A couple of last things, just in case you are considering Berlin...you mentioned animals - there are 2 large zoos (many things are double in Berlin due to the wall) but I love the one on the former west https://www.zoo-berlin.de/en it's very central, like finding a huge beautiful zoo in downtown SF. But more importantly are several little "farms" scattered around neighborhoods https://www.top10berlin.de/en/cat/family-276/kids-farms-2668.
For touring, Rick Steves suggests bus 100 or 200 to save $ instead of the Hop on/off tours but both are good and double decker (public transport here is clean, safe and frequent - wait time is usually 2-10 minutes tops so it doesn't feel like a hassle). Go down Unter den Lindon, the main street to see all the big historical buildings (both the 100 & 200) will do so. Eating - Clarchens Ballhaus in Mitte has charming outdoor eating in a cute neighborhood. Museum Island area is lovely. Walk thru Hackescher markt and grab a snack. Hang out in a lounge chair in James Simon park in mitte next to museum island or better yet, also close to Melia hotel is Monbijou Bridge, beautiful at sunset, listen to street musician, watch the dancers at the sand bar next door. Go to the impressive 6th fl food floor at the KaDeWe dept store (5 min from the Zoo) and grab a snack.
The one suggestion I have about Berlin is because it is not a medieval city, instead mostly built between 1880-1920 and then heavily destroyed, it lacks medieval flavor. I would suggest one night in Bamberg, one of the prettiest little cities in Germany, and easy to get to. If you are staying in mitte, you will be about 5 min from the main train station (called Berlin Hbf/or central station) there you pick up a train to Bamberg a 2.5 hour direct ride. The trains are comfortable, great scenery. Don't miss going down to the cafe car for a coffee and sit in the little cafe seats. You get off at the Bamberg central station. Walk the 10 min or hop in a cab to the old section. You can see most of it easily one afternoon and the next morning. Then back to Berlin that afternoon. Here is train ticket link https://reiseauskunft.bahn.de/bin/query.exe/en?ld=43176&country=GBR&protocol=https:&seqnr=1&ident=gu.031657176.1573724427&rt=1&OK#focus - have your hotel help you buy the tickets, second class is great, but I suggest you reserve seats. Sometimes you'll find people sitting in them because they don't realize but no problem, just point out they are reserved. Not usually full except during the holidays. The trip is less difficult than walking from a Union Square hotel to pick up BART to go to Walnut Creek, really. If you arrive in Berlin on a Saturday, I would wait til perhaps Wed morning to head to Bamberg, then spend that afternoon, night there and leave the next afternoon back to Berlin. Definitely stay in the medieval center - I have stayed here before https://www.hotel-nepomuk.de/en/ but there are a lot of choices.
Aim to visit May-Sept, it's definitely the prettiest time. My kid is now a teenager so I'm a little rusty with suggestions, best to search for kids activities. The one thing I would caution you about is you may get swept up in - I could do this, or maybe I should include that city, or we'll be so close to this... and everything will begin to be appealing and just remind yourself, next visit I'll do that, but now I focus on just 1 or 2 places.
Oh just a couple of other tips about Berlin Neighborhoods to stay - Mitte (Center) is of course most central. Anything close to the S-bahn line that cuts through the center. The Melia Hotel is right in the center, right on a canal and across the street from a main station - and it's affordable! Of course depends I suppose when you book. Had friends stay there and loved it.https://www.melia.com/en/hotels/germany/berlin/melia-berlin/index.htm?esl-k=sem-google%7Cng%7Cc323767288961%7Cme%7Ckmelia%20berlin%7Cp%7Ct%7Cdc%7Ca66571514547%7Cg1657182201&&gclid=CjwKCAiAwZTuBRAYEiwAcr67OWOdZt4rCYsYdzF--gvwi08U1ezkh1I3AVW3T4z3smVj_Nw6mhV4lBoCaesQAvD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds
Prenzlauer Berg neighborhood (just a little east) is completely set up for kids and charming. But most areas are of Berlin are charming, depending on how much they were destroyed int he war. I would suggest try to stay within the "ring" of the s-bahn ring.
