Summers in Berlin are elusive. They could be over by the time you reach for your sunscreen. On the other hand, if you’re lucky enough to be in Berlin while it’s warm – which, let’s be honest, could be at any or no time of the year – you can become part of the immersive and unique atmosphere everybody kept ranting about when they returned from their Erasmus.
Here are a few ideas on what to do when it’s summer in Berlin.
Plunge into a lake, pool or puddle
Columbiabad in Neukölln is my go-to choice: a public pool, large and with lush green lawns. The pools are clean and you can either jump from a 10 meter rank or slide down the waterslide. It’s obviously more chill in the daytime, when kids are at school, and even better yet during the muslim fasting month of Ramadan, when half Berlin is too weak to crowd the pools.
Other people also like to recommend going to a nearby lake, but after a few years in Berlin, I realized that a) it’s much harder to get to a lake, especially if you don’t have a car, b) it’s really, really hard to get to a lake that isn’t perpetually overcrowded, and c) I don’t really like standing waters, ergo I don’t like lakes. Because of the proximity to the city, Weißensee can be an option; Schlachtensee, too, and although further out, Liepnitzsee. Again, every lake is usually overcrowded, so choose wisely.
There are also a few private options, such as Badeschiff (go early – like 9 AM – to avoid the queues, and forget going after 11 AM as they stop letting people in) or the meager SoHo house rooftop puddle (which you will need club membership for). I’m not sure if Haubentaucher at RAW still exists, but if it does, KILL IT, KILL IT NOW!!!
Dance at an open air
Open Airs have become just as elusive as summer itself, coming and going with the amount of people signing up for them on Facebook (as a general rule, any open air beyond 100 people is a Holi festival, so don’t even bother – they are either super lame and pricey, or police will bust them asap). Spontaneous and unregistered open airs are almost a thing of Berlins past now, but that doesn’t mean all hope is lost.
For low-key raves, just a few drinks or a proper after hour, Ipse, Club der Visionäre, Chalet, Hoppetosse and Holzmarkt are good outdoor club choices in the Kreuzberg / Treptow area, and so close to each other that you can go club-hopping for the nicest garden. These clubs are easier to get in to and usually cheaper, but also probably not the Techno experience you would hope for.
For a more intense club-experience, about://blank, sisyphus, Wilde Renate and Berghain are also open during the daytime on the weekends, although it’s harder to get in – as you likely have experienced first-hand. For outdoor exclusively, Else is open in the summer.
But there are still plenty of open air shindigs around the city – from gallery openings to BBQs with music. Keep up with the newsletter for a “must go” event listing once a month.
Keep your holidays and annual Berlin parties in your calendar!
Berliners, of course, know all of their favorite festivals and parades in the city by heart, and they enjoy them every year with their own little traditions. Some work as independent vendors of Mexikaner shots or sell their convenient, private toilets to random passersby, others follow and cheer for the parades.
The most important (FREE) summer festivals and parades to keep in mind if you want to party with all of Berlin are:
Buy tickets for a big music festival, but choose wisely!
Remember when I said ‘Open Airs are a thing of the past’? Well, that was only half true – open airs have just been transformed into more institutionalized happenings. Let me tell you very clearly that I have absolutely no desire to advertise any of the big Berlin festivals that have been over-cluttering the city with commercial pop-bullshit that has nothing to do with Berlin – but you can easily Google them, anyway.
That being said, there are small festivals in Berlin and bigger festivals around Berlin that don’t suffer from that lack of integrity. An absolute recommendation if you don’t need the excess of drugs and mud is the Sacred Grounds Festival, only 2 hours outside of Berlin. If you want the whole deal and a shitload of popstars, too, then MELT! is probably your place to be.
In Berlin, the Down By The River festival is always a well visited and very different approach for festivals (busker music, if that’s your vibe). Same can be said for the Down By The Lake festival in Weißensee. Pop-Kultur, a festival funded by the Berlin senate, is usually more musically advanced but not necessarily the confetti-and-rave kinda vibe that you’d expect.
Climb a rooftop and enjoy the sun
If you don’t have a rooftop, there are a couple of public options, the latest being on top of the Neukölln Arkaden in a rooftop bar that’s called Klunkerkranich. If you’re looking for another kind of excitement: at Kurt Schumacher Platz there’s a mall with a parking deck. From there, you’ll be able to watch the planes land at Tegel from really close.
