If you’re struggling to get your teens to come on vacation with you, try Berlin. Jane Anderson recently took her teen to Europe’s coolest capital where alternative lifestyles rule. And she managed to sneak in some learning too. Take a look at her 10 top recommendations for your over 12s.
Add off-beat tours of Kreuzberg to a Berlin vacation
We like a city tour with older kids from San Francisco cable car tours to haunted history walks. And we loved the authentic insight into the alternative lifestyle of Berlin’s trendy Kreuzberg district on a With Locals tour led by actor and guide, Betty.
Meeting at Hackescher Markt, she brings the streets alive, pointing out awesome street art like ‘Little Lucy’ and peppering the tour with history, great museums and cafes, plus one-offs like SO36 where Iggy Pop and David Bowie used to hang. It’s now a roller disco which every teen should check out.
A different POV at Anne Frank Zentrum
Anne Frank Zentrum is a little museum tucked away on arty Rosenthaler Street which explores Anne Frank as a writer not as a victim, and looks into what an emotionally intelligent teen she was. It’s inspiring and moving stuff.
But the arty street lightens the mood with its myriad of graffiti, and quirky ‘Art to Go’ vending machine which ‘vend’ old cigarette boxes that have been painted neon and contain surprises such as stickers or bracelets or just trash!
Don’t miss the Many Tentacles gallery workspace and shop selling interesting t-shirts, tote bags and squares of printed material to pin onto bags or clothes, all with messages of love and hope. Monster Cabinet is right next door with its wild mechanical creations and Kino Central cinema is just opposite – a must for arthouse movie lovers.
Berlin foto automatens make everyone look weirdly cool
Squash yourselves inside a funky ‘foto automatens’ for a cool memento of your Berlin city break. These retro photo booths are a throwback to a pre-digital era, and have been embraced by Berliners. The four little photos that pop out of the machine cost just €3 and curiously, they make everyone look cool!
Jump on Berlin’s biggest flea market
Head to Mauerpark in the north of the city on Sundays for the vast flea market. It’s teen-heaven with Bearpit Karaoke at 3pm, drum circles and mechanical robots alongside heaps of used clothing, jewellery, bags, homeware and old-school vinyl to browse and buy. Then there are the food stalls. My advice? Give teens a budget and freedom to roam.
Bike along the Wall on your Berlin city break
The Berlin Wall is a history lesson in itself and a must for teens visiting Berlin. Constructed in 1961, this 160km barrier cut through the lives of Berliners until its fall in 1989.
A tour by bike lets you cover more of the now fragmented wall and hear stories along the way from a qualified guide. Places of interest include former border crossings and a visit to the official Berlin Wall Memorial Museum area on Bernauer Strasse: the last remaining totally intact part of the wall and guard tower still exist here.
For super keen teens, add on a visit to the Trabi Museum, right next to Checkpoint Charlie and dedicated to the Cold War era of the GDR Volkswagen produced in East Germany from1957 to 1990.
Hot New Cold War Museum
The Cold War Museum is a wonderful new high-tech exploration of this turbulent time in Europe’s history.
Located between Brandenburger Tor and the Humboldt Forum, teens will love the VR experience offering a multi-faceted point-of-view of those living on either side of the Wall. Then just add interactive scrolling screens, along with incredible artefacts from this pre-digital era which take you from the formation of the bloc after World War II to the nuclear threat; the Cuban Missile Crisis; international espionage; the arms race and the space race.
Big on animals? Try Berlin Zoo
If your kids are keen on animals, Berlin Zoo houses the largest variety of species of any zoo in the world, plus it’s the place to coo over giant pandas.
This year sees the re-opening of the ‘Realm of Hunters’ predator house with its oversize panorama window giving you the best views of Big Cats.
At the other end of the spectrum, kids can learn about short-beaked echidnas. This curious mammal with spines like a hedgehog, a beak like a bird and a pouch like a kangaroo, had their first offspring in 115 years, here in Berlin. Your kids may recognise them if they’ve seen Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.
Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church
The neo-Romanesque Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church was constructed between 1891 and 1895 and is the symbolic heart of West Berlin. You’ll find it opposite the Bikini Berlin shopping centre.
Get kids to look at top of the original tower to see for themselves the wartime damage inflicted by Allied Forces exactly 80 years ago, in 1943. Now a landmark for peace, visitors can go inside the modern church, which sits alongside the memorial tower. With its stunning blue stained-glass windows, it’s guaranteed to wow teens and give them food for thought about history, war and peace. Guided tours are also available.
Explore The House of the Future on a Berlin city break
Futurium is an exhibition where human nature and technology collide. It considers everything from AI beings to green skyscrapers and communal economies.
It also invites adults and young adults to ask the question, how do we want to live? Rather than thinking their world is rigid and all mapped out, a visit here aims to show kids, through open discussions and trying out new ideas in the Futurium Lab, how they can shape their futures.
It’s a great experience if you care about nature and want to explore our responsibility for sustainable living, starting with concepts like green cities and vertical urban farms.
Be a total tourist on the iconic 100 Bus
A legacy of the reunification of Germany was the creation of the number 100 bus route linking East and West Berlin. Handily, it takes in many of the attractions on-route that you want to see with your kids including Alexanderplatz – a teen hangout if ever there was one – Television Tower; Museum Island; Lustgarten; the Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag.
Buy a day ticket for the bus or a Berlin Welcome Card which offers free public transport, entry to many attractions, as well as a free city guide with a map. All much cheaper than a guided city tour.
Treat teens to a snooze with views at Hotel Bikini Berlin
Check in to 25hours Hotel Bikini Berlin and your teenagers will thank you.
Its ‘more is more’ aesthetic means that at times you’ll feel like you’re staying in an art-installation instead of an hotel. The entrance even has cool Schindelhauer bikes hanging from the ceiling – they’re available to rent – and a retro mini turned camper sits in the lobby.
Experiential lifts take you up to reception and the Aperitivo Bar where oversized hammocks overlook Berlin Zoo. On the top floor is the cool Monkey Bar with its DJ booth and outdoor terraces. And Neni Restaurant next door is a great place to eat with its Tel Aviv inspired sharing menus.
Rooms are packed with intrigue from the retro suitcase-turned-lightbox to Fritz Cola and Kinder chocolate in the mini bar. Trendy little z-beds are put out for kids and include cute pillows printed with sayings like, “almost home”. And there’s a signature cuddly monkey in all rooms too, which you can buy in the hotel shop should your teen fall in love!
How to plan a Berlin vacation
How to get there
Non-stop flights to Berlin from New York, LA and Washington D.C. take from 7 hours, 35 minutes.
Where to stay
Hotel Bikini Berlin, family rooms from $211 per room, per night.