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Diving through time: Historical summer photos of Berlin

We look into the archives to show you historical photos of Berliners beating the heat with a swim across more than a century.

Strandbad Orankesee, Lichtenberg, Berlin. Photo: IMAGO / Schöning

A lot has happened in swimwear in the last 100 years, but some things never change. The sporty types swim lengths, some sunbathe on the banks, and some splash about in the shallows. Check out these pictures of outdoor bathing in Berlin across the years.

Splash about in Schillerpark

A paddling pool is perfect for cooling off for these kids in 1915. Photo: IMAGE / Arkivi

In the northern corner of Schillerpark, where it borders the Englisches Viertel, there used to be a paddling area. For working-class children from Wedding who didn’t have the option to go to the Berlin and Brandenburg lakes, the paddling pool was a great way to cool off and play in the summer.

Heiligensee Lido

Some things never change, for example the queues for the slides. 1915. Photo: IMAGE / Arkivi

This ten metre tall diving tower no longer exists unfortunately, but the lido at Heiligensee is still there today. We love the stripy costumes and swimming hats.

Strandbad Wannsee

Wannsee has been popular for many years with Berliners looking to escape the heat. 1935. Photo: IMAGO / Arkivi

The iconic architecture of Strandbad Wannsee dates from 1930, but apparently the lido was a thorn in the side of the Nazi regime because of its “un-German” style. The manager of the spa, Hermann Clajus, even took his own life in 1933 after the Nazis came to power.

Wannsee lido in the 1950s. Photo: IMAGO / Gerhard Leber

The lido had record visitor numbers in the 1950s with people craving fun and distraction. However, it had to close frequently because of stray projectiles from the nearby American shooting range.

FKK in Grunewald

FKK was popular on both sides of the wall, such as here in Grunewald. 1970. Photo: IMAGO / Gerhard Leber

In the summer of 2020, Teufelssee in Grunewald made headlines around the world when a wild boar stole the laptop bag of a naked sunbather, who then pursued the animal butt naked. The area on the south bank of the river has been a nudist beach for decades, as you can see from the many bare butts in this picture from 1970.

Sunbathing at Müggelsee

A family sunbathing at Müggelsee. 1970s. Photo: IMAGO / Marco Bertram

If Wannsee was the main bathing destination for West Berliners, for people in East Berlin it was Müggelsee. The beach at the Müggelsee lido is spacious: the regular area is 250 meters long and the FFK area is 150 meters long. Admission to the lido has been free since 2006.

Red Woodstock on Alexanderplatz

In 1979 the National Youth Festival of the DDR took place in East Berlin – young people went to Alex to cool off in the hot summer. Photo: IMAGO / SMID

On the 30th anniversary of the DDR, young people from all over the country traveled to Berlin on June 1 for the National Youth Festival, nicknamed Red Woodstock. There were more than 2000 events including concerts, sports competitions and arts events.

Cooling off at Alexanderplatz. 1979. Photo: IMAGO / SMID

Around 80 percent of all Germans between the ages of 14 and 25 were members of the Free Germany Youth (FDJ). “Only socialism can give young people a true fatherland and secure prospects. Helping to shape a developed socialist society is worth living and fighting for,” said the introduction to the handbook on the National Youth Festival. When you’re taking a break from forming the ideal socialist society, there’s plenty of time to cool off in the fountain at Alexanderplatz.

Packed Sommerbad in Schöneberg

Overcrowded outdoor pools are not a new phenomenon in Berlin. 1985.
Photo: IMAGO / Günter Schneider

When the outdoor pool at Insulaner was built in the 1920s, it was revolutionary – it was the first not to be located on a river or lake. It was built as part of the city’s efforts to provide Berliners with access to ‘Licht und Luft’ (light and air), and was hugely poplar.

Sommerbad in Monbijou Park

Somewhere for the kids to cool down even in the middle of Mitte. 1994. Photo: IMAGO . Seeliger

Between 2006 and 2008, Monbijou Park had a big redesign. Some trees went, but the children’s pool was preserved. It’s a great spot for tourists and locals alike to cool off right in the middle of town.

Fountain at Breitscheidplatz

The summer of 2003 was a scorcher. Photo: IMAGO / Pemax

The whacky fountain on Breitscheidplatz has received a particularly poetic nickname from Berliners – ‘Wasserklops’ or ‘water dumpling’, possibly referring to its vaguely dumpling like shape. We think its a bit of a stretch, but it’s still a great spot to cool your feet on a hot day in town.

Swimming in Berlin

For more tips on our favourite spots to swim in Berlin check out our guide to the best lakes and the best outdoor pools.

This article was adapted from the German by Poppy Smallwood.