A walk through Neukölln
Read on to see why Neukölln is fast becoming the place to be in Berlin.
While Charlottenburg is recognized as the classy west end of Berlin, the central district of Mitte is getting increasingly glamorous. But if you prefer a raw, casual experience, the coolest neighborhood is in the southeast district of Berlin, which has grown into a bohemian village. Formerly known as Rixdorf, bohemian refugees settled in the area of Richardplatz, which is now home to restaurants, bars, and cafes. It's a sort of “last stop on the L train” from Brooklyn.
Neukölln is the southeast borough of Berlin, in the former American sector of the city. Thriving with hype since 2010, the same year that Berlin's old Tempelhof Airport, which closed in 2008, opened as a public park called Tempelhofer Field, the district is quickly gentrifying as a hip neighborhood with 40% immigrants in an area with a population of over 300,000. Mayor Heinz Buschkowsky wrote: “Neukölln is everywhere,” a book about multiculturalism. Aside from the bars on Weserstraβe and the shops along Karl Marx Straβe, some locations are still vacant. It still retains the rawness of its earlier years, which inspired David Bowie to write a song in 1977 about the area's Turkish immigrants, but has since skyrocketed as a go-to trendy place which still offers affordable rent for artists.
Creative capitalKINDL Centre for Contemporary Art (Am Sudhaus 2) is set in a former KINDL Brewery, which was built in the 1920s. Berlin's Kindl beer used this brewery for 70 years before relocating to a larger facility in 2005. Now, the vintage brewery is owned by Zurich-based art collectors, Burkhard Varnholt and Salome Grisard, who bought it in 2011.
This fall, the 5,500-square-meter space, crowned with a 38-meter-high tower, will thrive as a multi-level contemporary art center with galleries, studios, and a café. Two more exhibition spaces will open along with artist studios and a café in the main brewing building. The Brew House will be home to the König Otto Café (named after the Bavarian ruler). Mediterranean fare made from organic, local products will be offered along with alcoholic beverages, including draft beer from the nearby Rollberg beer brewery, which produces a local beer available in many Berlin bars. The renovation for this privately funded space costs 6 million Euros (7.2 million CHF). That will help develop construction for three floors of exhibition space, including one gallery on the second floor with a glass ceiling. A view from the second-story windows shows the landmark TV Tower in the far distance, as rows of Neukölln butter yellow and white residential buildings line the streets.
Nearby, the Agora Café and Restaurant (Mittelweg 50) is a project space for the creative with a great café on the main floor with six chefs-in-residence, each of whom works one day a week (in Berlin; everything is closed on Sundays). From Asian fare to Nordic fusion, the chefs feature local, fresh products from breakfast to dinner.
Das Gift (Donaustraße 119) is a 1980s wooden-paneled, Berlin-style bar, co-owned by a couple from Scotland. Ask for the Scottish ales, while listening to the jukebox, filled with playlists created by Robert Smith from the Cure, The Smiths, Mogwai, and even Irvine Welsh.
Tier Bar (Weserstraße 42) is a local watering hole with a mystic, surreal vibe—white candles light the tables and soft, minimal tunes play in the background as the bartenders whip up Moscow Mules and local Berlin beers.
Kuschlowski (Weserstraße 202) is a small, cozy Russian vodka bar with Ukrainian, Polish and Russian vodka. They also have bottled beer and a darkly romantic atmosphere, a perfect haunt for Dostoyevsky. Named after a children's TV show and set in a gorgeous corner of Neukölln is Fuchs und Elster (Weseraße 207), a cocktail bar and restaurant with large windowsills and a dark bar with live piano acts from local talents—from jazz to rock.
Loophole (Boddinstraße 60) is more than just a bar, it's a colorful, unpretentious art and event space set in a former brothel. Co-founded by the artists from the K:ITA collective, this space is home to performances by electronic artists like LAL Forest from Toronto and White Wigwam from Prague, as well as other underground electronic acts you've yet to discover. Don't miss their annual film festival, the Boddinalle to see films from up-and-coming directors. Loophole is a must-see for not only its colorful lighting and art deco but to meet the locals, too – they've been open since 2009 and have served as a hub for artists in the neighborhood, from installation to film and sound art
For vegans, Let It Be (Treptower Straβe 90) is a vegan creperie in a former hairdressing salon. If you've got a sweet tooth, try the sugar, cinnamon and applesauce crepes, as well as more meal-type crepes named after famous celebrities. The “Erykah Badu” has chickpea curry and homemade chutney, while the “Woody Harrelson” has ham, cheese, leeks and cream sauce. They also serve burgers. “Thom Yorke” is a veggie patty hamburger with beet root, hummus and homemade spice red cabbage ketchup. And of course, there's a bar.
Engels Café (Herrfurthstraße 21), which is named after Friedrich Engels, a Marist theorist, has some of the best brunch on Sundays—as well as strong coffee and luscious desserts – and is just a five-minute walk from Tempelhofer Field.
Café Lux (Herrfurthstraße 9) is the perfect place to catch up with an old friend. They serve hot chocolate, cupcakes, cakes and light dishes in one of the oldest parts of the district.
The restaurants in the Richardplatz area are home to traditional German fare, including apple strudel and other desserts. Villa Rixdorf offers veggie plates such as the Artichoke Dish or meat plates like a Pork Plate with potatoes and chives. The Louis Restaurant serves extra-large schnitzel, as well as dumplings with chicken. Nearby, the Italian restaurant Ristorante Su Nugarhe offers hearty spaghetti plates along with a selection of Italian wines. If you want to get a taste of the street food, there is a Turkish market every Friday on Maybachufer, the street by the Spree River. From fruits and vegetables to prepared food, Neukölln truly has it all.
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By Nadja Sayej