Slow lazy Berlin
August 25, 2010 6:15 PM   Subscribe

Help me enjoy lazy Berlin!

I'm travelling to Berlin for the first time in a few days and I'm super excited. I've had an extremely hard summer, and am looking to relax while I'm there. I'm sure my life plans will bring me back to Germany many, many times so I'm not desperate to see all the "highlights" crammed into manic days.

My plans so far include spending a day at the Neue Nationalgalerie, seeing the Botanical Garden at the Freie Universitaet (I'm a huge plant nerd), and heading to the Berliner Ensemble one night.

I'm interested in neighborhoods to wander around, and non-busy cafes where I can sit with a good latte and book, or a beer garden where I can have a couple of beers while enjoying the atmosphere. I like art, used bookstores, and cute neighborhoods with good people-watching. I'm NOT interested in moving through tourist masses on Ku'Damm or finding the hottest nightclub in Kreuzberg (not that I'd hate any of that - just not this visit!)

I'm staying in a quieter place - out in WeiBensee, but I'm not worried about using public transportation. I speak German, not fluently, but enough to enjoy some quieter non-tourist areas.

Thanks for your recommendations, lovely MeFites!
posted by missmary6 to Travel & Transportation around Berlin, Germany (19 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
It might be too crowded for your tastes, but it's definitely slow, and I loved the people watching at the Mauerpark flea. It's cheap, too!
posted by monkeymonkey at 6:36 PM on August 25, 2010

Oh, and Treptower Park has both quiet beer gardens and a massive, surreal Soviet War Memorial.
posted by monkeymonkey at 6:39 PM on August 25, 2010

I would recommend going to the Sammlung Hoffmann. You have to make an appointment for a tour (either in german or english). It was hands down my favorite thing I did there.

I spent most of my time wandering from cafe to cafe though. I sort of loosely followed the guide here, to pick a particular shop, street, or cafe and then just sort of wander around in the general area. I particuarly enjoyed Prenzlauerberg and Kreuzberg.

Oh! And the Museum der Dinge. Definitely.
posted by grapesaresour at 6:59 PM on August 25, 2010

The Badeschiff is my favorite place in Berlin. It might be too crowded for you, but it's not touristy. Last time I was in Berlin, I spent many hours there reading and enjoying beer/coffee/juice.
posted by ohisee at 7:20 PM on August 25, 2010

I love Hassenheide park, which is more or less at the border between Kreuzberg and Neukolln districts in the Southeast of Berlin. They have a free petting zoo in the North end of the park, a large playground in the center, and if you happen to be there on a Sunday and hear loud music coming from the South end of the park you're in for a treat. I remember it was pretty common for people to drive their vans down into the park, set up turntables and speakers and throw impromptu dance parties. I know you said you want quieter options, but that's a true Berlin scene, with young partiers dancing around families having picnics.
posted by mannequito at 7:26 PM on August 25, 2010

Oh but for an absolutely unique experience, make the trek out to Teufelsberg, which is surprisingly peaceful, though mildly creepy.
posted by mannequito at 7:31 PM on August 25, 2010

People always asked me if I wanted to buy drugs in Hasenheide, so I would be a little cautious in that area.

As far as museums go, I really like the Pergamon Museum and the Neues Nationalgallerie. I would spend some time wandering around the Schlesisches Tör/Warschauer Str. area. There are various cafes along the river that are truly gorgeous places to sit and have a beer, though I'm blanking on the names right now. I also loved the area around Südstern. Very peaceful, pretty and lots of small restaurants (I remember a small falafel stand called "Mo's" that sold the best falafel/halloumi pita I'd ever had).

Go to parks. I lived right by Victoriapark (get off at Mehringdamm or Platz der Luftbrücke), which was great, but I also second the Mauerpark--its Fleamarket is great, and it has swings!

Also, try to ride the top deck of the doubledecker buses--they're great for really seeing the city.
posted by duvatney at 7:51 PM on August 25, 2010

It is very hard to speak German there. Everyone wants to practice their English on you.

