There’s no denying that Berlin is a very cool city. It’s great for bars and nightclubs and is famous for the flamboyant annual Love Parade street party.
But the brilliant thing about Berlin is that it’s not just for hipsters, it’s the perfect destination for families too. Germany’s capital welcomes kids not so much with open arms but with a smile and a get on with it attitude. Much like the British, the Germans aren’t big on hugging.
You can easily spend weeks enjoying all that the city has to offer but if you’re short on time then 3 days in Berlin works well. This three-day itinerary works both if you’re travelling with kids or without.
If you are visiting Berlin with kids then rest easy, it’s a very easy city to navigate with children in tow. There are parks just about everywhere and more than 1,800 playgrounds to choose from (yes, really!). There are plenty of family-friendly sights, lots of interactive museums and some of the best bakeries in the world. We ate a lot of doughnuts when we were in Berlin!
Berlin 3 day itinerary
We spent three days and four nights in Berlin, visiting between Christmas and New Year and packed in a lot of the capital’s major sites.
1 Day in Berlin: The main sights
Things to see on a one day trip to Berlin include:
- Prenzlauer Berg
- Reichstag Building
- Brandenburg Gate
- Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe (Holocaust Memorial)
- Rausch & Neuhas Chocolate shops
- Memorial to May 10, 1933
- Markthalle Neun
During our long weekend in Berlin we stayed in the old East German neighbourhood of Prenzlauer berg. The area was once full of squatters and was also one of the centres for peaceful revolution in 1989 before the wall came down. Today, however, it’s been gentrified and is a very kid-friendly neighbourhood with parks, playgrounds, cool shops, good restaurants and lots of cafés. I think it’s one of the best areas to stay in Berlin.
We started day one in one of the most popular cafes in the hood, Anna Blume, famous for its tiered breakfasts for two. I ordered one and was greeted with the perfect start to the day; a three-tiered sandwich stand packed full of scrambled eggs, fruit, cheese, cold meats and bread.
From here we walked, and we walked, and we walked! We managed to clock up some 40km walking during our time in Berlin and it was well worth it. After breakfast we wandered around Prenzlauer berg and then to Alexanderplatz, an enormous public square in the Mitte district and the most visited area of the city.
This is where you’ll find the iconic Berlin TV Tower that rises 250m into the sky. If the weather is clear (it wasn’t when we were there) then you can head up to the observation deck for views of Berlin.
Instead we headed over to the Reichstag Building, the seat of the German parliament, and met our Withlocals guide, Violeta. I don’t often book tours when we travel as I’m never entirely sure how they’ll stack up for kids. However, Withlocals had come highly recommended and so we decided to give it a go – and I’m really glad we did.
We had a two-hour private introduction to Berlin tour with Violeta, who is also a mum herself. She knew just what information to share to keep the kids entertained telling them about the artist, Christo, who wrapped the entire Reichstag in silvery material.
Tickets to visit the building and see the views form the amazing glass dome are free but you need to book well in advance.
From the Reichstag we headed past the Brandenburg Gate and the Hotel Adlon (popular with the rich and famous) and on to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.
Tackling the Holocaust with kids is never a particularly easy subject but our guide did a stellar job of explaining the significance of the memorial. The memorial itself is incredibly powerful. There are 2,711 grey concrete slabs of differing heights arranged over 4.7 acres creating long, straight, narrow alleys much like a maze. Apparently there was some controversy over the design but I thought it was very moving.
Our next stop involved the significantly lighter topic of chocolate with a visit to Rausch. This chocolate shop is definitely worth a visit if only to see its incredible creations made from cocoa including the Brandenburg Gate. Yep, it’s made entirely from chocolate!
Tip, if you want hot chocolate, don’t stay here but go to neighbouring Nehuas instead that serves amazing hot coco.
Memorial to May 10, 1993
The final leg of our tour took us past the Memorial to May 10, 1933. This memorial is dedicated to the day when the Nazis burned some 20,000 books in Bebelplatz to “purify German culture”. Today there’s a sunken library buried underground lined with empty white shelves designed to hold the same number of books that were destroyed. You can see the memorial through a glass plate set in paving stones in the ground.
We ended our first day in Berlin at Markethalle Neun, one of my favourite places in the city. I loved this indoor market and if you’re a fan of food stalls then you will too.
Visit on a Thursday for “Street Food Thursday” and pick up tasty dishes from all over the world. We had Asian dumplings, Mexican tacos, German sausages and some really good wine, too. Make sure you get there early to grab a table, doors open at 5pm.
2 Days in Berlin: Museums & Markets
Things to see in two days in Berlin include:
- The DDR Museum
- The Amplemann Store
- The Pergamonmuseum
- The Christmas Market at Gendarmenmarkt
On day 2 in Berlin we started off with breakfast at a cafe called Barcomi. There are a couple of branches in the city but we went to the one in Mitte, which sits in a cosy courtyard. It serves excellent coffee (they have a roasting house as well), good food and delicious cakes.
The Ampelmann Shop
You must visit one of the Amplemann shops when you are in Berlin! The Ampelmännchen is the symbol shown on the pedestrian signals in Germany. Before the country was reunified in 1989 the two sides of Germany used different forms for the Ampelmännchen. West Germany had a generic human figure and East Germany had a man wearing a hat.
There are various Amplemann stores around the city selling everything from sweatshirts and umbrellas to keychains, backpacks, sweets and more.
Next stop was Museum Island, a UNESCO World Heritage site and home to five outstanding museums. These are the Pergamonmuseum, Bode-Museum, Neues Museum (New Museum), Alte Nationalgalerie (Old National Gallery) and Altes Museum (Old Museum).
