Direct daily flights to Berlin from several UK airports take less than two hours.
Berlin has more Christmas markets than any other city in the world.
Festivals and events all year round range from the legendary Berlin Film Festival in February to Lollapalooza in September and Europe’s biggest, free, New Year street party in December.
Europe’s largest city has dozens of different districts connected by one of the world’s best transport systems so finding somewhere affordable for a family holiday is never an issue.
Four times the size of Paris, even in the height of summer, Berlin has fewer visitors than the French capital.
From Museum Island to the Judische Museum, Spreewald to beach resorts and historic islands within half an hour of the city centre, Berlin doesn’t know the meaning of a dull moment.
One of the most cyclable European capitals, Berlin has over 600km of bike paths, 70km of cycle lanes and dozens of city centre streets where two wheels take priority over four.
Where to go
The city centre’s a good place to begin in Berlin. All the big hitters are here from the Brandenburg Gate and Alexanderplatz to Museum Island, Friedrichstrasse and the Reichstag. And, what’s not technically right in the centre, is right on the edge like Tiergarten, Potsdammer Platz and Checkpoint Charlie.
The Fernehturm TV Tower in Mitte has a 203m high platform for the best view in the city – great place to get your bearings if you’re new to Berlin.
Mitte’s the most expensive area of the city to stay in, but if you want to spend some time in exquisite, five star luxury grandeur this is the district to choose.
Don’t miss: shopping on Friedrichstrasse; the biggest free New Year’s Eve party in Europe at the Brandenburg Gate; all five museums on Museum Island; Bebelplatz; the Natural History Museum; Nikolaiviertel.
Berlin’s historic district isn’t as historic as it looks. It was almost totally destroyed at the end of WWII and restored completely in the late 20th century. But that’s easy to forget wandering around the cobbled streets or along the pretty waterfront. One of the most visited areas in the city, Nikolaiviertel is an enchanting medieval fairy tale and looks particularly endearing on a snowy winter’s day.
Don’t miss: St. Nicholas Church; the Ephraim Palace; Zillemuseum; Knaublauchhaus; riverside cafés and specialist shops.
Mitte might be Berlin’s business heart, but Charlottenburg’s the city’s grandest district by far. Magnificent Baroque Schloss Charlottenburg sets the elegant tone here, followed through in everything from exquisitely opulent 19th century coffee houses to outrageously extravagant shopping on Kurfürstendamm. It’s also the area for Berlin’s glamorous Opera House and dozens of delightful little lanes and alleys hiding boutique hotels, designer ateliers and Michelin starred restaurants.
Exclusive and expensive small hotels are a Charlottenburg trademark.
Don’t miss: Schloss Charlottenburg and the gardens; Berlin Zoo in Tiergarten; the Berggruen Museum; The Story of Berlin; Funkturm radio tower.
3000ha Grunewald Forest is just to the west of Charlottenburg and fun for a day out with kids. Take the ferry to Lindwerder Island in summer or, in winter, go skiing on Müggelbergen Hill
Go window shopping on Kurfürstendamm but save your pennies for Kaufhaus des Westens (KaDeWe). It’s Berlin’s oldest and best loved department store, has the world’s biggest food hall and was the first place hundred of East Berliners headed for, right after The Wall fell on 9 November 1989.
One of the best known and loved districts in the city, Kreuzberg is Mitte’s cooler, younger and livelier next door neighbour. A brilliant area to stay in with older kids and teens, it’s packed with museums, markets and interesting events all year round.
Good for mid-range hotels, aparthotels and family hostels.
Don’t miss: the Jüdische Museum; Topography of Terror; Deutsche Technikmuseum; Markthalle Neun; Street Food Thursday; the Berlin Wall Museum.
Friedrichschain’s another bright, colourful and high-energy district to stay in close to the city centre. Once the powerhouse of East Berlin, it’s now where global music and media giants have European headquarters and a fun area to hang out, people watch and just wander around.
Stay here for innovative design hotels on the banks of the Spree.
Don’t miss: the East Side Gallery; Karl Marx Allee; Oberbaumbrücke; Volkspark Friedrichschain; Märchenbrunnen.
