Eliza Petit and Laura Harker round up some of the city’s best Sommer- and Strandbäder…
The abundance of water in Berlin can often be a surprise for visitors and new arrivals. Not only is the city surrounded by lakes and criss-crossed by rivers and canals, but there is also an excellent network of municipal Sommerbäder (large outdoor pools open only during the summer months) and Strandbäder – beaches sited next to lakes.
While atmospherically quite different, both types of location provide the same key ingredient: the opportunity to cool off, which comes in very handy during summers that can climb to the mid-30s (celsius) on the hottest days and not much below 25 the rest of the time.
From an official list featuring dozens of these establishments, we have selected a handful of our favourites, all of them within easy striking distance of the city.
One the most popular pools in town is Sommerbad Kreuzberg, more commonly known as Prinzenbad. Used in the the opening scenes of Leander Haussman’s screen adaption of ‘Herr Lehrmann’, this 50’s built public pool attracts a broad demographic not dissimilar to that of its neighbourhood.
In addition to its two 50-metre swimming pools and smaller ‘non-swimming’ pool – equipped with a slide and fountains – there is a shallower children’s pool and a paddling pool, as well as a large adventure playground for children.
Its central location means its can be intensely crowded on sweltering summer weekends, so get there early to avoid the crowds. Bring your own lock if you want to use the lockers, and some spare cash if you want to buy snacks at the reasonably priced cafeteria.
Not far from its Kreuzberg neighbour, the Sommerbad Neukölln is a slightly smaller, less touristy affair. Situated in the top right corner of Tempelhofer Park – the disused airfield of the old Tempelhofer Airport – its just a short walk from Boddinstrasse U-bahn station.
It too boasts a large 50m pool, however unlike the Sommerbad Kreuzberg, the pool here isn’t a conventional rectangle shape (see picture above) and thus is better suited to casual swimmers.
As well as a children’s pool with slide, the deal clincher here, for some at least, is the 83m high water slide in the main pool; there is also a snack bar and a lawn for sunbathing in between dips.
In the northern district of Wedding, tucked away in the Volkspark Humboldthain, Sommerbad Humboldthain offers a large 50m pool and twirling slide, as well as a popular 1m diving board.
Half of the pool is marked with lanes while the other is clearly indented for kids and more casual swimmers (the diving board is in this section), and young children can be kept entertained in either the playground or the large paddling pool.
The simple restaurant can come in handy for hungry dippers, though there is a large lawn that’s perfect for picnics and poolside lounging. The surrounding park offers a host of additional attractions, from the lovely rose garden to a hulking WW2 flak tower that can be officially toured, but is also a popular gathering spot for sunset-seekers.
If its more serious swimming you’re after, head out to the historic Sommerbad Olympiastation, which was built for the 1936 Olympians of the Third Reich.
Situated next to the Olympiastadion, the slightly imposing concrete structure has a 50m lap pool and a 10m diving tower for the pros – but two non-swimmers pool and a children’s slide keep things family friendly.
A trip out here can be combined with a tour of the Olympic Stadium, though bear in mind that you will need to purchase a separate ticket.
Officially the largest lido in Europe and listed as a cultural heritage site, the Strandbad Wannsee is just a 20-minute S Bahn ride from the city centre.
Located on the Eastern side of the Wannsee Lake in the South West of Berlin, the beach has an impressive history stretching back 100 years. Particularly popular during WWII, today the beach pulls in about 230,000 a year – making it Berlin’s most popular Strandbad.
As one might expect of a beach that can hold 50,000 people it can feel incredibly busy, so as always its best to get here early to beat the crowds. Rowing boats are available to hire, as are wicker chairs. There is also a restaurant and multiple kiosks selling lido staples: ice cream, beer and bratwurst.
740m in length and with a lovely 15,000m2 stretch of beach, Wedding’s Strandbad Plötzensee is one of the city’s most central lakeside beaches – and subsequently attracts crowds from all over the city.
With an average depth of 3.5m it is fairly shallow and therefore popular with families and casual swimmers. There is also an adventure playground, waterslide and trampoline to keep the kids entertained when swimming gets boring.
If beach sports are your thing, take your pick between volleyball, table tennis and football, or make use of the extensive lawn for badminton and Frisbee.
You can make a day of it here too. Sunbeds and deckchair are available to rent and there’s an abundance of food on offer – from German to Italian and Asian – as well as an ice cream shop, beach bar and a separate area for nudist swimming.
Tucked away in the depths of East Berlin, not far from the S-bahn Grunau, the Standbad Grünau is hailed by some as the most charming of Berlin’s many lovely lake-beaches.
The water here is deep enough for proper swimming and the crowds aren’t quite as horrendously busy on hot summer days. There are striped Standkorbe (beach baskets) to hire, while a volley ball net, climbing wall and kids playground provide ample actitivies.
There’s also a decent café / snack bar on site, and a nudist area for those so inclined.
Nestled between Lichtenberg and Weissensee, the Strandbad Orankesee opened in 1929, but closed for some time after the WWII to house soviet war commanders. It reopened in 1957, much to the joy of East Berliners (and the seals who occupy the beach in the winter).
With beach baskets, sun loungers and deck chairs available to rent, Orankesee also has a 52m long children’s water slide and a nice green lawn for sports and sandphobes.
There a small children’s playground, a couple of table tennis tables, a volleyball net, and a snack bar too. Worth noting that it’s not as close to public transport links as the other Strandbads though the M4 tram will get you pretty close.
As popular with kids as it is with parents, the strandbad Weissensee is only 15 minutes by train from Alexanderplatz and is one of the city’s funkiest with its pizzeria and cocktail bar, beach yoga (on Wednesdays) and massage service.
A café serves breakfast and lunch, and as well as the lake to wade and swim in, there’s a separate paddling area and playground for kids. Also unique is the ‘rent a beach’ service; for a relatively small fee (4Euros per adult, 2 Euros per child), you can rent a section of the beach equipped with sun loungers, service personnel and beer tent sets.
The RAW temple now has its very own outdoor pool; a small oasis of Mediterranean charm mongst the collection of worn-out warehouses. Haubentaucher’s sky blue pool and numerous sun loungers are aimed at those who just want to soak up the sun rather than clock up lengths, and at weekends the pool takes inspiration from its neighboring clubs as DJs turn it into Berlin’s only pool venue. Every Thursday and each 2nd Sunday of the month sees the Open Sky Yoga morning sessions.
Revaler Straße 99, Berlin 10245; 030 2977 6670; http://haubentaucher.berlin/ Open daily from 10am