Tree-lined alleys, cobble-stoned streets, and charming Altbau buildings wherever you look – it’s hard not to instantly fall in love with Prenzlauer Berg. Whether you’re a fellow Berliner or a wanderer already dwelling over future travel plans, here’s my local neighborhood guide to one of Berlin‘s most popular districts, Prenzlauer Berg.
Location of Prenzlauer Berg
Brief History of Prenzlauer Berg
Spanning parts of the larger Pankow district in the Northeast, today’s locality of Prenzlauer Berg officially became part of Berlin in 1920 – if writing this post for the district’s 100th anniversary isn’t good timing then I don’t know what is!
Initially planned as a working-class district, Prenzlauer Berg became a haven for students, creatives, and intellectuals in the former German Democratic Republic (GDR). With the fall of the wall, the district underwent drastic changes.
The influx of young activists from West-Germany along with the “native” Bohemians created a vibrant cultural scene. Countless community projects were set up, many of which were based in squatted buildings.
However – from the 1990s onward, the privatization of large portions of formerly GDR-owned apartment buildings paved the way for a rapid gentrification process.
Today, Prenzlauer Berg is one of the most popular and most livable neighborhoods in the German capital. The district boasts an expansive food scene and a sheer abundance of precious Altbau buildings, which will have you want to move in instantly.
Lined along cobble-stoned streets, over 300 buildings are pronounced historic monuments. Take a stroll around this Kiez and explore the fusion of its creative energy of the past with an affluent modern touch.
What to See and Do in Prenzlauer Berg
Okay, Kollwitzplatz might be the epitome of charming (read: posh) Prenzlberg. But it won’t take long for you to understand why. The square offers several cafes, green spaces, and prime apartments nestled around said square. Käthe Kolwitz, one of the most famous German artists of the 20th century, called these streets her home back in the day.
Keep an eye out for the herds of strollers navigating the sidewalk with you. In fact, Prenzlauer Berg is one of the few places in Germany that have experienced a baby boom over the last two decades.
2. Water Tower
While roaming Prenzlauer Berg, you will, at some point, spot “Fat Hermann“, Berlin’s oldest water tower. Built in 1877 to cope with the growing influx of working-class residents, the 30-meter-tall structure has served a variety of purposes since.
The most infamous one – when the Nazis ascended to power in 1933, they set up one of the first concentration camps in Germany in the tower’s engine room. Today, the surrounding park is a great place to rest – and makes it easy to forget those dark chapters of the past.
If you’re looking for a more permanent solution, the tower also houses a number of city-owned apartments, which were initially designed for the mechanics who worked here.
I’ll let the photos speak for this one. Kastanienallee connects Prenzlberg to Berlin Mitte and provides an abundance of culinary and creative escapes. The instruction for this one are easy: Start at Eberswalder U-Bahn Station and make your way southward along the chestnut tree-lined avenue.
The name says it all – during the years of a divided Germany, parts of the Berlin Wall ran through today’s Mauerpark. In fact, the areal used to denote the so called “death strip” portion of the border. Today, the only reminiscent of those cruel times are remainders of the wall constantly being reworked with colorful graffiti.
On weekends, people gather for Berlin’s largest flea market. The adjacent food section can easily be mistaken for a food festival in itself while the outdoor karaoke sessions will definitely keep you entertained. Also check out the program at bordering Max-Schmeling Halle, a large event venue and home to several of Berlin’s sports clubs.
5. Berlin Wall Memorial
For those looking for a bit more historical context to Germany’s division, head over to Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer. The memorial site boasts an excellent outdoor exhibition on the history of Berlin’s East-West divide, featuring steel markers that indicate the former site of the wall. Bernauer Straße was a focal point of the dramatic changes that were brought upon the city during the years of division.
The grounds also include the Chapel of Reconciliation as well as exposed foundations of houses that were used as parts of the wall on the East Berlin side. You could easily spent a couple hours soaking up glimpses into Berlin’s dramatic past.
The streets around Helmholtzplatz was where I first touched down in Berlin a couple years ago – and the neighborhood captivated me from the very first second. You can’t help but marvel at the magnificent rows of Altbau buildings and the tree-lined cobble-stoned streets.
This is signature Prenzlauer Berg. Helmholtzplatz is where the action happens – though we are primarily talking about sipping on cappuccinos or spritzers. Picking up a Wegbier, a bottled beer to go, from one of the Spätis is also not frowned upon.
Don’t get me wrong. This neighborhood also offers something beyond these sinful delights. Close-by, you will come across the impressive Gethsemane Church. The church served as safe meeting place during the critical years of the peaceful revolution in the former German Democratic Republic (GDR). Today, it remains a history-laden, impressive sight.
Once a large brewery, KulturBrauerei is a large industrial-style complex that today houses cinemas, theaters, as well as several clubs and event spaces. The transformation is a prime example of joining the original charm of a brick complex with a more modern infrastructure. Justifiably, it has been denoted a historical monument in 1974.
8. Synagoge Rykestraße
Rykestraße Synagogue is not only the largest Jewish place of worship in Berlin, but is in Europe only beaten in size by the Dohány Street Synagogue in Budapest. Founded in 1903, it was thanks to its location in the residential area in Prenzlauer Berg that it escaped complete destruction during the progrom in 1938.
Though the Nazis occupied the building during the Second World War, it was also miraculously sparred by the numerous bombing raids that went down on Berlin. Just in time for its 100th anniversary, Rykestraße Synagogue reopened in 2004 – offering weekly services for Belin’s Jewish community as well as public tours on Thursdays and Sundays.
This marks the end of my local’s guide to Prenzlauer Berg. Do you have any further questions? Drop me a line in the comments below, I am happy to help.