Tuesday, 15 September 2015
With its abundance of green spaces, water parks and kinder cafés, Berlin is an ideal spot for a family getaway, says Katherine Price.
What to do
The list of parks in Berlin goes on and on, but if you think if you've seen one you've seen them all, think again. From the sprawling royal gardens of Potsdam and Charlottenburg Palace to the lakeside beaches and forests around Wannsee, every one has its own individual charm. Tempelhof, once an airport, is now an abandoned field where families come to fly kites, BBQ and picnic on weekends, and the huge runway is perfect for a scooting tyke and often plays host to music festivals open to all ages during the summer.
The DDR Museum and The Story of Berlin are both family-friendly enough to withstand prying little fingers and energetic tots, and have plenty of interactive multimedia spots to keep them both entertained and teach them about the history of the capital.
If you're around on a Sunday, don't miss Mauerpark: a huge jumble sale of bits and bobs from clothes and jewellery to musical instruments and furniture. There are plenty of food stands (also catering to vegans and veggies), musicians and performers to amaze the children, and the karaoke is renowned. However, if you're after a slightly quieter weekend trip, try Domäne Dahlem, a farm in the south-west of the city open for families to wander, learn about where food comes from, paint their own pottery and meet the animals.
Tots will love the jungle-themed 25hours Hotel Bikini Berlin, right next to Berlin Zoo. There are fabulous views over the zoo from both the restaurant (for the tots) and the sauna (for you) and a wood-fired bakery belching German breakfast pastries. Children under six can breakfast for free, and the grab and go breakfasts are perfect for midday snacking.
If the children are under eight, they can sleep in your bed free of charge, but cots and children's beds are also available, as are interconnecting rooms.
And last but not least, the little ones will love this one – half the rooms in the hotel look out onto the ape house and elephant enclosure.
While wandering the green expanse of Tiergarten, make sure you find Café am Neuen See – a hidden gem that's hard to find but rewarding to those who persist. In the winter you can look out from the window seats onto the frozen lake while the roaring wood fires and velvety rich hot chocolates warm you inside from your chilly adventure. In the summer, sit out on the benches and watch the rowboats glide by on the lake (or rent one yourself!). If you're spending a day wandering around Schlachtensee, pop into the Fischerhütte for classic German fare in an old hunting lodge.
The Ritter Sport museum on Friedrichstrasse would bring out the big kid in anyone. It's got massive 'year-long supplies' of chocolate, a workshop where you can design your own chocolate goodies, and a museum upstairs.
The Christmas markets in Berlin are just as much for adults as for children, and with more than 20 in the city centre alone you'll be spoiled for choice. The Nostalgic Christmas market just off Unter den Linden has old-fashioned sweets, wooden gifts and a carousel, while the Gendarmenmarkt Christmas Magic market has handmade embroidery and wood carvings, perfect gifts for the family, with one of the most beautiful squares in Berlin as a backdrop. Enjoy a steaming hot glass of glühwein – the little ones a kinderpunsch – and absorb the Christmas spirit.