But there are also a few rooftop bars around the city, which may be not ideal for tanning but perfect for a drink. The Amano Hotel in Mitte, for example, or The Monkey Bar at 25Hours Hotel.
Have a BBQ in the park
Hasenheide, Görli, Tiergarten, Körnerpark, Tempelhof – choose whatever park is the closest to you and get BBQing! Germans without a garden to grill in aren’t Germans at all, so in dense urban areas, they take their private picnics out into the public parks. Don’t worry about not having a BBQ (or not wanting to buy one because you’re only in Berlin for a few days): most supermarkets sell one-way BBQs in the summer. Frankly, they aren’t the best way to cook a steak, but they’ll do.
If you’d rather picnic in a park without the prep, then the Thai Park is a perfect experience. Although it’s usually very crowded (especially on Sundays), you can get exquisite Thai delicacies made by private vendors who gather here every weekend.
Have drinks at your local Späti
Spätis in Berlin have become institutional. Without them, the city would standstill. Almost all night and all day long they provide you with post service, cold drinks, tobacco, snacks and sometimes even more. In the summer, they go the extra-mile and put up benches on the sidewalks so you can enjoy your drink the Parisienne way instead of hunching down in a dark and dusty bar.
My favorite Spätis are naturally in Kreuzberg, because I live there, but the city is full of little kiosks who will offer you refuge and, more importantly, booze on the cheap.
Go on a boat trip down the Spree
You can charter a boat easily with your friends in Berlin. The various canals of Berlin are destined to be explored. Some people also drift up and down the Landwehrkanal in a Schlauchboot. That wouldn’t be my thing – I need more comfort – but it’s the cheap way. You don’t need a license for either option.
Enjoy the hysterical street food scene
Street food has become a lethal rash that’s infected everyone in the city. From Bite Club to various food festivals in Berlin, there’s nothing more you could wish for. In the summer, plenty of trucks gather like an Elephant herd to sell you unique and extraordinary bites from all over the world. That being said: Sometimes it’s overpriced, sometimes it’s not even street food. Watch out for events around the Markthalle 9, the Vegan Summer Festival or simply google Food Festival Berlin (Year) or Street Food Berlin to find upcoming events.
Soak up Berlins incredible architecture
Summers are made for long, urban walks. In no other season can you experience human, spontaneous interaction like that. While most people are hanging out at the canal to watch a Boule tournament, or BBQing on Tempelhof, you can use the opportunity to check out some of the coolest architecture of the city – maybe practice your photography skills, too.
I can recommend a trip to Hansaviertel, right in the heart of the Tiergarten and a Bauhaus dream come true, or, if you’re dedicated to modernist buildings, go further to Gropiusstadt, the social housing project of Neukölln.
Get out of the smelly city
There’s a lot to discovery outside of Berlin. Wether it’s a day trip to the Polish market to the border of Germany, or a fully grown vacation to the Baltic Sea: for most destinations, you won’t even need a car.
Busses and trains are perfectly connected. I personally enjoyed a short stay in the Spreewald. Two days are enough to have you enjoy a sweet summer escape.
If you don’t want to go that far, consider a trip to Teufelsberg or the romantic Pfaueninsel, where you can picnic accompanied by peacocks.
Get around the city on a scooter or bike sharing app
Rent a bike or a scooter to get around Berlin during the summer! Provided you have an EU drivers license, you can hook up with my new favorite spring fling COUP to share an electric ride from A to B. If you’re based outside of the EU and only here for a couple of days, you can also opt to spontaneously hop on a Lidl-Bike. You don’t need a drivers license for these awesome bikes, but you do need a credit card and a smartphone for both options.
Both bike and scooter can be located by app and picked up anywhere, and you can leave them wherever you want (in the inner city) as soon as you’re done. You pay by the time, but the rates are fair and you are never locked down to only one option (or a rental bike that you have to take care of after the party). It’s super easy and incredibly convenient.
Full disclosure: I was not paid for either recommendation, but COUP gave me a few free rides for the summer for a couple of postings on Instagram.