Dangers & Annoyances

Berlin is one of the safest capital cities in the world, but that doesn't mean you should let your guard down.

  • Pickpocketing has dramatically increased, so watch your belongings, especially in tourist-heavy areas, in crowds and at events.
  • Crime levels have risen notably around Kottbusser Tor in Kreuzberg and the RAW Gelände in Friedrichshain. This includes drug dealing, pickpocketing, assault and sexual assault. Exercise caution.
  • Carry enough cash for a cab ride back to wherever you're staying.
  • On the U-Bahn or S-Bahn, and increasingly at outdoor cafes, you'll encounter homeless folks begging or selling street newspapers (called Motz or Strassenfeger). Buskers are also quite common. You're free to give or not.

Scams

  • Beware of tricksters pretending to be police officers, who claim they need to search you for counterfeit money or drugs, then steal your cash and credit cards. Always ask to see their police ID cards.
  • Don't buy from scammers selling used public transport tickets at station exits. Not only is it illegal, but tickets may be forged or expired.

Discount Cards

Berlin Welcome Card (www.berlin-welcomecard.de; travel in AB zones 48/72 hours €19.90/28.90, travel in ABC zones 48/72 hours €22.90/30.90, AB zones 72 hours plus admission to Museumsinsel €45 or €47 for ABC zones. Valid for unlimited public transport for one adult and up to three children under 14; up to 50% discount to 200 sights, attractions and tours; available for up to six days. Sold online, at the tourist offices, from U-Bahn and S-Bahn ticket vending machines, on buses and at BVG sales points.

CityTourCard (www.citytourcard.com; travel in AB zone 48 hours/72 hours/five days €16.90/23.90/33.90, ABC zone €17.90/24.90/37.90) Operates on a similar scheme as the Berlin Welcome Card; it's a bit cheaper, but offers fewer discounts. Available for up to five days from tourist offices, bus drivers and U-Bahn and S-Bahn ticket vending machines.

Museumspass Berlin (adult/concession €29/14.50) Buys admission to the permanent exhibits of about 30 museums for three consecutive days, including big draws like the Pergamonmuseum. Sold at tourist offices and participating museums.

Emergency & Important Numbers

Ambulance112
Fire department112
Germany's country code49
International access code00
Police110

Entry & Exit Formalities

  • EU nationals need only their national identity card or passport to enter Germany. If you intend to stay for an extended period, you must register with the authorities (Bürgeramt, or Citizens' Office) within two weeks of arrival.
  • Citizens of Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, Switzerland and the US are among those who need only a valid passport (no visa) if entering as tourists for a stay of up to three months within a six-month period.
  • Passports must be valid for at least another four months beyond the planned departure date.

Customs Regulations

  • Goods brought in and out of countries within the EU incur no additional taxes provided duty has been paid somewhere within the EU and the goods are only for personal use.
  • Duty-free shopping is only available if you're leaving the EU.

Import Restrictions

alcohol

Duty-Free (arriving from outside EU)

1L spirits or 2L fortified wine and 16L beer and 4L wine (17yr minimum age)

Tax & Duty Paid Within EU

10L spirits, 20L sherry or other fortified wine, 110L beer, 90L wine (with no more than 60L sparkling wine)

tobacco

Duty-Free (arriving from outside EU)

200 cigarettes or 100 cigarillos or 50 cigars or 250g tobacco or a combination thereof (17yr minimum age)

Tax & Duty Paid Within EU

800 cigarettes or 400 cigarillos or 200 cigars or 1kg tobacco

other goods

Duty-Free (arriving from outside EU)

up to a value of €300 if arriving by land or €430 if arriving by sea or air (€175 for those under 15yr)

Tax & Duty Paid Within EU

n/a

Visas

Generally not required for tourist stays of up to 90 days (or at all for EU nationals); some nationalities need a Schengen visa.

Schengen Visa

  • Unless you're an EU national or from a nation without visa requirements, you need a Schengen Visa to enter Germany. Visa applications must be filed with the embassy or consulate of the Schengen country that is your primary destination. It is valid for stays of up to 90 days. Legal permanent residency in any Schengen country makes a visa unnecessary, regardless of your nationality.
  • For full details and current regulations, see www.auswaertiges-amt.de or check with a German consulate in your country.

Etiquette

Although Berlin is fairly informal, there are a few general rules worth keeping in mind when meeting strangers.

