When you head to Berlin, chances are you’re ready for sausage. Currywurst, bockwurst, ketwurst—all wurst, all the time. We don’t blame you; washing down encased meat with a frothy beer is one of Germany’s great pleasures. But here’s what we love most about the capital: it’s complicated. While other European metropolises linger in distinctive legacies, Berlin feels like a jumble, a city that never stops for a moment to collect itself. “Paris is always Paris,” said French culture minister Jack Langin 2001—“and Berlin is never Berlin.” That sums up the ever-evolving mood here, the willingness to embrace new trends with enthusiasm. Food is no exception: Among bustling streets and between those currywurst buden, you’ll find no shortage of turophiles indulging their instincts.
This corner of Europe boasts world-class makers, too. Those with doubts should head to Cheese Berlin, a festival held in the historic Markthalle Neun every November. While exhibitors from across Europe make the trek here, approximately two-thirds hail from Berlin and nearby regions. According to co-host Ursula Heinzelmann, the event bridges the gap between the bustling city and artisans in its rural vicinity. “Throughout history, Berlin has had a hard time connecting to its immediate surroundings; logistics for small producers are often difficult,” she says. Since the event began in 2012, Heinzelmann has seen “slow but steady progress” in forging local links, she says, plus an increasing “awareness for the potential of this place.” “Potential” may be an understatement. Berlin has already fallen for curds—and we’ve fallen for Berlin.
For the largest selection of wheels from Austria and Switzerland, head to a hushed side street in Berlin’s hippest neighborhood: Neukölln. This shop packs tons of curds into its cozy space notably raw-milk wheels, which comprise about half of the varieties on offer, and a great selection of Swiss blue cheeses such as Willi Schmid Jersey Blue and goat’s milk Blaue Geiss. Snag accompaniments, too: cured sausage, wine, German fruit schnapps, and other spirits. For a hyperlocal treat, try organic honey from a neighborhood apiary, such as Sommerhonig mit Linde Nord-Neukölln (“summer linden blossom honey from north Neukölln”) produced by Imkerei Eismann.
After relocating from Marseilles to Berlin, Philippe Causse sought to bring a bit of his home country to Germany. Lucky for us, that resulted in a store stuffed with wonderful Francophone cheeses, wines, and sundries— including cassoulet, confit, terrine, and a wide selection of olive tapenades. When it comes to wedges and wheels, we suggest tangy, aromatic Brin d’Amour, coated with wild herbs from Corsica, as well as butterscotchy, crystal-studded Mimolette Extra Vieille. As the name suggests, Causse now runs Maître Philippe & Filles with his daughters Anaïs and Noémie; you’ll find the family in the Schöneberg neighborhood, a short stroll through the gallery-filled streets southeast of the high-end Kurfürstendamm shopping district.
Emser Straße 42
+49 30 88683610
In the heart of the city’s posh retail district along Friedrichstraße, this French luxury fixture displays the creativity of architect Jean Nouvel, who earned fame designing the modern opera house in Lyon, France. A structure consisting of glass cones and cylinders fills the interior of the building with light, creating stunning visual effects. Its gourmet department beckons with treats from southern France and elsewhere. Cheese counters lean Francophone, of course; highlights include Rocamadour Fermier AOP, Carré de Sologne, and Banon AOP Étoile de Provence. Adjacent shelves are laden with foie gras, confit, truffle oil, and salt. Bon appétit.
+49 30 209480
Dating to the 19th century, Arminiusmarkthalle makes a great lunch stop while touring the Wedding neighborhood. It’s home to the annual Berliner Käsetage (Berlin Cheese Days), held in February as part of the Eat! Berlin Festival. It’s also the year-round base for Käseeck, a stall offering a broad range of German dairy. Head here to sample a little-known German farmer’s cheese called Harzer, a regional specialty from the Harz Mountains made from sour milk. We also enjoy Wolfram Berge Tessiner Senfsauce, a mustard condiment sold in flavors including apple, fig, lemon, and pear.
Set within Berlin’s far southwest border with Brandenburg, this estate is home to an open-air museum and working farm cultivated for more than eight centuries. An onsite store sells homegrown produce, meat, and eggs, while a weekly Saturday market showcases handmade pasta and bread, German wine, and stalls for area cheese merchants. One stall in particular, Knippenbergs, is known for peddling a broad variety of wheels from throughout Europe—look for the bright red stand proudly announcing Lust auf Käse (“passion for cheese”). Another regular is Capriolenhof, specializing in handcrafted goat’s milk cheeses from a farm just 60 miles north of the city.
+49 30 6663000
Between 1886 and 1892 Berlin constructed 14 numbered market halls to provide a clean and plentiful food supply in residential neighborhoods; three remain in use today. This one, based in Kreuzberg, is home to the annual Cheese Berlin festival, plus various other annual events, weekly and monthly themed markets, and permanent stalls. Four of these stalls, open on weekdays, stock specialty curds: Alte Milch focuses on aged wheels, such as white wine–washed Salzwiesen-Bergkäse; Menze Specialitäten sells Austrian treats, including Alpine Bergkäse and handmade goat cheeses; Schaufenster Uckermark provides a culinary tour of the surrounding Brandenburg region, including regional curds and sausages; and grinbox offers Greek products, including PDO Feta and PDO Graviera, a traditional firm, aged wheel.
