Hey! We went to Berlin! Hey! We really liked it! Hey! Hey!
I normally give you the High Fives and Low Blows all in one ginormous bite. But, Berlin is BIG, and we enjoyed so much of it, I really absolutely positively must banana split it up.
The following is a rundown of the things we did and loved. Disclaimer: This list is not comprehensive. We were only able to stay five days which is definitely not enough time to experience all that the city has to offer. If you’re hitting up Berlin yourself, I’d highly recommend a guidebook supplemented by your own research on specific places you want to explore. Berlin has something for everyone.
In no particular order…
Zoologischer Garten (aka The Berlin Zoo)
I visited the zoo with the boys minus Doc Sci since he had some high falootin’ conference to attend. Bore! Unfortunately, our visit came at the end of a real stinker of a day that featured on again, off again rain. We also ended up only having 1 1/2 hours at the zoo before the animal houses closed and 2 1/2 hours before the park itself closed. Ugh.
I read somewhere that this zoo has the biggest number of species of any zoo in the world. I believe it! Except for the expert escape artists (i.e., monkeys), most animals have homes that are really open to visitors. We were able to see so many of the creatures up close. The hippo tank is one of the best. Thank goodness for the glass though; it was the only thing separating us and a defecating Flusspferd. That’s an experience I won’t soon forget.
Even for a non-zoo kinda gal, I thought a visit here was worth the price of admission (9,75 euro for me with Berlin Welcome Card – children under 5 free). The playground is great, and a family could easily spend an entire day here. If you go, don’t miss the lions!
I wouldn’t normally think a series of interconnected courtyards would make my “to do” list in a new city. But, on a tip from some friends here, I squeezed in a 30-minute visit. Wow, what charm! After dark, the courtyards light up and people flock to small restaurants, shops, and galleries.
If you can ditch the kids for a night and get a date in Berlin, go here! If you can’t, bring the whippersnappers along anyway. There’s a tiny playground in one of the courtyards and a lit fountain in another. If you’re a fan of the Ampelmann, you can find a store here.
Ritter Sport Store
If you haven’t tried Ritter Sport chocolate, you’re missing out! This German favorite is square, practical, and good just like their slogan says.
At the Berlin store, you can actually make your own! For the ridiculous price of 3,90 euro you can select milk or dark chocolate, any number of toppings, and watch as it’s turned into the classic Ritter Sport shape (100 grams). We skipped this since it takes 30 minutes, and we were fine with the many flavors available for only 79 cents (also 100 grams).
Along with all the delectable delights in the store, The Ritter Sport haven also boasts two cafes selling yummy treats like muffins/cupcakes made with their chocolate and a teensy weensy exhibit on how chocolate is made. It’s also possible to arrange a chocolate-making party in the basement!
I found myself disappointed with at least half of the playgrounds we visited in Berlin. Graffiti is a reality in any big city (and even our smaller one). But for some reason, here it just seemed trashy. I was pleasantly surprised when we visited Kollwitzplatz on our last morning. The square has three playgrounds all in a row. I even met an American mom who gave me a tip on where to find the best bread rolls in the neighborhood.
Berlin offers many opportunities to catch a view from above the city. This one is free! In order to visit the German Parliament building, you must make a reservation via email. I was given a time that did not work (we were still on the train), but we went anyway later in the day and were allowed entry. You must pass through metal detectors and all bags are screened. After this, visitors take an elevator to the top and are given free audio tour headsets for the walk up to the top of the dome. I pushed our Phil & Teds all the way to the top, so it’s no problem for prams. There is a cafe at the base of the dome, but we did not try it. Duh – we bring our own snacks around here.
West Side Gallery
What’s left of the Berlin Wall (in place – not scattered throughout the town) can be viewed at the West Side Gallery. Both Doc Sci and I expected it to be much smaller in length. Screech was bored, but T-Rex liked going to every sign and “reading” it (they all said the same thing – ha). We tried to imagine what it was like to want to escape over the wall. Such a history this place has.
During my trip research, I came across this website. Wow, what unique recommendations! I took lots of notes and tried to fit in as many as possible. One of the highlighted neighborhoods for a nice walk was the area around Bergmannstraße. We visited on a Sunday afternoon so tons of families were outside laughing, running around, and downing ice cream. Loads of charm, for sure.
This little guy is the character on every pedestrian crosswalk sign. He must be pretty famous because he’s got several stores selling overpriced stuff with him on it. He’s even got a girlfriend that shows up on some t-shirts and other merchandise. Though I wasn’t about to shell out 18 euros for a kids t-shirt, I did find a few more reasonably priced items sporting the dude.
Fassbender & Rausch
Another chocolate shop? Yes! And, it’s not too far from the Ritter Sport store either. It’s an uppity place, but it’s worth a visit to see the giant chocolate sculptures of the Brandenburger Tor, the Fernseherturm (TV Tower), Reichstag. We almost didn’t believe these items were actually made of chocolate. It’s expensive for sure, but looking around is free.
Mercedes Benz Gallery – Unter den Linden
I didn’t intend on visiting this place, but T-Rex ran in to see the cars. The visit went from good to great when the woman keeping watch invited him to come behind the roped off area and sit in one of the cars for a picture! She quickly regretted this though when he started trying to actually drive it!
I ran through part of the Charlottenburg Gardens on my 22-mile marathon training run (brutal!). I wanted to return, so we wedged in a quick visit before Doc Sci’s conference started on Monday morning. It takes at least 30 minutes to get there via public transport from the city center and another 10-15 to walk from the S-bahn stop. But, the grounds are beautiful and free, so definitely make a stop at this old palace up if you have the time.
Headed to Berlin? Find more posts about this awesome German city here.