Akazienstraße and the surrounding borough of Schöneberg is not really an area designed with the conventional tourist in mind. You won’t find many museums, art galleries or monuments here. What you will find is the real Berlin – one side of it, anyway. What makes this Kiez (a typically “Berlin” word referring to a neighbourhood with a distinct character) so special is the incredibly strong sense of community. It is an area made homely, eccentric and beautiful by the people, for the people – especially at this time of year, when every shop front is decorated with carved wooden dolls, fairy lights and Christmas trees. And most crucially, I can also add from experience that “outsiders” are not made to feel any less welcome.
We’ll take a little walk, and there is only one place to start: Winterfeldtplatz, which plays host to the fantastic Winterfeldtmarkt every Wednesday and Saturday morning. It may not be as famous as the flea market at Mauerpark (which has by now become a tourist trap in any case) but for many native Berliners, this market is a staple in the weekly calendar. Rather than trinkets, you will be able to find anything from exotic fruits to alpaca wool socks, from hand-rolled candles to mountains of pre-loved books – and, of course, endless stalls offering delicacies from Turkey, France, North Africa, East Asia, and Germany itself. The market is full of life and void of pretence, and a failure to experience it first-hand is inexcusable.
We’ll emerge from the tumult on the southern side of the square, and begin to walk down Goltzstraße toward Akazienstraße. It is not a long walk, but you won’t want to rush down this street – there are many cafes to visit and little boutiques to browse. Crime novel enthusiasts cannot forego a visit to the Murder Books, Inc. bookshop, which is tucked away on a side road; history enthusiasts might want to consider popping into the Berliner Geschichtswerkstatt (Berlin History Workshop); and wine enthusiasts will find many shops catering to their interests, in particular Traubenblut which specialises in organically sourced European wines.
One of the most unique spots, and one which exhibits that particular community spirit so present in this Kiez, is the Emma & Paul Familiencafé, situated on the road parallel to Goltzstraße. The team behind this café-restaurant has created a safe, fun and relaxing space which children can enjoy as much as parents. Children can happily exert themselves in the playroom, which is complete with play kitchen, pirate costumes, wooden toys and much more, while their parents enjoy the chance to take a load off and drink some much-needed coffee in the room next door.
Anyone who enjoys a good cup of tea is in for a treat at Tee Tea Thé, which offers 400 different blends in its shop and English High Tea in its café. The scones for this are home-made on site, as is the traditional clotted cream, which cannot be bought in Germany and has to be made by hand. The attention to detail is flawless and you get a clear sense that Robert Scholz and Einhard Luther have a real passion for tea, and for the street: “Akazienstrasse gets so busy sometimes,” says one of the two owners, Robert Scholz. “Here on Goltzstraße, it’s nice to be a little bit out of the way of the hubbub. The street is always changing but there is a really good selection of cafes and shops around – we’re quite happy that sixteen years ago we decided to open up here.”
The café culture continues in the somewhat less sedate Akazienstrasse, and even on days where the streets aren’t abuzz with Christmas shoppers or parents walking their children to school, you will always find locals sitting outside, wrapped in a blanket to ward off the cold, and enjoying a cup of hot coffee.
Most notably, you will find them in Double Eye, a real community melting pot: the café is almost always thronged with all manner of visitors, from young tattooed hipsters to middle-aged businessmen with children. Often, the queue snakes out onto the street. The reason is simple: excellent coffee, made to perfection and with an individual twist for every customer. Owner Arno Schmeil, who has previously been crowned the world champion in espresso-making, wouldn’t have it any other way.
For those who are after something a bit more solid, Café Sur offers a range of international breakfasts named after cities – the Marseille, the Sheffield, the Roma – while Café Bilderbuch’s menu consists of brunches named after fairy tales and their characters.
Akazienstraße and the surrounding area also has a well-earned reputation for antiques and if you are looking for a piece to add to your home, you are sure to find it, whether your style is bauhaus functionality or ornamental 18th century. In the Sorgenfrei cafe you can drink a coffee among furniture from the 1950s and 1960s, or shop for textiles and antiques from 1850 to 1950 in Mimi.
Something for everyone
And there is more. The fact is, that in this area, it doesn’t matter who you are or what you like, because whatever your passion, someone is catering for it: the women-only Café Pink, the LGBT cinema Xenon on nearby Kolonnenstrasse, the Greek Taverna Ousies where Goltz- and Akazienstraße meet, the Chocolaterie Estrellas…
Not only will you doubtless stumble across the perfect stocking filler here and the perfect memento of your trip to Berlin there, but if you’re lucky you might even come across that most elusive of creatures, an Ur-Berliner – someone who was born and raised in the city. One of these is Christopher Zaddach, co-owner of the café-bar Zwei Berliner, and though his business thrives on local custom, he says, “visitors from further away are always more than welcome to come by.” So, what’s stopping you?
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