Berlin in the summer can be one of the most vibrant cities I know. The city comes to life after winter hibernation in the spring, and summer is when it brings its full force and shows you The Best Time Ever. There are open air concerts and festivals basically every other day, street artists multiply and cover every possible busking corner, the sun and warmth invites you to spend your free days by the lake under the protective shade of the trees, or rather book a raft and enjoy a grill in good company. The river banks are taken over by bars and restaurants, people lie in the sun enjoying a cold Berliner Pilsner, and tourists and residents alike take cruises along the river Spree while a deep German voice tells them all about the sights.
Berlin’s summer also offers several of the best festivals: starting in May with the Carnival and its famous parade along the streets of Kreuzberg, and also the many many places to try international food and drinks; the Fête de la Musique with an array of concerts all throughout different squares in the city, and Christopher Street Day – mostly known as the Berlin Gay Pride parade – are some of the most popular ones and definitely worth to experience at least once. Since I live here though (been there, done that), I go only every once in a while.
There’s also the controversial May Day, 1st of May traditionally celebrated Labour Day with a spontaneous street festival in the early 80s. It usually ended with demonstrations and political actions that turned awry needing police involvement. The historical date of May 1st 1990 saw the first completely peaceful street festival and demonstration even with strong police presence. Since then the festival is not only authorised, civilised and better organised, but it has almost become gentrified as most of the centre of town. Demonstrations nowadays don’t end in violence as much as they used to, and it’s no longer as dangerous to attend as it was in the previous century.
One can also pack a picnic and go spend the day at one of the many outdoor swimming pools that are available, many of them offering water slides and kid-friendly paddling pools. This is, as a matter of fact, one of my favourite plans during a very hot day: finding a spot under the shade of the trees isn’t difficult and they usually have a small bar or Imbiss where you can buy snacks, drinks and ice creams. A similar alternative is grilling in one of the many parks and green areas in Berlin – if you aren’t lucky enough to have your own garden or balcony – and you can find out about where this is allowed in this map. One of the most popular locations for this is Tempelhofer Feld, the former airport and corresponding runways turned into a huge public park, which is perfect not only for grilling (no trees or danger of easy burning) but also for flying kites, skating, biking, jogging, and a long number of etc. Also in May of each year since 2015 it holds the E-Prix racing (Formula-E electric car race, I showed some pictures of this year’s race on my Instagram stories).
But there’s another side to summer in one of the most modern capitals in Europe, and it happens in the suburbs where families with kids and pensioners usually live. Summer “outside the ring” (the Ringbahn is the train line that encircles Berlin in both directions, and rumour has it nothing interesting ever happens outside of it), as the techno goers call it, takes on a very different pace. It begins earlier but develops slowly into the day, especially if you’re meeting friends for brunch around noon: conversation and good food will prevent you from leaving before 3pm. Farmer’s markets and fleemarkets pop up everywhere so you can enjoy fresh produce as well as the local and regional delicacies, and sometimes foreign too. One can even venture into foraging for berries or other summer fruits which will end up being baked into summer pies or used for marmalade. Food directly from the source is summer done right, in my modest opinion.
And of course, one of my all-time favourite things to do in the summer, is walk around, enjoy nature and the smaller neighbourhoods. My latest discovery is the charming Dorfstrasse in Spandau that directly translates into village street. With some pictures of my new favourite place in this ever wondrous city I end this long post. I hope you enjoy it all and I look forward to requests for recommendations if you ever come to these parts of the world!