A European mini-break with the kids might not be the first thing that springs to mind when planning a holiday or weekend away, but it is surprising how easy it can be and how much you can get out of it in only 2 days. So with the long summer holidays spread out ahead of us, we decided to take our 11 and 7 year-old children to Berlin for a weekend. I was slightly apprehensive beforehand as some historical sightseeing might be deemed ‘boring’ and the city’s cool vibe totally lost on them, but luckily I was totally wrong.
As the city’s traumatic history is so recent – and still evident in some parts – you can’t help but be fascinated; the children learnt about the city’s walled division from 1961-1989 without it being in the slightest bit boring. They were riveted by the pavement markers showing where escapees had dug tunnels under the wall and plaques where many were caught or killed in doing so. Their eyes were wide with amazement seeing the contraptions and hiding places on display in the Check Point Charlie Museum – it really brought it to life and they could begin to understand the desperation of the people to escape the Communist East Berlin.
We didn’t want to overdo the history and culture but they were able to absorb it as we travelled around the City. We also mixed it up with very typical Berliner activities – cycling and lake swimming – two things we would never do in a city in the UK! We had a blast as we all cycled around on the cycle paths, down cobbled streets, along canals and through parks. The city is surrounded by so many lakes you can choose one that is easiest for you to get to and spend an afternoon there – many with sandy shores and slides into the water.
We also ate out in restaurants that we wouldn’t normally consider at home – vegetarian cafes along with Lebanese and Vietnamese restaurants, all of which are so abundant in Berlin. In just two days we had all had an amazing fun packed weekend, the highlight for the children was the cycling and swimming, but they had also been immersed in loads of new cultural experiences and absorbed some important European history.
Top Tips for Berlin with Kids:
Do go to see the only remaining part of the Berlin Wall opposite the Wall Museum at Bernauer Strasse.
If you are allowed any time for retail therapy it’s well worth going to Hackescher Markt – Hackesche Hofe is a must see – the old Jewish courtyards are amazing just to wander through now packed with trendy boutiques.
Do book in advance if you want to go up to the top of the TV tower, there is an amazing view of the whole city from the rotating restaurant, but the expensive entry tickets don’t even include food or a drink. Instead you can go up to the panorama deck on the 40th floor of the neighbouring Park Inn for only three euros and although it isn’t nearly as high, you do get a good view of the TV tower itself.
Bike Rental – there are loads of places all over the city to hire bikes but do reserve ahead for kids bikes – Fat Tyre in Alexanderplatz have a good range of kid’s bikes.
Public transport – There is a great value Group Ticket that you can get (for up to 5 people) that will cover all the buses, underground /over ground trains and trams for less than 18 Euros for a day.
You can get a Sightseeing bus or boat to see around the city – or alternatively just jump on the number 100 bus that goes from Alexanderplatz and passes many of the famous sites like the Reichstag, Brandenburg Gate and ends up at the Zoo by the Blue Church in the old west.