If you’re traveling to Berlin, there’s a good chance you already know many of the major cultural and historical sites frequented by tourists, with names like the Brandenburg Gate, Holocaust Memorial and Museum Island ringing a bell. And if you haven’t heard these names before, finding famous places in Berlin is made easy by an abundance of guidebooks, tourism websites and blogs dedicated to navigating the city. However, figuring out where you’ll spend time before, afterwards, and in-between is often more difficult than it seems. This guide seeks to make it easier — while making it taste really good, too. That is, if you like coffee.
The following cafes fall somewhere within the spectrum of second-wave and third wave coffee, with some falling squarely within one camp or the other. The “wave” distinction expresses the evolvement of the coffee industry over time, depicting each phase of growth or development as a wave. According to an article written by Elizabeth Childers of Slow Travel Berlin (a great resource, by the way), first wave coffee made instant, filtered coffee commonplace. It’s where coffee addiction began, however, over time “specialty” coffee emerged, signaling the beginning of the second wave. Instead of just dry, filtered coffee, baristas began using espresso machines, and an emphasis was placed on the coffee bean, where it came from, and how it was roasted. And in response, the third wave of coffee essentially upped the ante of the second wave; building off of what had so drastically changed coffee consumption. Instead of only knowing where the beans come from, third wave demands to know who the beans come from in a movement called Seed to Cup. Instead of just fair-trade, where third parties mediate between companies and growers, Seed to Cup emphasizes direct trade, as coffee beans are actually seeds of the coffee fruit, thereby directly supporting coffee farmers. Additionally, third wave coffee shops pride themselves on precise preparation techniques and a deep understanding of how coffee should taste in an effort to give you the best coffee ever.
And with that, the list begins.
If you’re visiting the Berlin Wall Memorial and Mauerpark, check out a café called Kaschk.
The Berlin Wall Memorial is listed as one of Berlin’s Top 10 attractions and consists of a surviving section of the Berlin Wall, in addition to a Memorial to the Victims of the Wall. The Mauerpark, which literally means “wall park,” is a piece of the former “death strip,” which separated the border between East and West in the later stages of the wall, as it was composed of two separate walls. To escape East Berlin by crossing the wall, one would first face the Eastern wall, then the “death strip,” and finally the Western wall. While its history is grim, the park today is a nice place to relax and hosts a well-known flea market every Sunday.
Kaschk is a café bar located a few blocks from both the Berlin Wall Memorial and Mauerpark. If you’re taking public transit, hop on the U8 at Bernauer Strasse until Weinmeister Strasse, and then walk down Alte Schönhauser Strasse. They have a nice selection of beer, coffee and snacks, and the staff speaks English if you’re feeling shy about speaking German. There’s a collection of chessboards in the back if you’d like to have a game (or two), but most importantly, they have free wifi. And, while this is a list about coffee, I wouldn’t rule out grabbing one of their craft beers on tap.
If you’re visiting the East Side Gallery, check out 5 Elephant or Shakespeare and Sons.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall, 118 artists from 21 countries created the East Side Gallery using a mile-long stretch of the former wall as a canvas. It’s one of the largest open air galleries in the world, with many of the works gaining international acclaim.
5 Elephant is a café and bakery known for its cheesecake, which is sold to cafes and restaurants across the city. If you stumble across a café and they have cheesecake, there’s a good chance that it’ll be 5 Elephant’s. The café itself is small and cozy, but lacking in free wifi. Of all of the cafes on this list, 5 Elephant is most decidedly third wave – prominently displaying their relationships with coffee farmers on their website, and designing a space expressly meant for enjoying coffee with family and friends. And obviously, you should try the cake.
To get there, walk for 15 to 20 minutes down Glogauer Strasse, across the river and through Görlitzer Park. Görlitzer Park has a petting zoo, but is known mostly the sale of various illicit drugs, so if that makes you uncomfortable, just walk around the block.
Shakespeare and Sons is an English language bookstore with great coffee and delicious, freshly boiled bagels. This location in Friedrichshain is the owner’s second, with the original (smaller) bookstore located in Prenzlauer Berg. You can find interesting books about to Berlin right when you walk in the door, with more genres located in the back. They have free wifi and great windows for people watching. To get here from the East Side Gallery, take the M10 tram from Warschauer Strasse to Grünberger Strasse.
If you’re visiting Checkpoint Charlie, check out westberlin.
Checkpoint Charlie was a famous crossing point between the American Sector of West Berlin and Soviet East Berlin during the Cold War. Today, you can see the pictures of an American soldier – “Charlie” – and a Soviet soldier on either side of the border and take pictures with actors dressed as soldiers from each side.
westberlin is down the street from Checkpoint Charlie – a quick 5 minute walk – with a great selection of coffee, small meals and reading materials. Some of their beans come from 5 Elephant, which puts westberlin on the third-wave spectrum. The staff here speaks English as well, and many of the books and magazines around the store are written in English. If you’re looking for a warm snack, try one of their quiches with a cappuccino (my personal favorite). But if you’d like to check your Facebook instead, there’s free wifi.
If you’re visiting Museum Island stop by Pure Origins Estate Coffee.
As the name suggests, Museum Island is an island located in the center of Berlin’s Mitte district housing five of Berlin’s renowned museums, in addition to various other historical sites. It’s designation as a UNESCO world heritage site highlights its cultural and architectural importance, while the museums in question fall within different areas of artistic, historical and cultural importance.
Pure Origins Estate Coffee is located about 2 blocks from the Pergamonmuseum-tip of Museum Island and features a stock of salads and bottled drinks in addition to baked goods, sandwiches, smoothies and coffee (of course). If you need some vegetables after a solid German diet of meat, cheese and bread, the salads are worth a try. It’s a bustling place, with a train passing by overhead and pedestrians walking by on either side. If you’re into people watching the large windows are great, but there’s also free wifi for the Snapchat prone.
As we reach the end of this guide, I have just one more suggestion: if you’re in Berlin, try to take in the city and all of its richness. Visit museums, galleries, bars, clubs, parks, factories, local shops and anything else that might interest you, and look around for the various levels and layers that define life here. But don’t forget to take a minute to slow down and enjoy your time.
There’s joy to be found in sitting and drinking a coffee too, and hopefully finding that next cup is easier than you might have thought it’d be.