According to popular stereotype, Germany is a land of sausage-eating beer guzzlers. And yes, it’s true that a sizzling Wurst off the grill and a nice, cold beer are staples around these parts, especially during summertime, aka ‘Biergarten season’. But what many people may not realise is that Berliners actually have another sweeter, more delicate summer food obsession: ice cream.
From late March until late September – weather depending – it’s ice cream season, when the ice cream shops all around town fling open their doors and the hordes descend. Because we all know that ice cream season, like the warm weather, will ultimately come to an end, the unspoken goal is to eat as much ice cream as possible while we still can. On sunny days, the queue at the most popular ice cream shops can easily snake tens of metres down the sidewalk, but everyone waits patiently anyway. Almost all of these shops are small and independently run, and more and more frequently they’re making the ice cream by themselves, eschewing artificial additives and flavours to focus on top-quality, natural ingredients. The bar is being set ever higher, which can only be a good thing for us ice cream fans.
Hokey Pokey (Stargarder Str. 73) can probably claim the title of being the only ice cream shop in Berlin to have created a mob scene. After it opened in 2011, the Prenzlauer Berg shop became so popular that the neighbours complained about the perpetually jammed sidewalks. In response, the owner raised the price per scoop to €1.60 – nearly 50% above the city average – yet that did little to stanch the flow of addicted customers. A few weeks ago on a sunny Sunday, I waited in line for at least 15 minutes for goat milk dark chocolate ice cream studded with toasted cashew bits. It was so good I would probably wait double that next time. The Sicilian pistachio flavour is utterly luscious, and the rocky road (chocolate, marshmallow and candied nuts) is pure indulgence. If you’re overwhelmed by choice, the namesake Hokey Pokey flavour is always a good bet: rich vanilla with crunchy bits of golden honeycomb toffee.
Over on the other side of Prenzlauer Berg is Rosa Canina (Hufelandstr. 7), where every scoop they serve is not only sweet and tasty, but also organic. You can’t go wrong with standards like chocolate, strawberry, or that ever-popular Berlin favourite – mango – but some of the more interesting flavours on offer include vanilla swirled with intensely green and nutty pumpkin-seed oil or my top pick, black sesame.
I’ll go to both of those whenever I can, but they’re a fair trek from where I live. Closer to home is Anna Durkes (Graefestr. 80), an exceptionally friendly gelato shop that brings an authentic taste of Italy’s ice cream tradition to Kreuzberg. The focus is primarily on classic Italian flavours like tiramisu, hazelnut, and cassata – ricotta cream with candied citrus peel. The pistachio is intoxicatingly rich, though I also reserve a special place in my heart for the black liquorice flavour that is sadly available only occasionally. I’d also highly recommend a visit to nearby Die Eismacher (Körtestr. 10), where the house specialty is exotic ice cream flavours from the Philippines. Bright purple ube – a type of yam – makes for an earthy, vanilla-like ice cream, while green pandan leaf tastes just like cocoa butter smells. The rest of the selection rotates regularly, but I’m always excited when their violet blossom ice cream is on offer.
Wherever you are in the city, Eismanufaktur can be counted on for an ice cream fix. Several years ago they were one of the first to branch out into more daring flavours like matcha green tea and salted caramel. The competition has caught up since then, but Eismanufaktur is still a very good option, and with six shops all over the city, very convenient. The rhubarb flavour is fantastic, or for an intensely chocolatey treat, try the dairy-free cocoa sorbet. Or try it all, really – ice cream season won’t last forever!
Keen to jump on the ice cream bandwagon in Berlin? Check out our hotel deals to start planning your summertime escape.