Berlin has always been a city that’s good at reusing abandoned spaces in creative ways. Tempelhof, an old airport built in 1923, is now a massive public park (the hangars now house hundreds of refugees). In the middle of the Spree river, the Badeschiff is a floating swimming pool created out of an old shipping container and several slaughterhouse buildings in old East Berlin are now luxury apartments. And throughout the city, breweries have been turned into art galleries, restaurants, shops, and even a hostel.
In the 19th century, there were more than 350 breweries operating in Berlin. As they consolidated or went out of business, many of the buildings fell to disuse, left to crumble. However, in recent years, many of the long-since closed and abandoned buildings have been given new lives as centers for art and culture, putting the old buildings to use and in some cases reinvigorating the areas around them. Here are four former breweries you should visit in Berlin.
The Kulturbrauerei is located in the Prenzlauer Berg neighborhood and is made up of 11 stately brick buildings (covering 270,000 square feet or 25,000 square metres) of the former Schultheiss brewery, which was once the largest in the world. The brewery closed in 1967, and in 1974 the buildings were declared a national monument due to their historic architecture. It now houses several theatres, nightclubs, and a magic club; office space; a museum; and restaurants. It’s also the meeting location for Berlin on Bike tours, so if you take a bike tour, plan to stick around for a bit afterwards and explore the historic site’s cobblestone courtyards.
Located not far from the Kulturbrauerei, the former brewery at Pfefferberg has stuck close to its roots. The site of the old brewery, which was founded in 1841, is now an entertainment complex that hosts — among other attractions — a microbrewery and brewpub called Pfefferbräu. Additionally, there are several other dining options, a theatre, art galleries, a museum dedicated to architectural drawing, and the Pfefferbett Hostel, which opened in 2008 and kept most of the building’s original architecture, like the 20-foot ceilings in the lobby, intact.
Set in Berlin’s trendy, and rapidly gentrifying neighborhood of Neukölln, the former Kindl brewery is transforming into the Kindl Center for Contemporary Art, a space that will host art exhibitions, lectures, and events in its 59,000 square feet of space. Currently only one phase is complete; the Boiler House opened in 2014 as refurbishment of the rest of the project continues. The full restoration is expected to be done at the end of 2016, and will conclude with three levels of exhibition space in the Power House, artists studios, and the opening of the Brew House café. Amidst the art, relics of the building’s former life — such as massive brewing coppers and doors imprinted with the Kindl logo — will remain.
Not far from Alexanderplatz, at the intersection of the Mitte, Prenzlauer Berg and Friedrichshain neighborhoods, the former Bötzow brewery is an ambitious project to transform the decrepit 1885 building and its 258,000 square feet of space (24,000 square meters) into a lively multi-use facility housing a brewery, art gallery, restaurants, medical innovation center, boutique hotel, public plaza, and more. While the full project won’t be done until 2019, there’s plenty of reason to visit now: free guided tours take visitors below ground to explore the vaulted cellars of the brewery as well as the underground stables. There’s also an art gallery and trendy cocktail bar Le Croco Bleu (the name was inspired by the rumour that during WWII, two crocodiles from the Berlin Zoo were kept safe in pool in the Bötzow cellars). Michelin-starred chef Tim Raue’s La Soupe Popular — a refined dining experience in the former brewery’s industrial-chic space — will be closed for the next year due to the construction work but will reopen in 2017.