If you stay in a hotel, definitely make sure you buy the "breakfast" package - these are lovely healthy european buffets and not the reconstituted powered, microwaved scrambled eggs we see in the States. Of course you may want to book an airbnb and these are affordable and handy when traveling with kids. On one hand you get to feel you are part of a neighborhood, and have the ease of making snacks and so on. On the other hand, I think there is a charm with European hotels that for a week should not be missed. And since the cafes are relatively affordable, you won't save that much making your own meals. One last thing, not so important but I think most people don't know about it, in central mitte, the new shopping mall (Mall of Berlin) has the tallest indoor slide - it's just randomly put there with no real fan-fare so people don't realize it's there, no fees, no lines just a super tall slide and worth the couple block walk to get there from the numerous historical sites nearby. Here's the link https://www.mallofberlin.de/en/anfahrt/xxl-slide
I would also recommend a boat trip on the canal, they can be as little as an hour and you can order a ice cream for it for the kids. Bring your bathing suit in case it's hot and there are some nice pools.
Re tips, the important thing is not to get to worked up about planning or worrying about your kid. You could come to Berlin with nothing planned but your hotel reservation and you'd have a blast and easily figure out fun things to do every day. TV screens on the back of the seats in planes have made a huge difference for traveling with kids. There are no direct flights from SFO to Berlin, we prefer to use BA via heathrow (great mall like airport), KLM through Amsterdam, or Lufthansa/United thru Munich. There are 2 airports but you'll be flying to Tegal. Take a taxi from there to where you are staying - they have a taxi stand with rows of nicely maintained mercedes waiting. The cab drivers view it as their career and have pride in their work. In all my years of using them I have never once been cheated. It will cost you about 25-27 euros to get from TXL to Prenzlauer Berg. Less to Mitte. Berlin is cash based (as is much of Germany) expect to pay with cash (or a european debit card). Credit cards are becoming more accepted but not regularly used even in restaurants! But taxis do take credit cards.
Hi I would just throw in Berlin to the mix. I have lived here for years raising my kid and in my opinion traveling around europe that Berlin is uniquely kid friendly. First there are amazing playgrounds - interesting, imaginative and you'll find one about every 2 or 3 blocks in most neighborhoods - sometimes tucked into places you'd never guess. Even at 7 your kid might find some of these interesting enough to try out - trampolines in the ground, extra tall slides, climbing structures - which means you can fit a 20 minute pit stop to refresh between other things. And no not those generic concrete ones we have in Calif that all look the same.
Berlin is very affordable - hotels, airbnb, restaurants are all quite affordable compared to many European cities. It is particularly lovely during the summer - green canopied streets, filled with sidewalk cafes. Restaurants are very friendly towards kids and it is even common for offices to have a little "kid corner" for kids to play.
There are too many historical sites to see to name here, the city is filled with interesting things that even a 7 year old might fight interesting. If you are hesitant about exposing your child to the sad past of WWII, you can focus on the Berlin Wall - lots of kids find that interesting and there are many interesting kid friendly museums some with kid specific activities.
It is super easy to get around with public transportation. Buy a visitors pass - that will work on the 4 forms of transportation - S-bahn (above ground); U-bahn (subway); Metro (M-car a street-train) and bus. All by honor's system (they DO check randomly so be prepared - but no going through ticket-stalls or scanning tickets. Just hope on!) Most of their buses are double-decker which kids love. If hot, lots of great lakes nearby too - crystal clear and clean, sandy bottom and wonderfully warm.
