Eight reasons to visit Berlin’s landmark Kreuzberg neighbourhood

With the government currently advising against touristic travel, this is one to put in the memory box for next summer. Or, if you are a Berliner, perhaps it’s time you discovered the city’s most famous ‘hood.

Eight reasons to visit Berlin's landmark Kreuzberg neighbourhood
The waterfall at Viktoria Park. Photo: DPA

Where is the Berg?

Kreuzberg literally means “cross mountain”, which seems like a strange name for an area that has about as many undulations as a snooker table.

The word Berg, somewhat confusingly, can also refer to Germany’s highest mountain – Zugspitze – but can just as well be used for a bump in an otherwise flat landscape.

In our case it refers to the 66-metre high “hill” in Viktoria-Park in the southwestern corner of the neighbourhood, which is home to a monument to the struggle against Napoleonic occupation.

READ ALSO: How to understand Berlin through its landmarks with quirky nicknames

Originally, the hill was called the Tempelhofer Berg, but the name was changed to Kreuzberg due to the fact that the monument is crowned with an iron cross.

The Berg offers some rather good views over the city and it also has something rather unique for Berlin – a waterfall that cascades down to the park below.

19th century Gründerzeit buildings

Until the middle of the 19th century, the Berg was situated outside the city. In those days the Hallesches Tor was Berlin's southern entrance.

But the city grew rapidly during the second half of the 19th century and several parts of what is now Kreuzberg were incorporated into the capital.

While some of the architecture is very beautiful, the neighbourhood was known for its Mietskasernen (literally rent barracks) which are large houses with several courtyards which were constructed as tightly packed housing for the working and lower-middle classes.

The neighbourhood’s population has more than halved from a high point of 380,000 in the 1920s, but it is still one of the most densely populated places in Germany. 

A reputation for left-wing rebellion

Kreuzberg was famous for a long time for its squatter scene.

During the Cold War, the neighbourhood suddenly found itself right up against the wall at the edge of west Berlin. No longer desirable, many of the houses were deserted. Squatters moved in – with no one much caring as long as the wall still stood. 

But in the 1990s the property owners wanted their building back and the police were sent in to clear out the squatters. This led to some pretty fiery street fights, with May 1st becoming known as a day of pitched battles between police and the occupier scene.

You can learn more about the history of left-wing activism at the FHXB museum, which is situated close to the neighbourhood’s main junction, Kottbusser Tor.


Another legacy of the Cold War is Kreuzberg's multicultural vibe. The district is split in two by the Landwehrkanal with the area north of the canal, commonly known as SO36 after its old post code, being a bit grittier.

S036 was enclosed by the Berlin wall on three sides. This meant that flats there were very cheap in the 60s and 70s and many Turkish migrants moved in, earning it the nickname little Istanbul. Today it is still a neighbourhood full of Turkish restaurants.


Bergmannstraße. Photo: DPA

The south side of the district is the opposite of the north side in many ways. The streets are characterised by scenic Altbau architecture that was largely spared from bombing during the Second World War. The centre of the west end is the famous Bergmannstraße, which is bustling without boutique shops and restaurants.

Weird cinemas

It should come as no surprise that Kreuzberg has its fair share of of art house cinemas given its reputation for being a mecca for artists and Lebenskünstler (literally life artist, referring to someone who manages to make the best of life).

One of the most distinct are the FSK Kino near Kottbusser Tor, where guests enjoy independent films while sitting in old airplane seats. Another unique Kino is the Sputnik, which is at the top of five flights of stairs and which offers film viewings in rooms that are more like sitting rooms than cinemas.

Boating on the canal

While boating might sound posh, doing it on the canal in Kreuzberg is a much louder affair than what is common in more sedate cities like Cambridge.

In the summer, residents of the district like to take inflatable boats onto the Landwehr canal and potter around in patterns that don’t involve very much rowing. On the other hand there is plenty of techno music blaring out of speakers and the distinctive smells of home made cigarettes.

The Markthallen

A stall in Markthalle neun. Photo: DPA

As its reputation as a centre of left-wing rebellion has receded in the face of gentrification, Kreuzberg has become better known as a foodie’s paradise. A couple of market halls in the district stand out as places that you have to visit to enjoy Kreuzberg's newest flavours.

READ ALSO: Daily dilemmas of living in Germany: What's the best fast food in Berlin?

