If you go to Berlin with kids, use our 4-day itinerary to get the most out of your trip – and help your kids have a great time, too!
What to do in Berlin with kids
Our first priority when we got to Berlin was to find dinner. In Italy pretty much your only option is Italian so we were excited to venture out a bit. The kids’ favorite meal is butter chicken curry with rice and naan. If you enjoy Indian food at all, Delhi 6 should be on your list of meal choices. We loved it so much that we had 2 of our 4 dinners there while in Berlin!
Checking into our hotel was a breeze since we stayed at the Novotel in New Zealand earlier this year. Kids receive a free toy at check-in; in New Zealand it was an octopus, here it was a turtle. The kids thanked us for buying them a new stuffed animal, and we thank Novotel!
We decided that this would be a trip not only about seeing Berlin but also for reconnecting as family. Our schedule wouldn’t be strict; we wanted to go at the kids’ pace and have it be something we all enjoyed.
Day 1 – Berlin Germany Hop-on/Hop-off Bus with kids
From our hotel we walked about 15 minutes through the heart of Berlin to the first stop at Neptune’s Fountain. There we jumped on the bus for an audio-guided tour of the city.
We chose the City Circle Sightseeing Hop-on/Hop-off Bus. Exploring Berlin with kids or without, we absolutely recommend these buses. They are supposed to come every 15 minutes and that didn’t always happen, but the sights of Berlin with kids would have been much harder to enjoy had we walked or driven ourselves around.
One of my favorite places to see was the Bebelplatz. This is the square at the State Opera House where on May 10, 1933, pro-Nazi students burned more than 25,000 books that were considered to subvert Nazi philosophies.
I remember watching Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade as a young child, seeing the Nazi’s burn the books, and asking my mom what was going on. I couldn’t believe they were burning books! Seeing this spot and the memorial was really special for me.
The memorial is an underground room with a glass covering at ground level; inside, empty bookshelves line the walls. I couldn’t see the inside at first. I just saw several people gathered around the glass covering. Royce and Jeannie had the right idea; they wanted to get a better look so they were on their hands and knees peering in.
The Brandenburg Gate
One of the most iconic places in all of Europe and Germany is the Brandenburg Gate, and it was one of our favorite places to see. The history of the gate goes back to the late 1700’s. Napoleon was the first to use the gate to march triumphantly to victory.
Although WWII didn’t completely destroy the gate, the war did leave its marks. Workers patched the columns where bullets or shrapnel damaged them. During the Cold War, the Brandenburg Gate stood as a symbol of hope to the people, but it was in “no man’s land” between East and West Berlin and people weren’t officially able to walk through it until the wall came down December 1989. It’s hard to believe this happened in my lifetime. Today it is a symbol of peace and unity.
Nearby we visited the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, located in the neighborhood that had s large Jewish population before WWII. When touring Berlin with kids, these sites can provide incredible teaching opportunities.
Checkpoint Charlie was a fun piece of history to see. It was the most famous point-of-entry between East and West Germany, and was the site of a tense standoff between American and Soviet tanks in 1961.
The tour bus took us past several shopping areas, but the audio portion of the tour would point out when something of historical value was nearby as well as giving interesting facts. This was a great first day introduction to the city of Berlin, Germany!
Day 2 – Day trip to Schwerin Castle from Berlin with kids
We left our itinerary up to the weather, so day 2 was spent driving to Schwerin Castle and Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp.
For more details read our post about Schwerin Castle.
Known as the “Neuschwanstein Castle of the North”, this castle takes up an island of Lake Schwerin in northern Germany. It has a long history but was most recently rebuilt in the mid 1800’s. It served as home to the Grandduchy of Mecklenburg-Schwerin until 1918, but today it serves as the location for regional parliament and a museum. For more information check out their website.
Since we took the kids (with some difficulty) through the massive Caserta Palace in Italy, we decided not to tour the inside. We did however enjoy walking through part of the gardens, listening to music being played and watching the geese.
For dinner we went to a Pakistani restaurant. It was similar to Indian food but with unique, complex flavors that we all really enjoyed! Then we played at a park.
Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp
The horrors that took place in any of the concentration camps are real and yet unimaginable. To go and visit was truly a sobering experience that we will never forget. We had to really think about bringing the kids to a concentration camp. What were they going to see? Would they be respectful enough? It ended up being a good experience for the kids, even at such a young age.
The kids did really well all things considered. They wandered around, picking up flowers and sticks and “special” things they found on the ground. They walked through the prison areas and saw the bathrooms and the living quarters, where one of us would walk ahead to make sure there were no graphic images (fortunately there weren’t any). In the end, we only walked around part of the camp while listening to the audio tour.
Royce and Jeannie have some understanding of WWII from our time in Japan, especially regarding Hiroshima. Going to the concentration camp added to their understanding of the war. When I asked Royce what he learned from the concentration camp, he said, “we don’t all need to be the same.” We talked a lot about how the people who were imprisoned were only there because they believed differently or were different than those that had imprisoned them. We talked about how we are all different and we need to embrace our diversity.
Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp was the closest concentration camp to Berlin. During WWII over 200,000 people were imprisoned and another 60,000 were imprisoned by Soviet secret police between 1945-1950. It was a somber experience but one that brought the horrors of what happened to light. I feel like sometimes, as Americans, we are so far removed from what happened during the war that it’s just a story. Seeing it in person made it more real.
Day 3 – Tierpark Zoo
We know we will be traveling a lot over the next three years with kids in tow. We want to make sure the kids are having as good of a time as we are, so we asked them what they like most about traveling. To remind them of some of our adventures, we watched some of the videos we’ve made and it was fun to hear their excitement when they remembered what was happening in each video. One of the things the kids enjoy the most is seeing animals. We thus dedicated a whole day to Tierpark Zoo, one of the largest zoos in Europe.
We dedicated the day to the kids, so they took the park maps and led us through what felt like all 400 acres of park.
Royce especially loves animals and was so excited the whole time, eager for every next animal. His favorite were the small ones like the prairie dogs, rabbits and hamsters. They have a petting area where kids can go in with some goats and pet them and brush them or even clean up after them. At one point Royce said ‘I just want to go wherever we want,” meaning he wanted to just wander and see whatever animals we happened upon.
This was a great way to break up our siteseeing and do something special for the kids. Berlin has two zoos to choose from, and we chose this one because it’s bigger and has better reviews (the other zoo has tons of positive reviews, too).
Day 4 – Museum Island
Our last day was only a half day and we set it aside for seeing the best of everything we hadn’t seen yet. At the top of our priority list were the Ishtar Gate and the East Side Gallery.
The East Side Gallery is a portion of the Berlin wall that in 1990 turned into a monument designed to encourage peace among borders. It’s the largest open air gallery with 105 different murals on different sections of the wall. Unfortunately people graffitied many of the murals.
While we were walking through the Berlin airport we read that the Ishtar Gate, one of the original gates into Babylon, was here. The tricky part was finding out how to get to the entrance to the museum. Make sure to check out our map to get the exact location, because the museum is s must-see!
King Nebuchadnezzar built the Ishtar Gate over 2500 years ago, in 575 BC! German archaeologists located it, and they unearthed, carefully disassembled, shipped to Berlin and rebuilt the gate with the original pieces, including the long processional way. Walking along the beautiful blue walls and through the gate is like traveling back in time. It was a monumental experience!
This was the only museum we went to in Berlin with kids. There were so many sites to see that we didn’t feel like we had time to visit any of the other 170 museums and galleries on our short trip.
In order to keep the kids entertained, we gave them our phones to take pictures. They love being like their daddy so they entertained themselves the whole time by taking pictures, it was perfect! Best quote from the trip:
“Mom, I just took a picture of that really old thing!” – Royce.
As a bonus we saw the Nefertiti bust. An Egyptian queen thought to rule with her husband, she is now one of the most famous images from history. Many consider her to be the essence of feminine beauty, and she has even become a symbol of Germany! You can see her in the Berlin Neues Museum.
Best Places to Eat in Berlin with Kids
I pinned several restaurants that looked good before arriving in Berlin. We found 2 places that we really, really liked and we stuck with them. We made sure to try some authentic German food, which was great, but the kids didn’t eat well. So we stuck with what we knew they would eat, and tried other little things here and there.
Breakfast: Look no farther than Kaffee Karamell Berlin. We didn’t. Our meal satisfied us nearly the entire day, it was located right by our hotel and it was only about $14 for an adult and $4 for the kids. There were several other places we thought to try but were so happy with Kaffee Karamell Berlin that we went there every single morning.
Lunch: We were normally so full from the delicious breakfast that we just snacked until dinner.
Dinner: Delhi 6. We loved having access to Indian food again and Delhi 6 was our first stop when we got to Berlin. While we were in Schwerin we ate at Lahori Pakistanisches / Indisches Restaurant, and the different flavors impressed us – they were unique from what we find at Indian restaurants.
Dessert: Chocolate from Rausch. Take home some chocolate beads to make delicious hot chocolate!
Snacks while we are out – Get a big soft pretzel. We bought one from a vendor riding a bike loaded with pretzels near the Brandenberg Gate, and it was delicious! If you get the chance to buy a street pretzel, definitely do it.
Plan your trip:
We didn’t know what to expect from Berlin. It wasn’t high on our bucket list of places to travel but we are so happy we went. We love Germany. You hear so much about Germany’s past from WWII to the Cold War and you might think it is a dark dreary place, but it’s the exact opposite. The people were extremely kind, and the city was beautiful, bright, and full of hope and forgiveness. The complex history is so rich with both the new and the really old (Royce asked, “Why is this older than Jesus?”), and we will always remember our time there.