Here are a couple of places you might want to check out. Machmit Museum - a must! https://www.top10berlin.de/en/cat/family-276/museums-children-1981/machmit-museum-children-2121#1 This huge 3-d maze is built in an old church. Kids LOVE it. Costs about $8 per person to enter. Plan on spending at least 3 hours there - as besides this maze, there is a mirror room, an interesting exhibit downstairs and about 8 tables of activities kids can just sit down and join in - I think they switch them around but they are hands on craft stuff oriented toward old ways of creating - soap, chocolate making, etc. And right there where you can watch your kids is a nice little coffee area for you to sit and have a snack. All located in a charming kid friendly neighborhood. A few blocks away is playground for kids 6-16 called Kolle 37. Here every spring the kids build but these 2 story forts - exactly how they want. The framework is there, then they just grab hammers, nails and build away. There is (or was) an old car, which they could smash away out, there is often a big bonfire they can roast brotwurst or even put bread dough on a stick and bake bread. And crafts. So much fun for the kids. https://www.kolle37.de/angebote/abenteuer/
Here are a couple of links
Archived Q&A and Reviews
- Berlin museums & books for 12 year boy
- Summer camps in Munich or Berlin for 4 and 8 year olds?
- Visiting Berlin in the dead of winter
- Berlin activities for 7 and 10 year olds
- Visiting Berlin with kids
We will be in Berlin for several weeks this summer and I am hoping for recs of good literature and museums for a rather sensitive 12 year old boy. He is still somewhat shocked by cruel human behavior (thankfully) and I want to honor that, but still give him a sense of what WW II had in it...probably best to avoid much in the way of visuals/footage for now though. Books (esp with boys as main characters...we have read Number the Stars, Diary of Anne Frank already), and any suggestions as to how to navigate museums and sights in Berlin and surrounds. Man's inhumanity to man
Hi...I have been in Berlin since September and am an educator (spec ed), so I can appreciate your question. I know about preparing for kids trips and such too, after having traveled with my own son. There is so much to do here that you can do outside of visits to historical places. It is however, all around, so a brief few phrases should be in your mind for answering questions. You can go to certain areas like the Holocaust memorial, an abstract visual outdoor memorial, and give your own explanation to him, IF you want. If not, focus on art, music, the outdoor parks, the cool transportation system, the food, other types of interests. It can't be ignored, because it is such an important piece of the fabric of the city and social construct. But it doesn't have to be so intense. In fact, even for adults visiting, I would advise to see a range of things to keep perspective. You'll have fun....I have been here all winter and folks are smiling much more and there is music everywhere ready to come back to Cali
My kids have been taking German classes for several years but I don't think they will ever get fluent unless they spend some time there. My husband is a professor and goes too Germany for 4-6 weeks every summer (usually around Munich or Berlin). I was thinking maybe he should take the kids with him and send them to a camp while he is at his conferences and then I could come for part of the time.
Can anyone recommend good, interesting camps for kids near either Munich or Berlin? Our oldest is not quite 8 and our youngest just turned 4. They like science and sports. Have you done something like this? Did it work out? Anon
Our eight-year-old daughter has attended day camps in Berlin for the past two summers, mainly in and near the Prenzlauer Berg district. She especially liked the Cabuwazi circus camp (www.cabuwazi.de), the Klax Kinderwerkstatt summer program (www.klax-gruppe.de) and the MachMit Museum day camp (http://www.machmitmuseum.de) There are also good camps in some of the Berlin museums (http://www.jugend-im-museum.de/,) but we haven't tried those yet. Good luck! Adrienne
Hi! We are traveling to Europe this year in the darkest of winter, December 14th - 26th. We'll arrive in Berlin and depart from Zurich, but the in-between is still open. I would love any advice the BPN collective wisdom can share on:
- things to do with kids (7 and 10) in Berlin in winter
- special places to go in Germany or nearby in winter
- should we go to Prague vs. Paris? Or other great spots for 3 days?
- our kids love swimming and theme parks. Any great ones in Europe? Since we have several days free, we could travel anywhere for a special treat.
By the way I hate being cold and am hoping to avoid winter sports as much as possible (ie, sledding, ice skating, skiiing). Sorry about that I know it puts quite a damper on possible activities.
