It can get hot in summer in Berlin, very hot. Thankfully the city is encircled by a ring of beautiful swimming lakes which can make the heat bearable. However, you need to plan your trips carefully otherwise all the good vibes and refreshment that have built up at the lake are undone by a missed connection or a stuffy, sweltering S-Bahn ride home.
Berlin also has an impressive selection of municipal Sommerbads which are fun-filled, retro, outdoor swimming pools with bright turquoise water which on a bright sunny day resemble the most lurid of David Hockney’s Los Angeles paintings (albeit with less naked attractive young gay men – except on special occasions – and definitely more Turkish and Arabic children running around and dive bombing).
For me as a South Berliner living in Kreuzkölln, certain lakes and pools are easier than other so here are my favourite places to cool-off that are relatively stress free to get to.
We’ll start with a cliche tourist spot that I refused to go to for three years precisely because that’s what I thought it was. I was dragged there by a visiting friend in 2017 and realised that it can be a great place for a swim especially if that is all you want to do. Badeschiff seems crowded with hip young things hanging out on the sand because it is, however strangely not many people actually want to swim which makes the lovely submerged river pool a really nice place to be if you just ignore everything else. If you go on a weekday evening you get a beautiful sunset view across to Oberbaumbrucke that will make even the hardest of hearts fall in love with Berlin all over again.
I love this Sommerbad because it perfectly embodies multikulti Berlin in all its bright 1970s orange and turquoise glory. There are three pools, one for serious swimming, one for semi-serious swimming and another play pool with a small slide. Entry costs 5.50 euros for the day but if you live here or are staying for the summer then you can buy a twenty visit card which can be used by multiple people even on the same occasion and gives you queue jumping privileges. It gets very busy but somehow this just adds to the ambience with plenty of great people watching to be enjoyed.
Although all the way over in Wedding, the handy U8 snakes its way to Osloer Strasse and then a quick tram ride takes you to Plötzensee which manages to beautiful and refreshing but still somehow very urban and Berlin . At weekends you are greeted by a wall of bass as DJs play the tiny boathouse on the Southern shore where you can rent a boat or buy cheap beer and dance. A ten minute walk along the Western path brings you to a formal strandbad which costs 5 euros for the day or if you venture a bit further you reach my favourite bathing spot; a shady grassy nude (optional) bathing area with access to the lake. There are also some access points in the East side but these can get super busy on a hot day.
I am not going to explain how to get here as it is my secret and you will have to work it out for yourself, but this lovely Brandenburg lake which seems inaccessible with its beautiful pine-fringed sandy beach is only 45 minutes door to door if I take my bike, or one hour without. No long S-bahn journeys are involved so you don’t lose your chill and it is perfect in the evenings when the beach is virtually empty and the sun sets across the lake.
This lovely small swimming lake is my closest clean lake by bicycle. It is a bit of a trek at 35 minutes but the beauty is that the return journey is mostly downhill so it is a great reward after the initial cycle and I can keep my refreshed feeling afterwards. I like the vibe here and it seems so much more chill and cleaner than better-known nearby Weissensee. You have to pay for entry to the beach but after 5pm entry is only three euros so it is a great place for an afterwork swim.