Thursday, July 12, 2012

Fun Things To Do With Children In Berlin

Berlin is a fantastic city. It's one of my favorite cities in Europe, reminiscent of NYC in the 80’s without the dreadful Gordon Gekko fashion and the excess as this is Germany after all, the pillar of social and financial austerity in Europe. When it comes to fashion, art, design and music, the German capital has it all and the latest, and like NYC, there isn’t a shortage of things to do.

So, it came as no surprise to me that there were tons of fun things for children to do in Berlin as well, and although we tried to avoid some of the more commercially-driven places like Legoland and other theme parks, which I’m not a big fan of here in the US either, there were plenty of fun activities for our little boy and for us to enjoy as a family.

Our (and our son’s) absolute favorite place in Berlin is Kollwitzplatz. The best thing about Prenzlauerberg is that aside from being one of the loveliest neighborhoods and areas to be in Berlin, it also happens to be the city’s mecca for young families, and you will find one of the biggest and best playgrounds here. Also, around Kollwitzplatz, there are plenty of family-friendly cafes and restaurants, our favorite being Belluno (Kollwitzstr. 66) which offers tasty seafood pastas and pizzas, and on Wednesday or Saturday mornings, there’s even a farmer’s market where you can sample and purchase a great selection of goods and organic produce, making it an absolutely delightful place for parents and children alike.
Although popular among tourists, strolling … literally, in a stroller … along the Unter den Linden from Museumsinsel to Brandenburg Tor was a lot of fun.  Gendarmenmarkt and Pariser Platz provide a perfectly safe place for children to run around, and there are usually several street performers at Pariser Platz, including a performer who makes giant bubbles, who delighted and entertained our little boy ... as well as many other children of all ages for hours. 
Just to the south of Pariser Platz is the Holocaust Memorial (Stiftung Denkmal für die ermordeten Juden Europas). It’s poetic that a monument commemorating such tragic events in our history provide a wonderful play space for children.  Although my son is too young to understand the meaning and the purpose of the monument, he enjoyed running through the maze-like structure, and as he grows, the Holocaust Memorial will provide a good opportunity for us to talk to him about the atrocities of war. 
Having ice cream at one of the many outdoor cafés on Potsdomer Platz … I believe this needs no explanation. Legoland is also located at Potsdamer Platz, and I’ve been told that it's a nice place for children. However, I believe in engaging our little boy in a real environment, the culture and the history of the places that we visit, and it wasn’t an option that we wanted to explore given that there were plenty of other activities he enjoyed.

Just outside the underground level of Galerie Lafayette is Imaginarium (Friedrichstr. 71), a marvelous toy store that specializes in educational toys and games that pique a child's curiosity, creativity and sense of discovery. It’s like a smaller version of FAO Schwarz in NYC, and kids can explore and play with all the toys on display. A word of advise, bring an extra suitcase, as you will not be able to leave this place empty-handed.
Take a tour of Berlin on no. 100 and 200 buses. These double-decker buses are so much fun and are perfect for small children, as the seats on the upper deck allow them to get a great view of the city. Also, a fun thing to do while on the bus is to find the “Berlin Bears” which are located in various places and shops along the bus route.

Everyone in Berlin are familiar with the aquarium inside the Radisson Hotel; however, to my surprise, there is also a water fountain outside the hotel that is a lot of fun. It’s a great place for children to play and run around, esp. on a hot summer day, and seeing the amazement on their faces as the water drops and rises according to the sensor is absolutely priceless.

I’m not a big fan of zoo's, but if we were in Berlin for a longer period of time and needed more things to do, Berlin Zoo would be a good option, esp. considering that it is the oldest zoo in Germany and has world's largest number of species.

One of the most memorable part our trip to Berlin ... and to Germany that my son still talks about was our train ride from Frankfurt to Berlin (and back) on the high-speed ICE (Inter City Express) train.  Traveling by train with children is fun and convenient. You never have to get off the highway to find restrooms, food and to retank, and we were able spend quality time as a family instead of dealing with the stress of maneuvering through foreign roads or traffic, which in Germany can be absolutely horrendous.  

Train travel in Europe has always had a romantic appeal. It could be that unlike freeways, railways are built along the most beautiful and scenic countryside. There’s nothing better than watching the breathtaking landscapes outside the window as we sit in the comfort and stress-free environment of a train cart, and it was wonderful to share the experience and the joy of train travel with our little boy.

For more Insider's Guide to Berlin


Post a Comment