An inspirational guide for the autumn months…
We are starting to layer up, no doubt. But as the heady heights of summer gradually deliquesce into a few sun-kissed memories, the cooler temperatures, changing colours and occasional sun rays of autumn can make for a wonderfully romantic marriage.
The season’s usual blend of cold, sunny days and moody or rainy weather calls for a mixed-bag of activities, ranging from scenic outdoor strolls to cosy coffee spots and interesting museums to explore. Below are some tips and ideas on how to enjoy the colourful descent into winter…
Walks & Strolls
The autumn leaves drift by the window
The autumn leaves of red and gold
Nat King Cole
Polychromatic autumn leaves are characteristic of the season and, while bittersweet for some, can also provide compensation for summer’s departure. There are many wonderful parks in Berlin – in the heart of the city as well as on the outskirts – that offer therapeutic and soul-enhancing walks.
No matter how many times you’ve visited Tiergarten you probably haven’t seen it all, nor taken time out to explore its various monuments, which offer a fragmented but fascinating history of the city itself, ranging from Wilhelm I to Karl Liebknecht and beyond.
Monuments and memorials also dot other parks, like the Volkspark Friedrichshain – which also contains a Chinese garden and a 19th-century fairytale fountain – Treptower Park, which offers a waterside promenade, or Viktoria Park, which has the best city views of any Berlin park.
The gardens at Schloss Charlottenburg also provide a wonderful escape from the city. For longer, more leisurely walks, try the Wuhle, the Landwehrkanal or the Grunewald, where you can explore several lakes and many leaf-covered hiking trails.
If you have time to venture out a little farther, the Sansoucci in Potsdam, Schloss Schönhausen in Pankow and the Pfaueninsel are worth a day of your time, and can all be easily reached via the S-bahn. If you’d prefer a guided walk through the city, you can always check our tours page and see what’s coming up.
Spas, Saunas & Swimming Pools
Hardly any of us take enough time out for ourselves any more, and the chillier autumn temperatures provide the perfect excuse to enjoy a rejuvenating swim, sauna or massage.
The best-known spa complexes in the city are Liquidrom and the newer VaBali complex, which feature swish interiors, numerous saunas and steam rooms and pools to float or swim in. Several of the city’s hotels double up as high-end pampering palaces too, from Rocco Forte’s Hotel de Rome, whose shimmering pool is set in a former bank vault, to Hotel Mandala’s 11th floor Ono Spa.
Can’t afford to splash so much cash? Don’t sweat – or rather do – since there are affordable options too. The Olivin Spa & Sauna might be quite small but it does have a Finnish sauna, friendly service and massages. In Prenzlauer Berg you can enjoy nature and art while sweating in the sauna at Saunabad, and Mitte’s Lützow Sauna squeezes in several sauna rooms, massages and a pool.
For a complete ‘Roman-temple’ experience head to Pankow’s Saunarivm. The recently refurbished Solf Sauna offers a pool, massage services and a sauna on the roof. An oriental scrub-down can be wonderfully invigorating too: Sultan Hamam in Schöneberg does a good one, though ladies might prefer Frauenzentrum Schokoladenfabrik in Kreuzberg.
Local swimmers will already know that the city is dotted with municipal pools, though some are a little more special than others. To find your closest, head to the Berliner Bäderbetriebe website, but for neoclassical architecture and historic interiors, head to Stadtbad Neukölln, Stadtbad Mitte and Stadtbad Charlottenburg. Check the website for the recently renovated Stadtbad Oderbergerstrasse too – it’s scheduled to re-open at the end of 2015.
Kaffee & Kuchen
Nothing beats slouching into a sofa with a book or a friend and combating the colder weather with a hot chocolate or coffee. We previously rounded up a few of our favourite cosy cafes here, but additional recommendations include Cafe Hilde and Anna Blume in Prenzlauer Berg, Tres Cabecas and Honolulu in Friedrichshain, Bateau Ivre in Kreuzberg and Café Rix in Neukölln.
If you prefer to linger awhile in a more refined atmosphere, Berlin has several villa-style cafes where you can enjoy a more leisurely coffee and cake or indulge in a heartier breakfast or brunch.
