Best Cafés and Coffee Houses of Berlin

Best Cafés and Coffee Houses of Berlin

Cafes have a certain refinery and elegance that pubs lack; there is a mellowness that is rarely found in bars and clubs, and an ease and tranquillity that is not to be found in restaurants with their steaming kitchens, heavy plates, clattering cutlery, constant complaints and corrections and, ‘I’ll just check with chef …’

The first coffee houses were found in the Ottoman Empire, but soon after began popping up in Europe and have since then taken hold in the heart and imagination of the continent. Cafes revolutionised social urban life in the big cities of Europe, and fostered the art of the likes of Alexander Pope in London and later Sartre and Proust on the Left Bank in Paris. In Berlin, great artists such as Kafka and Nabakov flocked to the city’s cafes, one in particular, Café des Westens, became infamous for its glamour and the eclectic types who drank there. Beyond art, the café ingrained itself into German culture with the popular ‘Kaffeeklatsch’: coffee, cake, and chat.

Cafés in Berlin open early for breakfast (many doubling as ‘Bäckereien’) and are often open later than foreign counterparts. In the hipster’s Berlin of today, many of these cafés aren’t merely cafés, but also bookshops or, second hand clothes shops. Many offer live music, or art exhibitions, and in others, on offer are culinary delights such as vegan brunches and pressed vegetable juice, far surpassing merely a croissant and flat-white. In this guide you will be taken around the best cafés in Berlin. Within them can be found a world that doesn’t require identification or dress-code, or the complications of elongated menus, but simply good coffee, with a drop of Berlin’s unique and enduring character.
Image Courtesy of: Jessica Spengler

1. Schwarzes Café

Schwarzes Café
At any hour, every queer fish of Charlottenburg can find sanctuary, in Schwarzes Café. Originally created by West Berlin anarchists, this café in Charlottenburg is open 24 hours a day (save for a few hours on a Tuesday afternoon), welcoming students, workers, clubbers, vagrants and all other creatures of the night. There is an extensive drinks list, and the food is of a high quality and a delivered in generous portions. At night, candles are lit and the place becomes a little gothic; the cheery service can never quite break through the eerie atmosphere that one is sitting in the graveyard of lost decadence. Upstairs has the look of a plush sitting room after a generation of disrepair and crumble, imbuing the café with the feel of Dracula’s lost dining room, or an Edwardian set for the Rocky Horror Show. With each creak of the stairs one expects to see the ragged appearance of the Steppenwolf emerge from the shadows. Undoubtedly the best café in Berlin.
Where to find it:
Kantstraße 148, Charlottenburg, Berlin, Germany

Working Hours:
Open 24 hours

2. The Barn

The Barn
In arty Mitte, one can find the cleanest and coolest ‘barn’ in the city, and sample some of the best coffee Berlin offers. The Barn say of themselves: ‘Our philosophy is to source and roast some of the best coffees available in the world. We work with sustainability and traceability in mind and try to deliver quality coffees that best represent their origin and natural flavours.’ There is no doubt when you enter that coffee brewing is serious business here. The actual café is small, so I would recommend taking your coffee to go – as you look down into your swirling coffee and wonder how there can be so many shades of black – and take a walk around beautiful Mitte, the ivy cascading down old houses like Jurassic waterfalls. With coffee of this quality, you won’t worry about how uncool the casual fashionistas make you feel, as they ride past on their bicycles, and you can ignore, sipping contentedly, the beautiful children in cool clothes who look out at you with upturned noses, from their parents’ galleries.
Where to find it:
Auguststraße 58, Mitte, Berlin, Germany

Working Hours:
Mon–Fri: 08:00am-06:00pm
Sat-Sun: 10:00am–06:00pm

3. Cafe Vux

Cafe Vux
Hidden in the beautiful backstreets of Karl-Marx Allee, Vux offers a feast of good vegan food and hot drinks. Vux is very white inside, with faints photo-size painting jigsawing their way up the wall, so you feel like this place might disappear into the Berlin wind at the next great gush. This would be a tragedy. This café offers an assortment of homemade cakes, cookies, cupcakes and waffles, accompanied by hot fruit and soy cream. The coffee is fair-trade, as is the organic hot chocolate, recommended to be accompanied with homemade lavender syrup or a touch of chili. Vux offer a superb vegan, all-you-can-eat, brunch for 10€ on Sundays, and what could be nicer than after gorging yourself here for a few hours, ordering a coffee to go and taking a lazy walk into Lessinghöhe or down Thomastraße through the trees of sleepy Neukölln.
Where to find it:
Wipperstraße 14, Neukölln, Berlin, Germany

