We’ve been here for seven years. I’m Irish (England-born) and Michael is German. We were living in London when Michael was offered a two-year placement in Berlin and we immediately fell in love with the city, for the space, the creativity, the beautiful streets, the safety, the warm summers - the perfect antidote to the things we were getting tired of in London.
What would be your perfect local kiez day out with the boys?
When the boys were babies I hardly ever left these few streets, as everything you need is here. On a weekend, Michael and one of the boys fetch fresh rolls from our favourite old-school DDR baker, Bernd Lau (now M. Beisewski), on Pasteurstrasse and we get out of the house around 9.30 (because by then the boys are climbing the walls). I love the little Saturday market on Pasteurstrasse, so we have a wander and a second coffee at the little stall from Godshot. We’d probably then go to the bike track in Volkspark Friedrichshain, or playground in Arnswalder Platz, so the kids can expend some energy. Lunch might be in La Tazza for a hearty soup in winter, or a bratwurst in the Volkspark in summer. In the afternoon we might meet some friends in the pirate playground on Bötzowstrasse and then go for kaffee und kuchen in Franz Karl, the amazing Austrian cake maker. If we were to go out for dinner, we’d maybe go to Mami Camilla for amazing pizza and Italian food, as our kids are finally able to sit still long enough!
These don’t happen often, and there aren’t so many bars in our area, but we love Herr Rossi on Winsstrasse. Cosy, great Italian food and relaxed as a gemütlich Berlin bar should be. Weinberg on Winstrasse is also worth it for friendly service, nibbles and a huge list of wines – they’ll let you taste them first too. There’s also Chez Maurice (pricy but pretty good French restaurant) for a glass of wine and cheese plate. For a giant schnitzel and kaiserschmarrn, Alt Wien is good, and Pane e Rose is good for a fancy Italian dinner with white table cloths (we had our wedding meal there).
I see you are a keen musician, is your area good for watching bands etc?
Erm, nope! There’s a place called Cafe Boheme on Winsstrasse which has musicians regularly, and I think Kreuz und Kümmel on Christburgerstrasse also has some gigs. I’ve heard Musikbrauerei, is meant to be great for experimental music but I haven’t made it there yet.
Do you have any favourite things to do in Spring/Summer?
The park is everything to us, in all seasons. We cycle/walk/run around it and love the lake for the ducks, the sheltered stream and elephant fountains where the kids can run naked and cool down (essential some days!). We have barbecues on the grass with other families. In spring, Kaethe-Niederkirchner Strasse has a stretch of the most beautiful cherry trees. Every year they close the road the weekend the trees blossom and have a big fleamarket and picnic. There are also regular fleamarkets. We have one of the best ice cream places in Berlin on our doorstep, Rosa Canina, and another amazing one, Early Birds on Winsstrasse, and we go there almost every day.
We’ve just joined the small, volunteer-run library on Esmarchstrasse and they’ve started doing events and readings for kids, which we like to join in. Also, Halloween has grown into a huge event in recent years, with nearly every shop handing out sweets, and even free ice cream from Rosa Canina. Sledging down the park's slopes in winter is brilliant fun, and in autumn we collect conkers/acorns and generally run around in the leaves. I love to run in the park in any weather, and there are two hills for uphill training. When my second boy was a baby in a pram, I used to run around the running track which is about 1km, and there are also quite a few places for yoga and pilates. The 50m pool in the Velodrom is a short cycle away and has a great area for kids. The Ernst-Thaelmann pool is a bit nearer and has a small kids pool – a godsend on rainy days.
What is the area like for kitas and schools?
There are a lot of small local kitas, but, of course, without any free spots. Our kita is a 15-minute walk away, and we managed to get in thanks to a connection with Michael’s company. I’ve heard the local primaries are good, the one on Pasteurstrasse we have our eye on, or the one on Heinrich Roller Straße across Greifswalder Straße. Also, Berlin Bilingual is just across the park. We have one year left to work out we’re going to do.
Are there many playgrounds within easy walking distance?
Loads. Within a few minutes walk, there’s a sunny pirate playground on Botzowstrasse, a rocket playground on Liselotte-Herrman-Strasse, a small, shady one on Esmarchstrasse, the ‘jumping’ playground with little trampolines on Hans Otto Strasse and two more playgrounds on Arnswalder Platz, one of them with a water fountain in summer. Then in the Volkspark there are three more big playgrounds and two lakes with ducks. We’re a bit spoiled.
There are, but all the actual kindercafes seem to have closed down which is a shame, but there’s a great restaurant and biergarten in the Volkspark, Schoenbrunnen, which does kids’ pasta and pizza, has a bratwurst stand and a little kiosk in summer. There’s also the Pavilion which is a biergarten in the summer and a cosy indoor space with a real fire, decent food and a puppet show in winter. You can also barbecue in the park and many families hold birthday parties there in the summer. Tous les Jours is also good, cheap, friendly and cheerful, with decent scrambled eggs and big breakfasts, and it has a few toys. Leutemann’s is good for salads, homemade smoked salmon and pies. For pizza, in addition to Mami Camilla, there’s also Pepe Nero. Mama’s Banh does great streetfood and they’re super friendly to families. Then a little further afield there’s Raum Schwalbe which I really like, but now the boys are bigger and more active we don’t stay too long – perfect for babies though, with a gorgeous, soft play area and classes for kids and adults.
How does living in this neighbourhood suit your profession? l
I’m a freelance copywriter, and it’s good to a short cycle away from Mitte for agencies. There are a few cafes to work from, such as La Tazza which is big and roomy, and Juggle Hub coworking space is nearby, which has childcare.
Yes. The M4 train goes to Alex in four stops or the ringbahn in two stops. The M10 goes to Warschauer Strasse one way and Hauptbahnhof the other way. The 200 bus takes a while but takes you on the tourist route into town all the way to Zoo or Mall of Berlin.
Are there any downsides to living where you do?
When we moved here it felt too quiet, and decent coffee was impossible to find, but since having kids, it’s pretty much perfect. The big problem now of course are the rent prices. They must have gone up 50% since we moved here, so we feel a bit stuck - we’d love more room, more light, a garden, a view...but wouldnt' everyone? Also, a lot of the families living here are expats, so many of my friends have left, as people just tend to pass through, which is a bit heart-breaking. Also, if you don’t have kids, you might find the area a bit much. I’ve been shouted at for just having my buggy in their way on the pavement!
Any tips for families thinking of moving to your area?
I guess you’d probably need to think about paying a pretty high rent. And searching for a kita spot very early. But once you’re here, it’s a peaceful, idyllic place for families, yet still very central. Despite quite a few shops and cafes closing down because of rising rents, it’s still thriving and you can’t beat stepping outside your door and having so many cafes to choose from.
Have you considered moving elsewhere, and if so, where and why?
Lately I’ve wanted to move somewhere a bit greener, with outside space for the and a closer community. I’ve been looking at Koepenick, Treptow and a little town called Wandlitz, after stumbling across a fantastic harvest festival there last year. It’s a nice looking town, near our favourite Berlin lake, Liepnitzsee. We’ll probably end up in Pankow though, which a friend calls the black hole of Prenzlauer Berg, as all families end up getting sucked out there.
Five words to describe your neighbourhood?
I often think when I’ve been away somewhere and drive back onto the cobbled streets, with trees bowing over them, and well-dressed people strolling along: “It’s like a film set.”
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