There is no need to worry if sightseeing in the German capital has left you hungry. Berlin’s food scene is as flavourful and diverse as the city itself. Until the end of the 19th century the city’s cuisine was a bit simple, consisting of hearty dishes which focused on saturation. Classic staples include crayfish, goose, fish, legumes, cabbage and potatoes.
But today Berlin’s food scene is a diverse flavourful mix with both classic German and modern international influences. These are some of our favourite snacks, meals, drinks and desserts in the city to tickle your taste buds with.
There is no escaping the currywurst in Berlin with over 800 million plates served every year across the country, over 100 million of them in Berlin alone. It is typically served with curry ketchup or a special tomato sauce, sprinkled with curry powder, and often fries. The currywurst belongs to Berlin like the Brandenburg Gate or the TV Tower at the Alexanderplatz. Invented in the Charlottenburg neighbourhood after the war, the currywurst has become a must try to complete any trip to Berlin.
Some of the best can be found right where it was invented in Charlottenburg at Curry 36. Here they make it from high-quality meat that you can order with or without skin or as an organic or vegan version. Konnopke’s Imbiß in East Berlin was founded in the 1960s and is just as much of a legend. Here, you can choose from many side dishes such as potato salad or go for a Bratwurst instead.
Locally known as brezel, these knot-shaped delights cannot be missed on a visit to Berlin. Traditional pretzels are fluffy and salty and can be found in the bakery section of supermarkets, or at any street food market in Berlin, as they all have a pretzel stand. If you want to treat yourself to the real deal, then you’ll have to find yourself a specialty bakery in your local neighbourhood.
Alpenstück Bäckerei in Mitte, has been voted one of the best bakeries in Germany and offers plenty tasty delights, including freshly baked pretzels, both in knotted form and in roll. For a non-traditional pretzel, head to Neukölln’s Brezel Company Café. Here they don’t limit the pretzels to merely a salty option, but they offer sesame seed, poppy seed, pumpkin seed, and of course cheese.
These donut-like pastries made from sweet yeast dough go by a different name depending on where you are in Germany. In Berlin you’ll want to ask for Pfannkuchen, in the rest of Germany that order will get you crepes.
It is the optimal snack for anyone with a sweet tooth. Most locals enjoy their Pfannkuchen simple and traditional, filled with jam and covered in powdered sugar. Whether you’re looking for the traditional version or prefer unique creations with chocolate fillings, mini Pfannkuchen or even a Pfannkuchen pie, Sugarclan in Friedrichshain has the best Pfannkuchen in town with the fluffiest dough.
If you are looking for a local favourite drink to wash down all these delicious delights, you can of course go for a good German beer. But hip locals often opt for a refreshing ice tea made from sparkling mate tea, called Mate lemonade. The herbal taste might not be for everyone but it is definitely worth a try and thanks to the caffeine it is the perfect drink for a little break from sightseeing.
The most popular brands are Club Mate and Mio Mio Mate and you can either enjoy them in one of the city’s many cafes or you can find them in almost every supermarket or one of Berlin’s unique small shops called Späti all day long.
This delicious Turkish-inspired filled bread took the Berliner’s hearts by storm and vies for the title of favourite Berlin meal with the currywurst. The classic version consists of a folded flatbread filled with spicy veal, chicken or lamb meat that is roasted on a spit, fresh cucumbers, onions, tomatoes, cabbage and lettuce and either a hearty garlic or herb sauce and a spicy sauce.
If you ever come across a long queue in Kreuzberg on Mehringdamm, it’s probably for Mustafa's Gemüse Kebap, Berlin’s most popular Döner. Every day, several hundred people wait for hours to taste it and decide whether it is worth the hype. However, due to its vast popularity, this street food snack can be found anywhere in the city.
If you are looking to try some local cuisine for advanced travellers than eisbein is the way to go, it is a true classic amongst the traditional German dishes. The dish consists of pork knuckles, which is usually boiled or grilled, served with sauerkraut, mashed peas, salted potatoes and mustard. The meat is strongly marbled and surrounded by a thick layer of fat, yet it is very tender and aromatic.
A similar dish exists in Poland – the golonka, which was probably influenced by the traditional Berliner eisbein. Some of the city’s best can be eaten at Zur Letzten Instanz in Mitte. This restaurant dates back to 1621 and is a real bulwark for traditional German cuisine.
Another great dinner option is this dish consists of meatballs served with a cream sauce made of lemon juice and capers and accompanied by potatoes. The meatballs come in all sorts depending which restaurant in Berlin you are visiting but are usually cooked in a broth. Ingredients can include veal, beef, pork, onions, eggs, anchovies and flour.
The dish is named for the former Prussian city of Königsberg, today’s Russian Kaliningrad. This satisfying hearty dish will certainly prepare you for long night of fun in Berlin as it gives you hours’ worth of energy to continue exploring the German capital.
When you are looking for a local night cap, try Berliner Luft. The name refers to both a brandy dessert with raspberry sauce and a popular liquor from the former DDR, also known as ‘Peffi’. The dessert is a real classic, there are recipes for this dessert which date back to 1897.
The liquor of the same name has a mint flavour, is a favourite in Berlin’s party scene and was East Berlin’s answer to Crème de Menthe. The alcohol content varies from 18 to 50%, depending on the version. Usually it is served pure on crushed ice as a Frappé or as part of a cocktail like the Grasshopper with white cocoa liquor and cream or as a Stinger with brandy and/or vodka.