Posts Tagged ‘Kurfuerstendamm’

Berlin’s Café Kranzler in name only

Monday, July 10th, 2017

For most of 175 years, Berlin’s Café Kranzler was a legendary confectionery, an institution, a place to see and be seen. Berliners revere coffee houses, particularly if the sun is out and sidewalk seating is available. Already back in 1845 they maintained, “A coffee house is part of our social wellbeing, to complement our social life.” Their love affair with cafés continues to this day.

Café Kranzler survived two world wars, the Nazi era, several owners and a changing clientele. But in 2000, it closed its doors forever. Only its landmark red and white awning survives, being on the cultural heritage register.

Café Kranzler’s predecessor

In 1825, the Viennese confectioner Johann Georg Kranzler opened his first modest pastry shop/café on Friedrichstrasse at the corner of Behrenstrasse in the central district of Mitte. The establishment took off, and Mr. Kranzler was able to enlarge his café nine years later, to include the entire first and the second floors of the building.

Café Kranzler – parent house

In 1833, Johann Georg Kranzler closed his original pastry shop and purchased a building right on Berlin’s famous boulevard, Unter den Linden No. 25 at the corner of Friedrichstrasse. Here he opened a café and named it Café Kranzler. It sported a sun terrace and an ice cream parlor. He served Viennese specialty coffees and pastries as well as Russian ice cream. Within a short time, the café became THE meeting place for Berlin’s literary society and bourgeoisie. Here one could meet, discuss and debate. Café Kranzler was the first café in Berlin to place small tables and chairs in the sidewalk and to offer a smokers’ room. The establishment quickly gained the reputation of being one of the city’s finest cafés.

Following Mr. Kranzler’s death in 1866, his heirs sold the café to the Hotel-Betriebs-Aktiengesellschaft. But Café Kranzler’s name and fame continued to live on until the building was completely destroyed on 7 May 1944 during an air raid. The café never re-opened at the Unter den Linden location. Instead, its new permanent home became the already established branch location on Kurfuerstendamm at the corner of Joachimstaler Strasse, near the Zoo station.


Former Café Kranzler at Unter den Linden and Friedrichstrasse after having been completely destroyed by British and American air raids. Photo courtesy of Bundesarchiv_Bild_183-J31402, 1945.

Former Café Kranzler at Unter den Linden and Friedrichstrasse after having been completely destroyed by British and American air raids. Photo courtesy of Bundesarchiv_Bild_183-J31402, 1945.

Café Kranzler – branch location

In 1932, the Café Kranzler branch on Kurfuerstendamm had opened under the name of Restaurant and Konditorei Kranzler (Restaurant and Patisserie Kranzler), operated by Kempinski Hotels. In 1945, during the Battle of Berlin it, too, was completely destroyed, and the café did not open its doors again until 1951, long after Berlin’s division.

At the time of the reopening, the café was housed in a one-story structure (ground floor plus an upper story), which was replaced in 1957/1958 with a two-story building (ground floor plus two upper stories) and a rotunda at the top. The rotunda had a red and white striped awning, which became an easily recognizable landmark. After the second re-opening in 1958, Café Kranzler quickly became a magnet for tourists and socialites and grew into something akin to an institution in West Berlin. It was the Kranzler that I knew and loved in the 1960s. Despite being spread over three floors, until the end of 1999, its guests preferred to sit in the sidewalk and watch the world go by.

In 2000, in the wake of the fall of the Berlin Wall, all that changed. Café Kranzler had to close its doors for the third time because the city implemented massive redevelopment plans for the area. In 2001, it re-opened as Neues Kranzler Eck, part of a shopping center and operated by the clothier Gerry Weber. The fashion designer occupied the ground and upper floors, and Café Kranzler was limited to the use of the rotunda. In fact, the café became something of an afterthought. It could only be accessed via a staircase inside the clothing store or via an elevator at the end of a long hall. Gone were the days as well of enjoying a coffee in the sidewalk while people-watching. The sidewalk was now off limits to Kranzler guests. It was a café during the day and a bar at night

But more changes were to come. In 2016, The British fashion label Superdry replaced Gerry Weber on the first two floors. The spiral staircase leading to the rotunda was re-opened, and The Barn, a specialty coffee roasting firm, now occupies the rotunda of the once legendary Café Kranzler. The world-class relic is gone and exists in name only.


Café Kranzler with tenants Superdry and The Barn. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, April 2017.

Café Kranzler with tenants Superdry and The Barn. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, April 2017.


For readers who are familiar with Café Kranzler, wasn’t there a time in the 70s when Café Zuntz occupied one of the floors? If you remember anything about that, please share it with me.


For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, “Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom,” click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of


Christmas Time in Berlin

Thursday, December 4th, 2014

If you want to catch some good old-fashioned holiday spirit, a visit to Berlin during Christmas time might just get the job done. As a result of the reunification in 1990, Berlin has ended up with a double complement of practically everything from theaters to museums, art galleries, opera houses, symphony orchestras, churches, zoos and, of course, Weihnachtsmaerkte – Christmas markets.

Christmas market – Weihnachtsmarkt in Berlin

At last count, approximately 80 Christmas markets in and around the city beckon visitors to experience Christmas time in Berlin. There are traditional and contemporary handcrafted toys to be admired, wood- and glass art, ceramics, baskets, candles and much more. Some of the markets even invite visitors to create their own Christmas tree ornament or advent wreath. For culinary enthusiasts, treats of all kinds are waiting to be sampled. Bratwurst (sausage), Lebkuchen (gingerbread), Pilzpfanne (fresh mushrooms fried with onions and bacon), hot chocolate and Gluehwein (mulled wine) are only a few of the holiday specialties offered. Sometimes, concerts, readings and special performances may be enjoyed along the way.

Christmas Lights in Berlin

Then after dark, many parts of the city are transformed into a sea of festive lights. The Charlottenburg castle is illuminated. The energy provider, Vattenfall, lights up the 220 linden trees on Unter den Linden, Berlin’s celebrated boulevard near the Brandenburger Tor. But my favorite is the Kurfuerstendamm. For the past 11 years, the Wall AG, an outdoor advertising firm that is part of the International JDDecaux Group, has dressed up the roughly 570 trees on both sidewalks and the median in their Christmas finery. Between 650 and 950 feet of lights are required to decorate each tree. That makes for roughly 145 miles of lights. Additional light sculptures, representing a nutcracker, reindeer, a train and Christmas trees, adorn the median.

Christmas lights in Berlin - 2014 - Photo: Gundi Seifert

Christmas lights in Berlin – 2014 – Photo: Gundi Seifert

Christmas lights on Berlin's Kurfuerstendamm - 2014 - Photo: Gundi Seifert

Christmas lights on Berlin’s Kurfuerstendamm – 2014 – Photo: Gundi Seifert

If you want to get into the holiday spirit, experience Christmas time in Berlin. Now stay tuned for my favorite Gluehwein recipe. I will share it with you next week and bet that the Gluehwein will put some color into your cheeks and some goodwill into your heart.


For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom, click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of Walled-In is a story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.