Berlin’s Hidden Historic Pubs and Their Fascinating Past
Oh, Berlin, you old minx, you. You’re the city of the Wall and techno, the city of currywurst and kebabs, a city that’s been through it all and yet still manages to throw one hell of a party. But today, we’re not talking about your pulsating nightclub scene or your graffiti-filled walls. No, today, we’re going on a pub crawl through history, one pint at a time.
Our first stop on this historic pub crawl is none other than Zur letzten Instanz, a watering hole that’s seen more years than any of us can count. How many exactly? Try 400. That’s right, this joint’s been serving cold ones since 1621. Now, I know what you’re thinking: “But, aren’t the Germans famed for their love of beer, surely there are older places?” Well, yes and no. While it’s true that Germany’s love affair with the amber nectar is as old as time itself, most of the taverns from yesteryears have been lost to wars, fires, and the occasional city planning mishap.
Zur letzten Instanz has weathered it all, including the Second World War when a bomb hit it. But like a phoenix, it rose from the ashes, proving that not even a world war could dampen Berliners’ love for a good pint. It’s said that Napoleon himself stopped here for a drink, and if it’s good enough for the Emperor of the French, it’s good enough for us, right?
Next, we shuffle over to the Alt-Berliner Wirtshaus, which despite its name, isn’t as old as our first spot. But don’t let that put you off. This place is a veritable treasure trove of Berlin history. The interior is a charming mix of dark wood, old photos, and vintage beer steins that transport you straight back to the 19th century. And let’s not forget the beer. Oh, the beer! They serve the classic Berliner Weisse here, a tart, tangy brew that’s as Berlin as the TV Tower.
Speaking of the TV Tower, ever wondered where its workers went for a pint after a hard day’s work? Well, wonder no more. Just a stone’s throw away is the legendary Eckkneipe, a pub that was once the unofficial watering hole of the tower’s construction workers. These days, it’s a cozy spot that serves up hearty German fare alongside its frothy beers.
And then there’s the Prater Garten. Now, this place isn’t just a pub, it’s an institution. It’s Berlin’s oldest beer garden, a leafy oasis in the middle of the bustling city. Here, under the shade of chestnut trees, Berliners have been enjoying their pilsners since 1837. It’s the perfect place to spend a sunny afternoon, with a cold beer in one hand and a pretzel in the other, watching the world go by.
But we’re not done yet. Oh no, there are more historic pubs to explore. Like the Clärchens Ballhaus, a place that’s part pub, part dance hall, and all charm. Established in 1913, it’s one of the few remaining ballrooms from the Golden Twenties, a time when Berlin was the capital of decadence and debauchery. And while the party might have calmed down a bit since then, Clärchens is still a place where you can enjoy a beer and a twirl on the dance floor.
And then there’s Zum Nussbaum, a cozy pub that dates back to 1705. This place is so old, it predates Germany itself. It’s like stepping into a time machine, with its low ceilings, creaky floors, and walls adorned with portraits of famous patrons from the past. But what’s really fascinating about Zum Nussbaum is that it wasn’t always a pub. Oh no, it started life as a fisherman’s cottage before being converted into a tavern. Talk about a career change!
Let’s also not forget Schleusenkrug, a charming beer garden tucked away in the Tiergarten. It’s been serving thirsty park-goers since 1954. But don’t let its relatively young age fool you. This place is steeped in history. It’s located by an old lock that was once part of the city’s defense system. Today, it’s a tranquil spot where you can enjoy a pint while watching the boats pass by.
And last but certainly not least, we have the Zur Gerichtslaube. This pub is housed in one of the oldest buildings in Berlin, a 13th-century courthouse. Yes, you read that right. You can enjoy your beer in a building that once served as a courtroom. And if that’s not historic, I don’t know what is.
Well, there you have it, our historic pub crawl through Berlin. And while we’ve covered a lot of ground, this is just the tip of the beer iceberg. Berlin is a city brimming with history, and its pubs are no exception. So, the next time you’re in the city, why not step off the beaten path and into one of these historic watering holes? You might just find yourself drinking in more than just the beer.
Q: What are some of the oldest pubs in Berlin?
A: Ah, the question that could start a beer-fuelled debate! While there are many contenders, some of the oldest pubs in Berlin include Zur letzten Instanz, which has been serving thirsty patrons since 1621, and Prater Garten, Berlin’s oldest beer garden, which opened in 1837. They’ve seen everything from Imperial Germany, the Weimar Republic, Nazi Germany, and the GDR to the present day, making them not just drinking establishments but living monuments of history.
Q: What makes Berlin’s historic pubs unique?
A: Well, my friend, that’s like asking what makes a Berliner currywurst different from a hot dog. It’s all in the character! These pubs are unique because they are steeped in history and culture. Each has its own tale, like the Zum Nussbaum, which was the favorite haunt of local painter Heinrich Zille. Then there’s the Claerchens Ballhaus, where you can swing to the tunes of the 1920s. Every nook and cranny of these establishments tell a tale, and they are a wonderful place to soak in the local atmosphere, especially with a beer in hand!
Q: Are these pubs only for tourists?
A: Nein, nein, nein! While many tourists do visit these pubs, they remain popular with locals who appreciate their historic charm and traditional Berliner cuisine. These are places where the old and new Berliners meet, where stories are brewed along with beer. So if you want to feel like a true Berliner, these pubs are a must-visit.
Q: What type of beer is typically served in these pubs?
A: Ah, the heart of the matter – beer! Most historic pubs serve traditional German beers like Pilsner, Weizenbier (wheat beer), and of course, the Berliner Weisse. This is a regional beer style that’s light, tart, and often served with a shot of raspberry or woodruff syrup. Just the thing to cool down during a hot Berlin summer!
Q: Any recommendations for a first-time visitor?
A: Absolutely, make sure you visit Zur letzten Instanz for their hearty traditional German fare and an almost tangible sense of history. And don’t miss out on the Prater Garten for a classic Berlin beer garden experience. But remember, the beauty of Berlin’s pub scene is in its diversity. So don’t be afraid to wander off the beaten path and discover your own hidden gem. Prost!
Q: Can you share a funny story about these historic pubs?
A: Of course, there’s always room for a great Berliner joke. So, there’s this old tale about Zur letzten Instanz. Apparently, Napoleon himself once visited and sat in what is now known as “Napoleon’s corner”. A regular, after a few too many, once declared that if he was sitting in Napoleon’s place, Europe would be a much better place. His friend replied, “If you were sitting in Napoleon’s place, my friend, the only thing that would be conquered would be another round of beers!”
Remember, these pubs are not just about beer, they’re about the people, the stories and the laughter that echo off the walls. That’s what makes them truly historic.