If its still open, I like Jansen Bar in Schoneberg. I love Schoneberg. Also the smaller Soviet Soldier's memorial. It is beautiful, and no one goes there.

Berlin is my favorite place.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:05 PM on August 25, 2010

I spent a couple of brilliant days in Berlin recently walking and cycling semi aimlessly. I'll see if I can remember the bits that you would probably like.

- Berlinische Gallerie (Very quiet. Cool sound installation that took me forever to work out)
- Near the corner of Oranienstrasse and Marienstrasse there were all sorts of cool stores that I could and did spend a fortune at. I found Kreuzberg and surrounds good for interesting shops and galleries, and relatively quiet on a weekday morning. I also spent some time in Prenzlauerberg, and either I was looking in the wrong spot, or it's not as interesting.
- I hired a bike on Skalitzerstrasse because the bike lanes in Berlin are totally user friendly and I was sick of watching people speed past me. It sounds unintuitive, but I actually found it really relaxing, and it's a great pace at which to see a city, particularly one like Berlin which is so scattered. Fast enough that you can speed by the boring bits, but slow enough that you can stop and take a photo without notice.
- There was a bar beside a canal here. A great place to sit and people watch.... even if the champagne is served in plastic glasses with ice. Looks like it might be pretty busy at night, but during the day it was me, the bartender and about ten people and 3 dogs.
- Treptower Park for the War Memorial. Not technically meant to ride bicycles in the memorial itself, but I didn't see the sign. Brilliant soviet era sculpture.
- Hamburger Bahnhof is another modern art gallery. It was free the afternoon I was there.
- Not cruisey, but I love, love, love the Deutsche Historisches Museum, and if you like history even a little, do not miss it. It's the history of Germany presented chronologically with maps, artifacts and art. There is an audio guide that is overwhelmingly comprehensive, and I have spent many hours there working my way through to the present.
- Gigantor book shop here called Dussmann. Not relaxing, but sometimes, a person just needs a book.
- Another place you can lose yourself is the parks around Potsdam. The palaces get crazy busy, but the park is so huge that you can easily spend the day away from the crowds.
posted by kjs4 at 9:42 PM on August 25, 2010

People always asked me if I wanted to buy drugs in Hasenheide, so I would be a little cautious in that area.

Nothing to be cautious about. Some people do have a regular marijuana trade in that park, but it seems to be tolerated by the police and is very low-key and peaceful.
Hasenheide and Treptower Parks are both quite nice parks. I prefer Hasenheide, but as someone else said, Treptower has a ginormous Soviet monument.

If you can get the front seat on top of the M41 double-decker bus you'll get a nice tour through the whole city. It ends at Hermannplatz in Neukölln. Good neighborhoods for walking and seeing people are "Kreuzkölln" (the top part of Neukölln) and Kreuzberg.

If you want a nice walk through these neighborhoods, you could try to walk a direct line between the Hermanplatz station and the Schlesisches Tor station. Or from around Hermannplatz take Reuterstr. over the canal up to Görlitzer Bahnhof, and then walk down Oranienstr. Or just walk around on Oranien/Wiener Str.

There is a place on Kottbusser Damm near the Schönlein station called I think "Gel Gör" that sells excellent Köfte. Very nice eats. City Chicken on the corner of Weichsel and Sonnenallee is excellent for rotisserie chicken.

There's also a bike route from Kreuzberg through Treptower Park all the way out to Mügelsee. I could look it up if you like. Near Müggelsee there's some gigantic tower on a huge hill where you can see the whole city. I could look up the specifics if you're interested.

The German Historical Museum is nice if you like all types of historical shit, and when you're in that area you can wander around and see a bunch of old domes and statues and shit. Or get in the S-Bahn that cuts across the city and you'll also get a good view of things.
posted by creasy boy at 11:07 PM on August 25, 2010

The Museum der Dinge (Museum of Things) is pretty cool I reckon. cabinets and cabinets of strange everyday items from the more recent ages

If you can get your hands on a bicycle I'd recommend it. as Berlin is quite a great city to cycle around.

