5 years, 5 months ago
This article kindly written by Anna Tobin of Ciao Bambino as part of our #housetripping series.
You don’t really think of a city as somewhere you would go to explore the great outdoors, unless that city is right on a beach, such as Barcelona; or in the middle of a ski resort, such as Aspen, but there are cities all over the world that have just as much to do outside as they do in. And when the kids can’t stand seeing one more museum or historic point of interest, a park to play in is the ideal place to head for.
Berlin is probably the finest example of a city that has combined urban charm with great green spaces, with many parks acting as focal points for entire communities. So, if you want to truly ‘live like a local’, you can’t do any better than heading to one of Berlin’s great getaway spots to watch your kids play.
Being a vast city, with the luxury of space, Berlin can afford to preserve large pockets of land as parks, woods and forests and to create new playgrounds, outdoor gyms and sports grounds. When you fancy spending a day with family and friends with only the sky as your ceiling you’re pretty much spoilt for choice. Here are just some of the sure fire hits:
You can imagine that you are in a fairy tale as you walk through the Grunewald forest canopy down to the huge sand dune at its foot, which just cries out to be rolled down. And, this is the mode of transport most children employ to get them to the lakeside where they can watch the ducks. Continue walking and you’ll come to the swimming lake and a little further along a café.
One of Berlin’s first public parks, here you will find the rather spectacular water feature, the Fountain of Fairy Tales, a small lake and a duck pond, as well as many playgrounds and areas dedicated to various sports. And, if you look hard enough, you may spot the remains of the World War II bunker. This was covered up and transformed into an artificial hill after the war, but little bits of it still poke out of the grass here and there.
The best way to explore the Tiergarten, Berlin’s largest park and one of the biggest in Europe, is by bike, which are available to hire. Take off along criss-crossing paths that take you through formal gardens, along the riverbank and across wide, open spaces. Then park up and enjoy a picnic before watching others have their lunch at Berlin Zoo, which can also be found here.
Berlin Zoo, which first opened in 1844, is worth visiting for its architecture alone. Housed in these impressive buildings you’ll find most of the animals that paired up on the ark and one of the largest aquariums in Europe. Feeding times are particularly entertaining and the interactive petting arena is what makes this zoo one of the most visited in the world.
Until five years ago aeroplanes were landing here; now kites, birds and footballs are about all that disturb its airspace. This former airport has evolved into an urban parkland where people come to roller-skate, cycle, jog, barbecue and picnic in summer and ski and toboggan in winter.
Just outside of Berlin in Potsdam, Park Sanssouci is scattered with historic palaces, which are surrounded by a series of beautiful formal gardens with themes ranging from Japanese to English horticulture. It’s a fantastic place to picnic and play hide and seek.
Off to the races
A gentle canter from the Hoppegarten S Bahn stop, you can bet on a fun afternoon out for all the family at the Hoppegarten horse-racing track. Family race days run here on various Sundays throughout the summer and the modest entrance fee will often include pony rides, face painting, balloon modelling and access to a bouncy castle and playground. Take a picnic though, food and drinks are expensive.
Where to eat
There are plenty of alfresco eateries in Berlin, but not many of them combine beer and a children’s play area. Pratergarten is one of the city’s largest and most popular beer gardens. Whilst you sample a locally brewed pint and wait for your organic frankfurters to arrive under the shade of the trees, your kids can play in the sandpit.
Prenzlaur Berg has one of the highest birth rates in Europe and there are child friendly cafes on nearly every corner, but this one, being in the middle of a playground, and offering paddling pools and ride-on toys in summer and a heated sandpit in winter is the one to make for. The food’s yummy too.
Fassbender and Rausch Chocolate Shop
If you love chocolate, you can’t come to Berlin without visiting its most famous chocolate restaurant, stay for a hot chocolate or a three-course chocolate themed meal.
Where to stay
This centrally located apartment in the very child focused Alexanderplatz area is perfect for those with very young children. Child-friendly restaurants, beautiful children’s clothes boutiques, food stores and Volkspark Friedrichshain park are right on your doorstep.
A perfect base for a family with a busy schedule, this central apartment is two minutes from a train station and surrounded by restaurants and bars. The host is a font of information and at the ready to point you in the direction of a good food market or park.
If you’re staying in a large family group this mews style house, which can be booked with linking properties on either side, is ideal. In a quiet neighbourhood close to public transport, food stores and a great food market, you’ll get a real feel for what life is like for a true Berliner in this property.