The heatwave may be over for the moment, but the sun’s rays are still warm and when the big Berlin skies are clear eating outside is awlays the best option. And where better to choose than chaotic Kreuzberg, where people-watching is at its most colourful. This neighbourhood, once poor and working-class, now combines grit with cool. Its great attraction in the summer is the pretty tree-lined Landwehr canal and one popular outdoor venue is van Loon, a large Dutch barge moored at the Urbanhafen where you can breakfast, lunch and dine, either above or below deck. If you prefer to be on the move, take a culinary ‘Brückenfahrt’ (Bridge Trip) on one of its two sister boats, the Philippa or the Josephine. There are more bridges in Berlin than in Venice and one of these three hour trips takes you along the canal and on to the Spree past many of the best Berlin sights. Follow this link for more information on Berlin boat tours on the Insiders Berlin website.
van Loon ‘Restaurantschiff’, Carl-Herz-Ufer 5, open daily 9am until 1am
Close to van Loon on the banks of the canal is A.Horn, with plenty of pavement space on the corner of Baerwaldstraße and Carl-Herz Ufer. Here romantic benches are set out under the shade of chestnut trees hung with yellow and red Chinese lanterns and the perfume of lavender fills the air. The atmosphere is friendly and relaxed and the menu includes home-made dishes from gulasch to pasta. It’s great for breakfast too. The coffee is own brand and freshly-roasted and you can choose from bagels and focaccia or go for the full Berlin brunch. This place has been passed from father to son and the bike shop next door is run by his brother. By the way, the name is a play on words – ‘Ahorn’ means ‘maple’ in English.
A.Horn, Carl-Herz-Ufer 9, open until late – Mon-Fri from 8am and at weekends from 9am
Five minutes further along the Carl-Herz-Ufer is Brachvogel (Curlew), an established restaurant with a large garden shaded by tall trees. The minigolf and adventure playpark make this place a great favourite with families and the multi-cultural mix in Kreuzberg means that every nationality seems to be represented. The brunch is reasonably priced and the food is mainly traditionally German. A happy Biergarten atmosphere prevails – canal boats full of tourists chug merrily past and the trees are filled with birdsong.
Brachvogel, Carl-Herz-Ufer 34, open daily from 9am until late
Away from the water in the rather chic neighbourhood of Kreuzberg known as the ‘Bergmannkiez’ is Molinari & Ko, an Italian restaurant perfectly placed between Solmstrasse and Riemannstrasse. Pavement trees take care of the shade and on some summer days a pianist is there to provide musical accompaniment to the pasta and pizzas. Sitting among the red-checked tablecloths, the mood feels Mediterranean and the living is easy. There is still the feel of a Berlin ‘Eckkneipe’ (corner pub) about this place. Don’t get to Molinari’s too late during the week though – it stops serving food early evening except Fridays and Saturdays.
Molinari & Ko, Riemannstrasse 13, open daily from 8am, until 7pm Sundays to Thursdays and until 11pn on Fridays and Saturdays
Another magical setting can be found at E.T.A Hoffmann in Yorckstrasse. This rather expensive restaurant is known for its stylish interior but in summer there is a pretty courtyard at the back for al fresco dining. The greenery and the ships’ sails stretched between the elegant back walls of buildings in the prestigious Riehmer’s Hofgarten make for a lighter feel. The menu is imaginative with French/German specialities and there is a good choice of wine. You can lean back in the comfortable garden chairs and savour the summer moment.
E.T.A.Hoffmann, Yorckstrasse 83, open daily from 5pm
Finally, at the other end of Kreuzberg away from the traffic noise and the crowds is the Café am Engelbecken. This is an urban oasis well worth a visit. The word ‘Engelbecken’ means ‘angel’s pool’, a very apt description for a heavenly pool of water opposite the impressive, partly-restored Sankt-Michael-Kirche (St Michael’s Church). It was buried under rubble during Berlin’s division but has now been reconstructed and forms the central feature in a pretty sunken park full of pergolas, roses and flower-beds. Sipping a cocktail by the fountains and the rustling tall green reeds, it is hard to imagine that this area was once a wasteland by the Berlin Wall. The café also serves snacks and is open until midnight. On a clear evening you can catch a reflection of the moon.
Café am Engelbecken, Michaelkirchplatz, open daily from 10am until midnight
Loved this article of yours on Kreuzberg-al-fresco, Penny. Many details were unknown to me, Engelbecken is a favourite of mine as is Van Loon, but my intention is to visit all the other sights you mention above. It gives me so much pleasure to feel your continued passion for the city in your texts and photos. Thank you for every well-chosen word.