Widely regarded as a vibrant hub of creativity, there’s never a dull moment in Berlin. 

Home to hordes of attractions, from cultural landmarks to all things unusual and quirky, once you’ve checked the Brandenburg Gate, East Side Gallery and Checkpoint Charlie off your list, head off the beaten path in the German capital and discover Berlin’s underground attractions. 

Read on to discover six of the best non-touristy things to do in Berlin: 

Berlin Off The Beaten Path

Non Touristy Things To Do In Berlin: Badeschiff

Safe from swarms of tourists, Badeschiff is where Berliners head for a swim. 

Situated in the east harbour section of the River Spree, the pool is built inside the hollowed hull of an anchored vessel — hence the name Badeschiff which literally means bathing ship”. 

Originally designed in 2004 as part of a competition for city art projects, it’s since become a household name amongst locals who come in the summer for open-air swimming, sunbathing in house hammocks, to play volleyball or feast on a communal BBQ

Once the summer season ends, the area opens up two saunas and a lounge bar that regularly hosts concerts and parties, making it a year-round centre for off-beat activity in Berlin. 

Badeschiff Berlin

Non Touristy Things To Do In Berlin: Thai Park

Berlin is not just home to the delightful döner kebab and currywurst. In fact, its flair for flavourful street food reaches its peak at die Thaiwiese (Thai Meadow). 

Held in Preußenpark for the past 20 years, the area lovingly referred to as Thai Park started life as an informal meet-up place for Thai expats to socialise and share their food, language, and culture. Over time, the aromatic aromas invited others to join and eventually, it evolved into the multi-cultural food-sharing market it is today. 

Offering a taste of authentic and affordable pan-Asian dishes, every fair-weather weekend, Thai, Filipino, Vietnamese and Chinese families prepare a signature dish or two and set up shop. Dishes cost between 510 euros and can be enjoyed in the park’s peaceful surroundings. 

Thai Park Rolf Dietrich Brecher

Credit: Dietrich Brecher

Non Touristy Things To Do In Berlin: Hohenschönhausen

With such a volatile history, it’s no surprise that sobering monuments, museums and memorabilia line every street corner of the city. One of the lesser-known alternative attractions in Berlin is the Hohenschönhausen, a former interrogation prison used by the DDR’s Stasi that was so hermetically sealed from the outside world that it was never marked on any East German city map. 

Detailing almost half a century of political persecution, the memorial documents the dark side of Berlin’s GDR history, remembering the lives and hardships endured by GDR opponents, people who helped others to flee and political prisoners. 

Contemporary witnesses run guided tours of the site, large parts of which have been preserved to give visitors an authentic insight of the prison conditions that spanned 1946 to 1990; a glimpse into life in the Soviet-occupied zone that you won’t find anywhere else in the city. 

Hohenschönhausen Berlin

Non Touristy Things To Do In Berlin: Tropical Islands

Located about an hour south of the city lies Europe’s largest exotic island resort: Tropical Islands, an exciting theme park attraction housed in a former airship hangar in the old Brand-Briesen Airfield. 

Attracting over 8,000 visitors a day, it’s the world’s largest indoor waterpark fringed with all the trappings of a luxury resort break: white sandy beaches, crystal clear waters, and lush palm trees. 

Aside from the rides, visitors come to explore the man-made rainforest and botanical gardens, seek out the recreated traditional villages of Borneo and Bali or to soak in the lagoon, spa and steam rooms surrounded by tropical wildlife. 

Tropical Islands Berlin

Non Touristy Things To Do In Berlin: Tempelhofer Feld

Once upon a time, aeroplanes raced the grounds of Tempelhof Airport but nowadays the only traffic on the runways will be children racing one another on foot, bike or board, artfully dodging sunbathers and picnic baskets in what has become one of the world’s largest urban parks. 

Following the closure of Tempelhof Airport in 2008, the abandoned 300-hectare field was claimed by Berliners and transformed into a booming open space for sports and leisure activities. 

When concerts and trade shows are not taking place in the former airport terminal, city dwellers can be seen walking their dogs, cooking on barbeques and basking in the best best of inner-city recreation. 

Tempelhofer Feld

Non Touristy Things To Do In Berlin: YAAM

Having been around for almost 20 years, Young African Art Market (YAAM) is an open-air club and beach bar located on the banks of the River Spree close to Ostbahnhof station, but unlike the cities other nightclubs, YAAM is one created and continued by the minority communities that make up so much of Berlin’s excellent energy. 

Street culture, food, arts, and music come together to offer the very best in Afro-Caribbean tastes and tunes. Visitors can dance to dancehall or relax to reggae while chomping on platters of jerk chicken on the urban beach. 

But if that’s not for you, enjoy the chilled atmosphere by taking up one of its yoga or tai chi classes. 


Credit: Thomas Angermann

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