Head off the beaten track in Berlin and see a city which is charming and genuine, even more so than many of the more popular sites that are on offer. Below we’ve selected five of the best places to visit of the beaten track in Berlin.
Müggelsee Ice Skating
Berlin’s beautiful Muggelsee. without the ice. Image Maxim K
Müggelsee is a large lake far out in the eastern suburbs of Berlin, far away from the tourist center. Like many of the lakes in and around Berlin, in the summer they are lovely places to visit and swim around in. But winter isn’t a reason to ignore the lakes, it’s a reason to get yourself some skates and get on over to the frozen lake, joining ice-lovers from around Berlin. There are people whizzing around all over the lake, and local entrepreneurs selling hot drinks and mulled wine out of their houses. To get to Müggelsee, you can take the S-Bahn train to Friedrichshagen.
One of the nicest parks in Berlin, Victoria Park is a pretty place to walk around in, whether you prefer to climb to the monument on the top of the hill and look out over great views of the surrounding Kreuzberg area, or to sit on the grass on sunny afternoons and drink wine. The monument on the top of the hill commemorated German victories in the Napoleonic Wars, and the actual park is named after England’s Queen Victoria. At the bottom of the monument is the beginning of an artificial waterfall which runs all the way down the hill during the summer months. You’ll also find a nice vineyard on the hill, an independent production bottling about a thousand bottles of quality wine every year. Berliners hang out in the park, playing soccer, sitting on the grass or in the cafes and beer gardens, and there are also occasional topless sunbathers in the summer. You can get to Victoria Park by bus (140, M19) or U-Bahn (the nearest station is Platz der Luftbrucke).
Badeschiff Floating Swimming Pool
The floating Badeschiff Pool. Image Anke L
A swimming pool floating on a river may seem a little surreal, but the Badeschiff pool floating on the Spree is exactly that, and has inspired a number of floating pools around the world. The boat-turned-pool is more comfortable and sanitary than the river it floats on, and has a nice deck for sunbathing, and a poolside bar with music until midnight. In winter, the floating pool is covered with a transparent cover, and the water is heated, which makes for a nice change from the weather outside. The Badeschiff is found on the south bank of the river, opposite Eichenstrasse 4, not far from the East Side Gallery.
Dinner in the Dark (Unsicht Bar)
If you think all that restaurants around the world are all more-or-less the same, then get ready for a completely different experience at the Unsicht restaurant: a dining experience in a pitch black room, with blind waiters bringing you mysterious food, while you attempt to use cutlery or your hands to eat, and see how you fare without your sense of sight. Dinner at the restaurant on Gormannstrasse 14 (just off the famous Torstrasse) is tasty although a bit pricey, but the real focus is on the experience and the atmosphere. If you want to give your sense of taste, smell, hearing and touch a chance to prove themselves, this is the place to go for an unforgettable dinner.
In a city with dozens of memorials, it might seem strange to recommend another one, but this small memorial is powerful, disturbing, and often overlooked. Located in Grunewald S-Bahn station, on track 17, it stands in memory to the 50,000 Jews of Berlin who were deported from the station to ghettos in Poland, and later to the concentration camps. Jews were packed into cattle cars and sent off, and the remaining Jewish community was asked to pay for their transportation. The memorial consists of a plaque with the numbers of victims and their destinations, and 186 steel objects in the gravel representing the trains that left the station carrying Jews.