Slow Travel Berlin Seasonal Guide: Autumn

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

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Image by Paul Sullivan

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 some colourful compensation for summer’s sad 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 Friedrichshainwhich also contains a Chinese garden and a nineteeth-century fairytale fountain—Treptower Park, which offers a waterside promenade, and Viktoria Park, with its charming waterfall, Schinkel monument and expansive vistas.

The gardens at Schloss Charlottenburg also provide a wonderful escape from the city, as do the parks surrounding Pankow’s Schloss Schönhausen and the much larger Grunewald, where you can explore lakes, castles, and beer gardens aplenty. And let’s not forget the city’s cemeteries, some of the most tranquil places for a stroll in the entire city.

For longer walks, we can recommend strolling the Landwehrkanal in either direction, enjoying a walk along the pleasant Erpetal valley, or indulging in the slightly longer hike from Wannsee to Potsdam—if that’s too long, you could also just walk to the Pfaueninsel and enjoy a small boat ride and perhaps a picnic before walking back to the S Bahn

Spas, Saunas & Swimming Pools

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Liquidrom, photo courtesy of the venue.

We could all do with taking more time out for ourselves, 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 the small-but-funky Liquidrom and the larger VaBali complex, which has Asian-themed 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 eleveth floor Ono Spa.

Can’t afford to splash so much cash? Don’t sweat—or rather do—since there are affordable sauna options too. The well-established Olivin Spa & Sauna might be quite small but it hosts a very pleasant Finnish sauna, friendly service and a variety of massages. In Prenzlauer Berg you can enjoy nature and art while sweating it out at Saunabad, and Schöneberg’s Lützow Sauna squeezes in several sauna rooms, massages and a pool. What’s that? You’re seeking a ‘Roman-temple’ experience? No problem: head to Pankow’s Saunarivm. Or for an oriental scrub-down, try Sultan Hamam in Schöneberg.

Local swimmers will already know that the city is dotted with municipal pools, though some are a little more special than others. We covered some of the most historically fascinating in the city here, or you can head directly to the Berliner Bäderbetriebe website to find something local. For the brave souls who like to enjoy the lakes even as the temperatures fall, you can find some “wild swimming” recommendations here.

Kaffee & Kuchen

Wohnzimmer cafe & bar. Image by Paul Sullivan.

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 Anna Blume in Prenzlauer Berg, Café Rix in Neukölln, or if you prefer to linger awhile in a more refined atmosphere, try one of the 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, 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. A quite unique spot where you can enjoy a cappuccino while watching the leaves of the cemetery slowly change colour, is Kreuzberg’s Cafe Strauss

Third-wave coffee aficionados will find a comprehensive list of outlets here, while those with a sweet tooth won’t want to miss Schöneberg’s gorgeous chocolateria Winterfeldt Schokoladen.

Comfort Food

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Inside Gugelhof, where Bill Clinton once dined. Image by James Fancourt

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—Prenzlauer Berg’s Banh Xeo Saigon does a mean one. A plate of dumplings is always a good idea when it’s chilly too: you can go trendy fusion at Yumcha Heroes or trad at Wok Show. Bowl of steaming Japanese ramen more your thing? Cocolo Ramen is still up there with the best of them. 

Autumn is also a great season for vegetables too: some great local vegan restaurants can be found here.  

Pubs & Bars

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Image by James Fancourt

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—such as 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—can be found here.

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. Mitte’s legendary 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 Neukölln’s JaJa and Vin Aqua Vin, Mitte’s Freundschaft or Italian small producer spot Cantine Sant’Ambroeus in Prenzlauer Berg.

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. Or try the talk of the town in 2023: Wax On.

Galleries, Museums & Exhibitions

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Buchstaben Museum. Image by John Peck

We tend to cover the smaller, quirkier museums at Slow Travel Berlin—places like the Ramones Museum in Mitte, the Alphabet Museum and the wonderfully surreal (and often missed) Design Panoptikum. Oh, and the new Georg Grosz museum too. But that’s mainly because the big-hitters already have so much media attention that we figure our job is to spread some independent 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 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.

Don’t forget to wrap up warm!

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