Springtime in Berlin is like a big breath of fresh air. After being cooped up throughout a long, dark winter, locals take to the outdoors like a fish takes to water. Sunny sidewalk terraces fill up as soon as the temperature hits the mid-teens, as do all the beer gardens, riverbanks, parks and picnic grounds. As a matter of fact, I’m sitting in a park right now to write this, spread out on the grass with my laptop as the sun peeks over the budding trees.
As nearly everyone can agree, one of the nicest ways to enjoy a warm, sunny day is to have a meal out in the fresh air. Berlin abounds with al fresco dining spots of every kind, from Michelin-starred hotel restaurants with a posh little terrace to rowdy parks that fill up with weekend picnickers, turning the air hazy with smoke from little charcoal-stoked barbecues. My favourites lie somewhere in between the two extremes: casual, comfortable, characterful spots like the Il Casolare pizzeria in Kreuzberg (Grimmstr. 30). The location couldn’t be better: the restaurant is located right on the pretty, willow-lined Landwehr Canal, with a big sidewalk terrace overlooking the Admiralbrücke. For reasons nobody can remember, this little cobble-stoned bridge became a go-to destination for outdoor hangouts. On warm evenings, it fills up with buskers and groups of friends who bring drinks and guitars for a lively street party of sorts – at least until 22:00, when noise regulations kick in and the police come by to clear it out.
Back to the pizza: Il Casolare is run by a posse of Italians who take their thin-crust pies very seriously, making this one of the best pizza spots in the city. Don’t expect anything fancy – the walls are covered with graffiti and autographs from past visitors and the service is punky and not exactly warm, but the pizzas are absolutely worth it. Make a reservation or try your luck to get a coveted spot on the terrace, order the parmigiana pizza with aubergines, spinach and parmesan shavings or a good old margherita, and take in the lively Kreuzberg scene.
Not too far away, further east along the same canal, is another favourite restaurant with a great terrace: Cocolo, a Japanese restaurant dedicated to the delicious ramen noodle (Paul-Lincke-Ufer 39–40). Inside is a spacious, hip interior with a bustling open kitchen, but the terrace out front is undoubtedly the best spot to sit. There are also snacks like crispy pan-fried gyoza dumplings on the menu, but the main dish here is big bowls of chewy wheat noodles in flavourful pork bone or miso broth and various toppings. Afterward, keep enjoying the fresh air with a meandering stroll along the canal embankment.
If, like me, you’re a fan of the great outdoors, don’t miss Tiergarten, the big park right in the centre of the city that was once a private hunting ground for the royal family but is now open to the public – luckily for us. Besides all of the green space to explore, the west end of the park has two lovely dining locales that are definitely worth a visit. Next to a tranquil pond, Café am Neuen See (Lichtensteinallee 2) has cosy indoor areas (with a fireplace for chillier days) and plenty of outdoor tables under the trees. It’s an idyllic spot for a meal at any time of day, or just a snack and a beer in the sun. There are even rowboats to rent for paddling around the pond. A short walk away is another great spot called Schleusenkrug (Müller-Breslau-Straße), a fun, family-friendly beer garden overlooking a canal lock – wave at the tour boats going by as you sip a pint of pilsner. The food options include a grill station that serves up sizzling sausages and steaks to go with your beer, as well as a kitchen that creates a variety of meals and cakes for afternoon teatime.
And remember, even if the weather doesn’t seem to be on your side, that doesn’t mean dining al fresco is off the table. Many restaurants provide fleece blankets for wrapping up against the chill, so do as the Berliners do and enjoy food and drink outdoors from springtime right through until autumn.
Want to explore Berlin’s al fresco scene? Check out our Berlin hotel deals to start planning your trip.