Grimy, cute, rebellious, edgy, twee and cozy.
These are all words you might use or hear used to describe Schillerkiez. And despite the fact that some may seem to contradict one another, they all kind of work.
Situated in northern Neukölln, arguably Berlin’s most desirable and up-and-coming district, Schillerkiez is a small neighbourhood just four by seven blocks in size, bordering the massive playground that is Tempelhofer Feld (formerly an airport) to the west and Volkspark Hasenheide to the north, meaning open green space is never far.
Consider booking a tour in Berlin to hear about all of this from a local!
At the same time, there is everything you could need on a day-to-day basis along Hermannstrasse (the road which defines the eastern border of Schillerkiez) and Sonnenallee, famous for its cheap and delicious ethnic cuisine (Turkish and Levantine in particular), is only a few more blocks to the east.
The main street, Schillerpromenade (for which the neighbourhood is named) is a wide, quiet, treelined street with play areas for children, pleasant squares and small sports areas, and while none of the streets are particularly busy, there is still a sense of life and community throughout the neighbourhood, with cool cafés, quirky bars and signs of Berlin’s famous guerrilla gardening popping on street corners.
In short, Schillerkiez may be an ideal location to live in Berlin.
That is not to say that it is perfect. There is not so much of the wonderful street art that Berlin is famous for, but rather a lot of ugly tagging. The streets are not as clean as other parts of town, and you may have to watch out for the odd dog shit (though I did not find this nearly as bad as in Buenos Aires).
For context, let’s delve into a little history.
Schillerkiez was originally developed in the 1900s by the then mayor, Hermann Boddin on what was at the time just outlying farmland, and was intended as housing for well-off Berliners. The buildings of Schillerkiez were lucky to survive the second world war mostly intact, but afterwards, due to the noise from the neighbouring airport at Tempelhof, original inhabitants of the area were less inclined to live there and were instead replaced by disadvantaged and unemployed citizens. It was in the late 1990s, that the area started to draw interest from developers, and since then has been slowly modernised and gentrified.
Dilapidated corner shops were replaced by trendy wine bars. Children’s nurseries were vacated to become artist studios. Empty offices were reopened as co-working spaces. Smokey dive bars were taken over by hipsters and transformed into cute cafés.
And therein lies the essential problem with Schillerkiez, and indeed many areas of formerly undesirably parts of Berlin.
Foreigners and Germans from other, richer parts of the country are buying up what seems to them cheap property in the area, hoping to become part of the hip scene, the result of which is increasing rents and pricing locals out of the area, and the effect is a change in the atmosphere of the neighbourhood.
Walking around the streets of Schillerkiez, you can feel the change happening.
Whether it’s for better or worse will depend on your viewpoint, but it is in progress. Will it leave Schillerkiez Berlin’s trendiest neighbourhood, or will it ruin the area forever?
To see some of the best things about Schillerkiez as it is now, and to hear the views of some locals, check out this short video.
Tips for a visit to Schillerkiez
Come by bike and combine your visit to Schillerkiez with a ride across Tempelhofer Feld, which is convenient if coming from Kreuzberg to the north or from Schöneberg to the west.
There are plenty of nice places to stop for a coffee or something more. Here are some suggestions:
Caramina has welcomely low prices, a few nice vegan cakes and decent wifi. Pappelreihe has good wifi and nice juices, though it’s a bit dark. Engels serves a great omnivore buffet brunch for €10 every Sunday with good vegetarian and vegan options and has wifi. Treibholz is a 100% vegan café with wifi. Raudasch is another 100% vegan place with great cakes and savouries, plus wifi. The wonderfully named Mos Eisley serves delicious ice-cream perfect for a hot day, including several vegan options, and not only sorbets!