You know who I'm talking about: sipping the dregs of an hour-cold flat white, hidden amidst a fortress of MacBooks and Moleskines, using a public cafe as their own personal workspace. Yeah, you've see them—you may even be one of them. And I confess to you: I too am one of those people.
It wasn't always like this. I used to rent a studio space. It was cold, smelled of fish (from the market below) and the WiFi was more selective than the bouncers at Berghain. More and more often, I found myself bunking off to work in the nearest cafe, and what I found there was inspirational: life in flux. For many in the position to work remotely, cafes offer a constantly shifting hub atmosphere. Pay rent in coffee and lunch and never read another post-it note about whose turn it is to buy milk ever again.
As it happens, I'm in Berlin once again, and so to compile the first in an ad hoc series into the world's best laptop-friendly cafes for freelancers, I'll start from where I'm currently sat, which is...
Rosenthaler Straße 72A, 10119 Berlin
U8 Rosenthaler Platz
This is it. The Citizen Kane, the OK Computer of laptop cafes. And I’m not just talking Berlin. The legitimacy of spending long amounts of time working in a cafe is validated by the amount of plug sockets on offer; here, it is plug city. I'm sat along one of the chunky benches that fold along the lower floor (there are two floors) as the huge windows spray in swathes of natural light from the busy Rosenthaler Platz and the staff spark like a team rather than a collection of mismatched haircuts. Every time I get here I feel like a passenger on a happy caffeine-fuelled ship. Hub experience at its best, as good for people-watching as it is for deadline-crunching.
Graefestr. 8, 10967 Berlin
Key benefit of hot-desking: without being tied to a rigid office, you have a responsibility to yourself to find the cafe that suits your mood (and workload). KaffeBar is ideal for mornings. Located a cigarette's walk from Schönleinstrasse U Bahn in Kreuzkölln’s leafiest grid, KaffeBar is clean and cozy yet spacious enough to find a bit of desk or sofa to get a couple of hours' work done, if not a whole day. I say mornings, because like Climpsons in Hackney or Grumpy’s in Greenpoint, it has that feel of waking human traffic: charge up with their delicious eggs benedict and a green super smoothie, read the papers, do your emails, and move on.
Friedelstrasse 25, 12047 Berlin
Hidden gem alert. Seriously cute tea room, a Beatrix Potter’s lair of mismatched vintage furniture and curated bric-a-brac. Being polite to staff and other customers, I don’t think you’d want to push more than a few hours here. However, as an afternoon choice, it makes a great double bill with the nearby KaffeBar.
Prinzessinnenstraße 19-20, 10969 Berlin
A short walk from Kottbusser Tor, Betahaus, in the heart of Kreuzberg, offers both a laptop friendly cafe as well as (like Sankt Oberholz) private studio space. Being set off the road, it has this University canteen feel and can get extremely busy—so if you're up late you run the risk of hunting for a tiny bit of space wide enough to work on. It has this rather charming wooden raised seating area in the middle of it, like a treehouse. They do fantastic chai lattes and if you order lunch, you have to listen out for your name being called out over a muffled tannoy—which some may not find as charming as I.
Warschauer Str. 39/40 10243 Berlin
U1 Warschauer Str
Disadvantage: it's a hotel, so the clientele is more likely to be flux in travel rather than a settled Berlin hub. Advantage: the design! It has book cases, it has a zebra-striped bathroom. Detail. Detail. Detail. The Overlook Hotel reimagined by Wes Anderson. And how you react to that description totally determines if it’s your cup of latte macchiato or not.
(Image at top: Michelberger. All images: Paul Hanford)