Working Hours:
Mon,Tue: Closed
Wed-Sat: 12:00pm-07:00pm
Sun: 12:00pm-06:00pm

4. Concierge Coffee

Concierge Coffee
Here we have only the barebones of what a café is; coffee, bricks and a barrister. And it is all the better for is sparseness, tucked away in a beautiful part of Kreuzberg, next to the canal and branching trees and cobbled streets branching off Kottbusser Straße. Taking a turning into what appears to be a courtyard surrounded only by offices, you will spot the bright white sign ‘Concierge Coffee’ and following this down the passageway, you will see - if you are heading to the café in the early evening of a winter night, as I would recommend - light coming out of a hole in the wall. Walking further in, through this hole you will see a plate of chocolate flapjacks, sitting in front of a great coffee machine worked by a grandly moustachioed barista, who meets your gaze with stern eyes, and then surprises you with his courtesy and American accent when, inside, you make your order. Here there are no tables, and not much space for many people, but still they come, to squat upon the one bench, or lean against the lone shelf. There is a fridge offering granola and yoghurt, but it is enough to be here, with the barrister, the bricks, and the coffee, and need no more.
Where to find it:
Paul-Lincke-Ufer 39/40, Kreuzberg, Berlin, Germany

Working Hours:
Mon-Fri: 08:30am-06:00pm
Sat-Sun: 11:00am-05:00pm

5. Il Milanese del Tacco

Il Milanese del Tacco
To be found unexpectedly around a corner in Wedding not far from Pankstraße, is Il Milonesese del Tacco, a café that doubles as a wine bistro, as well as supporting the proliferation of good art and photography. Small, like the corner of a cellar, and stacked to the ceiling with wine bottles, Il Milanese del Tacco has a refinery and elegance you would expect to find in Paris or London. There are only a couple of tables inside, a little space at the window, and some seating outside and so the place seems instantly cosy and familiar once you have sat down for only a few minutes. Huddling inside on a cold day, the place has the sense of a coveted, finely stacked hideout, a sanctuary from the wind and snow of Berlin’s winter frost. On a summer morning, sitting outside this little wonder with a coffee is bliss, or later perhaps, enjoying a bottle of rosé.
Where to find it:
Stettiner Straaße 63, Wedding, Berlin, Germany

Working Hours:
Mon-Fri: 08:30am-06:00
Sat: 10:00am-05:00pm
Sun: Closed

6. Wahrhaft Nahrhaft

Wahrhaft Nahrhaft
One of the odder cafes on this guide, Wahrhaft Nahrhaft can be found on a windswept corner of Friedrichshain, offering an atmosphere of excess and revelry. Inside, it looks like a dressing-up box has been tipped over an elegant sitting room; Bacchus has taken over here, and presents the tumbled chaos of the inside of a jack-in-the-box. The food is all homemade, offering bagels, salads, soups, ‘sinful’ cakes and other baked goodies. They have freshly squeezed juices and speciality coffees for all season. It’s colourful and vibrant interior matches the buzz and excitement of Warchauerstraße and the maze of backstreets in Friedrichshain. On a fine Autumn afternoon, sitting outside is glorious, even if the wind picks up, blowing over tables that are strewn with the art sections of Berliner Morgenpost trapped under flower pots, and plates presenting only a guilty fork and the crumbs of a devoured piece of pie.
Where to find it:
Revaler Straße 16, Friedrichshain, Berlin, Germany

Working Hours:
Mon-Fri: 09:00am-07:00pm
Sat-Sun: 10:00am-07:00pm

7. Sing Blackbird

Sing Blackbird
Inside this café, you feel like you are in a little clearing in an English country wood, with oaks and chestnuts crawling up the decorated walls. Or perhaps you are in the nest of a magpie, with glittering wonders dotted about the place. Sing Blackbird offers ‘Vintage Coffee and Clothes’ spanning from the 50s to the 90s, and in the summer they put on an outdoor flea market; they also hold movie nights and exhibitions. Doubling as a second hand shop, this place is like a little treasure-trove of cotton and wool, warming up for the winter, and displayed in a rainbow of colour against the wall. The coffee is good, and in a fridge next to the counter are collected an assortment of colourful drinks created by ‘Daily Dose’. These ‘cold press juices’ are unique in Berlin in that unlike other fruit and vegetable drinks, no air has been pressed into the vegetables when extracting the juice. This amplifies and speeds up their vitalising effects upon the body. Sing Blackbird offer ‘Cleanse’, ‘Detox’ and ‘Restore’, amongst others, made from citrus fruits, vegetables and nuts. These drinks are as bright as the clothes, making this café feel like a magpie’s nest, with glittering wonders dotted about the place.
Where to find it:
Sanderstraße 11, Kreuzberg, Berlin, Germany

