"Hey Keith, my friend so-and-so is visiting Berlin - can you show them a good time?" I get this message a lot, and I'm always happy to oblige. I moved here for the art scene and for some soul-searching, but I've stayed for the relaxed, fun atmosphere. Berlin is the best place in the world to just chill out, so much so that it's all some of us do!
There’s something uniquely free about Berlin. In how many cities can you pick up a beer from any corner shop for less than 1€, drink it on a busy street, then duck into a subway station and onto the train, all without passing through a turnstile or getting any grief whatsoever? Berlin is unencumbered. Berlin is live-and-let-live. Berlin is responsible and mature enough to party without losing its cool. It’s a peaceful paradise of ambling walks and sun-worshipping (except in the long, dreary winter of course!)
My favorite part of the city is the probably the canal. The Landwerkanal runs from the bars and clubs in Alt-Treptow, where it meets the Spree River, through the Ufer (banks and shores) of Neukölln and Kreuzberg. Club der Visionaire sits at that intersection – it’s a bar more than a club, or put in another way: the most chill club in the city. The dance floor isn’t much, but the scene is perfect for good vibes and people-watching. The cool crowd continues along the canal, green space and sunlight mixing with the flow of the water. Dates and friend groups sit along, drinking beers and wine, homemade boats floating by them. It’s pretty damn idyllic.
Admiralbrücke might epitomize the canal scene the best. This picturesque bridge is small, perfect for sunsets and local buskers. This might be the most Parisian of street scenes in Berlin. Near the Italian restaurants, families frolic next to their more bohemian brethren, everyone relaxing to the pace of a stand-up bass, or saxophone. This is just one spot along the canal as major artery, connecting lots of wonderful spaces in the city.
South of there, between Neukölln and Tempelhof, is a former airport, now converted into the largest public space in the city. Tempelhofer Feld brings lovers of kites, dogs and bike rides all together in one massive flat park. There are a few official places to drink and eat, as well as a ton of picnicking space. The sky doesn’t get any bigger than this. Nearby, in Kreuzberg, Victoria Park contains an awesome view of the whole city from its peak, and running down it is a nice little waterfall. Toward Neukölln from there is Hasenheide Park, one of the city’s largest, again full of people just chilling out in its various sections and lawns. (It’s probably the best place to score good grass as well.)
The most famous park is probably Tiergarten, which lies in the west and borders Brandenburger Tor. It’s a lovely well-designed former royal garden, and has some nice spots to discover. The scene here is less lackadaisical, more formal. The victory column at the center sheds a pleasant touristy vibe throughout the surrounds. Café am Neuen See is a super cute spot inside the park for pizza and fancy drinks.
Mitte has some of my other favorite spots: the galleries and open spaces on Auguststrasse and Linestrasse, window-shopping on Kastanienalle, the more posh but relaxed crowds up and down Torstrasse. This part of Berlin maintains a chill open-container feel, but perhaps more sophisticated, dressed up. The Volkspark on Weinberg is my favorite. It’s modestly sized but perfectly situated, just north of Rosenthaler Platz and next to all the cool restaurants on Weinbergweg, drawing an attractive, quiet crowd to its sunlit slopes. It’s a wonderful feeling: to freely drink and snack with friends, surrounded by interesting international individuals.
Things are livelier eastward. Friedrichshain is home to more hostels than any other district, and has the most clubs. But aside from the epic weekend-long parties, places like Boxhaganerplatz offer the chilled out Berlin lifestyle: Späti beers, music from drums or someone’s portable speaker, long conversations and mild flirtations. Volkspark Friedrichshain is great for a barbecue or some volleyball. South of there, back in Treptow, another huge, sprawling park offers perfect places for whiling away slow Sundays.
Berlin is an embarrassment of riches when it comes to relaxing. The attitude exudes from the parks and into every daily situation. Coffee breaks are longer, Feierabendbiers (after-work beers) are more regular, and the streets remain low-key buzzing 24/7. It’s never a bad time to amiably amble around Berlin. We’re looking forward to your next visit ;)