When the mercury rises, Berliners flock to their beloved biergartens. We sent the EXBERLINER editorial team out to explore the capital’s greenest, grandest and grungiest.
Café am Neuen See is a rather civilised outdoor happiness factory overlooking what’s either a small lake or a large pond in Tiergarten between the zoo and the Spanish Embassy.
Plebeians, joggers, families and Italian tourists sit in rows consuming great beer (Bavarian Hacker-Pschorr, at a pricey €3.70/0.5l) and freshly made pizza (mozzarella/basil or salami, both €8.50-8.90), Weisswurst or Fleischkäse, which you order at an open-air canteen that feels like an upscale motorway cafeteria. At teatime, older folks sip warm drinks and sink into huge slices of homemade strawberry sponge cake (€4.90).
The complex is owned by restaurateur dandy Roland Mary of Borchardt fame, so the food is decent if a bit overpriced. The lucky are able to score deck chairs near the lake, where swans and boaters might float past. (You can rent an old-fashioned rowboat for €5 per half-hour.) Kids scramble around near the water or in a sand pit by the entrance.
There is also a more involved indoor restaurant where patrons can gawk at the rotisserie or the pelts of big cats that adorn the walls. On the patio, patrician Wessies enjoy the lake view, table service and more refined wine-washed meals. RB
Café am Neuen See | Lichtensteinallee 2, Tiergarten, S-Bhf Tiergarten. Daily from 10
Hiding just off Warschauer Straße, this residential corner of Friedrichshain takes the biergarten back to its beautiful basics with Jägerklause. Feeling more like a grill party in your next-door neighbour’s backyard than any old-timer or hipster hangout, the vibe of this humble, kid-friendly retreat is super chill and the dress code casual bordering on grunge.
Across the patchy grass, black-teed locals sit and smoke on deck chairs by homely cratepropped tables, sipping summery Löwenbräu (0.5l, €2.60) or munching on yummy burgers with homemade sauces cooked up fresh on the charcoal grill by the well-tatted, heavily made-up staff. There are veggie options too, but it’s hard to pass up the meat-coma-inducing ‘Aussiburger’ (beef, ham, gherkins, salad, chilli, onion, and hello beetroot!), delivered to your table in a pleb-friendly döner kebab paper bag for €4.50.
The thick hedges that block out the street make this shady, wedged garden a welcome escape from the heat, though you’re well-advised to sit deep on quieter afternoons, as traffic noise still sneaks in, competing with the punk/ rockabilly soundtrack. With a capacity of less than 100 outside, Jägerklause also houses an indoor bar which screens football matches and occasionally hosts live music. AAB
Jägerklause | Grünberger Str. 1, Friedrichshain, U-Bhf Weberwiese. Daily from 18
Wind along the Spree to stumble upon Zollpackhof, a rather refined biergarten located between the post-modern Bundeskanzleramt (German Chancellery), and Hauptbahnhof.
The water lends a gentle rhythm to any evening here, even if the inevitable tours of Schlager-pumping boats intermittently break up the civilised serenity at this watering hole, tucked away at the end of Berlin’s central cul-de-sac in the urban wilderness of what used to be the Mauerstreifen.
A 130-year-old chestnut tree takes central pride of place, throwing shade across the gravelled outdoor seating area, which offers generous room for at least 100 guests under soft garden lights. A cordoned-off wooden playground and inexplicably chosen giant glowing roses make it a perfect kid-friendly space; the tykes can scrap about while mum and dad supervise, Maß in hand, from one of the long wooden tables.
For simple bites, the outdoor canteen offers a long list of bratwurst-esque fare from the grill, as well as basic Flammkuchen, pasta and salads that the kids will enjoy too, while up on the patio and inside the restaurant fancier (and pricier) traditional German and Austrian cuisine is served up on crisp white linen.
While the beer isn’t cheap (0.5l Schöfferhofer, €4 or Bayrisch Hell, €3.80), neither is a babysitter. ABB
Zollpackhof | Elisabeth-Abegg-Str. 1, Tiergarten. Daily from11
Where does the Ossi old guard go for a cold one? Rammstein’s Till Lindemann celebrated his 40th birthday under the chestnut trees of Prater, the oldest and quaintest biergarten in Germany’s capital.
