Berlin’s natives can be laconic at the best of times. Ask them about summer in the city and they will shrug or mumble. A few might even complain about the weather. I think it is all because they are intent on trying to keep a secret — that while tourists flock to Berlin for the Christmas markets and winter festivities, the city is really at its best on the hot languid days of summer.
The skies are often blue, the heat is sultry and turns thoughts to pleasures of the flesh. The beer is ice cold and the lakes surrounding the city are crystal clear and cool. For a good few years after we first went to Berlin we decided not to take our usual summer holidays on the beach in Italy or Spain, because Germany’s capital just had so much to offer.
Here a few pointers to get the best out of your summer in Berlin.
For a sunny weekend day you have to go to hang out at the Mauerpark and catch some of its world-famous bearpit karaoke. I’ve already sung the praises of the Mauerpark enough elsewhere so click here to go and check it out. You can also fire up your barbecue along Schwedter Street (be warned, the Ordnungsampt gets pretty upset if you light a fire in anything but the designated zone.
Hang out at a swimming lake
When you fly into Berlin Tegel during the day, just look down and you will see a wonderland of forests and lakes. Berlin is virtually surrounded by these. The forest (or Wald) plays a huge role in Germany storytelling (think of little red riding hood) and also a big part of the German psyche (oh dear, there I go making generalisations – whatever, Germans really do like to have nature nearby and they especially love forests).
This means you are completely spoiled for choice for great places to go to swim on a hot summer’s day.
My favourite is Schlachtensee, a gorgeous tree-shaded lake that is about 30 minutes (give or take a bit) from the middle of Berlin. It is also huge so that you can usually find a nice quite spot in the shade on the far side of the lake from the maddening crowds. Feel free to bring a lilo, pool noodle or just about anything else that floats. This is about as relaxing and peaceful as life gets.
Canoe trips up the Spree
If you are feeling lazy, jump on to a boat and take a lazy, beery boat cruise (I’ve written a whole bunch about how to find it and which ones to use over here). But if you are feeling a bit more adventurous and active, consider a canoe trip. One of the more popular is the “Sperrzone Spree” (“prohibited
Spree zone”) that goes up the river from the Oberbaum Bridge in Kreuzberg. It goes as far as the east port (don’t worry, it comes back to) and gives a good overview of the Berlin wall and border defences that the DDR built along the river. You can find out more and book a ride at the Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg Museum (www.kreuzbergmuseum.de)
Fly in a Floatplane or Balloon
This is about as wild as it gets, catching a plane that takes of and lands on the river itself. The floatplane uses Treptower port as its runway and lets 4 people go for a flight. If you really want to splurge and make it a romantic escape consider a lunchtime flight to Hubertushöhe Castle about 20 minutes away with champaign and lunch. Hard to think of a better place to romance or propose.
Or zoom up in the famous “Die Welt” balloon that rises near checkpoint charlie and gives and unbeatable view over the city. It costs €19 for an adult. You can find out more about it by clicking here.