Schöneberg’s Café Einstein is nothing short of a local institution (and has a cocktail bar upstairs should you end up settling in for the duration), Charlottenburg’s Café Literaturhaus has a lovely winter garden and a daily changing menu, while Kreuzberg’s Villa Tomasa, set at the foot of Viktoria Park, combines a classic ambiance with a modern menu.
Third wave coffee aficionados will find a comprehensive list of outlets here, while those with a sweet tooth will find sugary delights (waffles, cakes and more) at spots like Friedrichshain’s Louise Cherie, Kreuzberg’s Mr. Minsch or Schöneberg’s gorgeous chocolateria Winterfeldt Schokoladen.
Autumn is a perfect time to indulge in some comfort food, and German cuisine counts as some of the best in that regard. You can find some of our city-wide favourites in this round up, but additional recommendations include Charlottenburg’s Kurflaz-Weinstuben, which has been serving a Palatine menu for over 75 years, and the equally charming and traditional Tiergartenquelle. For Alpine and Bavarian classics, check out Kreuzberg’s Cafe Obermaier or Friedrichshain’s classy but comforting Schneeweiss.
Turkish cuisine, with its delicious array of succulent lamb and grilled fish dishes and penchant for hearty roasted vegetables, is also a good seasonal choice; some of the best options can be found here.
Vietnamese pho provides a tasty and warming option on cold days—some of the best spots in the city include Prenzlauer Berg’s Banh Xeo Saigon, Mitte’s DuDu and Charlottenburg’s Saigon Green. And talking of Asian food, a plate of dumplings at Yumcha Heroes or bowl of steaming Japanese ramen at Cocolo Ramen is never a bad idea on a cold day either.
The best vegetarian and vegan restaurants make obvious use of autumn’s seasonal ingredients too. Some of the best include Lucky Leek, Cookies Cream and Viasko. A comprehensive list of vegan restaurants can be found here.
Pubs & Bars
Nothing beats ducking into a welcoming pub on a chilly day. The city’s traditional kneipen are often criminally overlooked; often you’ll find a welcoming atmosphere and a generous spread of light and dark beers. A few firm favourites can be found here.
Trendier takes on the classic pub format can be found at Neukölln’s Das Gift, which serves a wide selection of wines, Scottish ales, German brews and even homemade mulled cider, Friedrichshain’s Hops and Barley, which also has home-brewed specialty beers and cider, and Wedding’s Vagabund, a crowd-sourced craft beer spot that pulls in a healthy mix of locals and hipsters.
A glass of wine is never to be sniffed at whatever the season, and there are plenty of gemütlich spots in Berlin to cosy up with a glass of Riesling or Grauburgunder. Weinerei is a firm favourite thanks to its pay-what-you-want system, though more serious oenophiles will want to spend some time at spots like Maxim, Cordobar or Weinbar Rutz.
When the cold temperatures start to bite harder, you may want something stronger from the top shelf. Berlin has many excellent cocktail bars; if you fancy trying a few in one evening, Schöneberg offers a particularly convenient and varied selection, from the saloon-style swagger of Stagger Lee to the artsy Victoria Bar and the retro-decorated Green Door.
Galleries, Museums & Exhibitions
We tend to cover the smaller, quirkier museums at Slow Travel Berlin – places like the Ramones Museum in Mitte, the Museum der Dinge, the Alphabet Museum and the wonderfully surreal (and often missed) Design Panoptikum. But that’s mainly because the big-hitters already have so much media attention that we figure our job is to spread some underground love.
Of the larger museums and galleries, we can heartily recommend the endless treasures of the Museum Insel and the Deutches Historisches Museum, the history and architecture at the Jewish Museum, the locally focused collection at the Berlinische Galerie and the Renaissance portraiture of the Gemäldegalerie. Great modern art can be found at the Hamburger Bahnhof, the KW Gallery and the private collections of the Sammlung Boros and Sammlung Hoffmann.
For an insight into one of Germany’s leading turn-of-the-century artists, the Käthe Kollwitz Museum is worth a visit, while the Bauhaus Archiv will appeal to modernists of all stripes. History buffs may enjoy the German-Russian Museum in Karlshorst or Hohenschönhausen’s former Stasi Prison. More into photography? We have listed some of our favourite photo galleries here.
Finally, the city is full of events and exhibitions during the colder months. We have selected a few seasonal treats here, but for a more comprehensive and regularly updated overview, don’t forget to check our What’s On page.