15 Berlin Adventures Your Whole Family Will Love
With miles of bike lanes, quirky pop-up museums, a massive hotel boom, and some of the world’s tastiest street food, Berlin is drawing a new breed of traveler: families.
8. DIVE INTO A SPLASHY SWIMMING POOL
If you didn't know better, Berlin might be one of the last places on earth you'd think about taking a dip. But it happens to be a swimmer's paradise—and one for all seasons. In winter, residents have their pick of 37 local Stadtbads (municipal pools), perhaps the most spectacular of which is in the gritty-but-gentrifying Neukölln district (Ganghoferstrasse 3, berlinerbaederbetriebe.de, $5.25). Built in 1914 and expanded in 1999, the Roman-style bathhouse is decked out with marble columns, soaring ceilings and fountains, plus two heated pools and a sauna. Come summer, the crowds shift to the Badeschiff, a swimming pool installed atop an old barge docked on the Spree River (Eichenstrasse 4, arena-berlin.de/badeschiff.aspx, $5.50). It's connected to land by a series of piers, where cocktail bars, a mini-spa, and a "beach" of trucked-in sand spring up each season.
9. SKIP THE LINE AT THE REICHSTAG
No visit to Berlin would be complete without a tour of the Neoclassical Reichstag building, constructed in the late 19th century to house the German parliament before being ravaged by fire, bombed in war, and abandoned as the seat of government in favor of Bonn. Following reunification in 1990, the Reichstag reverted to its original use, its renovations crowned by an iconic glass dome that yields sweeping panoramic views of the city 800 feet below. But entry to the building, while free, comes with a price: punishingly long lines. Avoid the wait by booking afternoon tea at the glass-walled rooftop Käfer Café, adjacent to the dome. After you've called ahead and made a reservation, enter the Reichstag through the handicapped entrance to the right of the building's west portal, then speed straight to the top. Platz der Republik 1, feinkost-kaefer.de, pastries from $1.25.
- BERLIN TRANSIT TIP: GETTING LOST If it seems like there's no address system in Berlin, well, there are two. The city initially opted for horseshoe-style numbering (up one side of a street and back down the other), and shifted in the 1920s to evens on one side, odds on the other. Our best navigation tip? Always ask for the cross streets.
10. MAKE A DAY TRIP OF IT
Nature lovers don't have to leave the city limits to dabble in pastoral pleasures. From the Grünau S-Bahn in southeast Berlin, hop on streetcar No. 68, perhaps Germany's most scenic, and hurtle east through a corridor of green to Alt-Schmöckwitz, a tiny village at the end of the line that's bordered by three lakes (bvg.de, tram $3 each way). Or head west: Two miles from the Brandenburg border, the Waldsee Sculpture Garden is an al fresco arts gold mine (Argentinische Allee 30; hausamwaldsee.de, $9.25). There are works by contemporary German artists such as the late bronze sculptor Karl Hartung (who is getting a solo show this summer), and Ina Weber, who created an interactive mini-golf course outfitted with models of architectural ruins as obstacles. For an instant escape in the heart of the city, look no further than Berlin's newest, and largest, park: 990-acre Tempelhof airport, site of the 1948-49 Allied air lift that supplied food to West Berlin during the Soviet blockade (U-Bahn to Platz der Luftbrücke). Its defunct runways have been repurposed for bicycle races and kite-flying contests, and pick-up baseball games take place on the ramshackle diamonds where U.S. troops once played.
11. HAVE A FOOD-CART FEAST
Hamburgers, falafel, even tacos—Berlin has them all. But for the city's best street food, check out two homegrown fusion dishes concocted decades before the term came into vogue. Currywurst, a sliced pork sausage served with a curry-laced dipping sauce, was first developed to make use of the British food products supplied to West Berlin after World War II. Some of the best in town is available seconds after you arrive: Head to the EsS-Bahn kiosks housed inside picturesque vintage streetcars just outside the main terminals at both Tegel and Schönefeld airports (berlin-airport.de, $4). When you're ready for the next course, make a beeline to Kreuzberg, where the Turkish immigrants who started settling in the area in the 1960s took their native spit-roasted lamb and savory sauces and turned them into the now-iconic döner kebab sandwich. For a twist on that classic, check out the version at Mustafa's: crisp flatbread stacked with delicately spiced chicken and shredded vegetables (Mehringdamm 32, mustafas.de, $4).