October half-term is fast approaching, a time when many school trips and families head for Berlin. The weather is usually perfect for sightseeing – still warm enough for boat trips, and the parks and woodland are ablaze with autumn colour. In ‘Berlin Unwrapped’ and on previous blogs I give plenty of suggestions for outdoor spaces where the young (and young at heart) can roam and run wild, providing it’s still warm enough.
Take a trip to Peacock Island (See ‘Outer Edges’ in Berlin Unwrapped)
But if you are in the city centre and have young teenagers or children in tow, it’s not enough just to admire buildings and scenery and feast on history and culture, there needs to be an injection of fun too. Hanging out in cool cafes, nightclubs and bars is not an option either, so here are a few ideas for family daytime and evening entertainment, aimed at the younger generation. Please double-check opening times and prices online.
Family fun on the Tempelhofer Feld (see Blog)
The Berlin zoos have always been a big hit. The main one, the ‘Zoologischer Garten Berlin’ is centrally located next to the Tiergarten and served by the main station of the same name. It was opened in 1844 and is the most-visited zoo in Europe. During the war the zoo was destroyed and only 91 animals survived – some fairly dangerous ones were wandering around the city and others were killed for food.
The stunning Elephant Gate entrance to the Berlin zoo
There is a second Berlin zoo, the ‘Tierpark’ in Friedrichsfelde, East Berlin. This was originally founded in 1955 as a counterpart to the main zoo which became inaccessible to residents of East Berlin after the Wall was built. At 400 acres it is the largest zoo in Europe and has a safari-type environment. Both the main zoos are open daily.
Pelicans at the Tierpark
At the other end of the scale, closer to the city centre, is the children’s ‘hands-on’ farm zoo ‘Jugendfarm Moritzhof’ in the northern part of the Mauerpark in Prenzlauer Berg. It’s open from 12.00 until 1800 Mondays to Saturdays.
A farm zoo – where the Berlin Wall once divided the city
If the weather isn’t zoo friendly, there are plenty of museums to occupy the younger generation. Several Berlin museums are specifically for children. ‘’MACHmit Museum’, in Prenzlauer Berg, comes highly recommended for younger children. The name means ‘join in’ so lots of hands-on activities here and a journey through the Grimm fairy tales. The ‘Labyrinth Museum’ in Wedding is another inter-active favourite for 3-11 year olds.
The MACHmit and Labyrinth Museums
Some Berlin museums have appeal to both children and adults. The recently-revamped Science Center Spectrum at the ‘Deutsches Technikmuseum’ in Kreuzberg (Museum of Technology) features a whole host of hands-on experiments for all ages that shed light on physics, technology and perception. This museum offers great discounts for families and groups.
Experimental fun at the Science Center
The ‘Story of Berlin’ on Kurfürstendamm, West Berlin, is also an interactive museum with a multi-media show about Berlin’s history. It is open every day of the week and includes a unique guided tour of a nuclear bunker which starts on the hour, every hour. All the texts in the exhibition are in English as well as German and there is a good quiz to keep competitive young minds busy.
Inside the ‘Atombunker’
Young art fans should visit the Children’s Gallery at the Bode Museum on Museum Island. A 6th century ‘building site’ invites children to explore the work processes, materials and historic tools involved in mosaic production. On Sunday afternoons at 3pm there are educational sessions supervised by museum staff and a family programme. The Bode Museum has an excellent cafeteria too.
Making mosaics at the Bode Museum
On the subject of food, the Currywurst Museum near Checkpoint Charlie is a celebration of the legendary Berlin snack. Almost everything in the museum is interactive. You can touch, taste and make a virtual Currywurst. There is a spice chamber with sniffing stations, a sausage sofa to relax on and audio stations in ketchup-bottle shapes with iconic songs about the Currywurst. This museum offers a 20% discount on Mondays when many other museums are closed.
Lots to do at the Currywurst Museum
If you are prepared to venture just outside Berlin and the sun is shining, the Filmpark Babelsberg on the site of the Babelsberg film studios is a must, with plenty of movie-themed rides and attractions. The stunt shows are especially popular. It is open from April until November and to get there on public transport take the S-Bahn line 7 to Babelsberg and then bus 601 or 690 to ‘Filmpark’, or it’s a 15 minute walk from S-Bahn Griebnitzsee, also on line 7. Both these stations are outside Berlin so you need to have an ABC ticket.
A packed audience for the thrills of the stunt show
Finally, there is an evening show in Berlin which is an international and perennial hit – the Blue Man Group at the Bluemax Theatre, Potsdamer Platz. Its mixture of rock concert atmosphere, comedy and technical effects defies description and never fails to enthral the younger generation. Book ahead to avoid disappointment…