But before it became an alternative gem at the heart of Berlin’s creatively gentrified Kastanienallee, it was once a happy sanctuary in communist East Berlin where people from behind the Iron Curtain came baring baskets of homemade goodies (strictly forbidden these days!) and rejoiced on the weekends.
Today, young smiling faces fill up its shady domain, ornamented by long strands of hanging light bulbs and old-fashioned red-and-white-striped umbrellas. During the weekdays, the leafy courtyard attracts many final-generation Mauer kids, as well as the post-theatre vanguard on their after-show libation (Volksbühne im Prater occupies the front building), while on the weekend it fills with Italians, Spanish and English – all guided from the Mauerpark Flohmarkt by their Lonely Planets.
Prices remain relatively cheap – especially by Prenzlauer Berg standards – with a 0.4l Prater Pils at €3, a grilled Bratwurst im Brötchen at €2.50 and giant juicy gherkins for €1. For those who don’t mind a splurge, adjacent to the wooden picnic tables runs a long, narrow log cabin Gaststätte with a lovely patio serving traditional German cuisine. ND
Prater Garten | Kastanienallee 7-9, Prenzlauer Berg, U-Bhf Eberswalder Str. Daily from 12
GARDEN AM CLUB
Considering it’s nudged right up against the side of techno monster house Berghain, it isn’t really surprising to find the lack of greenery – or anything resembling your typical summer biergarten experience – at Bierhof Rüdersdorf.
As you lounge on comfortable swinging benches, which surround the gothic cement fountain proudly rising from the centre, you can gorge not only on bratwurst and beer (0.5l Berliner or Rotkehlchen, €3.40; Schöfferhofer, €3.50) but real food, like burgers with fries (€8) and even a classic breakfast for €5.50.
This is, after all, restaurant Kreuz Friedrichs’ summer incarnation. Despite its communist high-rise and Cold War cement surroundings, the design of this former district heating station strategically softens a once grey, cold domain, warping it into a playfully romantic haven.
The occasional bug-eyed, dry-mouthed pack of zombies lurches in from next door for one last after-hour Jäger, yet the place remains relatively calm on a Sunday morning, with soft house music gently pulsing through the surround-sound speakers.
The unexpectedly diverse crowd (from middle-aged queers to neighbourhood locals to yukis, even a three-generation German family) isn’t overly pretentious, but people do tend to keep to themselves, making it a great date spot where you can knuddeln with your sweetheart in one of the many corner love seats. ND
Bierhof Rüdersdorf | Rüdersdorfer Str. 70, Friedrichshain, U-Bhf Ostbahnhof. Mon-Sat from 17, Sun from 9
Situated on the lush, green banks of the Spree on the western edge of Tiergarten, right next to the llamas and flamingos in the Zoologischer Garten, Schleusenkrug is one of the most relaxing and beautiful biergartens in Berlin.
Occupying the same spot since 1954, Schleusenkrug consists of four large seating areas, one right next to the water where you can sit back on a lazy afternoon and watch the boats slowly glide by.
There is a modest selection of bottled and draft beers (0.5l Veltins or Erdinger Hefe Hell at €3.50), as well as a fair amount of wine (€3.50 per glass) and liquor. While the (permanent) restaurant serves up generous Frühstück platters (€6.50-8.50 until 3pm) and weekly changing Mediterranean and German fare (€8.50-12.50, from complicated salads to pasta or schnitzel), more fun is the outdoor summer grill. There you can order char-grilled meat and sausage served on bread or with salad (€3-7).
The Schleusenkrug crowd is older, with many families and a few tourists. It’s a great place to take parents visiting from abroad, or to escape after a shopping trip to City West.CC
Schleussenkrug | Müller-Breslau-Str. 1, Charlottenburg, U+S-Bhf Zoologischer Garten. Daily 10-24
Founded in 1885, before Rixdorf’s public relations department decided to change its name to Neukölln, Brauhaus In Rixdorf is a piece of the past. Venture through the waist-high gate and find a surprisingly verdant garden, hedges concealing the very urban location. In fact, were it not for the occasional Polizeiwagen screaming down Hermannstraße, the garden could be in some bucolic seaside village. Low conversation matches the murmur of the koi pond.