Thanks for any ideas! Scared of cold Europe
Your kids will probably LOVE a place called Tropical Island near Berlin -- it's a huge hanger which has been converted into the world's largest water park/indoor tropical island with a Balinese water lagoon, water slides, beaches, warm pools etc. You will likely love it less-- be prepared for hordes during the winter. The Berlin zoo is really nice although I'm not sure what it is like in December. Prague and cities in Germany have wonderful Christmas markets. Touristy but a lot of fun. You can have a magical time in the winter in Germany/France/Prague if you are dressed warmly and prepared for some rain. The museums are relatively warm and not so crowded. Hope you have a great trip. amrita
If you like Christmas then you are going to Berlin/Europe at the best time of the year! There will be tons of Christmas markets that are LOTS of fun for both grownups and kids (imagine, if you get cold you get to have a mulled wine! day or night! in public!). Days will be short and the markets will be insanely romantic as it gets dark. Do not miss out on 'Thueringer Roster', a grilled sausage served in a roll. If you like anything art, there will be TONS to choose from, and you will always be able to visit a museum or gallery if you get cold. You can find recommendations for upcoming events on www.dw.de under the 'culture' link. If you happen to have dish network, you can get the German channels -- they broadcast several of their shows in English as well, specifically one called 'Euromaxx' which always has interesting segments about great anything a traveler might be interested in. Jealous German
I LOVE Berlin! There are a ton of nice (warm) museums, including kid friendly ones - I especially love the German history museum and of course the one at checkpoint charlie, etc. You can look these up in any guidebook. Take a ride to the top of the TV tower on a clear day - it's a great view, but make sure you factor in the time you'll be waiting in line, so you don't end up at the top in the dark. When I was a kid in Germany we spent a lot of time in the winter in indoor water parks (those with tons of pools and slides and such). I'm sure there's at least one in Berline, you just have to find it. Those are fun (and warm), often including steam baths and saunas.
But the best thing about this time of year in Germany are hands down the Christmas markets. Berlin has a few, but they aren't that amazing...still, fun for kids. The really great one is in Nuernberg, if you can make it through there on your way to Switzerland. Dresden's is good too. Munich is fun. Try the mulled wine, bratwurst and ginger bread. I would go for Prague over Paris, it's less out of the way.
Have fun! love Germany in the winter
I have lived in Berlin for a decade now and I think of 'dead of winter' more as January or Feb - as to when you might be dealing with snow etc. I think generally you are safe from snow for the time you mention but who knows. Anyway it probably won't stick on the ground at that time and even in january it rarely sticks for more than a few days.
My must for your kids is MACHmit Kindermuseum which has this great indoor maze they can climb around in. http://www.machmitmuseum.de/?article_id=5 Costs 4 euros per person to get in. Has lots of interesting exhibits downstairs, hands on stuff upstairs and then the maze also upstairs. And you can relax as there is a cafe right there at the maze where you can buy a coffee and cake and watch the kids run around so bring a book or newspaper.
Tour Berlin on number 200 bus. Rick Steves mentions number 100 bus but I think number 200 is better - they both go down Unter-den-Linden but then 100 splits to go by the Reichstag whereas number 200 goes by the Holocaust memorial and Potsdamer platz and then both 100 & 200 rejoin by ending up at the Zoo train station. Anyway its a regular city bus (so cheap) but double decker so the kids like it and you can see stuff.
The holocaust memorial is actually interesting for the kids to walk thru, they enjoy the experience of not being able to see beyond these large stones. You don't have to get into the sadness of the meaning behind it if you think they are too young. Hitlers Bunker is just on the next block, I think they finally put a little plaque out, it's in a parking lot of a apartment building there.
Sixth Floor Food Hall at the department store KaDaWe - yes I know it doesn't sound too interesting but it is amaaaaazing, generally even kids like it! Puts Harrods to shame. You can pick one of the many places to eat, whether you want just a quick bite or a glass of champagne. Oh tip - if you want to eat at the oyster bar but you kid wants to eat at the sushi place, just get a table at one and then order at the other asking them if they can bring it over to you - they usually have no prob with this. Avoid Saturday afternoons, too busy. My favorite there that the kids might like is the Kartoffel cafe near the restrooms, or of course the sausage place or you can just get hot chocolate for snack.
