In an early 90s edition of the Rough Guide to Berlin, the south-eastern district of Neukölln didn’t even merit a mention. How times change. In the last three years or so this traditionally working-class area with a long history of immigration has taken off – a typical pattern of gentrification after seeing the neighborhood discovered by students, artists and other creatives attracted by its low rents (which, just as typically, are now rising).
Neukölln in Berlin remains a melting pot, with Turks as the most visible minority. The cobbled, tree-lined streets near the picturesque canal are now additionally a haven for all sorts of bohemian activity. New cafes, bars and galleries open every week with high hopes and low budgets.
The new Geist im Glas is a case in point: low-key lighting, distressed walls, original art, mismatched second-hand furniture and friendly staff.
Recycling is big in bars here: Kuschlowski serves authentic Russian and Polish vodka in a former brothel, and Kachelounge sports the elaborate tile work of an old butcher’s, presided over by the neighborhood’s friendliest bar keep.
Most drinking holes will stay open until the last patron leaves, but for a reliable late-night weekend option, head to the underground labyrinth of Fuchs & Elster.
Cut-price consumerism is a way of life along the ironically-named Karl-Marx-Strasse, where Sonnenallee offers mounds of honey-soaked temptation in the windows of numerous Arab pastry shops. The hugely popular Turkish produce market sets up along the canal Tuesday and Friday afternoons; nearby café-bar Ankerklause leans perilously over the canal and does a fine hangover breakfast.
Gastronomy generally lags behind, but you can try Lavanderia Vecchia, located in an old laundry as its Italian name suggests; Café Rix, a grand, gilded space which was once a ballroom; or thoughtful modern European dishes at the small, stylish Föllerei. And there’s now a – typically eccentric – overnight option: Hüttenpalast is an indoor caravan park.