‘You’ll love Berlin!’
These words chased me around for over 10 years, before finally tackling me to the ground. 2017 was the year. I booked that ticket and I took that ride… and, aside from a few hours spent waiting in a club line in minus 12 degrees, I’m so glad I listened!
Often described as the most culturally vibrant city in Europe… it’s hard to communicate exactly why it so nonchalantly accepts this title. Creative, liberal, poor, sexy, a little moody and cool as a cucumber… Berlin is a lot of things, but despite the infamous dull winter skies, it could never be described as boring.
‘So why did you leave Sydney for Berlin?’
I’m asked this question on the daily with a look best described as “confusion meets pure outrage”. Although – no big shocker I guess – as the mercury started to ever so gradually rise in April, the disapproval over my apparently poor made life-choices seemed to drop in unison! Because, yes me and 3.47 million other Berliners can confirm:
‘…This place is definitely better in summer!’
The truth is, I moved here seeking new experiences… and I don’t believe there’s anything you can’t experience in Berlin. A summer in Berlin, however, means dealing with extreme levels of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). One quick glance at ‘suggested events’ on Facebook can be anxiety-inducing in itself. A never-ending offering of eclectic events, workshops, classes, festivals, open-airs calling your name at an actually affordable price. If you’re reading this and you’re fresh out of ideas for how to spend your time here – I don’t believe you.
But aside from the revolving door of exciting options presented with each new day, here’s a few more permanent activities you can enjoy anytime you like (kind of!)…
1. Marvel at Berlin’s ability to preserve public space with a little leisure time at Tempelhoferfeld
If an airport within the city ring closed down in Sydney, it would be developed into 15,000 residential apartments within a year. But this is Berlin, so the marvellous old Tempelhof Airport (built in the 20s) was instead transformed into sweet public space for everyone! 6 kilometres of expansive runways open for cycling, skating and even kite sports, PLUS 2.5 hectares of grass for BBQ picnics, urban gardening and endless turf for dogs to roam their little hearts out!
2. Sing to an encouraging audience of hundreds at Bearpit Karaoke, Mauerpark
Since 2009, a friendly fella named Joe has been rolling his speakers into the bearpit at Mauerpark, offering people from all walks of life (and musical talent) a chance to sing in a supportive environment! The atmosphere is spectacular, completely positive (nobody would dare kill the vibes with a boo) and anyone can get picked – just raise your hand and surrender your inhibitions.
3. Listen to underwater techno at Liquidrom’s salt-float pool
Welcome to the future, where you can salt-float in dimly lit spaceship ambiance while chilling to underwater techno beats! According to the website “various DJ performances take place regularly” (lol). Oh, and you can keep your kit on in the pool, unlike the four very nude saunas also on site.
4. Smash out a game of ping pong at one of the many outdoor tables across the city
How cool is this – there are permanent, outdoor and completely free tischtennis tables EVERYWHERE in Berlin. Just keep 2 x bats and ball in your backpack and you can play whenever you like. You don’t even need a friend for this, it’s perfectly ok to ask a stranger for a game in Berlin – I do it all the time on my cycle home through Gleisdreieck Park!
5. Have a private boogie with your mates in a ‘Teledisko’
Forget the Photoautomat machines, why not film your own personal rave in a Teledisko! Grab a friend or two, but maybe not three as you might not fit in this teeny tiny phonebooth-turned-clubs, complete with mirror ball, strobes and a sweet selection of tunes to have a boogie to. These coin-operated rave machines will even film the experience for you!
6. Have a round of glow in the dark mini golf at Görlitzer Park
Full disclosure, I have not actually been here yet. But it’s on my list! I have been told this colourful underground course will take you from Berlin to outer space, with recognisable backlit scenes such as Brandenburger Tor, followed by a trip to the moon, natürlich!
7. Cruise down the Kreuzberg canal in an inflatable device
You’ll need an inflatable boat. Or a friend with an inflatable boat. Or something that floats. In my case, it was Mindspace Community Manager Etienne’s dear vessel that took us on our maiden summer voyage through murky Kreuzberg waters. We launched the Seahawk IIII just by U-Prinzenstrasse, and paddled all the way down toward Görtlitzer Park, chilling to Bluetooth speaker beats, drinking beers and making all kinds of new friends on water and nearby land!
8. Bathe in ‘Grand Budapest Hotel’ style, in the neo-classical Stadtbad Neukölln
Dating all the way back to 1914, the opulent interior décor of Berlin’s most beautiful public swimming pool creates a leisurely experience not unlike the Eastern European thermal bathhouse style created for Wes Anderson’s film, ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ (gigantic Wes Fan just FYI). Immerse yourself in a magical period ambiance of labyrinthine corridors and travertine pillars when you step into this stunning display of architecture at Stadtbad Neukölln!
9. Pack a picnic for a little hike up to Teufelsberg (Devil’s Mountain)
Why not head west for a trip down cold war memory lane to Teufelsberg, an eerie abandoned listening station with killer graffiti perched upon Berlin’s highest point – a man-made hill! The S-Bahn will take you most of the way, followed by a short cycle or a breezy 2km hike through Grunewald. If you’d like to enjoy a sunset picnic with an epic backdrop of Grunewald and the city, be sure to collect your Späti goodies before venturing into no-man’s land.
10. Try your hand at Kegelbahnen, the ‘old timer’ 9-pin bowling at Kugelbahn Wedding
Popular in the 1920’s, this ‘9-pin bowling’ game is pretty similar to American 10-pin bowling, but the balls are smaller and lack finger holes. Tucked underground beneath old bars and restaurants, you’d never know these retro dreamboat alleys existed, unless someone told you! So, Kugelbahn Wedding – there you go.
11. Make the most of those rare balmy summer evenings at a ‘Freiluftkino’ (Open Air Cinema)
Lay your blanket down and snuggle up under the blue night skies of our oh-so-precious summer, for an open-air screening at one of the many Freiluft Kinos. Don’t attempt to go between October and April, unless you like hypothermia and things that don’t exist! Year-round old world kino glamour can be experienced at one of the many Yorcke Kino’s instead!
12. Go really, really West – all the way to U7 Paulsternstraße for ‘Cowboy Club Old Texas’
‘Cowboy Club Old Texas’ is owned by a non-profit of Germans obsessed with the Wild West! Located between a Burger King and a Baumarkt in the industrial wasteland of Siemensstadt, it is the most improbable of all the improbable communities in Berlin. Everything is fake, but the people are genuinely happy, the dancing surprisingly fun and the whisky real cheap! Put your boots on and let the U7 take you on a journey through Berlin’s most colourful and creative U-bahns stations along the way.
13. Dance through the sunset at ELSE
Is it a club? Is it a beer garden? Like a lot of Berlin’s best summer haunts channeling festival feels – it’s both and more! Else is an adult playground ‘open air’ comprised of cosy chill areas, dancefloors and even some sand to sink your bare feet into. Dance through the golden hour with views across the sparkling Spree and light-reflecting Molecule Man statue.