More like a village than a district of enormous Berlin, Neukölln has some of the city’s quaintest houses, prettiest squares, cutest shops and best markets. It’s also right on the edge of Tempelhof, the historic airfield now repurposed as a vast urban playground: go stroll, skateboard, skate or kitesurf down the runway on a Sunday, it’s a Berlin tradition.
Don’t miss: Scholl Britz; the Rixdorf Quarter; Bethlehem Church on Richardplatz; the Turkish Market; Landwehr Canal.
Easy-going and always interesting, Prenzlauer Berg is one of the best districts for inexpensive hotels and a friendly, relaxed atmosphere close to the city centre. Reasonable rents and lots of green space mean this is a popular residential area for local families, so it’s packed with restaurants and cafés, kids events, interesting shops and community festivals.
Good district for three and four star family hotels and holiday apartments.
Close to Weissensee, one of Berlin’s loveliest lakeside beaches and a weekend favourite in warmer weather.
Visit Prater Garten, the city’s oldest and prettiest beer garden and a fun place to eat on warm summer evenings.
What to do and see with kids in Berlin
Museum Island, Berlin Mitte Between them, the five Museum Island museums contain an outstanding collection of art and artefacts. If you have time, try to see each one on a separate day, they deserve the attention.
Berlin Zoo, Tiergarten The most species rich zoo in the world, Berlin’s also one of the oldest and in Tiergarten between Charlottenburg and Mitte.
Jüdische Museum, Kreuzberg Exploring and describing the experience of Jewish life in Germany through exhibitions, permanent collections and education, this remarkable museum is one of the most visited in Berlin.
Schloss Charlottenburg 17th century Schloss Charlottenburg is Berlin’s largest royal palace and one of the city’s finest examples of post WWII restorations.
Checkpoint Charlie, Berlin Mitte Established in 1962 and a companion to iconic Checkpoint Charlie nearby, this museum not only meticulously details the history of Europe’s most infamous Wall, it educates and enlightens on current and on-going global human rights’ issues.
East Side Gallery, Friedrichschain This 1.3km stretch of the Berlin Wall is now one of the most recognised landmarks in Germany.
MACHmit Museum for Children, Prenzlauer Berg Designed and dedicated to making complex concepts tangible and understandable to children, this interactive museum is also famous for its six storey, shelved climbing wall.
Tropical Islands, Spreewald Forest In magical Spreewald, just 60km from Berlin, Tropical Islands is the largest indoor and outdoor waterpark and aquatic leisure centre in Germany.
Deutsche Technikmuseum, Kreuzberg From watermills to iconic performance cars, the history of exemplary German technology is made fantastically vivid for kids in this 25,000m² museum and interactive science centre.
The Computer Game Museum, Friedrichschain Europe’s largest collection of computer games and games consuls is the foundation of this museum where kids can explore and learn about today’s digital environment.
Educational value for kids
Berlin’s past is exposed and examined all over the city, take older kids to visit Topography of Terrors and the moving, Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.
Spend a day in Grunewald Forest and visit the children’s Grunewald Forest Museum and school.
Hire bikes and cycle round the waterways and ancient towns and villages of UNESCO World Heritage Spreewald, about an hour’s drive from Berlin city centre.
Visit in February for the Berlin Film Festival, it’s one of the most inclusive in the world and a fantastic experience for teenagers with free (or as good as) screenings and talks all over the city – no shortage of celebrities either.
Take a guided cycle tour round one (or several) Berlin districts, they’re great fun and get you under the skin of the city fast.
Spend a night eating and chatting with the locals at Street Food Thursday in Kreuzberg’s Markthalle Neun. Older kids will love the curated food trucks and DJs.
Visit Berlin during the school holidays and you’ll find exhibitions, events, workshops, theatre, concerts and festivals all over the city just for kids and families.
Getting about with kids in Berlin
Berlin’s iconic U-Bahn and S-Bahn public transport network covers the entire city and it’s efficient to a fault, keeps long hours and runs non-stop on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.