Berliners love to eat, and you’ll see why after trying a few of the city’s most popular dishes. As one of Europe’s most vibrant cultural hubs, Berlin’s feisty food scene is an ever-changing melange of classic and edgy. Needless to say, it’s more than just pretzels and schnitzels (though there’s plenty of those, too). To see what Berlin really has to offer, check out our list of seven must-try Berlin favorites, many of which you should get to taste in a Berlin food tour.
The origin of the humble pretzel is somewhat controversial. This twisted knot of dough might have originated in France or Italy, but it’s Germany where the pretzel gets the most love. Germans have been munching on pretzels since at least the Middle Ages, and the country is even home to the world’s oldest preserved pretzel. Bavaria is traditionally considered the heartland of pretzels, but here’s a secret: Berlin’s pretzels are just as good as anything you’ll find down south. The Alpenstueck Bäckerei in Mitte is one of the country’s best bakeries, and arguably serves the best pretzels in town. There are, however, some tough contenders. Brezel Bar is popular among both locals and tourists alike, while Zeit für Brot is usually crowded for good reason. As its name suggests, the Brezel Company Café Neukölln specializes in pretzels, while also doing a pretty good coffee.
Traditional German cuisine doesn’t exactly have a reputation for being vegetarian friendly, but luckily for ethical eaters we have the kartoffelpuffer. This fried pancake is usually made with flour, onion, eggs and potatoes, and makes for a solid snack or a hearty side. Kartoffelpuffer can be sweet or savory, and, of course, can sometimes be served with meat. They’re especially popular around Christmas time, though it’s usually possible to find kartoffelpuffer being sold from street vendors throughout the year. If you really want to try some of the serious stuff though, head over to Brauhaus Mitte, which has among the fluffiest, sweetest, most apple sauce-drenched kartoffelpuffer in Berlin.
On a cold September day in 1949, street vendor Herta Heuwer was looking for something to spice up the pork sausages she sold from a small cart at the intersection of Kantstraße and Kaiser-Friedrich-Straße. She ended up trading with a few British soldiers for some ketchup, Worcestershire sauce and curry powder – two condiments that had previously been unheard of in Germany. On that fateful day, Berlin’s most famous street food was invented.
Today, currywurst is more than just a quick snack – it’s a beloved fixture of Berliner culture. As for trying to decide where to grab one, that’s a tough call. Curry 36 is a popular local haunt, with quick service, punchy sauce and crispy wurst. They even have vegan options. Konnopke's Imbiss is another heavy hitter, while Curry Mitte has a convenient location and excellent service. Odds are though, the best currywurst you’ll have is the one you grab at 3am after a long night on the town.
4. Wiener Schnitzel
Probably Germany’s most famed and widespread culinary export, it’s hard to not love a tasty schnitty. The most iconic version of the meal, the Wiener schnitzel, is traditionally made with a thin slice of veal that’s crumbed and fried until golden. This variant is originally a specialty of the Austrian capital Vienna, though it’s certainly not hard to find in Berlin. There’s tough competition for the best schnitzel in Berlin, though Schnitzelei’s Wieners are definitely among the tastiest.
5. Berliner Pfannkuche
Like the schnitzel, you’ve almost certainly tried a derivative of the Berliner Pfannkuche. Often known abroad simply as a “Berliner”, this round pastry is typically filled with jam and topped with icing sugar. Most bakeries stock at least a few varieties, though Bäcker Walf is particularly well-known for its puffy Barliners oozing with jam, vanilla or chocolate. Bäcker Walf itself dates back to 1898, making it one of Berlin’s oldest operational bakeries.
6. Döner Kebab
As the currywurst attests to, Berliners have never been afraid of adopting new foods. Sure, it’s Turkish, but the kebab is also an integral part of the Berlin experience. Good luck walking more than five minutes without running into a rotating mass of juicy meat just waiting to be carved up and tossed on some crunchy bread. Mustafa's Gemüse Kebap is a local favorite, and is pushing out kebabs from mid-morning to 2am. Meanwhile, Rüyam Gemüse Kebab feels like an ode to German efficiency, smashing out enormous piles of kebab and fries to the hungry hordes for reasonable prices.
7. Königsberger Klopse
Another adopted dish, Königsberger Klopse is a traditional Prussian meal originating from what is now the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad. Admittedly, it’s not always gentle on the eye, and usually consists of meatballs smothered in a gluggy white sauce. However, first impressions aren’t everything, and with one bite you’ll understand why Berliners have so eagerly adopted this eastern arrival. The sauce is the star of the show, and is sometimes just as zesty as it is creamy, with capers and lemon being commonly tossed on top. As with all traditional German fare, the best klopse is always homemade, though there’s a few good places around town. Mädchen Ohne Abitur is a slightly quirky, excellent restaurant for classic German grub, and is a good place to start if you’re looking for some authentic klopse.