Playgrounds galore. I have never seen a city that has sooooo many playgrounds, everywhere. Yes kids play at the playgrounds even in december! When you look at the map, if you see a little green spot designating a little park, you can be 99% sure there is a playground too, some really amazing ones too. You should goggle for the best and make a point of taking them.
You said you don't like to be cold, I hear you on that, of course the thing to do is come with a good coat and good shoes. Other than a undershirt under my shirt I am not a big believer in this 'layering' business as I find I either want a full heavy duty jacket to stay warm as when I am outside or I want to be comfortable indoors and that means just a top and I don't want to have to deal with keeping track of a million little fleeces. KaDaWe has a place you can check your jackets on the third floor next to the giftwrapping. Unfortunately it is under remodeling right now (except the food floor) so you won't see it in all its glory.
If the canals aren't frozen you could take them on a canal boat tour thru the city. Unfortunately the Kaiser-Whilhelm memorial church is covered right now as they are restoring it but normally you could see that while walking from the Zoo station over to the KaDaWe. There are lots of museums, I am sure some are good for kids but not sure which best for your kids.
Where are you staying in Berlin? My suggestion is to look for a hotel right near the following S-Bahn stations: Hackescher Markt - very cute, close to everything; Friedrichshain s-bahn station - (next station down from Hackescher) this is just as central as they come, you can hop on to a million trains or buses and go anywhere; or if you want to stay on the west something near Savignyplatz station, not so central but also cute. Remember public transportation in Berlin is not like SF, here it is frequent (no standing around for 10 or 20 minutes waiting), clean, safe and wonderful. Also remember on the east, they don't have so many buses, instead they use trolly street cars called M2 or M10 or whatever BUT for some reason I don't understand, these routes are NOT shown on the maps which show the U-bahn and S-bahn routes. Strange. anon
I just wrote you a long response about Berlin but I reread your msg and noticed how you mention your kids love theme parks so I had to mention Tropical Island which is an hour from Berlin. I have NOT been but I hear it's nice. Looks like you can also stay there and also can get a train from Berlin Alexanderplatz station down where they pick you up with shuttle bus. Here is the info: http://www.tropical-islands.de/en/attractions/tropical-world/ and here is how to get to: http://www.tropical-islands.de/en/attractions/visitor-information/how-to-get-here/
But I donno, seems like you'd want to do something more 'european' while here. You could do a google check on sauna spas that are children oriented - germany has a big tradition of spas and they are really good about making some really kinder-children friendly and many are connected to natural hot springs so that might be more enjoyable but don't have any recommendations. If you head over to Prague, the Czech Republic also has a strong spa tradition and is probably cheaper but not sure if they are as kinder friendly - germany is so great about having stuff set up for children. anon
We spent 3 weeks in Germany when our boys were 2, 9 and 11. They really enjoyed Legoland and the baths in Baden Baden. Germany lover
I've already posted 2 messages but a few more ideas popped to mind...
First many mentioned christmas markets so I thought I might mention specifically which ones your kids might like if they like 'rides'. There are 2 that come to mind, both close to Alexanderplatz. 1. Alexa Center which is a large mall (next to Alexanderplatz) behind it is a xmas market with lots of rides, (not to be confused with the little market in the front of the mall or the large market right at Alexanderplatz). It's a 3-5 min walk from Alexanderplatz 2. Rathaus which is also about 3-5 min walk from Alexanderplatz has a supersized ferrywheel.
Here is a link I saw to Christmas markets http://journeytoberlin.com/content/christmas-markets-in-berlin but keep in mind there are something like 60 so it can seem like everytime you turn around there is another one each with a different mood. I think there is one in the far west part of Berlin that is very Hansel and Gretal like and great for kids but we've never made it.
