The Berlin Prater has sustained its cult status without interruption. The café operators Kalbo first opened it as a garden restaurant in 1837, and from the outset it attracted people looking for rest and relaxation or hungry for experiences – everyone from civil servants and businesspeople to service staff. Cultural highlights were soon being presented in the hall and on the open-air stage. Orchestras played, and visitors in large numbers revelled in the summer theatre performances, tea dances, variety shows, trapeze acts at dizzying heights, wrestling matches and the billiard salon. Artists of note came from near and far to tread the boards of the Prater.
After 1917, the theatre hall was mainly used as a cinema, and it opened as the first DEFA (East German film studio) cinema in 1949. Workers of the industrial era who had settled in the urban surroundings would come here and meet for beers after work. In the process, the Prater became a venue for the workers’ movement to hold political demonstrations and meetings. Under the German Democratic Republic, it ultimately became the district house of culture. It provided spaces for choirs, the Festival of German and Soviet Artists, pantomime theatres, concerts, exhibitions, May Day celebrations and events held by young workers’ associations and the Party. Dancing, meanwhile, continued in the garden. The communal gallery moved to a site opposite the Prater in 1973. After reunification, the Volksbühne performed at the district hall. Directors like Christoph Schlingensief, Christoph Marthaler and René Pollesch provided legendary theatrical experiences here.
The Prater today is at the heart of the pulsating residential and recreation area and vibrant centre of artistic and cultural life that is Kastanienallee in Prenzlauer Berg. Newly renovated, it reopened its doors anew after a long closure in 2021. The communal Prater Gallery offers a programme of contemporary exhibitions, and the Volksbühne is once again performing theatre of the highest calibre in the main hall. The beer garden and restaurant welcome guests in the adjoining Prater Garden.