There are so many reasons to consider spending time in Berlin, and you probably already know about most of them: the long days, the longer nightlife, sprawling green spaces and plentiful beer gardens, and that spontaneous, creative buzz that spills out into the streets. What you may not know, though, is that when you need to cool off from the summer heat or thaw out from the winter chill there are plenty of water’s-edge options in Berlin for taking the relax to the max.
Here are five of the most memorable Berlin spots for a summer (or winter!) swim.
Badeschiff‘s unique appeal is easy to identify: take one barge, convert its hull into a pool and float it in the River Spree. Add a sandy beach beachfront, a cocktail bar and an outdoor music stage, and hey presto – a summer oasis surrounded by concrete. There’s no shortage of riverside bars, outdoor pools, and cool hangouts across Berlin, but none have combined all of these things in the one spot quite like Badeschiff. Then there’s the view from the pool, which is best taken in at the start or end of the day: catch the sun rising behind the towering Molecule Man sculpture between leisurely morning laps, or see it set over historic Oberbaumbrücke bridge as day turns to evening. If you’re in Berlin off-season, keep this place on the itinerary: Badeschiff pulls on its own winter coat each year, transforming into a plush, indoor spa with two Nordic saunas and toasty heated temperatures inside the pool.
#2 Stadtbad Neukölln
This is a real hidden diamond; ornate, opulent, and kind of uncharacteristically posh-looking for Berlin. Despite its decadence, Stadtbad Neukölln is part of ‘Berliner Bäder,‘ the city-wide network of municipal swimming holes, which means that all of this grandeur could be yours for the princely sum of $7.50AUD entry. Once you’re done gawping at the gorgeous interiors (constructed in 1914 in the style of ancient Russian-Roman thermal baths) and are ready to get underwater, there are a number of options, from a 25-metre pool to the smallest plunge hole. One word of warning, though: keep an eye on the weekly schedule for the cringe-inducing ‘Romantik-Schwimm‘ session, where, as the name suggests, couples are encouraged to come and explore their love together with a slo-mo swim in the candle-lit main hall, accompanied by New Age soundscapes!
#3 Sommerbad Olympiastadion
Like Stadtbad Neukölln this outdoor pool complex is a slice of history, albeit a much more controversial one. In 1931, Berlin was announced as the location for the 1936 Olympic Games and construction of a new stadium proceeded normally for a couple of years, until the new German Chancellor – Adolf Hitler – snatched power in 1933. The blueprints for a normal-sized stadium were scrapped, and the new looming, imposing structure of Olympiastadion began to take its shape, as a reflection of Nazi ideals about German supremacy.
That the Olympiastadion survived World War II intact is incredible in itself, and being purpose-built for the Games means it remains very well equipped. The 1936 Olympic pool complex still stands as sternly as it did back then, so there are lanes to lap and boards to dive off, with the addition of two leisure pools for lounging and splashing about, and green space on which to stretch out, dry off and sun worship in the shadow of history.
#4 Freibad Plötzensee
If natural bodies of water are more your thing, but long train journeys aren’t, this lovely tiny lake with a beach resort feel is no more than 45 minutes away from the centre of town. The name of the lake pays tribute to its less than favourable origin: ‘Plötze‘ is the German word for cockroach, and this little glacial lake was absolutely teeming with the things once upon a (terrible) time. Plötzensee is thankfully bug-free now, and although it’s close to the urban action, it is surrounded by greenery, so it almost tricks you into feeling like you’ve had a sneaky day getaway to the Baltic Sea.. think: sand, vintage wicker beach loungers and volleyball nets. A word of advice, for the most scorching days: there’s a strict cap on the numbers of people allowed inside the limited space, so the early bird catches the first swim.
This is the new kid on the block that’s stolen a little bit of Badeschiff’s thunder this year, from inside a post-industrial structure that used to be a train repair workshop. Haubentaucher is actually a multi-purpose location that runs concerts, events, and has an eatery/drinkery, but this year it’s all been about the pool. If you don’t like the idea of being the centre of attention while in your swimming smalls this may not be the best spot for you: the large pool is at the very visual centre of the space, surrounded by a sundeck and lounge chairs facing inwards, that are usually occupied by the beautiful and fashionably tattooed. In any event it’s worth checking out for a deck chair cocktail at least, if just to observe a space that exists directly between Berlin’s gritty past and it’s glamorous future.
(Lead image: Haubentacher/Facebook)
Christine is Berlin-based but Sydney-born, and when she's not chasing the sun between those two cities she loves discover new places. She she also loves to write, particularly about travel and techno. Her life essentials include eyeliner, eye contact, and contact lenses.