In the midst of Mumbai’s scorching hot summer under a strict COVID-19 lockdown, I found myself longing for an M1 tram ride across Berlin. So much so, that I started watching eight-minute long YouTube videos of the M1 tram going from Pastor Niemöller Platz to Am Kupfergraben on loop. This longing also prompted me to make lists of my favourite places in Berlin to visit once I return. Some of the lists include: best bubble tea, best thrift shops, best ramen and best art galleries in Berlin, to name a few. However, the list that is nearest and dearest to my heart is what this very piece is about: the best study spots in Berlin.
Instead of compiling a list with only my favourite places, I asked students at Bard College Berlin about their preferred study locations in Berlin as well. Each of the following recommendations has been linked with its address and directions from Bard College Berlin. So, whether you are looking for parks, cafés, or even Panopticon-esque libraries, Die Bärliner has got you covered!
I stumbled upon this café on a sunny Sunday as I made my way back to campus after visiting the Bode Museum for a Renaissance Florence Core class. I was walking towards the Rosenthaler Platz station to catch the M1 and saw a big bear painted onto a wall, with the words “St. Oberholz” next to it. I walked in and was overwhelmed by the smell of rustic wood mixed with medium-roast ground coffee. What also struck me was seeing every single seat occupied by someone wearing headphones and glued to the electronic device in front of them. I happened to find a seat right by the window that overlooked a super busy traffic signal by Torstraße. There is a strange sense of calmness and isolation at St. Oberholz, which contrasts the bustle of Rosenthaler Platz.
The WiFi connection is strong for the number of people this café houses on the daily. Everyone goes in with the intention of being “productive,” (I’m looking at you, internalised capitalism) which can sometimes be intimidating but will most definitely motivate you to get your work done. I would also recommend this place for its 10/10 ginger lemon tea and chocolate chip cookies.
It also happens to be a great place to take your friends for moral support as you grind out 10-page essays, as demonstrated in this picture taken with Enkhbujin Ochirbat (EPST, 2022) back when holding hands and sitting within 6 feet of each other was allowed. Here’s how to get to St. Oberholz from the Platanenstraße M1 stop.
Last year, while aimlessly scrolling through my Instagram feed, I saw Jay Patel (HAST 2023) visiting a surreal-looking glass dome somewhere in Berlin with the tagged location “Berlin Botanischer Garten und Botanisches Museum.” The very next weekend, I hopped onto an S1 from the S-bahnhof station Schönholz for an hour-long ride to S-Bahnhof Botanischer Garten. I was not ready for the spectacle I was about to witness. The Berlin Botanical Garden is spread across several acres of land. The complex contains stunning glass buildings, each dedicated to a different variety of plant. Come here to marvel at cacti, lotus pads, and a glorious rose garden. There is also a museum and herbarium to see.
I visit the Botanical Garden when I need a break from city life and constant social interaction. It is an exceptionally great place to read. Seeing professionally designed garden landscapes, buzzing with Berlin’s abundant wasps, blooming in a kaleidoscope of color, textures, and fragrance can open your eyes to bigger possibilities, academically as well as personally. The feel of this garden seems very secluded and provides a great getaway without even having to leave the city. Here’s how to get to the Garden from the Platanenstraße M1 stop.
I asked senior Roxanne Drewry (HAST 2021) what her favourite study spot in Berlin was, and received an answer that I’d never heard of before. She recommends the Jacob-und-Wilhelm-Grimm Zentrum Humboldt University library near Friedrichstraße. She found this place from her friend’s sister who is a student at Humboldt University. “It is a beautifully designed multistory library with a silent core at its centre,” she explains, “ so each floor opens into this middle space that has different platforms of desks. This creates an interesting feeling of surveillance and makes you keep studying.” She says her favourite spot in the library is by the windows that face the S-Bahn. The only downside is that you can’t get WiFi there unless you have the European University WiFi login credentials. She also highlights that the spaces fill up really quickly and that it is a rather professional space; it’s not a casual “study date” or “hangout” spot. “When you arrive, you have to go down to a locker room and put all your stuff since you can’t have any bags, jackets, or food with you; so, bring a lock and a clear plastic bag if you have too much stuff to carry,” says Roxanne.
If you’re looking for a working space with few distractions, with the exception of wistfully staring out large windows from time to time and appreciating the swell architecture of the space, this library is the perfect place for you.
