Skip the crowds and go where the locals go.
When Berlin beat out Rome nearly five years ago as Europe’s third most popular tourist destination behind London and Paris, tourists showed they’re willing to brave the German capital’s notorious winters. Still, Berlin shows off its splendor most in summer, when building facades get covered anew by dense ivy, outdoor dancing lessons pick up at the Strandbar Mitte by Monbijou Park, and the graffiti looks vibrant under blue skies. These attractions will take you across the city and off-the-beaten-path.
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Swim at the Oderberger Hotel
The exquisite exterior alone of the Oderberger Hotel makes it worthy of a visit, a few minutes’ walk from the Kulturbrauerei entertainment complex. Back in 1902, it opened as a public bathhouse, and made it through World War II mostly unscathed. Because of renovations in the 1980s, the pool closed for 30 years, and reopened in 2016, as did the rooms of the boutique hotel. For six euros, bring a bathing suit and enjoy two hours of swimming in the pool, usually open five days a week. The hotel does limit the number of visitors, though, so consider getting an early start.
INSIDER TIPThe hotel is located on the intersection of the beautiful Oderberger Straße and Kastanienallee, both full of shops and restaurants, where everyone sits outside during the summer. For some of the best coffee in town, visit nearby Bonanza Coffee Heroes.
Watch a Classical Music Concert in a Warehouse
As a city with several opera houses and more than five major orchestras, Berlin has no shortage of classical music venues. Piano Salon Christophori, though, resembles no other. Once a warehouse stocked with spare parts of the BVG (Berlin’s public transport system) the salon is now full of pianos and piano parts under repair in the city’s Wedding district. The intimate performances—both instrumental and vocal, happen at night in an intimate setting, aglow with old lamps. Help yourself to a glass of wine after you find your seat and consider making a donation when it’s not a fixed-price concert. A seat reservation via the website is strongly recommended, as is canceling if you’re not going to show up.
INSIDER TIPDon’t leave Wedding without a meal at next door Pförtner, which has daily changes to the menu, lovely outdoor seating, and tables inside a former public bus.
Learn to Cook Syrian Cuisine
Since 2015, Germany has admitted roughly 1.5 million refugees. At Über den Tellerand, you can spend richly rewarding hours with refugees, who’ll guide a cooking class inside a bright, sun-drenched space in Schöneberg. Check the website for the schedule—sometimes the class’s cuisine hails from Syria, other days from Afghanistan, and vegan or vegetarian accommodations are always possible. Though you won’t prepare your own dish, you will help the chef cook for the whole class and you’ll enjoy the exquisite tastes of the hard day’s work together. By night’s end, you’ll have danced around the room, listened to difficult stories of immigration, and made new friends.
Drink Tea at a Central Asian-Inspired Parlor
Tucked inside a quiet, shady courtyard in Berlin’s Mitte district Tajikistan Tea House makes tea drinking otherworldly. If you choose to sit indoors, take off your shoes and the hostess will escort you to your cushion and low table seating. Make sure to reserve your table at least two days beforehand by email. You’re not venturing here for the food, more so for menu listings like the standard “Russian Tea Ceremony” that includes a samovar, or Russian heated metal container, and small plates with rum raisins, vodka, cookies, jams, and sugar. This place gets packed on weekend evenings and only takes cash.