+49 30 61073473
Restaurants, Bars, & Cafés
Come here if you want to say you ate at Napoleon’s favorite Berlin pub. Zur letzten Instanz is the city’s oldest restaurant, built into the remains of a medieval fortification as a gin mill in 1621. Just a hop and a skip from Alexanderplatz, diners are transported to another era here among narrow cobbled streets along a section of Berlin’s “other” wall. In summer months the charming Biergarten is the place to dine on German fare: roulade, sausage, and Berliner Eisbein—salted pork knuckle served with sauerkraut and pureed peas (go ahead, don’t be shy). Cheese plates feature selections of German raw milk cheeses from Blomeyer’s Käse, one of the city’s best local curd purveyors.
+49 30 2425528
Folks feeling drained after perusing the bustling shops and boutique art galleries near Hackescher Markt would do well to have some cake. This café highlights local ingredients in surprising savory variations (asparagus cheesecake, anyone?). We adore the German specialties; try a slice of Königlicher Käsekuchen (“Royal Cheesecake”) made with organic quark in lieu of cream cheese. Whimsical flavors— such as coconut cheesecake decorated with pineapple leaf spikes and named, “When I was just a Piña I asked my Colada”—abound as well. Small, large, vegan, lactose-free, and gluten-free cakes offer sweetness for everyone.
+49 30 28092760
Opened in 1907, Kaufhaus des Westens—widely known as KaDeWe—is the second-largest department store in Europe. Despite being hit with an American airplane in 1943 and nearly burning to the ground, the store reopened its first two floors in 1950, and a gourmet department (on the sixth floor) followed a few years later. The sprawling cheese section features more than 950 varieties, plus a gourmet case devoted entirely to French curds—one of 30 such specialized food and drink bars. After taking a break to dine on baked Saint-Marcellin, seek refreshment in either the Moët & Chandon or the Champagne Jacquart bars, both conveniently located adjacent.
+49 30 21210
Situated on the famed Pariser Platz with views of the Brandenburg Gate, this establishment in the five-star Hotel Adlon Kempinski is the ultimate in dining for history buffs. The hotel’s notable guests include the likes of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, Thomas Edison, Josephine
Baker, and Albert Einstein. It survived the city’s WWII bombing and shelling, only to be burned down by drunken Red Army soldiers in May 1945 and rebuilt following German reunification. Despite the building’s larger-than-life status, restaurant manager Grischa Wolff says Quarré offers “informal, friendly, and individual service—it’s authentic, just like the city of Berlin.” Be sure to order the Brandenburg Burrata appetizer (showcasing cheese sourced from its namesake state, a Berlin neighbor), served with cherries, pumpernickel bread, and macadamia nuts.
Unter den Linden 77
+49 30 22610
Boasting two Michelin stars, Facil offers a true gourmet experience. It’s situated on the fifth floor of the five-star Mandala Hotel near one of the most dynamic areas of Berlin: the bustling Potsdamer Platz (also the site of the world’s first electric traffic signal). The kitchen is overseen by wunderkind Michael Kempf, named Chef of the Year by Germany’s top gastronomic magazine Der Feinschmecker in 2014-15 and awarded a Michelin star at just 26 years old. A raw-milk cheese course is served as part of Kaemp’s prix-fixe lunch menu, while an a la carte dinner menu presents a cheese selection curated by the restaurant’s sommelier.
Potsdamer Straße 3 (Mandala Hotel)
+49 30 590051234
Picture mixed-milk Tomme du Berger and organic chèvre Coeur Gourmand à la Figue served alongside rot brot (bread made with beet juice), pecans, and chutney. Now picture eating it in a giant tower with a revolving 360-degree view of Berlin. Sphere sits near the top of the iconic 1200-foot-tall Fernsehturm (Television Tower) on Alexanderplatz, erected in the 1960s by the German Democratic Republic. Reservations are a must, especially for window seats. Post-meal, head to the observation deck or sip a cocktail at Bar 203—Berlin’s highest bar—more than 660 feet above the city.
+49 30 247575875
This French-inspired wine and cheese bar doubles as a deli offering catering and—from May to September—picnic baskets to go (replete with a blanket and wine glasses). Exceptional wedges and wheels, including Brie de Meaux PDO and authentic, raw-milk Camembert, are supplied by world-champion monger Bernard Mure-Ravaud. While cheese plates are always on the menu, dinner brings fondue, raclette, and potatoes au gratin for stronger appetites, plus ample nondairy options including tartines and charcuterie boards. On weekends, linger over leisurely brunch plates (and don’t skip the Comté-filled croissant).
+49 30 96597617