The Scheunenviertel, or Barn Quarter, is a historic district whose web of crooked lanes has morphed into a trendy entertainment, art, and shopping zone over the past 15 years. The odd name harkens back centuries to when the area was home to highly flammable hay barns. It later became Berlin's main Jewish quarter, a role it has gradually resumed in recent years.
Start your walk at the Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz subway station. The namesake square is dominated by the monumental (1) Volksbühne (Linienstraße 227; www.volksbuehne-berlin.de), an avant-garde theater and party palace. Head a few steps west on Torstrasse, then pick up (2) Alte Schönhauser Strasse, which is lined with small, independent boutiques selling Berlin-designed fashions and accessories, art books, and hand-picked things for home and hearth. Past Münzstrasse it continues as (3) Neue Schönhauser Strasse, where stores are a bit more high-end. Soon you'll arrive at Rosenthaler Strasse; cross it, turn left, then duck into the walkway next to the MAC cosmetics store. It leads to the (4) Rosenhöfe, a romantic courtyard with shops and restaurants, and spills out into the more famous (5) Hackesche Höfe (www.hackesche-hoefe.com), a warren of seven beautifully restored courtyards; Court 1 with its Art Nouveau tile facade is especially pretty. Exit onto Rosenthaler Strasse, turn right and follow Oranienburger Strasse to Grosse Hamburger Strasse; turn right again.
On your right are the remnants of Berlin's first (6) Jewish cemetery (corner of Oranienburger Strasse and Gross Hamuburger Strasse 26) from 1672, which was destroyed by the Nazis. The nearby (7) memorial honors the 55,000 Berlin Jews murdered by the terror regime. Continue on Grosse Hamburger Strasse, past the reopened Jewish high school, to a driveway on your right, which leads to the baroque (8) Sophienkirche from 1712, the first church in the Scheunenviertel.
Continue to Auguststrasse, known for its art galleries. Hook a left, walk past (9) Clärchens Ballhaus (www.ballhaus-mitte.de), a 19th-century dance hall, then check out the latest in experimental art at (10) Kunst-Werke Berlin (www.kw-berlin.de) at No. 69; the glass cube café makes great cakes.
Cross the street and look for the entrance to the (11) Heckmann Höfe just before reaching Tucholskystrasse. This is another lovely courtyard complex anchored by a peaceful garden and home to an old-fashioned candy kitchen, the (12) Bonbonmacherei (Oranienburger Strasse 32; www.bonbonmacherei.de). Heckmannhöfe exits on Oranienburger Strasse, the Scheunenviertel's main fun mile. Immediately on your left is the imposing (13) Neue Synagoge (New Synagogue) (www.cjudaicum.de), whose gilded dome is a beacon of Berlin's Jewish renaissance. The 1866 original was once Germany's largest synagogue with room for 3,200 people. Its successor opened in 1995 and has exhibits on the building's history and architecture and the lives of the people who worshipped here.
Across the street is (14) Monbijoupark, a small park hugging the Spree River. It's home to Berlin's first beach bar, the (15) Strandbar Mitte (Monbijourstrasse 1-3; www.strandbar-mitte.de), incidentally a fine place to cap off this tour.
Travel Photos From Your Shot
See Captivating Photos of Our Days' End—Submitted by Members of the Your Shot Community
Shop National Geographic
Special Ad Section
Watch as Nat Geo photographers reveal what drives them to create iconic images.