaackstrasse to Senefelderplatz in the Kollwitz area, providing access to the rear entrance to the Jewish cemetery on Schönhauser Allee. One explanation regarding its creation says that King Friedrich Wilhelm III ordered this back entrance during the days when he rode to Schönhausen Castle so he did not have to cross paths with funeral processions. There is a fair amount of doubt regarding the truth to this story, however. (Gate is located between Knaackstrasse 40 and 42. Although the path is not open at this time, it is worth the stop to gaze through the Star of David portal. http://www.jg-berlin.org/en/judaism/cemeteries/schoenhauser-allee.html.)
Oderberger Strasse Fire Station — It was a fire that destroyed the Opera House in Unter den Linden in 1843 that led to the founding of the Berlin fire brigade. This, the oldest fire station still on duty today in Germany, was opened on Nov. 26, 1883. Don’t stand in the driveway as emergency vehicles still come and go … with urgency. Worth a walk by, if only to gander into one of the cool pubs or pizzerias along the street (Oderberger Strasse 24/25).
Going out, hanging out
Kulturbrauerei — Prenzlauer Berg was once the main headquarters for the Schultheiss Brewery. More breweries arrived and soon the area and its “biergarten” (beer gardens) became a destination for visitors. That in turn drove housing development. In the late 1890s the brewery expanded – establishing the yellow brick exterior complex – and by WWI was recognized as the largest brewery in the world. Today, with a much smaller biergarten, the Kulturbrauerei (Culture Brewery) is more widely recognized as a destination for events, like “Food Truck Sundays,” restaurants and studios. Or just hanging out. (Schönhauser Allee 36, +49 30 44352614, www.kulturbrauerei.de.)
Sleeping, swimming and history too
Oderberger Strasse public swimming pool (and now hotel) — Built in 1902 as a public bathhouse for Berlin and constructed in German Renaissance style, this magnificent building and pool fell into disrepair and went out of service in the mid 1990’s. The building was purchased by the neighboring GLS Language School and is now part of that campus, renamed the Hotel Oderberger and open only since January 2016. The historic pool was being refurbished in Summer 2016 for an opening to the public by October. (Oderberger Strasse 57/59, +49 30 780089-760, www.hotel-oderberger.berlin.)