Working Hours:
Mon-Sat: 13:00-19:00
Sun: Closed

8. Cupcake Berlin

Cupcake Berlin
This café is small and the bright pink signature shop header may be missed due to the crowd bustling outside of it. Once you have squeezed and elbowed your way inside, you will find, what appeared to me, an old-fashioned sweet shop, in the vein of the type that Billy in Roald Dahl’s The Giraffe, the Pelly and Me dreams of; or perhaps the type that Willie Wonka may have interned at in his teenage years. The sweetness of this café is overpowering as you crane your neck to get a glance at the counter where you see a wide selection of bright and delicately crafter cupcakes. As you queue – still queuing! – you can watch as cupcakes are handed over to customers, wrapped in little holders, or upon napkins, or in boxes. You watch as they are caressed by trembling fingers, cherished, and loved, before stuffed into mouths. Eventually you are served by a great bearded Berliner who smiles generously at you as you point at your choice. Perhaps ‘The King’, shining and dark with a velvety smooth twist with his Elvis quiff, and peanut butter and banana innards; or perhaps the Peppermint Party, chocolate cake with peppermint buttercream; or the Cookies'n'Cream Schokoladen Cake with Oreo buttercream; or the Sweet Jane, or the Raspberry Beret! And there are more. Suffice to say, the cakes are worth the queue.
Where to find it:
Krossener Straße. 12, Friedrichshain, Berlin, Germany

Working Hours:
Mon: 12:00pm-08:00pm
Thu-Sat: 10:00am-08:00pm

9. 3 Schwestern

3 Schwestern
This café-come-restaurant is to be found inside the great Bethanien in Mariannenplatz, Kreuzberg, which has had a variety of functions in the past, but now hosts music classes, and art exhibitions, as well as the twelfth best café in Berlin. The building should be approached from the Orianburger side, so you can walk through the trees, best on a mild summer evening. Inside, the place has the feel of an old WW1 hospital, and you half expect to see wounded soldiers and tender nurses chattering beside beds. Down long corridors, that give the feeling of a gothic high school, you keep your ears cocked for the sounds of Buffy slaying vampires, and as your thirst for coffee increases, you come across 3 Schwestern, finding yourself in the Room of Requirement, at Hogwarts. You are likely to be greeted by a selection of polite and sincere gentlemen. You are guided through the giant room to a table that is suitable, and think: is this an old banqueting hall? A gym? A theatre? A chapel? Is this just a café? No, to the last, 3 Schwestern is also a restaurant, and has a spectacularly large bar, behind which three impeccably dressed grown men stand, ready at the slightest gesture or nod to whisk to your side, often with the desired article itself already in their hands, without words having to be passed at all, save for perhaps, on their part, a sharp, crisp, and quite, ‘schön?’
Where to find it:
Mariannenplatz 2, Kreuzberg, Berlin, Germany

Working Hours:
Mon-Sun: 11:00am-02:00am

10. Lois

Small and classy, whereas Matilda might give you a bashful smile, Lois will raise only elegant eyebrow and smirk. Beautiful and deadly, the ivy that covers her walls outside is like the Circes’ den, and the smell of coffee and biscuits that comes from inside is enough to lure a lurking Hansel and Grettel, pressing their noses up against the glass before they are ushered inside. On the bar, Lois has placed a slender red flower, sleek and magnificent, like that of Sleeping Beauty. Everything is slight and possesses an elegance and refinery. The skin of a cow acts as a rug on the floor, lying under tables so small that when laying out your newspaper you create a tablecloth. If you come at the right time – only an exclusive few know what time that is – there are some exotic sandwiches on offer, including Black Forest Ham - (skewed and skinned by Lois herself one might imagine). Or indeed, as you sit and drink and pass the day in utter contentment, unable to leave this seductive little spot, you can be further sweetened with delicacies such as cheese or plum cake.
Where to find it:
Linienstrasse 60, Mitte, Berlin, Germany

