You might think converting what was once a public restroom into, say, a restaurant would be a hard sell, but if ever there was a place that would embrace such a bold move, it would have to be Berlin.
And that’s not a hypothetical: the city is actually home to quite a few such cases, from cafés to galleries. Discover seven former toilets in Berlin – just remember to wash your hands when you’re done.
Zur Klappe: Yorckstraße’s underground nightclub
If you don’t know it’s there, you might miss it – on an unassuming sliver of a traffic island between Yorckstraße and Mehringdamm, there’s a staircase you won’t realise marks the club’s entrance until you’re close enough to hear the music coming from below.
Historically, that inconspicuousness had its advantages: Zur Klappe used to be one of many public restrooms around the city where gay men had clandestine rendezvous before homosexuality was decriminalised. These public toilets were known colloquially as Klappen.
The 110m² space contains a surprising amount of history.
For two decades, the space was officially out of use, but unofficially it saw a number of illegal raves. That’s how Flint Neiber and Sören van Laak first got the idea for what eventually became Zur Klappe and, after the duo won a contest organised by the District Office of Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg, they were able to make it a reality.
They had their work cut out for them, since the space needed a lot of renovations before reopening as a club. But they opted to keep the old tile walls, graffiti and all – a reminder that the 110m² space contains a surprising amount of history.
- Zur Klappe, Yorckstr. 0 (traffic island), Kreuzberg, details.
Bathroom to bon appetit: Fine French dining by the Müggelsee
Though her partner and the locals had their reservations, it didn’t stop restaurateur Alexandra von Scholz from realising her dream: turning a quaint historical building by the water into a rustic French restaurant called Domaines Berlin.
So what if it used to be a public toilet? It’s not like anyone sitting out on the patio slurping oysters and wine while they watch the sunshine glittering on the lake would ever come to that conclusion.
- Domaines Berlin, Josef-Nawrocki-Str. 22, Friedrichshagen, details.
Schiller-Oase: Stroll, stop, savour
If you ever need to pee while on a stroll in Schillerpark, you’ll have to find a bush somewhere, because what was once a public toilet on the north-eastern side of the park is now a small restaurant. But the change has been well worth it: the Schiller-Oase is the only place to get food or drink in the entire park, an oasis serving pizza, pasta, crêpes and more.
- Schiller-Oase, Dubliner Str. 59, Wedding, details.
Burgermeister: Facility to franchise
If you’ve eaten at the Burgermeister by Schlesisches Tor, you probably already know it used to be a public restroom; with the signs designating the former men’s and women’s toilets still up, it’s not like they’re being subtle. But it just goes to show that you can look past a lot if it means good food, whether it’s the telltale screech of the U-Bahn overhead or the grim realisation that someone has probably relieved themself where you’re currently eating.
It’s a staple of Berlin’s food scene.
Besides, the visible remnants of the building’s former purpose serves as a reminder of owner Cebrail Karabelli’s unlikely success story and the three years’ worth of red tape and renovations that made it all possible. He finally opened Burgermeister just in time for the 2006 World Cup, which ushered in a slew of tourists/potential customers.
Soon enough, tour guides were recommending Burgermeister as a hidden gem; now, it’s a staple of Berlin’s food scene with nine locations across the city.
- Burgermeister, Oberbaumstr. 8, Kreuzberg, details.
WC at the Wildenbruch
After years of disuse, what used to be a toilet facility on Neukölln’s Wildenbruch bridge was transformed into a one-of-a-kind art gallery in the summer of 2021. Now known as the Kunstbrücke (or art bridge) at the Wildenbruch, the space is now comprised of four small exhibition rooms that pay homage to the building’s previous use by maintaining its original white tile walls.
The art isn’t only exhibited inside, but outside as well, including performances on the water. With its unique location and history, Kunstbrücke Wildenbruch invites discussion about what we consider highbrow or lowbrow – and why.
- Kunstbrücke am Wildenbruch, Weigandufer Ecke Wildenbruchbrücke, Neukölln, details.
Kral Kavurma-Köfte: A new recipe at the refurbished restroom
Not only is this Imbiss at Hohenstaufenplatz another converted public restroom, but it also remains an officially-recognised Berlin landmark. Equally hard to believe is that, while its owner has never changed, over the years the little restaurant has served everything from burgers to ramen. Kemal Salis took over and then renovated the facility in 2005, but only stepped into the kitchen in 2022. Since then he’s been serving up hot and juicy kofte, a staple of Turkish cuisine, finally solidifying the eatery’s identity.
- Kral Kavurma Köfte Hohenstaufenplatz, Kottbusser Damm, Kreuzberg, details.
Crêplala? More like…nevermind
Would it shock you to know that this cosy Tirol-farmhouse of a restaurant was originally – wait for it – a public restroom? If you’ve read this far, probably not. ‘Who gives a crap?’, you may be wondering. But what you should be asking is: who gives a crêpe? Because this quaint cottage crêperie is the perfect spot for something sweet – or, if you prefer, a savoury galette paired with a nice apéritif. And with a terrace for sunny days and a fireplace for cold ones, this little Breton restaurant truly is the best of both worlds.
- Crêplala Kantstr. 85a, Charlottenburg, details.