When feeling an urge to buy a cold beer, some cigarettes, toilet paper, or a pack of spaghettis at 2 a.m. you’d be lost in most places. Berlin is different, obviously: very little represents the capital’s hood life as well as the mecca of (almost) any borough at (almost) any time: the “Späti”.
Late shops, in short: Spätis (from the German word “Spätkauf”), can be found at every corner: Berlin has more than 900 and no two are alike. They are often chockablock and colorful and the hungry and thirsty find here whatever they need. In the one single room of most shops a standard repertoire of several brands of beer, some soft drinks – above all trendy lifestyle drinks with caffeine or mate -, tobacco, sweets and snacks is stored. But almost every Späti has its very own profile which is reflected in the product range, crazy extras or weird advertisement.
Back-Spätis (late shops with some sort of bakery) for instance offer pre-baked pastry products, sandwiches and always a cheap filter-brewed coffee to go. In a Tele-Späti you can log into the internet, make copies or even get a cellphone contract sometimes. And the classic Getränke-Späti (“Getränke” is the German word for beverages) offers more than a few brands of beer and cheap wine. But most of the time this is not the end of the story, some Spätis are also a small construction market, a toy shop, a tobacco store or even a gun shop.
As diverse and often a little weird as a Späti are the customers. All age groups and classes, working people, students and unemployed, local residents and tourists meet in the Späti and it’s not unusual for the owners to be soul-comforter and rumor mill of the “Kiez” (borough), too. To many, hood life and it’s diversity is therefore mainly happening in the Späti around the corner.
The Späti was introduced more than a hundred years ago in Berlin to serve mineral water to pedestrians in an attempt to fight the rampant problem of alcohol addiction: Alcoholic beverages where actually forbidden in the small stores. Nowadays this is hard to believe, for the Späti is the source of every beer-to-go. There are late shops and kiosks in other German cities, too, but in no other town the Späti is of such high importance as in Berlin. The Späti is an authority, closes (almost) never and has become an integral part of daily life in the capital.
Spätis can be found where everything happens; and the most exciting and strange places are located in the boroughs with an active alternative subculture, e. g. in Kreuzberg, Friedrichshain and Neukölln. When staying in Industriepalast Hostel you are right in the middle – so why not discover the real Berlin lifestyle by touring the Spätis in the neighbourhood?
Enjoy your discovery tour,
Blogger at Industriepalast Hostel
is Berliner by choice and a passionate backpacker himself. As a receptionist he knows the real hostel life; as a blogger he's been writing for Industriepalast Hostel's Berlin blog since 2014.