Traveling With Kids | Berlin
A few years ago we decided to go to Berlin for a 4 day “city trip”. The kids were four and six years old and we weren’t quite sure how they’d manage a trip that involved subways, lots of walking on pavement and people and traffic everywhere (remember we live in rural Italy in a town of 3000 people).
In the end it was a huge success. Being in a big city was something new and exciting for our little country bumpkins and we made sure to schedule lots of kid-friendly activities in between the museum and monument visiting.
We arrived in Berlin in early November and the weather already had a winter chill to it. Luckily we were able to stay in the apartment of a friend so we were in a comfortable house with all the daily essentials and in a quiet residential neighbourhood only a 5 minute walk to the nearest metro station.
One of the first things we do when we arrive in a big city is a hop-on/hop-off bus tour. Before having kids I thought these tours were for the unadventurous and the old. But since becoming a traveling parent I have come to realise that they are the perfect way for families with small children to kick off a city trip. We get to check out a city and the areas we would like to explore more thoroughly and if the kids are getting tired you just catch the next bus and enjoy the city views until they’re feeling rested again. On our tour of Berlin we did quick pit-stops to visit Brandenburg Gate, Potsdamer Platz, Alexanderplatz, the Reichstag and Charlottenburg Palace to name a few.
After we felt we had our bearings of the city, we headed out on foot to visit the famous Jewish Memorial which was built to remember all the Jewish victims of the Holocaust. For us, this was one of the most important sites that we wanted to visit in Berlin and we used the opportunity to teach our kids a little about the history behind it. They were still small at the time but they listened to what we had to say with big eyes and asked many questions throughout our entire stay in Berlin. From afar, the memorial looks like a sea of large concrete blocks. At first you walk through straight lines of these low slabs of cement and then slowly you realise that the ground drops downwards and the blocks become taller and taller. For the kids it was a paradise to run through and play hide and seek (I kept telling them it wasn’t a place to play but the monument was full of frolicking children). For us adults it was ominous and dark and by the time we reached the other side of the massive monument we were happy to exit its oppressive feeling.
Our favourite museum in Berlin was the contemporary art museum called Hamburger Bahnhof. It is a spacious museum that is located in an old terminal rail station and it houses some of Germany’s and the world’s most interesting contemporary art exhibits and installations. My kids always have a blast in contemporary art museums because there is so much visual stimulation and out-of-the-ordinary things to see.
A much loved and famous site for families is the Berlin Zoological Garden. A few years ago it got a lot of publicity thanks to the birth of the little polar bear named Knut (who sadly passed away at 4 years old). The zoo, which is the most visited in Europe, has every type of animal imaginable and is open year round. Check out Bao Bao the giant panda.
Two great kid-friendly activities that are not to be missed in Berlin are Legoland and Kindercity. Legoland is located in the centre of the city in Potsdamer Platz and our kids spent ages meandering through the rooms full of Lego statues (their favourite were of the city of Berlin) and participating in some Lego workshops. Kindercity is a great hands-on/scientific museum for the little ones. My kids actually took a driving school class there and were set free on a car track with miniature Mercedes cars. The fact the class was in German might explain the horrible driving skills my children demonstrated that day.
And we couldn’t visit Berlin and not spend some time admiring the massive Brandenburg Gate. While there we witnessed the King of Abu Dhabi arriving for an important meeting with all his extensive security and entourage. Very exciting.
We also spent some time visiting parts of East Berlin, various remaining pieces of The Wall and the famous bombed Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. The kids found it all fascinating and were, surprisingly, very interested in all the history behind all these places.
While in Berlin we also made sure to try the famous currywurst which is a plate of sliced German pork sausage served with curry flavoured ketchup and french fries. I guess it’s the German equivalent to Canada’s poutine.
All in all Berlin is a fantastic city to visit as a family. It’s quite an affordable city and so well organised and easy to navigate. I would suggest purchasing The Berlin Pass which gives you free entrance to over 50 attractions and museums including the hop-on/hop-off bus tour (kids are half price).
And one last thing about Berlin that we all fell in love with is the famous Ampelmannchen. These little men on their traffic lights were a delight for my kids at every corner. Sometimes it’s the little things that make kids so happy.