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The Best Things to See & Do In Berlin's Nikolai Quarter

Picture of Lily Cichanowicz
Updated: 9 February 2017
Subject to major restoration efforts under the GDR in 1987, the Nikolai Quarter still remains an underrated gem of the city. Also known as Old Berlin, its winding corridors and historic buildings offer a different perspective of the German capital. In addition to simply walking the quarter’s narrow streets and enjoying its pleasant vistas along the river Spree, here are some things that every visitor ought to do in Berlin’s Nikolaiviertel.

Check out some of the district’s historic sites:

St. Nicholas church

One of the most distinguishable structures in the Nikolai Quarter is the St. Nicholas Church, the site after which the quarter was named. It is the oldest church in Berlin, as its construction was completed in 1230. Designed in late gothic style, the most notable features of this medieval church are its two pointed spires. Today, the space is secularized and opened to visitors. Inside, the church is decorated with an array of interesting historic artifacts dating back to the 14th and 15h centuries. Plus, the church itself has gone through a multitude of alterations since it was first erected, reflecting the many ways the city itself has changed from its early days.

Nikolaikirchplatz, Berlin, Germany, +49 (0)30 24002162

Ephraim Palace

With its variety of architectural gems originating from different aesthetic periods, the Nikolai Quarter certainly offers people the chance to get to know the city in its historical entirety. While the St. Nicholas Church provides a glimpse at the world of Berlin’s beginnings, the Ephraim Palace serves as a representation of the city’s golden age, as this elegant structure is built in neo-rococo style. Inside, visitors will find a museum that chronicles the city’s 800-year history. Interestingly enough, the structure itself was deconstructed and stored in West Berlin until the East implemented major reconstruction efforts in the Nikolai Quarter and then rebuilt it about 12 meters from its original foundation.

Poststraße 16, Berlin, Germany, +49 (0)30 24002162

© Beek100 /WikiCommons
Ephraim Palace | © Beek100 /WikiCommons

Knoblauch House

Located just down the street from the Ephraim Palace, the Knoblauch House is a third historic building to include on your itinerary. It once belonged to the prominent Knoblauch family, who has produced many famous scientists, politicians, and merchants. This three-story baroque townhouse provides insight into the lives of the city’s wealthy during the mid-18th century. The first story of their former family home includes marvelously restored rooms, decorated as they were when the family was living there. The following levels of the building include information about life in the city during this oft-forgotten but nonetheless intriguing Biedermeier era.

Poststraße 23, Berlin, Germany, +49 (0)30 24002162

© Beek100/WikiCommons
Knoblauchhaus | © Beek100/WikiCommons

Shops to visit:

Antiquariat Struck

Considering that the Nikolai Quarter comprises what is known as Alt Berlin (old Berlin), it seems fitting to do a bit of shopping for historic and commemorative items from generations past. While the district does have a reputable antique shop, one of the mosts unique stores in the quarter is Antiquariat Struck. Here, people can find old books, maps, and other rare printed treasures. Open since 1974, and one of the largest stores of its kind in Germany, Antiquariat Struck is a bit of an institution in itself, making it a must-see during an afternoon spent exploring Nikolaiviertel. Not to mention, the shop also provides another layer of insight about the city’s old days.

Spandauer Str. 29, Berlin, Germany, +49 (0)30 2427261

Schmuck & Kunsthandwerk Berlin

For those who are looking for a different type of souvenir, be sure to take a look inside Schmuck & Kunsthandwerk, a jewelry shop where the pieces are handcrafted in-house. Most of the creations are colorful and made from hand-selected glass beads and Swarovski crystals, along with nothing but the finest silver and gold. They sell necklaces, stud earrings, bracelets, rings, and many other ornaments to boot. The jewelry makers will even take customized orders, and the friendly, English-speaking staff is always happy to help.

Am Nußbaum 8, Berlin, Germany, +49 (0)30 30881647

Tiger Tart

Tigertörtchen, known as Tiger Tart in English, is the best spot in the Nikolai Quarter to grab a sweet treat on the go. The specialty at this petite shop are their mini-cupcakes. Sweet varieties include red velvet, coconut, carrot, champagne, lemon, and more. They also offer some savory baked goods, homemade lemonade, and plenty of coffee. Some popular savory options are bacon pumpkin, cheese, gorgonzola fig, and currywurst. Everything is made with love in the in-house bakery facility, meaning all is fresh and of exceptional quality. Plus, Tiger Tart has some vegan items available as well, along with other creative confections like ‘cuptails’ and ‘push-up cakes.’

Spandauer Str. 25, Berlin, Germany, +49 (0)30 67969051

Where to eat and drink:

Bonne Vie

Bonne Vie is the most interesting café in the Nikolai Quarter. Here, guests are invited to step back in time as the place also doubles as an antique shop, giving it the feel of a menagerie that is always changing but constant in its sense of quirk. Not to mention, they make fantastic coffee and even better cakes and sweets to accompany it. Bonne Vie is particularly cozy and festive around Christmas time, but the summer months also provide enticingly cheerful occasions to visit because this café contains a sunny courtyard as well. A visit to Bonne Vie is a truly unique experience that can’t quite be paralleled anywhere else in the city.

Propststraße 1, Berlin, Germany, +49 (0)30 2404681

Café & Restaurant Spreeblick

Known as the ‘White Salon,’ Café & Restaurant Spreeblick is one of the prettiest places for enjoying a meal in the Nikolai Quarter. Dressed in dazzling white and delicate gold, the period aesthetics alone are reason enough to visit. They offer a seasonal menu featuring German dishes and other casual eats along with a buffet and multiple fixed menu options. A table at Spreeblick provides a phenomenal vantage point for catching a good view of the Spree and surrounding Nikolai Quarter from the conservatory. This is a great spot for anyone looking to enjoy some traditional cuisine in a lovely ambiance.

Propststraße 9, Berlin, Germany, +49 (0)30 2425247

Brauhaus Georgbraeu

For those who love beer and would enjoy a more interactive dining experience, head to Brauhaus Georgbraeu. Brews are still made in-house in the enormous copper kettles that are clearly visible from the dining hall. Pair your beer with some robust German fare like roasted pork, goulash, duck, schnitzel, or stuffed cabbage all accompanied with things like potato salad and sauerkraut for extra sustenance. If you are able, we suggest saving room for dessert because Brauhaus Georgbraeu does an excellent apfelstrudel, dowsed with plenty of warm vanilla sauce, of course. This place also has plenty of outdoor seating overlooking the Spree.

Spreeufer 4, Berlin, Germany, +49 (0)30 2424244

Zur Gerichtslaube

Just a stone’s throw from St. Nicholas Church, Zur Gerichtslaube is situated in one of the oldest buildings in Berlin, which dates back to the 13th century. Beyond the gorgeous interior with its vaulted ceilings and warm hues garnered from candlelight and red brick, this place is famous for its beer garden. As for the food, they can make all the traditional stuff like wurst, roasted pork, stews, stuffed cabbage, and probably just about any other filling German goodie that leave a person feeling all warm and fuzzy inside. Beers come in welcome, hefty proportions served in large glass mugs, an essential part of any true German dining experience.

Poststraße 28, Berlin, Germany, +49 (0)30 2415697