I had recommended staying near the S-bahn stations Hackescher Markt or Friedrichstrasse S-bahn but you could consider one stop more east at Alexanderplatz. This is not a charming location, it's very concrete like due to the bombing and then rebuild by the east germans (you will get to see some of the lovely communist buildings and architecture) but some friends got a deal at the Park Inn by Radisson which is right at the station-platz and loved it for it's convenience which is true - you be a 15 second walk away from a the hub of S-bahn, U-bahn and M-tram stations so can get anywhere in a second, there will be a christmas market right in front of you and several just a 3 minute walk away. You'll be a 5 minute walk from Museum Island and the start of Unter-den-Linden and about a 15-20 walk down to Brandenburg gate & Holocaust memorial. You will also be right across the street from where you can pick up the double decker buses both the 100 and 200 routes along with others. And the department store Galleria is 10 seconds across - they have a nice grocery store on the ground floor and a buffet on the 5th floor. Oh and of course the famous TV Tower the east german government built is there. I've only been once, there was a huge line.
Regarding the Reichstag if you plan to go, one way to avoid lines is to make a reservation at the restaurant for lunch, if you can't get or want something cheaper than reserve for 'tea' which is really just a short menu of coffee, cake or ice cream. We were able to make a 'tea' reservation for the next day but lunch was booked out. Anyway that way you avoid the lines and walk up to security in front and give your name, they have a list for people with reservations. You may find that's a way to avoid the lines to get into the TV Tower too, I can't remember but see if you can make a lunch reservation and avoid the line - the view IS very good from the TV Tower restaurant (it rotates) but the Reichstags is just so-so in my opinion.
Anyway I would still say that the most interesting/must do in Berlin for the kids is the MACHmit museum and the 6th floor of the KaDaWe - these you can't get anywhere else and you won't be disappointed. If you stay at Alexanderplatz, both are very convenient to get to: 1. Machmit - get the M2 tram right in front of the S-bahn station and go about 7 stops up to Dazingerstrasse and then it's a 5 minute walk to the MACHmit. After you can walk the 3 or 4 blocks over to Helmholtzplatz, the square in that neighborhood to get a little authentic Prenzlauerberg neighborhood atmosphere, there are a million great cafes in the neighborhood and a playground. Or down to Kollwitzplatz a little more touristy. 2. KaDaWe - use U-bahn station line U2 west (it will say last stop Ruhleben) about 15 minutes to Wintenbergerplatz station - get out and you will be directly in front of it. anon
Hello, We will be in Berlin this summer with our 10 y.o son and 7 y.o old daughter. My husband will be working most of the time and I am trying compile a list of interesting things to do (including day trips) with the children. Does anyone have suggestions beyond the Tiergarten, Brandenburg Gate and Check Point Charlie? Please feel free to reply directly - Many thanks, Bekki
I have a much younger child so am not really up on activities for that specific age but you could look into Legoland at Potzdamer Platz, (I think www.legolanddiscoverycentre.com) or if it's hot you could go to one of the lakes in Berlin, we go to Wannsee which is a 10 minute walk from the S-bahn station Nikolassee. There is also a super large weird new indoor water park, I think they say it's the largest indoor water park, haven't been but it's an attraction about 40 miles south of Berlin (www.tropical-islands.de). Sorry, I know you're probably looking for something more uniquely german but I don't have knowledge for older children.
You may get more info by looking at www.toytowngermany.com - I think this is the most active and helpful expat site for Berlin. Check out their Chat Forum - they have a forum specifically for Berlin and could probably find many more ideas there or post your question there. They just added the Family Life Berlin section but I don't know how active it is, so I'd probably post it under the more general Life in Berlin - it's very active and helpful for everything you might need to know for living there. anon
We'll be traveling to Germany in March and plan to stay for two weeks. The first week will be in Goettingen (attending a conference) and then we are on our own. We'd love to see other parts of the country (we are considering Berlin and Munich) and are curious if folks have any recommendations (hotels, cities to visit, ways to save money) and insights into traveling with preschoolers in Germany. kvorhies
We visited Berlin last summer with our now-two-year-old. We rented a private apartment in Charlottenburg, which was a good idea for several reasons: it was close to public transit and many interesting and child friendly restaurants. We had a kitchen, so we could prepare meals before or in between excursions. The bathroom had a real bathtub (many moderately priced European hotels have only showers). Since the building was residential, it was pretty quiet -- important for naptime! Eric