3 years, 11 months ago
Germany’s capital doesn’t make a big song and dance about its innate cool because it doesn’t need to. Stand in the city centre, look in any direction and you’ll hit a 21st century design legend. Stroll along the Spree and classic architecture coexists comfortably with contemporary counterparts – cohabits in the case of Museum Island’s recent additions. Underground and pop-up aren’t anything new to Berlin, they’ve always been here in everything from clubbing to eating, shopping, drinking and partying.
But if you expect Berlin to be smug and self-satisfied, you’ll be pleasantly disappointed.
This is a fantastically friendly city and child-centred doesn’t even begin to describe its sense of inclusion. The tradition of the beer garden is as good in Berlin as it is in Munich and almost always better than other country’s feeble al fresco attempts. And if you’re looking for local, it’s natural here – just go eat at Markthalle Neun on Street Food Thursday, buy vintage clothing for tiny money at Humana or dive into the throng at the immense Mauerpark Sunday flea market.
What can we say? Berlin we love you almost as much as we love your bargains.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site and probably one of the most famous museum complexes in the world, Museum Island is a Berlin must-see. But with five museums and the additional distraction of amazing architecture and full-immersion visitor centres, doing the whole lot in one day is overload. Spread the experience and cost with a Berlin Welcome Card Museum Island. It’s an extension to the standard (but no less excellent) Berlin Welcome Card and include three full days’ entry to Museum Island for the holder (children under 18 visit free) plus 72 hours travel on city transport.
City institution since 1852, Prater brew their own Pils, serve it outdoors at big wooden tables and tips a nod to Southern Germany with giant plates of bratwurst and pretzels on the side. One of Berlin’s best loved beer gardens Prater’s open all day, all week and does great brunch from 10 to 4pm on Saturday and Sunday.
Prenzlauer, Berg Kastanienallee 7–9, 10435 Berlin
Berlin has a big cycling tradition and is very respectful to two-wheeled travellers. There are cycle lanes and cycle-only paths all over the city and if you want to head for the countryside you’ll find dozens of amazing routes well marked and mapped for bikes. The public bike hire system can be a bit complicated for visitors but there are plenty of hire companies that cost so little, they’re just as good. We like Berlin on Bike because it’s easy, has a wide range of bikes, good children’s bikes (seats and helmets too) and charges the same rental price all year round – 10€ for 24 hours. They also do guided city and country tours if you want a taster of Berlin by Bike before you go it alone.
Knaackstraße 97, 10435 Berlin
Berlin’s most powerful and symbolic view is from the Reichstag dome. One of the city’s Norman Foster designs, this immense structure is the focal point of the new German Parliament building and access to the viewing platform is free. It’s very popular and you have to book. If you don’t want to wait, the longest city view is available to anyone, at Fernsehturm. This 368m high ‘television’ tower is the second tallest, free standing structure in Europe and on a clear day you can see for over 40km in every direction from the top. There’s a revolving restaurant there too, if you’re feeling hungry and rich.
Panoramastrasse 1a, 10178 Berlin
There are five times as many bridges in Berlin as there are in Venice, so never underestimate the importance of the city’s waterways. If you’re short on time and want to see a lot, take a one hour river cruise with a mix of classic city buildings, new architecture, history, lore and legend. When the sun’s shining and there’s a light breeze, it’s one of the most memorable ways to get your city bearings.
Berlin Zoo is Germany’s oldest and one of the world’s most respected. There are over 14,000 animals cared for here and the only European zoo with more endangered species is Antwerp. Time your visit to take in at least one of the ‘feeding times’ and try to catch the penguin parade, it’s ridiculously endearing. The big family ticket is for two adults and as many children as you can prove are yours (they really do ask for proof if you have more than 3) and covers the Aquarium too.
Zoologischer Garten Hardenbergplatz 8, 10787 Berlin
You know it’s summer when they start putting out the deckchairs at Freiluftkino Kreuzberg. One of Berlin’s best loved open air cinemas, it has a programme of English language and international movies all season long. And you get to sit in a stripy deckchair to watch the show (there are even blankets in case it gets chilly, thoughtful or what?). Go early, explore a bit and have a drink at the bar.
Mariannenplaz 2, 10997 Berlin
And yes, you’re right, we haven’t mentioned The Wall. But it’s available to see all over the place in Berlin. You can walk its entire length if you want – only do this if you’re very keen, it’s not as fascinating as it sounds and it’s a bit of a trek. Highlights are Checkpoint Charlie and the nearby museum (38,00€) and the stand out is the permanent art exhibition known as East Side Gallery – totally free 24/7.
We’ve based our prices on two adults and two children. Berlin has a lot of ticket offers and discounts for online booking so there are plenty of links to help you work out exact costs for your shape of family.