Since taking photos is not permitted here, Roxanne suggests looking at this website to get a better virtual feel of the library: https://www.grimm-zentrum.hu-berlin.de/de/architektur_gebaeude
Here’s how to get to the Library from the Platanenstraße tram stop.
Sophomore Jay Patel (HAST 2023) has a myriad of recommendations of where to go to study, but he says that his favourite spot is a field called “Am Zingerweisen.” Jay recommends “spending the afternoon reading on a blanket in the field while watching the sun go down from there, it is idyllic.” I can absolutely vouch for this and say that Am Zingerweisen is a great spot to unwind without even having to leave Pankow. There is one thing that I find exceptionally amusing yet puzzling about this field: there is a farm cart parked right in the middle that no one has an explanation for. While taking a break from reading and basking in the sun, you can either go see this mysterious cart or spike your serotonin levels by admiring the dogs that come to play in this field. If you are keen on exploring this side of Platanenstraße, I would also recommend visiting the Soviet Memorial 10 minutes away from Am Zingerweisen. For those living on campus, this field is a short walk from the Platanenstraße academic buildings.
Océanne Fry (HAST 2021) had been hearing a lot about a café that completely changes its ambience from day to night. This café, called An einem Sonntag im August (which means “on a Sunday in August”) eventually turned into her favourite study spot in Berlin. She says, “During the day, it is a regular café but after 8 or 9 PM it turns into a lounge that’s great for socialising and winding down. Usually I try to get to the café by noon and do seven hours worth of work, then follow it up with some much needed downtime.” When asked why she recommends this space, Océanne says, “It is in a very English-speaking neighbourhood of Berlin (Prenzlauer Berg) and is easily accessible from campus. It has an open plan, big windows and beautiful lighting. The tiered seating makes you feel comfortably isolated, and allows me to really go into my work without distraction. I find it very conducive to productivity, all while being surrounded by cheap food options and nearby the M1 line.” Océanne also recommends stopping by the Prenzlauer Berg famous döner joint: K’UPS Gemüsekebap (also on my “Best Döner in Berlin” list). As a fun brain break, you can try and find as many Bard College Berlin students’ photos on the little photo wall at Gemüsekebap. Here’s how to get to the café from the Platanenstraße M1 stop.
Aryana Arian (HAST 2021) is currently in the process of researching and writing her thesis. I asked her where she likes to get most of her work done during this process, and she recommended a super cute café called “The Greens.” To get to the café from Platanenstraße, click here.
“I was in search of places where I could get a substantial amount of work done as I am currently writing my thesis. I found The Greens while randomly looking for cafés on Google Maps. I would recommend it because not only is the location surreal (right next to the Spree) but it is also secluded in a hidden corner and located in a historically rich industrial building which is *so* Berlin,” she says. She adds that this café provides a great environment for studying and doing schoolwork as that’s what most people do when they visit this café. “There is a variety of spaces to sit, and each space creates a different atmosphere depending on what you need. There are private rooms, more public and social spaces near the cashier, and also lovely outside seating. It also has a little upper section that you can go up with a ladder, almost like a treehouse, but I have yet to find a seat there since it is almost always full! This café also has large tables which is fantastic for working on your thesis and heavy research essays. It also has a bunch of plants which I find necessary for a good study session.” As for the food, she mentions that it’s a vegan-friendly café and recommends trying the coffees as well as cakes.
Kreuzpfuhl in Weißensee
Another one of the open spaces on this amazing (self proclaimed) list comes from Erick Moreno Superlano (HAST 2022). In the Fall semester of 2019, Bard College Berlin hosted its first ever #BCBPhotoContest, where the college was looking for photos of different places students “hit the books” in Berlin. Erick won this contest with a serene study location near his home in Weißensee, as he sat in a large park overlooking the lake.
He says, “The day I took this photo, the weather was so beautiful. I was reading for my Nation States and Democracy class at a lake close to my home in Weißensee, where I like to read when it is not too cold outside, which is not a frequent occurrence. I am glad I took this photo of that special part of the neighbourhood. Thanks to this photograph, I won the Dussmann Gutschein, or Dussmann voucher and bought David Wagner’s novel about the city of Berlin called “Welche Farbe Hat Berlin.” Here’s how to get to the lake from campus.
It is important to note that all of the places on this list are open and operational with appropriate COVID-19 safety measures. The best study spots in Berlin are naturally not limited to this list, so feel free to share any other locations that students can take advantage of while sunny Berlin allows it!