We opted for the Pergamon Museum, Berlin’s most popular museum. The museum is famous for the Ishtar Gate, the eighth gate to the inner city of Babylon that was constructed in about 575 BC. Visitors also come to see the Pergamon Altar. This was built in the first half of the 2nd century BC on one of the terraces of the acropolis of the ancient Greek city of Pergamon.
Unfortunately, however, ongoing renovations means that the Pergamon Altar is off limits for the foreseeable future. I liked this museum and loved seeing the Ishtar Gate but I’ll be honest, it was a little lost on the kids. There are generic audio guides but none specifically for children and, after the eighth room on Islamic art, spirits were flagging.
There is usually a long line to get in the museum as well so you may want to reconsider if travelling with younger kids.
The DDR Museum
One museum you must see in Berlin, however, is the amazing DDR Museum. This interactive museum, just next to Museum Island, shines a light on what life was like in the former German Democratic Republic and is brilliant.
It’s a fascinating look into what life was like in East Germany. This was a place where collective potty training took place at kindergartens, where travel was restricted but where nudist beaches were incredibly popular.
One of the most popular things to do is to take a virtual drive in an old Trabant. These beloved cars of the DDR were powered by the same two-stroke engine that powers today’s lawnmowers. There’s also a replica of a standard Easter German flat that you can walk around. It’s an excellent museum and one that kids will love.
In the afternoon we headed to the Christmas Market at Gendarmenmarkt, one of Berlin’s prettiest city squares. Our Withlocals guide had recommended this market to us in particular for its quarkbällchen, otherwise known as the most delicious doughnuts in the world!
Quarkbällchen are translated as fried cheese balls but this really does them a disservice. These are sweet gooey balls of goodness that are deep fried and then sprinkled with icing sugar. Honestly, these German doughnuts were one of the highlights of our trip and we ate a lot of them!
3 Days in Berlin: Checkpoint Charlie, The Berlin Wall & Cinnamon Rolls
Things to see in three days in Berlin include:
- Checkpoint Charlie
- Zeit für Brot
- Bernauer Straße
Day 3 of our Berlin itinerary started with breakfast at Spreegold. This family-friendly chain of restaurants serves enormous pancakes, freshly squeezed juices, acai bowls and more kid- and parent-friendly fodder.
From here we headed to Checkpoint Charlie, a former border crossing and one of the most important landmarks in Berlin. There’s a barrier, checkpoint booth, flag and sandbags that are all based on the original site but otherwise the area has changed beyond recognition. Today it is surrounded on almost all side by fast food outlets.
There’s an open air gallery near here with photos and information boards detailing the history of the border crossing including daring escape attempts. Also nearby is the Mauermuseum. What started as a personal collection is now a museum showcasing inventive methods people used to escape from East Germany. These include concealed luggage compartments in cars, a mini-submarine and a hot air balloon.
Zeit für Brot
Next up was a trip (admittedly not our first or last one) to what quickly became our favourite bakery in Berlin, Zeit für Brot. This bakery came recommended and it did not disappoint! It sells lots of yummy things including freshly baked bread, tasty sandwiches and cakes but the real reason you come here is for the cinnamon rolls. Made with apple, poppy seeds, nuts or just plain cinnamon, they are almost as good as the Christmas market quarkbällchen!
Having once again eaten our fill of pastries we wandered up Kastanienallee. This is one of the coolest streets in the Prenzlauer berg neighbourhood filled with cafes, restaurants, cool boutiques and beautiful architecture. It was cold when we visited in December but come summer, you can imagine these streets filled with people sitting outside enjoying a drink in the sunshine.
We ended the day with a visit to Bernauer Straße, a corner of the Prenzlauer berg neighbourhood where the Berlin Wall once passed right through. It’s almost impossible to imagine what it was like to live in a city where one day you could move about freely and then, literally overnight, you could not.
This is the spot where the iconic shot of a GDR soldier was photographed jumping over the barbed wire fence at the last moment. If you aren’t familiar with the photo, you can see it here. Today the area is home to an open-air multimedia exhibition with historical audio material and pictures. There’s also an observation tower and memorial showing where the wall once stood.
4 Days in Berlin: The East Side Gallery
If you have 4 days in Berlin then you can easily squeeze in some more sights. Given this was our last day we managed to add a visit to the East Side Gallery to our itinerary on the way to the airport.
This is the longest continuous section of the Berlin Wall still in existence. Measuring 1.3km, this stretch of wall has been painted by 118 different artists from 21 countries creating an amazing open air gallery. It’s fascinating to see not only the incredible murals but how this wall once divided the city (and country) in two.
The Berlin Wall Foundation run guided tours every Saturday at 10.30am in English (call to register) and they also run special tours for kids. We visited the East Side Gallery on our way to the airport, it’s just a few minutes walk away from the S-Bahn stop Ostbahnhof.
Getting around Berlin
Berlin is a huge city but it’s also very walkable and you can stroll between many of the main sights. When feet get tired, however, then hop on one of the buses, trams or underground trains that neatly navigate the capital. Not surprisingly, the public transport in Berlin is cheap, fast and uber efficient.
To maximise your three days in Berlin I would highly recommend getting the Berlin Welcome Card. In the spirit of full transparency, we were given two Welcomecards by Berlin Tourism for our time in Berlin and I can honestly that they are great value.
The cards are available at arrivals in the Berlin airports and at tourist information centres. They offer free travel on public transport and discounts on a huge number of sights, museums, tours, shows and even restaurants. Prices vary according to how long you’re in town for and how large an area of the city you want to discover.
For more ideas on keeping costs down this post has 5 ideas on how to save money when visiting Berlin.