Ten years ago, Neukölln was one of Berlin’s major Problemkieze, a working class neighborhood more known for urban grit than as a popular tourist destination.
But the neighborhood wasn’t without its charms: To insiders, it was always known as a great place to explore. You could come across amazing finds (with prices to match) at one of its many dusty second-hand stores, as well as a great place to find roomy, dirt cheap apartments.
A lot has changed since then. The dusty old stores have mostly given way to boutiques and artsy cafes; the ones that remain are well versed in terms like “mid-century” and lay in hopes of snagging an expat hipster willing to dig deep into their pockets. Long gone are the days of easy apartment searches and rent prices are today among the highest in the city.
This said, a trip to Neukölln is still a must for every traveler who wants to experience Berlin’s special brand of coolness. Here is our guide to the neighborhood’s best budget-friendly restaurants and bars, complete with several tips on where you can still get a taste for old-school Neukölln. We’ve broken it up into three main districts, Kreuzkölln, Rixdorf, and Schillerkiez.
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On the border to Kreuzberg, this part of Neukölln is especially popular with the hip, younger party crowd. The major streets are Weserstrasse, which extends from Hermannplatz, Reuterstrasse, Hobrechtstrasse, Pannierstrasse and Maybachufer, which runs along Landwehr canal, and Sonnenallee, also known as “little Lebanon.”
Food & drink under €10 in Kreuzkölln
With dozens of cafes, bars and restaurants, you’ll find plenty of places to chow down in Kreuzkölln. However, many of the places come and go at the whim of gentrification and prices are on the rise. Here is a list of a few tried and true tips, with good grub for under €10.
Pizza a Pezzi
A no-frills pizza place off of Weserstrasse to fuel up on carbs before or after a night of bar-hopping.
Wochenmarkt am Maybachufer
Maybachufer, Tuesday and Fridays, 10 to 6:30
Also known as the “Turkish” or “Oriental” market, this market has many cheap eats on offer mixed in with the produce and textile stands. Be sure and try a Gözleme, a traditional savory Turkish stuffed flatbread, served hot off the griddle.
Mae Charoen Thai Imbiss
An authentic Thai place with scrumptious curry dishes for €5 and under.
One of several rotisserie chicken places on Sonnenallee, this halal eatery offers fast food-style menus without the plastic aftertaste. Be sure and try some hummus with your fries.
A great Lebanese place with small prices and huge portions. For a lighter bite, order a wrap to go for only €1.50.
An old-school Neukölln establishment, this funky café bakes up what some call the best croissants in the city. It also serves great coffee and a small selection of other baked goods.
Great ice cream place with exotic flavors mixed in with the basics. Indulge your inner six-year-old and order a Spaghetti Eis, vanilla ice cream shaped like pasta with strawberry sauce and ground nuts posing as parmesan and marinara.
One of the first bars to open in what was then the newly dubbed Kreuzkölln, Ä is a smoky, no-frills watering hole that attracts a student-aged crowd. The place gets packed pretty fast, so come early if you want a seat.
Nathanja und Heinrich
Here’s another “smoker’s bar” (you’re still allowed to smoke in bars if food is not served) with vintage furniture, a big store front window, exposed brick walls and a youngish crowd.
This is a 1950s and ’60s music bar with a vinyl-only policy. Plenty of live music and cheap drinks guarantees an out of sight night for any hepcat.
Karl-Marx-Strasse and Rathaus Neukölln
Although plenty of hipsters abound in this part of Neukölln, it’s not quite as gentrified as Kreuzkölln and is still home to many Turkish and working class German families. When you’re there, be sure to check out Richardstrasse and Richardplatz near the U-Bahn station Karl-Marx-Str.
Known as Rixdorf, this area was once a Bohemian village and still is home to many historic buildings you won’t see the likes of anywhere else in Berlin. Comenius Garden (Richardstr. 35) is a small green oasis dedicated to the teachings of universal scholars. Stroll along the “life cycle” path and think deep thoughts with locals and stray expats alike.
Food & Drink near Karl-Marx-Strasse and Rathaus Neukölln
Tucked away in a leafy green courtyard off of gritty, bustling Karl-Marx-Strasse, Café Rix was here way before the hipster invasion and will still be there once they have moved on to the next big thing. Although the food gets mixed reviews and is a bit on the pricey side, it’s still worth it to pop in for a Pils and enjoy this café’s old school, opulent veneer.
Don’t let the shabby, run-down, hole in the wall atmosphere fool you: Tabibito serves some of the best sushi in Berlin at a nice price complete with friendly service.
Another Neukölln old timer, Café-Restaurant Louis cooks up one of the biggest schnitzels in all of Berlin. If you order the largest size, you could easily feed a family of five. A small selection of German and Austrian specialties are also available on the menu.
Order the scrumptious Sudanese falafel with peanut sauce — perfect for those looking for the same Turkish and Middle Eastern fare you can get all over the city but with a different ethnic twist. Chicken, halloumi cheese and tofu sandwiches and plates also available.
Located on the top floor of the parking garage of one of the world’s dowdiest, most depressing malls, Klunker Kranich — part urban garden and part bar with somewhat surly service — is worth it for the novelty and breathtaking view alone.
Schillerkiez and Hermannstrasse
The neighborhood Schillerkiez is located at the top of one of Berlin’s only hills. Although this area is now as hip and gentrified as its downhill neighbor, you’ll find a slightly older crowd and lots of cool, urban families with Dutch design buggy bikes.
Besides the lovely tree-lined Schiller Promenade, namesake of the neighborhood, you’ll also find three parks: Körnerpark, Hasenheide and, the mother of all urban green spaces, Tempelhof Airport. If you’re visiting Berlin in the summer, Hasenheide also has a Freiluftkino (open air cinema) where they often show movies in the original language.
Food & Drink in Schillerkiez
Café im Körnerpark
With its fountains and Neo-baroque garden style, Körnerpark — turning 100 in 2016 — brings a stylish flair to the rougher, somewhat less gentrified streets around S-Bahn/U-Bahnhof Hermannstrasse. Although the food at the café is nothing to write home about, it’s still the perfect place for a spot of Kaffee und Kuchen.
From Hanoi With Love
A hipster hotspot with tasty Vietnamese food. Expect big portions and low prices.
Zimt und Mehl
This café, popular for breakfast, has fair prices, friendly service, and tables with a view over the canal —what else could you ask for?
This little snack bar offers several Korean BBQ dishes in different sizes. Order one to go and jaunt around the corner to Tempelhof Airport to feast on bulgogi or mandu while watching the rollerbladers, bicyclist and kite skateboarders roll past.
A popular burger place with several Berlin locations, including one down the hill at Karl-Marx-Strasse 223.
A friendly neighborhood smoker’s bar which shows silent films on Wednesdays complete with live piano music.
This left-wing pub has been here forever. Nothing fancy schmancy awaits: just cheap beer, cheap shots, and loud punk rock music. If you’re lucky, you’ll also see one of Neukölln’s original eccentrics, like the local pirate, complete with a parrot on his shoulder.