Whenever I tell people where I live in Berlin, the reaction is always: “Oh, Neukölln, of course.”
Neukölln remains notorious. Whether it’s the hedonistic student raves, Kiez-crime or the gentrification debate, the area name is consistently bandied about in press and conversation alike.
Enter a lesser-known area called Britz. Despite being in the very centre of the sprawling district, the wild Neukölln reputation seems like nothing but a myth here. A short walk across the Britzer Damm and there’s a notable difference in the atmosphere.
In fact, with its leafy trimmings and family-run bakeries, it seems more like a metropolitan village than a part of the capital. It is, in a surprising way, delightfully twee.
Britzer Garden in November 2020. Photo: DPA
This makes it an ideal destination for families with children or couples looking for a peaceful afternoon. And there is a surprising amount of sights and activities to be found, too.
One of the most charming locations in the area is the Britzer Schloss. Fully furnished to give the impression of daily life during the Gründerzeit, the Schloss houses a museum and, in pre-pandemic times, also functioned as a venue for performances and exhibitions of music, art and history.
While the name is somewhat overstated – expect a modest manor house rather than a grand palace – Britzer Schloss is situated in the beautiful and well-maintained Schlosspark. This is completely free to visit. The meandering path takes you through rose gardens, hidden pagodas and past an eye-catching ginkgo tree.
A gate on one side opens up onto a big cobble-stone square – in October this hosts a historical apple festival – and, in case you hadn’t already forgotten that you were in Berlin, to a small group of enclosures with farmyard animals. The sheep, goats, cows, horses and rabbits are big characters and very amenable to being petted.
Nearby there is also the famous Hufeisensiedlung. This was one of the first ever social housing projects in Germany. Designed by renowned architect Bruno Taut in an iconic horse-shoe shape (the name translates as “horse-shoe estate”) in the 1920s, it is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Hufeisensiedlung. Photo: DPA
It is well worth a visit, not least because of the strange little restaurant at its entrance, which looks like it was cryogenically frozen in the forties.
One of the better-known parts of Britz is the Britzer Garten. This huge green space is a popular destination for Berlin families in the summer. As well as a lake, it hosts a plethora of different gardens, playgrounds, cafes, a literal windmill and various educational sites about nature for children. A day ticket costs €3 in spring and summer, and under fives go free.
Failing this, a wander along the leaf-canopied canal-paths on either side of the Britzer Damm provides a swift and pretty exit from the serene suburbanity of Britz – and back into the throng of the city.