Markthalle Neun in the northeast is famed for its hip street food stalls. You can also just go there to do some food shopping. The products certainly aren’t cheap but stalls like Kumpel and Keule butcher are known for the quality of their produce.

In the west of the city the Marheineke Markthalle isn’t quite as cool. But it is also known for the high quality of food on offer.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members


EXPLAINED: Berlin’s latest Covid rules

In response to rapidly rising Covid-19 infection rates, the Berlin Senate has introduced stricter rules, which came into force on Saturday, November 27th. Here's what you need to know.

A sign in front of a waxing studio in Berlin indicates the rule of the 2G system
A sign in front of a waxing studio indicates the rule of the 2G system with access only for fully vaccinated people and those who can show proof of recovery from Covid-19 as restrictions tighten in Berlin. STEFANIE LOOS / AFP

The Senate agreed on the tougher restrictions on Tuesday, November 23rd with the goal of reducing contacts and mobility, according to State Secretary of Health Martin Matz (SPD).

He explained after the meeting that these measures should slow the increase in Covid-19 infection rates, which was important as “the situation had, unfortunately, deteriorated over the past weeks”, according to media reports.

READ ALSO: Tougher Covid measures needed to stop 100,000 more deaths, warns top German virologist

Essentially, the new rules exclude from much of public life anyone who cannot show proof of vaccination or recovery from Covid-19. You’ll find more details of how different sectors are affected below.

If you haven’t been vaccinated or recovered (2G – geimpft (vaccinated) or genesen (recovered)) from Covid-19, then you can only go into shops for essential supplies, i.e. food shopping in supermarkets or to drugstores and pharmacies.

Many – but not all – of the rules for shopping are the same as those passed in the neighbouring state of Brandenburg in order to avoid promoting ‘shopping tourism’ with different restrictions in different states.

2G applies here, too, as well as the requirement to wear a mask with most places now no longer accepting a negative test for entry. Only minors are exempt from this requirement.

Sport, culture, clubs
Indoor sports halls will off-limits to anyone who hasn’t  been vaccinated or can’t show proof of recovery from Covid-19. 2G is also in force for cultural events, such as plays and concerts, where there’s also a requirement to wear a mask. 

In places where mask-wearing isn’t possible, such as dance clubs, then a negative test and social distancing are required (capacity is capped at 50 percent of the maximum).

Restaurants, bars, pubs (indoors)
You have to wear a mask in all of these places when you come in, leave or move around. You can only take your mask off while you’re sat down. 2G rules also apply here.

Hotels and other types of accommodation 
Restrictions are tougher here, too, with 2G now in force. This means that unvaccinated people can no longer get a room, even if they have a negative test.

For close-contact services, such as hairdressers and beauticians, it’s up to the service providers themselves to decide whether they require customers to wear masks or a negative test.

Football matches and other large-scale events
Rules have changed here, too. From December 1st, capacity will be limited to 5,000 people plus 50 percent of the total potential stadium or arena capacity. And only those who’ve been vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19 will be allowed in. Masks are also compulsory.

For the Olympic Stadium, this means capacity will be capped at 42,000 spectators and 16,000 for the Alte Försterei stadium. 

3G rules – ie vaccinated, recovered or a negative test – still apply on the U-Bahn, S-Bahn, trams and buses in Berlin. It was not possible to tighten restrictions, Matz said, as the regulations were issued at national level.

According to the German Act on the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases, people have to wear a surgical mask or an FFP2 mask  on public transport.

Christmas markets
The Senate currently has no plans to cancel the capital’s Christmas markets, some of which have been open since Monday. 

According to Matz, 2G rules apply and wearing a mask is compulsory.

Schools and day-care
Pupils will still have to take Covid tests three times a week and, in classes where there are at least two children who test positive in the rapid antigen tests, then tests should be carried out daily for a week.  

Unlike in Brandenburg, there are currently no plans to move away from face-to-face teaching. The child-friendly ‘lollipop’ Covid tests will be made compulsory in day-care centres and parents will be required to confirm that the tests have been carried out. Day-care staff have to document the results.

What about vaccination centres?
Berlin wants to expand these and set up new ones, according to Matz. A new vaccination centre should open in the Ring centre at the end of the week and 50 soldiers from the German army have been helping at the vaccination centre at the Exhibition Centre each day since last week.

The capacity in the new vaccination centre in the Lindencenter in Lichtenberg is expected to be doubled. There are also additional vaccination appointments so that people can get their jabs more quickly. Currently, all appointments are fully booked well into the new year.