It may come as a surprise, but Berlin is a very green city. In-between the graffiti on almost every corner, you’ll find verdant parks, tree-lined avenues and sandy play areas with fantastical jungle gyms. It’s also a child-friendly city, and everyone will be entertained – from busy primary schoolers to cool tweens and moody teens (just make sure your adolescent doesn’t pop into a piercing and tattoo parlour to complete their authentic Berlin look while you’re not watching). Here’s our guide to enjoying a jam-packed family weekend in the capital.
Morning: moreish bites and thought-provoking sights
Start your day at the charming Zimt & Zucker Kaffeehaus
, a cosy spot that’s perennially busy and filled with happy guests digging into breakfast.
To work off breakfast, stroll west along the banks of the Spree River to view the impressive Reichstag parliament building designed by Paul Wallot and later restored by architect Sir Norman Foster. Entrance is free and the building is open to the public day and night, but increased security procedures require you to book your day and time slot online in advance. It is also a mere one block away from the Brandenburg Gate, one of Berlin’s most iconic monuments, dating back to 1791.
Afternoon and evening: Ku’damm cool, beasts and beer
Kurfürstendamm (known locally as Ku’damm) is former West Berlin’s favourite street for shopping, dining and meandering. Stop in at Kaufhaus des Westens
(KaDeWe) on Wittenbergplatz square for a look at the city’s answer to Harrods – six floors of shoppers’ desires, with a restaurant on the seventh.
In the late afternoon, visit Zoo Berlin
, an animal preservation centre that focuses on conservation and breeding with the intent of reintroducing endangered species into the wild. Apart from 35ha of land for littlies to work off their energy as well as dedicated play areas, you’ll spot polar bears with a recently born cub, see orangutans work out puzzles to get at their snacks and catch a seal show that ends with a splash.
A lazy stroll along the canal and through the Tiergarten takes you to one of Berlin’s oldest beer gardens, Café am Neuen See
, where you can rent a boat or settle in for the remainder of the evening with delicious pizza or Bavarian fare to accompany your brew of choice. There are few spots lovelier than this.
Morning: where it’s art
Stretching over 1.3km, the open-air East Side Gallery along Mühlenstrasse in former East Berlin is a must-see. When the original Berlin Wall came down in 1989, this remaining section became a monument to peace and tolerance as artists from all over the world turned it into a historic concrete canvas. The information point on the Oberbaum Bridge side provides some interesting background on how Berlin used to look and how the wall divided the city.
Afternoon: burgers and budding scientists
Once you’ve had your cultural fill, cross the landmark Oberbaum Bridge (built in 1895), with its red brick and granite facade and mock medieval turrets, and head to Burgermeister
for a meal with a difference. Situated under a train bridge in a converted Art Nouveau public restroom, this tiny hatch serves craft burgers comprising homemade patties, steamed brioche-like buns and cheese fries to a line of queuing patrons day and night.
After lunch, embrace technology – both old and new – at the Deutsches Technikmuseum
, which expertly shows the progression of aircraft, cars, ships and trains over the decades. The sister museum next door, Science Center Spectrum, is also a delight. It delves into the five senses, and visitors can experiment with everything from wave machines to rope pulleys, electricity generators and crazy mirrors. Don’t miss out on the Innovation section with its focus on technology, where you can follow bossy service robot, Tim, while he tells you about the various exhibitions.
Evening: sundowners in the city
Before the sun sets, hop on a U-Bahn or bus to Neukölln, a gritty district that’s becoming more gentrified, where you’ll find Klunkerkranich cultural garden. To reach it, you’ll have to take a lift to the top of a shopping arcade and walk up a parking ramp to the rooftop where you’ll find cultivated box gardens, beehives, great music (there’s probably a band playing) and a chilled vibe. Grab a cocktail while the kids play – in summer, there’s even a paddling pool – and take in the far-reaching views of the city.