At the end of August we are travelling to Berlin to celebrate the marriage of our friend, a British guy to a fantastic German girl – a fabulous European union in this post-Brexit world. Although the wedding celebrations are child-free, this also gives us a wonderful excuse to embark on our first European city-break, with the kids.
We have been on a number of holidays with the kids already, some more far flung than others, but so far we’ve not really had many foreign city trips. We’ve dipped our toes into Bordeaux, pottered around Auckland, and cruised around Santa Monica, but this will be the first time that we really attempt a true city-break, complete with sightseeing, with both boys, both lively, and neither in a buggy anymore.
We booked Granma and Grandpa to join us on the trip so that they could look after the kids while we were at the wedding. Happily they both know the city well, having worked in Germany over many years both before and after the wall came down – the last time the landscape of Europe changed dramatically. They also both speak fluent German, so they are able to get under the skin of the city in a way that would elude a visitor who didn’t speak the language. Hopefully the kids will pick up on some of that! Their knowledge of the city will certainly play a part in our plans.
Once we covered the all-important question of who would look after the kids while we were at the wedding, we sorted our accommodation out. I did look into Air BnB, but found that I couldn’t quite make it work for all six of us, matching up the comfort level required by my parents, with a child-friendly environment needed for us. I was initially disappointed as I was looking forward to finally joining this accommodation revolution, but it will have to wait until another time. We booked into the Circus Apartments – a self-catering apartment building in the family-friendly suburb of Prenzlauerberg.
A city break with kids isn’t something that should be approached lightly. I know how exhausting a day trip around London can be, taking in the sights and negotiating busy streets. As well as planning to take in some of Berlin’s key sights we will also build in down time, which we will probably achieve back in our self-catering apartment, and, importantly, play time. My boys need time to let loose and go crazy each day. So identifying playgrounds, safe squares and restaurants with a beer garden or play area will be very important to us. We will be taking scooters for our boys to cover the distances usually required in a city, and they will be entertained by rides on the underground and trams, so getting from one end to the other shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
So what should we do in Berlin with the kids? Here’s what the Internet has told me so far…
Globetotting.com (@globetotting) suggests:
Cycle the streets – good idea, if we can find rentals for our 3 year old who’s on a 14inch pedal bike already so wouldn’t be happy sitting in a trailer. I wonder if there are any companies which would be able to run a bike tour for all of us.
The Oberbaumbrücke – a double decker bridge and one of Berlin’s most famous landmarks
Shop like a local, and eat overlooking Berlin Zoo at the shopping centre, Bikini Berlin
Happily Globetotting confirms that Berlin is full of parks with imaginative playgrounds, but doesn’t specify her favourite. Which one should we head to?
Go on a boat tour – I think this might go straight to the top of our list. Which one would be best for us?
Hands on transport fun at the German Museum of Technology
Check out Berlin’s street art…you can download a map
Over on mywelltraveledfriend.com (@mywtfriend) Anna has more tips including recommending travelling around by tram and Ubahn (Berlin’s underground train network) as well as the aforementioned bike and boat. She also suggests looking out for Kindercafes – cafes with play areas. These sound amazing, and if the weather isn’t great, we will certainly be seeking these out.
Lonelyplanet.com (@lpkids) has a page with recommendations for things to do with kids, including the Museum für Naturkunde and the Legoland Discovery Centre. This page on their site is a fairly close replication of their kids page in their pocket Berlin guide which we will be taking with us on our visit, though it does go a bit further and suggests city farm parks and playgrounds too.
Although we are there with our kids, I haven’t visited Berlin as an adult and am keen to take in some of the historical sights including Checkpoint Charlie, the Brandenburg Gate and the Jewish Museum. We will need to find ways to build this in, and make it work for the kids too, so that it’s enjoyable for all of us, not a chore for them, and therefore not a parenting challenge for us. Tips of how to approach the more grown-up side of Berlin’s sights and history with little ones would be gratefully received.
So what are your Berlin top tips with kids? Share your do’s and don’ts. I will report back on everything we try. By the soundss of it, we may have to plan a second trip!