We decided to take a trip to Berlin because here in the Middle East there is no Christmas vibe. At least in this country. Last year, being our first year here, we sat in a boring house and tried to make the best of it with a tired looking Christmas tree and some weird shaped lights.
This year we decided that if Christmas wouldn’t come to us….we would go to Christmas.
So we booked a trip to Berlin and included some activities specifically for a little boy because, let’s face it, after you visit 4 Christmas Markets they all start to look alike.
We did a lot of research before we left. There are a plethora of Christmas Markets in Berlin and as an adult you tend to feel you can visit them all. As an adult with a 4 year old…you are going to have to narrow down “all” to “like four”. We read that Gendarmenmarkt was the biggest and best one so on day one we braved the cold and (unexpected) rain and headed out. This was the only one with an entrance fee. It was only €1 each. There was sausage and glühwein galore. We walked through the freezing rain to listen to the choir then strolled through all the stalls admiring the handmade Christmas decorations. After seeing all the other Christmas Markets we went to I can say this wasn’t the best one but it was still worth the visit.
NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM
We had to visit the museum. THEY HAD DINOSAURS, PEOPLE!! I knew my son would lose his mind. The museum tickets were only €8 each which was fantastic. This was one of the few places that had lockers for all the coats and jackets and other stuff that us inexperienced tropical people drowned ourselves in. There are so many exhibits I don’t think we got to see them all. They had animals from all over the world. There was even a huge room filled with preserved animals in jars. They had a section explaining the cosmos where children could lay on the floor and watch a projection on the ceiling. It was truly amazing. Of course, we stopped in the gift store and picked up the usual books and puzzles.
LITTLE BIG CITY
I must say this was the BEST TIME we had in Berlin during our 5 day stay. It’s easy to explain but hard to explain. This place takes you through the entire history of Germany. That’s the easy part. They do it Lilliputian fashion with micro sized displays and mechanical puppetry. They move and are interactive. Your kids (and your inner kid) will go crazy pulling levers, pressing buttons and turning wheels. It’s a surprisingly small space but there is so much to do and see in there you can easily spend 2 hours walking around and looking at all the exhibits. There are airplanes zooming over head, projections on model buildings, an interactive fireworks show and a myriad of other things to entertain and educate. Every inch of this place is covered with something to see. The stand alone tickets were €10 each but they have combo tickets with other attractions if you like.
TIP: Some of the exhibits are knee height so aside from looking up, look down. You might be missing things.
TIP: As you enter you are going to see a stack of rolling grocery baskets. These are for your clothes. We passed them straight and when we got inside we were looking for somewhere to store our clothes. As you enter you can’t go back through to the front area so you are going to be left in all your layers of clothing.
This market was nowhere on our radar. We had planned every market and attraction, I tell you. We were heading to Alexanderplatz but as we exited the Little Big City, we saw a HUGE Ferris wheel. Everybody’s eyes lit up and we ran down those stairs so fast to see what was going on. In the shadows of an Evangelical church and a massive television tower called Berliner Fernsehturm, lay the BEST market we visited. This market won! Food, food and more food! There was a skating rink set up around the Neptune Fountain. It was magical. The lines for the Ferris wheel weren’t as long as you would expect and €22 and about 5 minutes later there you are. Way too high up in a cabin with about 4 other people, marveling at the view. That thing went around like 6 times. It was well worth it. Worth everything!
Every vacation we go on, we try to allow our son a free run in some sort of park. In Barcelona it was Ciutadella Park. In Paris it was the Gardens in the Palace of Versailles. We read about Tiergarten and planned to go. We watched many pictures online but what we forgot was that is was winter. Meaning everything lush and green we saw online was wet, brown and dead when we got there. It was still one of the BEST TIMES we had. There was no-one there. The crowds were at the nearby Brandenburg gate taking pictures. Imaging walking through a place as huge as London’s Hyde Park…all by yourself. The solitary chirping of birds. The cool, crisp wind rustling the brown and orange leaves. It was like an oasis in the middle of chaos.
We walked through Tiergarten on the way to Potsdamer Platz. We were expecting the usual Christmas market. What we got was a few stalls outside a mall. The mall was fantastic though. We ate lunch there then headed outside to see what Potsdamer Platz was about. It wasn’t about anything! There was a Merry-go-round. If you are familiar with our Paris vacation video you will know that we are obsessed about merry-go-rounds now. Yes, I said we. We drank some Eggnog and left.
LABYRINTH KINDERMUSEUM BERLIN
Aside from Little Big City, we were looking for something else a 4 year old would enjoy. We heard about this place and did some research. Even though it says “Museum” in the name its more of a huge play area. Not a play park. No slides and swings. This is a place they crammed full of every puzzle and sensory toy you can think of. I think this place is perfect for children on the Autism spectrum or children in any form of Occupational Therapy. Our son had a blast. We also had a blast. He got to play dress up. There were smell and feel boxes where you put your hand or nose in a dark box to see whats in there. There was a whole mock kitchen, where you get to put on an apron and cook a fake meal. There is a soft play section and a cafe. Every 30 minutes they ring a little bell and might have a parade or sing along or story time. Of course, this was in German so our son didn’t join in. For €6,50 per person you can have a great time.
TIP: Their website is confusing. Their opening times are just as confusing. Make sure you check all this out before you visit.
PLACES WE VISTED…SORTA
Alexanderplatz – We were heading there after Little Big city but found the other Market. We still took a walk to see what it was about. There were a lot of people. It is a huge market outside of an equally huge mall. We ate some of the best food we had in Berlin, drank a ton of Glühwein and rode the Merry-go-round. Of course. I would suggest you skip Potsdamer Place and go Alexanderplatz instead.
Mauerpark Flea market– When we got to Berlin the host of our Airbnb told us about this park that was only open on Sundays. It was only like 20 minutes walk from our Apartment so we decided to check it out. Mauerpark flea market is where all the cool people are. You get a bunch of hand crafted and unique items. Everybody seems to be an artist. It was a really strange vibe. I don’t think people with kids will appreciate this place. If you are looking for unique handmade crafts and jewelry then this is the place for you.
WHERE WE ATE
Akito Sushi Express – Our Apartment was walking distance from this place. The food and service was great. It’s a small shop and the food comes really quickly.
Bistro Grillhaus – This was our favourite place and we ate there many times during our stay. They have middle eastern food. The owners are the most welcoming. It was fantastic and I would highly recommend this place.
So there is it folks. Christmas in Berlin. Who would have thought being rained on in 3º weather would be so much fun. We took the subway and trams everywhere we went. We ate Bretzels stuffed with butter. We rode every Ferris wheel and Merry-go-round. We drank glühwein to our hearts content.
We felt really welcome in Berlin. We were treated well by strangers and those in the stores and shops and markets. We were helped in the subway and the Berliners treasured our son.
We are definitely going back. But maybe when it’s not so cold.