Once overshadowed and undervalued compared to its hip neighbours Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg, Neukölln is now very much on the map as one of Berlin’s most exciting neighbourhoods.
Located in the southeast of the city, Neukölln bristles with character, from scruffy flea markets to shaded canal-side walks. The significant proportion of its populace, originally from Turkey, have brought colourful culture and exquisite cuisine to the neighbourhood, whilst the recent influx of young creatives and hipster folk has resulted in the emergence of cool and classy bars and vibrant art galleries. Neukölln can be as gritty as it is charming, and calls out to be explored.
Ä (Weserstraße 40) is a cool and casual environment to pop in and make the most of the bar’s comprehensive supply of beers from Berlin and further afield. Also situated on Weserstrasse (this road is a haven for drinkers) folk from all walks of life are lured here by the stripped back appeal, live acoustic gigs and ever-popular table football.
For a true ‘only in Berlin’ experience, visit Klunkerkranich (Karl-Marx-Straße 66). Don’t be put off by the fact that the address will lead you to a hulking great shopping centre – keep going up and up past the car park and you’ll eventually hear the sounds of music and conviviality. This sprawling rooftop bar is choc-a-block with all sorts of paraphernalia, from plant pots to sand pits, and offers astonishing views across the city which are particularly captivating at sunset. On a sunny day it’s a hive of activity, and you might have to queue for the privilege of joining in the action.
Situated towards the Hermannplatz end of lovely, long Weserstrasse, Silver Future (Weserstraße 206) is a quirky gay bar that’s justifiably popular with all crowds. It’s split into two parts, with the friendly non-smoking bar in the front room and the darker, cosier smoking room situated at the back. Silver Future hosts all sorts of events for its clientele of “Kings and Queens and Criminal Queers” and is sure to provide a memorable Neukölln night.
Dv Beast (Innstraße 4), translating to “you beast,” is a Neukölln favourite with all the recognisable facets of a Berlin bar: bare brick walls, copious amounts of candles, wooden furniture and lots of smoking – maybe not the best in terms of fire prevention, but great for building a top notch atmosphere. Come down on Thursday, where the underground basement hosts a free spoken word night and the city’s multifaceted community come and volunteer their views on whatever they desire.
Intricately tied to the history of Neukölln and now affectionately adored throughout the city, Tempelhof feld was once the city’s major airport. When the airport closed in 2008, something miraculous happened – it was claimed by the people and turned into a recreational park. Now the park is a joyful place; a playground for rollerbladers and kite-flyers, an area for BBQs and even music festivals. You’ll still see planes lying around as if forgotten. The enormous airport hangars were created as part of a huge reconstruction by the Nazi government in the 1930s, and are now being used to temporarily accommodate refugees. Come to Tempelhofer feld to experience Berlin’s past and present in the great outdoors.
For waterside wonderings, try the Neukölln Ship Canal. This is a lovely waterway that, like many things in Berlin, is best enjoyed in the summer months. Join the canal from nearby Sonnenallee S-Bahn station and walk the stretch all the way to Kreuzberg in the north. When the weather’s fine, you’ll be in good company, with cyclists and dog walkers romping on the walking paths, whilst folk laze around the water’s edge with an obligatory beer bottle in hand.
In a city with a constantly changing population either hoping to grab a bargain or flog an old favourite, flea markets are a particularly popular way to spend an afternoon in Berlin. The Nowkoelln Flowmarkt (Maybachufer 30) is an especially good choice for a Sunday in Neukolln. Situated alongside the canal, this bustling bazaar assembles on every first and third Sunday of the month, and with over 100 stalls you’re guaranteed to find all the weird and wonderful things you didn’t realise you needed – typewriter anyone?
Known as ‘Little Istanbul’, Neukölln is definitely not short of döner, the city’s favourite snack on the go (forget currywurst). But with so much choice on offer, how do you know which is the döner you’ll remember, and which is the döner you’ll regret? Do as the locals do and pick the institution with the biggest queue. Bright and brash, Döner 44 (Karl-Marx-Straße 119) is a hole-in-the-wall situated right next to Karl Marx Strasse U Bahn and attracts a smug crowd who are happy to wait in line, safe in the knowledge they’re about to chow down on one of Berlin’s best döner.
If it’s schnitzel you’re after, there’s only one place you need to be. Louis (Richardplatz 5) serves a variety of schnitzel, all outrageously massive. Many come here confident they can take on an entire slab of schnitzel goodness, only to leave with a doggy bag, a bloated stomach and their tail between their legs. The fact that Louis does it all dressed in lederhosen just adds to the experience.
A short walk from Hermanplatz, Sahara (Richardplatz 5) is an authentic and inexpensive eatery that serves exceptional Sudanese food. Their pitta sandwiches come with a range of fillings, including freshly cooked falafel and haloumi, and all are finished off with their signature peanut sauce that adds incredible depth of flavour.
Burger wars are waged daily in Berlin, with folk across the city arguing that they know the best burger out there. As far as burgers go, Schiller Burger (Karl-Marx-Straße 223) does it pretty bloody well. The burgers are cooked freshly in front of you, and are inventively named, such as KAMPF MIT DEM DRACHEN, which translates as “fight with the dragon”. Pair one of these bad boys with a portion of sweet potato fries and voila – burger perfection.
The heralding of Neukolln as a paradise for creative folk has encouraged the welcome rise of innovative galleries. A forerunner in this eclectic group is Cell 63 (Allerstraße 38), an ‘artplatform’ that hosts stunning and often surreal exhibitions, such as ‘Shades Neukolln’, which features traditional Berlin pub scenes, except with all the patrons in the nude. Running since 2009, Cell 63 describe their operation as “your personal window with a view on Wonderland.”
Kunststueck (Braunschweiger Straße 64) is a gallery space to check out for all lovers of contemporary art. The topics of exhibitions are varied, but often have a ‘nature’ vibe, like February’s beautiful ‘Fire & Ice’ group exhibition. Kunststueck is a friendly place to meet artistic types, and strives to create a platform for both established and lesser known artists simultaneously.
The monthly exhibitions at Kunstverein Neukölln (Mainzer Straße 42) are always varied and definitely worth a visit for those looking for stimulating examples of contemporary art. The bright open space is used by both local and international artists and is now a respected institution, having exhibited works by over 350 artists. Keep an eye on their schedule, as Kunstverein often plays host to lectures, performances and even concerts, all under the umbrella of contemporary art.