Working Hours:
Mon-Fri: 08:00-00:00
Sat-Sun: 09:00-00:00

11. Café Aroma

Café Aroma
A little piece of Italy in Berlin. I would recommend, if the weather is fine, a walk to Café Aroma over the Monument Bridge with view of Potsdamer Platz, and then passing St Matthew’s cemetery where the Brothers Grimm lie. The café is also a restaurant, offering traditional Italian cuisine, in accordance with the rhythm of the season, and an extensive wine cellar. The suitably impressive proprietor is particularly pleasing, billowing up to you to take your order, proudly laying it out in front of you, contently watching you sip, and then later graciously and elaborately accepting your tip. Outside, and by the bar, where the coffee drinkers sit, it really does feel like a place where one should be discussing art. In its deep Autumnal colours the café inspires good conversation and stimulating thought. This is a café for celebration, and discussing Dante into the night! A café for reclining late into the evening as a Tuscan sun sets over Berlin, and remaining there until the wind blows too strong or the rain begins to fall.
Where to find it:
Hochkirchstraße 8, Schöneberg, Berlin, Germany

Working Hours:
Mon-Fri: from 18:00
Sat: from 14:00
Sun: from 11:00

12. Tiki Heart Café and Shop

Tiki Heart Café and Shop
Certainly this is one of the oddest cafes in Berlin. I am unsure where to begin. Situated on the busy Wiener Straße in Kreuzberg, Tiki Heart is a blinking bright light to backpackers and travellers, offering breakfast until 5 o’clock, alongside cocktails and an extensive selection of beefy burgers. Entering you have found yourself on a Hawaiian beach, one full with deckchairs and umbrellas, and yet at the same time in the heart of Native America, or perhaps somewhere along the Inca Trail? Who knows? … and who cares! It’s wonderful wherever you are. Cheeky American teenage rock plays in the background and you are encouraged to give up inhibitions and surrender to your repressed love of kitsch. With your coffee you can recline upon a deckchair and look out at the newspapers and Shrek figurines, and flowers, masks and sombreros and you may feel the desire to jump up and hopping on one leg cry out ‘hoop-diddly-whoop and Hoo-Ray Henry!’ just to join in the madness of this place.
Where to find it:
Wiener Straße 20, Kreuzberg, Berlin, Germany

Working Hours:
Mon-Sun: from 10:00am

13. Handbestand

Handbestand is both café and bookshop with gothic Teutonic lights above, hanging above stacks of great companions to the Brothers Grimm. Stone heads watch you as you find your way through the stacks of books, shuffling dust and tottering piles, around suitably gruff looking customers and staff. Offering film nights, and talks, exhibitions, round tables, viewings, and music …. What can’t be found in this little grotto? After your coffee and read, or perhaps with a takeaway and a purchase stuffed safely into your pocket, a walk behind the café is recommendable, down Ruppienstraße, especially beautiful in the evening when the church bells ringing.
Where to find it:
Brunnenstraße 42, Prenzlauer Berg, Berlin, Germany

Working Hours:
Mon,Tue,Wed,Sun: 10:00am-08:00pm
Thu-Sat: 10:00am-18:00pm

14. Café Kranzler

Café Kranzler
Any guide of cafes in Berlin must at least have a look at Kranzler. Today, unfortunately there is little left of the original Kranzler, opened in 1834 by the Austiran Johann Georg Kranzler on Unter den Linden. This original Kranzler offered a sun-terrace, ice-cream parlour and a smokers' room, therefore built up the reputation of being one of the finest cafes in Berlin. A second Café Kranzler was then opening in its present location, in the space of the old infamous Café des Westens, café of artists and rebels. In the heart of Charlottenburg, looking over a busy cross roads, today’s Café Kranzler shines above all, looking fantastic and proud, its flamboyant and fabulous red roof that is reflected on the heads of many of its waitresses. These at Kranzler are proud of Kranzler, defiantly printing their name on their napkins and matchboxes in the trademark, bold red. Inside the café you must attempt to sit out on the terrace so that you can look down at the chaos of lights and shopping bags. Or if it is raining, get a seat inside next to the window, and imagine that you are in a lighthouse on a stormy evening, and watch the carnage rage below.
Where to find it:
Kurfürstendamm 18, Charlottenburg, Berlin, Germany

Working Hours:
Mon-Sun: 08:30-20:00


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