Oh Also you might want to go out to the Berlin Templehoff Airport which is now a massive park. You can just wander around on the Runway and have a picnic or watch people flying kits on the runway
posted by mary8nne at 12:04 AM on August 26, 2010

For cafés check out Mein Haus Am See (Facebook). Pretty much the most relaxing cafe I have ever been to in my life.
posted by caek at 1:46 AM on August 26, 2010

Go to Bonanza Coffee Heroes in Prenzlauer Berg. Buy a "flat white" and the enjoy some of the best coffee you will ever have in your entire life. You can either hang out in the cafe, or take a wander through the neighborhood.

Berlin is one of my favorite places on earth. Enjoy.
posted by geryon at 4:43 AM on August 26, 2010

I was there just a few months ago and loved the Cafe im Literaturhaus- pretty much fulfills your brief for a non-busy cafe where you can just sit and relax. I vote for sitting outside and watching the birds peck at crumbs around your feet and in the branches above your head.. absolute bliss.

Enjoy your time there!
posted by psychostorm at 6:42 AM on August 26, 2010

Danziger Straße between Prenzlauer Allee and Schönhauser Allee in Prenzlauer Berg is not particulary pretty, but it's a cheapo foodie's paradise:

- great tacos alambre at Maria Bonita
- excellent Bi Bim Bap at cozy Nuna's (Senefelder Str. 34, corner of Danziger)
- the slices of pizza at Solo are good, particularly the ones with rucola & feta
- and the best, most awesome, wickedest, nicest, leckerste café ever (outclassing Mein Haus am See and even Bonanza) is Slörm. There's a parrot in the back, the furniture is classical Berlin café style (aka "I ransacked grandma's basement in Stuttgart for couches and chairs"), the owner is super nice, and the coffee is really good. I mean really good.

Helmholtzplatz and Kollwitzplatz, the two epicenters of Prenzlberg gentrification, are a short walk away from Danziger Straße, to the West and to the East respectively. On the way to Kollwitzplatz, Rykestraße makes it apparent why the area is so popular: it's a tree-lined boulevard with incredibly broad sidewalks, the six-story-sanierte Altbauten are stunning, there are restaurants, cafés and small shops all over, and people do a little guerilla gardening right around the trees. The downsides to this newfound prettiness are very high rents (for Berlin) and a driving out of longstanding inhabitants. Wolfgang Thierse, a vice president of the German Parliament, has his district and his (apparently rented) flat there and was just portrayed as fighting an exemplary anti-renovation battle.
posted by insouciant at 10:27 AM on August 26, 2010

Landwehrkanal has been mentioned, but I really recommend to just take a walk along the waterside. There are lots of nice cafés and bars, and many people just hanging out on the benches. There is also the Admiralbrücke, a great spot in the afternoon and evening, when the sun goes down. Can be rather crowded, but laid back atmosphere and often live music.

If you around the Treptower Park and like to explore, further down there is an abandoned fun fair, the Spreepark. (Watch out for the guards, though)

If you are into street art, just wander around Friedrichshain, Kreuzberg, or Neukölln. Also, do go into the courtyards of typical Berliner apartment buildings (i.e. instead of visiting the restored touristy, but still nice Hackesche Höfe in Mitte). Many nice views, and just interesting architecture from the turn of the century.
posted by Henrik at 12:06 PM on August 26, 2010

Schwarzes Cafe - breakfast 24 hours a day in an old high-ceiling shabby-chic cafe, go upstairs.
posted by meijusa at 1:32 PM on August 26, 2010

Goltz strasse, in Schoeneberg, has some cute shops and great ice-cream. A little further south it turns into Akazienstrasse and there's Habibi falaffel, also better than average.
Also seconding the gardens at Sans-Souci in Potsdam. Big and beautiful.
posted by From Bklyn at 8:15 PM on August 26, 2010

Response by poster: Thank you for the wonderful recommendations!! I'm printing this out and tucking it in my suitcase for a little MeFite wisdom while I'm overseas. I'm sending you all a mental postcard!
posted by missmary6 at 11:19 PM on August 26, 2010

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