A friend recently asked me: “Why do you always talk about cities as if they were guys!?” I hadn’t even noticed but I guess it’s true. And no, I don’t know the reason but it always seems apt. When I moved to Berlin just over six months ago, I doubted I would still be here today. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always liked it, the freedom, the parties, the colours – but never really thought my home country (and its capital) and I could be game for the long run. Well, I can kind of see what my friend was going on about now.

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Now with summer in full swing, I don’t plan on leaving anytime soon. You’ve probably heard the rumours, Berlin’s summers are magical, whether or not the weather is too. Anything’s possible between May and September. While we’re talking about magic: I’ve only recently started cycling in the city and can’t believe I ever preferred the metro or sticky buses. So far I’ve found heart-shaped traffic lights, spooky warehouses and angry drivers who were not just a little irritated by my lack of orientation in the middle of a huge junction. Everyday adventures, hey? So whatever you end up doing, whether you’ve just moved to Berlin, lived here for ages or only plan to swing by for a couple of days, make sure to get a bike. And here’s a flavour of the only real summer in the city.

The Lakes

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Plötzensee is a five-minute bike ride from my flat and therefore a current favourite. It gets pretty packed during peak times on sunny weekends but I’ve heard a quick swim at midnight can also be pretty therapeutic. Schlachtensee always makes me think of that one beautiful summer I spent here three years ago, when my friends and I were hanging out eating fries, listening to some band jam on their guitars and climbing up the trees. Oh to be forever young! Wannsee is a classic, particularly if you want to do some rowing or take a boat tour, but I’ve always found it a little too touristy. If you want to be alone, there’s a bunch of more lakes further out in the county of Brandenburg, so just hop on a train and brave nowhereland!

The Food

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Berlin’s (street) food scene is flourishing. It was lagging behind New York and London a couple of years ago, but in 2015 there is a huge variety of ice cream, oriental food and cosy local eateries. It’d be an easy thing to eat out every single day and not get bored. The prices are normally reasonable too, you should expect to pay €7-10 for a main dish. My current favourites are Cocolo Ramen Bar for the best, you guessed it, ramen, and for its beautiful view on the canal in Kreuzberg, Shiso Burger for burgers that are from another world, Betty’n’Caty for all things cake and tea, and then just about every kebab and falafel place near Leopoldplatz, Wedding. Check out the food series 40 Days of Eating to get some more inspo.

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But it’s not just the food. Beer also is a cultural essential – and local craft beer is having a particularly good moment right now. A popular brewery is Eschenbräu in Wedding, but you should also pop by Hops and Barley in Friedrichshain, which also broadcasts all major football matches to get you in the mood. While you easily pay a tenner for a pint in Oslo (where I’m currently writing this post from… not impressed by the prices!), you shouldn’t expect to pay more than €2 for a beer at a corner shop in Berlin, a “Späti”. Your alcohol intake will probably increase dramatically but hey, we gotta drink to that sunset!

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Open Air Parties and Festivals

How have I written several paragraphs and not once mentioned the P-word? Unbelievable. To kick off your summer party night, head to Klunkerkranich for drinks – it’s located on top of the shopping centre Neukölln Arcaden. Although the spot isn’t nearly as secret now as it was when I first discovered it, it’s still a favourite hang-out and features Berlin’s prettiest view over the city. Admiralbrücke in Kreuzberg is the ideal place to have a beer or two, listen to buskers do their thing and try not to get chased away by swans in the canal.

Some of my fave clubs include Badeschiff (yes, it’s an actual boat) and Wilde Renate for its beautiful outdoor space. Generally I’d recommend searching for open air parties and festivals instead of the crowded and sticky techno spaces that help us dance winter away. There’s Berlin Festival in May for example, and check this Facebook group for daily updates on the hottest open-air festivities.

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The Parks and Barbecues

Barbecuing isn’t allowed in every park in Berlin which is a shame, but it’s worth the effort to track down one that’s close to you. Alternatively you can picnic in style on Tempelhofer Feld, a wide, diverse open former airport space that was luckily spared from being converted into apartments thanks to a local initiative last year. It’s a quiet (well, occasionally), yet fully urban place for families, couples, skaters and friends alike. Bring a basket of strawberries and cherries and some iced coffee from Leuchtstoff Kaffeebar in nearby Neukölln and you’re good to go! Another picnic favourite is Stralau island in Treptower Park, Teufelsberg mountain in the West and Neu Venedig near Müggelsee lake. If only summer would last forever!

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The Culture

One of summer’s cultural highlights arguably is the Long Night of Museums at the end of August. Exploring the city’s at night (or in the evening at least) makes them all that more interesting and you can easily tick two or three off your bucket list! There are regular outdoor Sunday concerts at the Bode-Museum on Museum Island in Mitte at 8.30pm – nothing beats that atmosphere, I can attest to that! Also keep an eye out for Kiez festivals in your area. These are fun one-day celebrations on bigger streets like Torstraße or Bergmannstraße with music, street food and lots of weirdness. The guys at Finding Berlin have curated a handy list with other events not to miss in 2015, see how many you can cross off that list!

As for the other secrets, you’ve got no choice but to come and track them down yourself. Berlin is making that an easy and unforgettable endeavour – and it won’t break your budget on the way. So… have you been to Berlin before? Where did the magic happen for you? Give me a shout if you want to grab some ice cream whilst here and enjoy your summer!

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All photographs taken by Caroline Schmitt