One of the best things about Berlin is the incredible choice of cafés and restaurants that spill out on to the street once it’s warm enough to eat outside. In summer it seems as if Berlin was designed solely with this purpose in mind. The pavements are wide enough to accommodate plenty of tables and even in the city centre you are never far from trees or water. There is nothing better than a day when you can float from one al fresco (German: ‘im Freien’) meal to the next – and it won’t break the bank either. Here’s how to do it.
Start the day with breakfast in leafy Prenzlauer Berg. There are two fantastic cafés on diagonally opposite corners of Kollwitzstrasse both adored for their delicious cakes but also offering a great brunch menu. Maybe this explains the name of one of them: Sowohl als Auch which translates as ‘Both …. And’. Here the signature cold platters echo the flavours of Brandenburg, Mykonos, Oslo and London and the ‘Spezial’ for two includes the full works. This café has a Viennese coffee-house interior, complete with Klimt murals and outside the tables are bathed in morning sunshine.
If you forget to take your sunglasses to breakfast, Anna Blume (named after a romantic poem) is equally good and oozes charm. It is adored by locals and has a flower shop too. There are wonderful breakfast combinations such as ‘Anemone’ and ‘Oleander’ and here the ‘Spezial’ for four is served on a tiered stand. In both these ‘Prenzlberg’ establishments the breakfast platters are so generous and the coffee so perfect that a couple of hours can easily slip by eating, drinking and taking in the gentrified street scene. In fact, this rather up-market and bourgeois part of Berlin was originally built for working class families who flooded into the German capital in the late 19th century. During the 1980s it was a centre for GDR dissidents before the fall of the Berlin Wall.
The next stop is mid-afternoon in Kreuzberg where no one seems to live indoors at all. The whole world is outside and it’s hard to believe that this is Germany, let alone its capital city. Here the stereotypical image of a neat and ordered nation has been replaced by a multi-cultural kaleidoscope of ever-changing colours. Take the U-Bahn to Kottbusser Tor and you will think you have arrived in a Middle Eastern urban jungle. Yet only a stone’s throw away is the enchantment of the Landwehr canal. On Fridays a huge Turkish market spreads along the Maybachufer (the word ‘Ufer’ refers to a bank of a river or canal) and when the stalls pack up in the early afternoon the shoppers spread into the nearby cafés on both sides of the canal bank.
If you wander a little further along the Planufer to the Admiralbrücke there is even more pavement space, including the bridge itself, where Berliners love to hang out on the cobbled street and soak up the sunshine. Traffic is limited to bicycles and the watery willow green surroundings are a retreat from city noise. The Admiralbrücke gets very crowded on summer evenings but the unassuming Café Goldmarie (aptly named after a fairy-tale character) is perfect for an afternoon café stop. The tea, coffee and cakes don’t get much better than this and you can sit in the sunshine for as long as you like. There are even deckchairs for stretching out in and ice-cream lovers can cross the road to Isabel’s to get their fix of the real Italian stuff. Walking back to Kottbusser Tor along the Fraenkelufer we passed a small canal-side café complete with open-air piano player. The Berlin summer was already in full swing.
Venture out to Charlottenburg for dinner to find another pavement paradise. Stuttgarter Platz (known as ‘Stutti’ to the locals) is only a short stroll from either Charlottenburg S-Bahn station or Wilmersdorf U-Bahn station and there are a number of good restaurants with huge chestnut-trees providing shade in the heat of the day. The apartment buildings in the surrounding streets have a more patrician feel than Prenzlauer Berg or Kreuzberg but there is the same laid-back feel to the street scene. It’s definitely a place to come if you want to escape the evening party crowd but still catch the Berlin summer evening mood.
Trattoria di Gianni is a relatively new addition to the Stutti scene. The service is friendly, the food is well-presented and there is a good choice of the usual Italian suspects including Spaghetti with truffles and decent wines too. It’s a little quieter here than on the square itself where there are several other good restaurants, including the popular and lovable Pan degli Angeli. If you want to try something a little more ‘separat’ (a great German word that combines a sense of ‘refined’ and ‘away from the rest’) there is De Maufel further up Leonhardtstrasse specialising in food and wine from Luxemburg. These are all places with charming interiors and generous pavement space where you can soak up long warm evenings and the easy-living atmosphere synonymous with Berlin-Charlottenburg.