History. I’ve never visited a place that so directly and gracefully addresses the most tragic parts of its history more than Berlin. Pictured right above is the heartbreaking Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. The name alone stirs up the still raw emotions from World War II. If you look down while walking around Berlin, you may notice a strip of cobblestones running through the streets and sidewalks to mark where the Berlin Wall once divided the city. You can learn more about those who tried to escape over the Wall or died tunneling underneath it by walking the miles-long Berlin Wall Memorial. Also, be sure to reserve a spot on the Reichstag Building tour to better understand Hitler’s bloody start on his rise to power.
Neighborhoods. Since the city was divided into U.S., French, British and Soviet quarters for more than 40 years, you will find wildly different architecture from block to block. Some of it is downright ugly, but all of it has a story. When you do come across centuries-old buildings, they are frequently scarred with bullet holes or left bombed-out to remind Berliners of WWII (like the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church pictured below).
Child-friendly. Hands down, Berlin is the most child-friendly city I’ve ever visited. In five days we ate at four restaurants with dedicated child play spaces, which felt like going out to dinner with a babysitter. I recommend the romantic, lakeside Cafe am Nueun See where I had my first plate of white asparagus, the youthful, modern BRLO Brwhaus where you can pretend you’re at the beach and the hipster street food festival held each Thursday at the Markthalle Neun. (Here are 10 more ideas). Each playground we came across was completely over-the-top — sparking wonder in all of us. (Here’s a guide to some of the best). Definitely visit the Berlin Zoo, which is a magical wonderland nestled in the leafy Tiergarten.
Also, Berliners are child-friendly! The wait staff at every restaurant charmed our toddler and he was approached by no fewer than four grandfatherly Berliners who sang German nursery rhymes to him. It was truly sweet. My only piece of advice would be to visit Berlin with children between May and October when you can get the most out of the warm weather.
International. It would be hard to miss the fantastic diversity walking around Berlin — from different ages to ethnicities, religions and lifestyles — Berlin seems to welcome everyone. I made friends with a Chilean while shopping who said he moved to Berlin where he could live as an openly gay man. Berlin is also home to the largest Turkish population outside of Turkey, so you must try some of their cuisine while there (here are some recommendations). I found Berlin’s wild diversity a breath of fresh air.
Affordable. Granted, I live in the world’s most expensive country, but I was bowled over by the affordable prices in Berlin. We lived like kings. There are delicious cafes and food trucks throughout the city for inexpensive bites, many museums are free and the fantastic public transportation is only 7 euros for a day pass. We had a delicious sit-down dinner for two one night that cost merely $10! Berlin has all of the culture and vibrancy of Paris with the prices of a more Eastern European city like Warsaw.
Have you visited Berlin? What would you recommend? You could get by on schnitzel, beer and polka music the whole time or you taste what this century’s Berlin has to offer — which seems to be a little bit of everything.