First of all, this was the first trip where I realized that traveling with small children is not as easy as Oliver had made us believe until now: of course, at 17 months he wants to walk, explore and go only where he decides to (playgrounds, following dogs, touching fountains…). Our traveling style—sightseeing the whole city on foot from morning to evening and see everything there is to see—well, it’ll come back, but for now it’s long lost.
Luckily for us, Berlin was a revelation. Not so much for the city—despite being full of history that we could only glimpse at, it’s hardly a breathtaking city like Barcelona, where you find yourself with your jaw dropped at every corner—but for its being so children and family friendly.
It’s covered with green parks where you can sit, have a snack, play ball or learn how to ride a bicycle; each park has one or more play areas and they’re all clean, shady, with sand on the ground and gorgeous wooden structures for children to play—they truly are the most beautiful playgrounds I’ve ever seen; family bars (kindercafes) are everywhere and all beautiful and special in their own way: some have indoor sand areas with spades and rakes, other have rooms full of toys, reading areas, small tables for small people and big table for big people, healthy snacks suitable for children and more naughty ones for parents with a sweet tooth.
Today I’ll tell you some the places we liked the most in Berlin, the ones I would go back to if I visited Berlin with small children. This is my personal kid-friendly (parent-friendly) travel guide to Berlin.
This was perhaps our favorite park. There’s a beautiful fountain with statues of the most famous fairy tales characters: Oliver enjoyed walking on the edge of the fountain and splashing water, and Alex and I had fun guessing the stone characters.
But the real surprise was the playground: I had to make a video of it because I wouldn’t be able to describe it in words. Immersed in the silence of nature, shaded by tall trees, with an area for the older kids where they even have a zipline, and an area for toddlers with beautiful wooden horses to ride and Indian teepees to hide in. We were going to stay about half an hour, but by the time we looked at our watches, two hours had gone by! Here’s some photos and a video.
Our apartment was very close to the famous Alexanderplatz, which was a revelation even for Oliver. It’s huge, there’s no traffic, it’s crowded with people to watch and dogs to chase and in the evening (from 6pm) there are always street performers and live music.
Kids' Farms in the heart of city
We had read that the Berlin Zoo is the most visited in Europe and, although I am not pro zoo, we decided to take Oliver to see animals that he couldn’t otherwise see elsewhere. It was a disappointment: it was sad (especially the primate cages, you could read the sadness and anger in their eyes) and too many animals had way too little room. So I guess this closed our zoo chapter (or at least mine!).
On top of that, the part that Oliver liked the most was the petting zoo, where he could pet and feed goats, sheep, donkeys and ponies (you can buy food off the vending machines). Oliver was a bit insecure and confused, but he did not stop trying to pet the animals and came out of there yelling ”baaaahhhh!” :-)
Luckily, in Berlin you don’t need to go to the zoo to get the farm experience: many parks in the heart of the city have a Kinderbauernhof (children’s farm), where you can pet and feed farm animals. And they’re free! The most beautiful are the ones in Görlitzer Park and Mauerpark, both in the Kreuzberg district (a few minutes from Alexanderplatz by metro 8): they have different summer and winter times, but from 11am to 5pm you can’t go wrong.
Prenzlauer Berg, the family district
One day, we left Oliver with auntie Cri and uncle Geggy (who came to visit us from Hamburg and stayed the whole week) and Alex and I decided to explore the “family district” (you never Know where life takes you): Prenzlauer Berg. There’s no doubt, this is where we would want to live if we moved to Berlin: it’s quiet, with wide sidewalks, few cars, many restaurants and trendy cafes, thousands of playgrounds at every corner and all lovely and very clean, and a myriad of children’s shops (all design-y, the kind we like) and family cafes.
We were recommended a cute store called Rasselfisch (in Rykestraße 44), but you can just walk and look around to find many more: we ended up buying lots of cute little things in Greta + Bjørn (in Rykestraße 19), including this gorgeous dog-looking backpack by the German brand AffenZahn (they have lots of different animals!) that I fell in love with and will be perfect for when Oliver starts school in October.
This series of connected courtyards was a real revelation for us lovers of designer shops and parents of little people who escape everywhere. It’s all enclosed and pedestrian, there are benches to climb, trees to hide behind, and even a very peculiar children’s shop, Levy’s Toys.
We spent a very pleasant morning there with Oliver, exploring the courtyards, making soap bubbles, browsing the cute little shops and enjoying a coffee and a delicious croissant in Ben Rahim.
The Riechstag palace is one of the few historic buildings that I had read to be suitable for a visit with small children: you can visit it all with strollers (even the highest parts of the dome) and children like the “glazed climb” and the breathtaking views of the city. There is also a free audio-guide that lasts about 20 minutes (perfect for parents!) .
I had read that it was OK to book tickets two days in advance, but unfortunately, when I tried doing it the day after our arrival, the first available visit was the day after we’d leave Berlin. Sigh! So, if you visit Berlin with children don’t do like us: book your tickets on this website well in advance!
La tua Berlino
Obviously, there are a thousand other places that we loved—small gardens and hidden corners that we fell in love with—but those are part of our Berlin, the one that our little guide and brave explorer took us to. I’ll leave you with pictures of some of those places that made our Berlin.