On our visit, guests ran the gamut from American ex-military personnel to a rotund German with an unseasonable resemblance to Santa Claus eagerly eating a huge boiled pork knuckle (€11.50). You can gorge on schnitzel (Tuesday is Schnitzeltag – all-you-can-eat for €16.80) or go all-in with friends and order the gut-busting ‘Schmankerlplatte’, which serves four (at least!) and includes four kinds of meat, sauerkraut, beer and schnapps (€79.90). €3.40 gets you 0.5l of the house brew – Hell, Dunkel, Weizen or a seasonal beer – while beer in the litre-sized Stein glasses goes for €6.10.
Until June 2010, the beer was brewed onsite, but rising costs forced them to move the brewing operation to somewhere in the “Berlin hinterland”. Relocation issues notwithstanding, Brauhaus In Rixdorf is a surprisingly lovely and manicured biergarten in inner-Neukölln, family-friendly and refreshingly yuki-free. COR
Brauhaus in Rixdorf | Glasower Str. 27, Neukölln, S+U-Bhf Hermannstr. Mon-Tue from 16, Wed-Sun from 12#
While Club der Visionäre’s revellers may be spotted doggy paddling in the canals, a few metres down Schlesische Straße, Heinz Minki is home to an older, less-dock-jumping-inclined set.
This spacious biergarten gently woos with its ample flowerboxes and fruit trees, silver birches and wooden-slatted tables and chairs: perfect for after-work lounging.
While we were there, an appalling Stetsoned duo worked their way through acoustic covers of Johnny Cash and the Violent Femmes, keeping the kids on knees bouncing but sending us scurrying deeper into the 900sqm of sprawling space and shaded corners, lit up prettily by red lanterns and colourful fairy lights.
Up front, the kitchen churns out Mediterranean-style thin-crust pizzas (€3) to wash down with your beer (Berliner 0.5l, €3.30) or cocktail (€7). Deeper in, beyond the cast-iron fence covered in roses and ivy, a grill offers up bratwurst (€2.50), pretzels and quark-topped baked potatoes.
At night, once the kiddies have all been put to bed, the yukis descend, prepping for a night out on the town. Or perhaps a swim. ABB
Heinz Minki | Vor dem Schlesischen Tor 3, U-Bhf Schlesisches Tor. Daily from 12:00
Facing the Landwehrkanal under a cover of willow trees is Brachvogel: a restaurant, minigolf course and biergarten all wrapped into one.
Originally there was only the golf course, which has been there since 1959, but in 2003 the restaurant was added. Although the biergarten has room for 350 people, it’s not the beer, but the wine list, that’s most extensive. With over 30 different kinds from riesling to rosé, it should really be called a Weingarten.
Turning its back on beer and offering up a ‘business lunch’ menu (Mon-Fri 11:30-14:00), as well as 10 different breakfasts (€4.40-7.90 – think baked Schafskäse in coconut-sesame juice), pizzas (€6.90-8.40) and light salads (€5.90-11.90), Brachvogel really tries to be the high-class variation on the biergarten. Too bad we only found suburban middle-class couples and 16-year-olds swallowing Fassbier (€1.80-3) by the canal, no doubt attracted by the minigolf (€2.50/adults, €2/kids, no time limit). KSE
Brachvogel | Carl-Herz-Ufer 34, Kreuzberg, U-Bhf Prinzenstr. Daily from 9
Under Zenner’s lurid yellow banner, expect to find Berlin’s grandparents living up their twilight years.
Idyllically located in Treptower Park directly on the banks of the Spree, Zenner occupies what potentially could be a beautiful spot to enjoy a cold beer (0.4l Berliner Kindl, €2.80) and take in the sun – if it weren’t located smack-bang in front of a Burger King, and the ambience weren’t killed by the incessant Schlager blasting at levels catering to the hearing-impaired onwards from the early afternoon.
You can flee into one of the deep, green corners of the garden, which provides space for up to 1500 under wide blue umbrellas and room for the kids to roam. Typical meat-andbread bites from the grill (bratwurst, €2) or strawberry cheesecakes (€2) provide sustenance, while inside Zenner’s restaurant, traditional German cuisine is available (€4-13, schnitzels for €10).
While the building (which has housed a biergarten since 1850) rivals Prater for old-school charm, many garden-goers might be turned off by the overwhelmingly geriatric makeup of the crowd. A tip: weekdays promise a quieter, quainter experience. MC
Zenner | Alt-Treptow 14-17, Treptow, S-Bhf Plänterwald. Daily from 10