Half the fun of travel is exploring, but if this is your first time visiting Berlin with kids then this simple task might just seem totally overwhelming. Berlin is geographically nine times the size of Paris and has 12 districts. Enjoying all the historical buildings and attractions is one thing, but this Berlin guide is about finding the hidden gems in each neighborhood and exploring like a local.
We are a mum (Anna) and son (Oscar) travel family and we recently decided to make Berlin our base. We slow travel which means we spend a minimum of 2 months in each country and sometimes more. We have been using Berlin as a base for our European adventures for the last six months and we have already lived in four very different but equally fun packed and child-friendly neighborhoods.
Overall Berlin with kids is a breeze compared to other big cities. Public transport is free for kids under the age of six and extremely stroller, buggy, pram friendly. Buses, trams, and subway cars have designated buggy entrances and parking spots. The city’s U-Bahn (subway or underground) stations have lifts (elevators) which actually work (hurray!). The city is crammed full of children’s playgrounds, child-friendly cafes and restaurants and more importantly other kids and parents.
Now let’s get to it. It was hard to decide which “Kiez” (local term for neighborhood) to talk about first but I’m so obsessed with this spot and keep coming back so I wanted to share.
Berlin’s long been known as the creative and liberal heart of Germany and the Neukölln Schillerkiez neighborhood is no different. David Bowie even name-checked it (with one L though) on his 1977 “Heroes” album.
Getting off at Boddinstraße U-Bahn station you are immediately greeted by the rich cultural diversity of the area often referred to as “Little Beirut”. Hermannstraße is filled with moms and shops selling everything from fruit, vegetables, and clothing to Nuts & Co, yes you read that correctly. This sweet smelling densely packed store is filled with, you guessed it, nuts. Not just any nuts but nougat and Turkish delights and baklava and all manner of Turkish, Arabic and Ottoman delights. It’s hard to leave empty handed!
With sweets in hand what you will need next is coffee. I like my caffeine fixes to be not more than 4 blocks apart and Neukölln is perfect for a coffee tour. My three favorites are the people watching mecca of Café Treibholz just South of Nuts & Co (their vegan soups are not to be missed), the neighborhood favorite Lux Café and No 58 Speiserei for its lemon cake and brownies, I mean coffee.
No. 58 is located on Weisestraße which you should walk down very slowly in case you miss two hidden treasures. “Jäger & Sammler” is an incredible bow and arrow workshop and shop stocking not only archery equipment but other projectiles and flying objects like boomerangs and kites. There is a lot of passion and craftsmanship in this tiny space and some great stories if you have the time to get involved. My other Weisestraße treasure is the “English Traders”, for you guessed it all things, British. Tea towels and teapots and more lovingly crafted British goods line the walls of this tiny little Aladdin’s cave. Sometimes it’s nice to have a little taste of home on your travels too.
Take a right turn onto Herrfurthstraße home to one of the hottest burger joints in town. Burgers are big news in Berlin at the moment and if you want to start discussing burger bars like an expert Schiller Burger is a great place to start. I go for “The Pledge” every time and yes I have been sucked in more than once, it’s that tasty, 6.50 € of locally sourced meat (or vegetables), served on a fresh homemade bun of goodness.
The next junction just past Lux Café brings you to Schiller Promenade with its fine 1900’s architecture and a market that has been running since 1906. Although its small these days selling mainly food I love the neighborhood feel and Landsmanns. Every hood needs a Landsmanns. I don’t know why, but it always makes me think of a pirates cave, maybe it’s all the barrels or all the whisky. Either way, if you like a drink, take your whisky seriously and want an expert opinion on German wines Landsmanns is the spot.
All that food, coffee, cake and booze! Time for some great outdoors and healthy pursuits. Neukölln has numerous parks but most people will name check Tempelhofer Feld and Hasenheide. The former Tempelhofer Airport is now a giant public park. Perfect for flying your newly purchased kite, cycling, running, playing ball games, skating and more. The park has a regular list of events too which are worth checking out. Local community groups have constructed a series of urban gardens here and Oscar and I love exploring especially the imaginative playhouses built from scrap.
Hasenheide is more a traditional park in the sense that it has trees and play areas and a rose garden but in the true local bohemian spirit it also has an outdoor cinema. We haven’t had the chance to visit it yet so we hope to meet you there soon.
If you still have some energy then join us for some retail therapy, this is my guilty pleasure. When you slow travel you have to rethink everything you own because it either comes with or it stays. I have gone from being a consumer of everything to consuming virtually nothing. What I am passionate about is shopping locally. Here are my top two locally owned and run stores.
Süssstoff (sweet stuff!) is an organic, fair trade and vegan store but forget what this used to mean. There take on modern upcycling and fair trade sourcing is really cool. Check out these superb Berlin souvenirs. Beats a mug!
Last but not least Bohazel is owned by a globetrotting nomad duo Desiree and Chris, they source concolorful and beautiful textiles from around the globe handpicked by themselves. I could pick out a bunch of things myself here but the rush of colors and textures makes me smile every time so for now that’s good enough!
I hope you enjoyed our little tour of Schillerkiez. We will be back with another installment very soon.