A Walk into the Bourgeois & Boheme Kingdom
Prenzlauer Berg is located north Berlin and is considered as the symbol of the gentrification process in Berlin. It has indeed evolved extremely fast while still keeping many faces. Tourists who don’t see the beauty of Berlin usually fall in love with Prenzlauer Berg because it’s the prettiest district (in the former East side at least) : large and bright paved streets, high colorful buildings with rich windows frames, trees everywhere… This part of the city has not been much bombed and buildings have been restored the way they were in XIXe century. The typical structure remains the same: 5 floors buildings, each with 2 flats and shops at ground floor. The building opens on a backyard with other smaller flats (4 per floor) for less rich population. Therefore, Prenzlauer Berg is full of beautiful yards. After WWI, when the construction market started again, the priority has been given to social aspects: it’s a new architecture with functional, simple shapes.
But as pretty as it is, Prenzlauer Berg has also its dark side. The gentrification is a late consequence of after war reconstruction process: GDR government preferred to focus the development of the city around its center. They built some functional and modern flats, where most family moved in, leaving Prenzlauer Berg. The district lost in popularity but not for everybody, and artists, anarchists or young people quickly flood into this ghost Kiez.
And then again, young families with high incomes came back lately to build which is now the better example of “bourgeois/bohème” way of life. Everything has been restored in a fresh and clean way and prices went up, for rent but also in bars or shops. This lovely area is therefore a perfect spot for a family afternoon even though you can always find interesting spots to go ou there.
Your itinerary through Prenzlauer Berg depends on the fact it’s over the week-end or not. Let’s assume it is and then it must includes a stop at Mauer Park. But let’s first start smoothly by the Winsviertel, where you can enter through the Arnswalder platz. The massive and yet beautiful fountain of fertility welcomes you, made of pinky volcanic stone, pure masterpiece from the Weimar Republic. Walk south through the Bötzowstrasse and stop by Franz-Karl for a sweet bite from Austria. Keep walking down until you reach the Leize-Park. We’ve talked about how Germans are pretty laid back with graveyards in another article and this place is another good example. Formerly part of the St. Marien-St. Nicolai cemetery, the city transformed it in 2011 as a park and playground for kids. Strange and beautiful vision for a tourist: children laughing and running around old graves! To get energy again, go back north via Winsstrasse and then on left, Marianburger strasse for a strong espresso at Café CK, then a bit of shopping at Soeur or Wertvoll in the same street.
Then enter the true “bourgeois/bohème” habitat: the Kollwitzkiez. Cross the Prenzlauer Allee and go on Knaackstrasse until you end up at the foot of the Wasserturm. Massive building for a strong story. It’s the oldest in Berlin and has been built in 1877 to supply water for the growing workers population. Nowadays, some people are living inside and you can even rent some flats on airbn’b. It’s actually Prenzlauer Berg district’s symbol, even though the building’s walls used to hide one of the first concentration camps created by SA-troops.
But let’s (temporarily) forget those dark memories, and cheer ourselves up with all the nice coffees and terraces on the Kollwitzstrasse and its lovely square. A local farmers market takes place there each Saturday, where you can buy some super fresh and tasty products. The stores Strandbad and Nordost92 will offer some nice sustainable fashion shopping opportunities, after what you can relax with a fantastic Frühstuck at Anna Blum. Keep up north and cross the Danziger Strasse, to wander in the calm streets around Helmholzplatz. Have a drink at Wohnzimmer, a bar decorated exactly as a flat, bathroom included. Then go back south through the Pappelallee and stop by Beckett’s kopf if it’s time for Apero.
Mauer Park and Eberswalder Strasse
Walk along Pappelallee towards the Ubahn station Eberswalder Strasse. You’ve reached the busy area in Prenzlauer Berg and a meeting point for everybody around. Turn on the right into Eberswalder strasse (and stop by Brigade Glücklich for a bit of fun) until you stand in front of Mauer Park.
The area was previously a rail station (that’s why this lengthwise shape) until 1961 when they built the wall, transforming the tracks space as a death corridor. That’s where the « Park of the Wall » got its name from. The whole space was therefore split and it’s still the case today. The east part is a park owned by the city while the left side is a piece of land still owned by the national railway company, where’s a famous flea market takes place every Sunday. Some would say it has completely lost its authenticity and it has certainly changed over the years but it’s still very crowded and much appreciated by locals. On the north side of the Park you can still look at a 30 meters piece of the Wall and enjoy a bbq, a bier, play basketball or show your singer skills at the giant Bearpit karaoke show.
When you’re done with that, come back to civilization through the Oderberger strasse with all its colorful facades, take another strong coffee at Bonanza Coffee Roasters and go for shopping again, first with the Flagshipstore, full of interesting sustainable brands and then all the way down through Kastanienallee, one of the nicest shopping street in Berlin. Mazooka, Fein und Ripp, Workaholic, Hallo Herz, Superconscious… so many opportunities. You can then have a well deserved drink at Nola’s, enjoying the view over Weinbergsweg park or a aperitivi at Milano Bar. You’re already in Mitte… have you noticed?