Welcome to Kollwitzkiez
Thanks to rapid gentrification, the former Jewish ghetto popular among starving artists and squatters is now one of Berlin’s most exclusive neighbourhoods. Kollwitzkiez, the area surrounding Kollwitzplatz, can be found between Danziger Strasse and Metzer Strasse in Prenzlauer Berg. Largely preserved after the second world war, the area’s historic Wilhelminian Altbau buildings with stuccoed façades give the kiez (the German word for ‘neighbourhood’) an original charm not found in most other parts of East Berlin. After the fall of the Wall in 1989, German federal and state governments invested more than 100 million euros to properly restore the neighbourhood’s historic buildings, causing substantial rent increases in an area previously one of the cheapest areas to live in Berlin. Today, the idyllic façades, large playgrounds, and trendy cafés attract wealthy young families in particular.
Named after artist Käthe Kollwitz (1867-1945) who lived in the area until shortly before her death, the district’s artistic past was not lost during gentrification. While the neighbourhood may not be associated with the starving artists of earlier years, many of Berlin's best artists are still adding colour and culture to the streets around Kollwitzplatz. Street murals, art installations, and upscale galleries are dotted around the neighbourhood, and local artists sell their fare at the biweekly markets.
Every Saturday between 9am and 4pm the farmers market at Kollwitzplatz offers a variety of fresh produce and local goods. And for the past 24 years, the square has hosted the Ecomarket (Ökomarkt) every Thursday. The market doesn’t begin until noon, in order to give farmers plenty of time to harvest in the morning so that shoppers are provided with the freshest produce in the afternoon. More than 50 vendors offer organic products, from fruit and vegetables from nearby Brandenburg farms to handmade children’s clothes, jewellery, and other handicrafts. There are also juice stalls, coffee vendors, and eatery trucks with a range of organic offerings for vegans, vegetarians, and carnivores alike.
Shop til you drop
Organic markets aren't the only place where you can shop. Kollwitzkiez is famous for its boutiques of every sort: independent designers selling interior decor, handmade wooden children's toys, sustainable clothing brands, and antique and vintage shops make for a shopaholic's dream. No big chains are in sight here: instead, check out classic Scandinavian interior pieces at Scandinavian Objects on Rykestrasse for unique lamps and chairs with the iconic Swedish style. Or if you're looking to catch up on your reading list, St. George's on Wörther Strasse is the largest English book store in the whole of Berlin, with an extensive collection of both used and new books. For all things kid-related, check out concept store d.nik on Wörther Strasse for sustainable children's clothes, toys, and furniture. For more specific treasure hunting, Olaf Bornemann restores antique lamps at his workshop (Berliner Lampenmanufaktur) on Rykestrasse. You're sure to find something totally unique, maybe even with a special story attached.
Views from the top
Close to Kollwitzplatz you’ll find Berlin’s oldest water tower, the Prenzlauer Berg Wasserturm. A landmark of the district, the water tower is no longer in use, but visitors can go up to the top for a wonderful view over the Kollwitzkiez. You might be able to spot the Kulturbrauerei event centre between Knaackstrasse and Schönhauser Allee, and Berlin’s oldest beer garden, Pratergarten on Kastanienallee.
A food-lover's dream
Foodies will find themselves right at home in Kollwitzkiez. From authentic Russo-Jewish dishes at Pasternak, Indochinese flavours at Umami, Indian street food at Chutnify, and arguably one of the best pizzerias in Berlin at Standard, you can find cuisine from nearly every continent within the area. Of course, it wouldn’t be Prenzlauer Berg without some of the best brunch options in the city: No Fire No Glory on Rykestrasse is perfect for those looking for classic brunch fare, and Schlomo’s on Kollwitzstrasse offers generously filled bagels all day long.
Chilled-out night life
While you won’t find any of Berlin’s famous clubs or notoriously loud night life in Kollwitzkiez, the neighbourhood doesn’t go completely quiet after dark. Laid-back cocktail bars such as Scotch & Sofa, hausbar, and Bar 55 offer impressive drink selections and intimate atmospheres. Numerous wine bars and late-night cafés attract local and tourist patrons nearly every day of the week. Weinladen Schmidt on Kollwitzstrasse is the place to be to connect with other wine connessoirs, or simply for a great spot to have a glass of excellent wine paired with even better conversation.
Of course, we can't go without mentioned the famous Kulturbrauerei on Knaackstrasse. The brewery-turned-event space was built in 1842 by a pharmacist from Kreuzberg, making it now over 170 years old. Today the huge space hosts events of every kind, from open-air concerts in the summer, to street food markets every Sunday. Every December the Scandinavian Lucia Christmas opens up, inviting thousands in to enjoy festive lights and refreshments.
While Kollwitzkiez may be synonymous with baby strollers and snooty mums, don’t let its reputation keep you away. A thriving art scene, excellent gastronomy, and laid-back locals will have even Berlin’s coolest coming back for more.