  • Greetings Shake hands and say 'Guten Morgen' (before noon), 'Guten Tag' (between noon and 6pm) or 'Guten Abend' (after 6pm). Use the formal 'Sie' (you) with strangers and only switch to the informal 'du' and first names if invited to do so. With friends and children, use first names and 'du'.
  • Asking for help Germans use the same word – Entschuldigung – to say 'excuse me' (to attract attention) and 'sorry' (to apologise).
  • Eating and drinking At the table, say 'Guten Appetit' before digging in. Germans hold the fork in the left hand and the knife in the right hand. To signal that you have finished eating, lay your knife and fork parallel across your plate. If drinking wine, the proper toast is 'Zum Wohl'; with beer it's 'Prost'.

Gay & Lesbian Travellers

Berlin’s legendary liberalism has spawned one of the world’s biggest, most divine and diverse LGBT+ playgrounds. Anything goes in ‘Homopolis’ (and we do mean anything!), from the highbrow to the hands-on, the bourgeois to the bizarre, the mainstream to the flamboyant. Except for the most hard-core places, gay spots get their share of opposite-sex and straight patrons.

Gay in Berlin

Generally speaking, Berlin’s gayscape runs the entire spectrum from mellow cafes, campy bars and cinemas to saunas, cruising areas, clubs with darkrooms and all-out sex venues. In fact, sex and sexuality are entirely everyday matters to the unshockable city folks and there are very few, if any, itches that can’t be quite openly and legally scratched. As elsewhere, gay men have more options for having fun, but grrrrls of all stripes won’t feel left out either.

History

Berlin's emergence as a gay capital has roots in 1897 when sexual scientist Magnus Hirschfeld founded the Scientific Humanitarian Committee, the world's first homosexual advocacy group. Gay life thrived in the wild and wacky 1920s, driven by a demi-monde that drew and inspired writers like Christopher Isherwood, until the Nazis put an end to the fun in 1933. Postwar recovery came slowly, but by the 1970s the scene was firmly re-established, at least in the western city. From 2001 to 2014, Berlin was governed by an openly gay mayor, Klaus Wowereit. To learn more about Berlin's LGBTIQ history, visit the Schwules Museum.

Parties & Clubbing

Berlin's scene is especially fickle and venues and dates may change at any time, so make sure you always check the websites or the listings magazines for the latest scoop. One important alternative queer party space is Südblock (www.suedblock.org) at Kottbusser Tor in Kreuzberg, which is famous for its inclusive programming and diverse clientele.

Long-running gay party places include SchwuZ, Berghain, Lab.oratory and Connection, but there are also lots of regular parties held in various other locations. A selection follows. Unless noted, all are geared towards men.

B:East Party (http://beastparty.com) Monthly party for gays and friends with techno, house and disco, now at Polygon. Last Saturday of the month.

Cafe Fatal All comers descend on SO36 for the ultimate rainbow tea dance, which goes from 'strictly ballroom' to 'dirty dancing' in a flash. If you can't tell a waltz from a foxtrot, come at 7pm for free lessons. Sundays.

Chantals House of Shame (www.facebook.com/ChantalsHouseofShame) Trash diva Chantal's louche lair at Suicide Circus is a beloved institution, not so much for the glam factor as for the over-the-top drag shows and the hotties who love 'em. Thursdays.

CockTail d'Amore (www.facebook.com/cocktaildamoreberlin) Alt-flavoured electro party with indoor and outdoor dancing and partying at Griessmühle. First Saturday of the month.

Gayhane Geared towards gay and lesbian Muslims, but everyone's welcome to rock the kasbah when this 'homoriental' party takes over SO36 with Middle Eastern beats and belly dancing. Last Saturday of the month.

G day (www.facebook.com/GdayBerlin) Long-running gay party with a residency at Suicide Circus with uninhibited indoor and outdoor partying.

Gegen (www.gegenberlin.com) Countercultural party at KitKatClub brings in anti-trendy types for crazy electro and wacky art performances. First Friday, alternate months.

Girls Town (www.girlstown-berlin.de) Suse and Zoe's buzzy girl-fest takes over Gretchen in Kreuzberg with down-and-dirty pop, electro, indie and rock. Second Saturday, alternate months, September to May.

GMF (www.gmf-berlin.de) Berlin's premier techno-house Sunday club, currently at House of Weekend, is known for excessive SM (standing and modelling) with lots of smooth surfaces. Predominantly boyz, but girls are welcome.

Horse Meat Disco (www.horsemeatdiscoberlin) This classic import from the UK does a bi-monthly shout-out to a dance-crazy queer crowd of all stripes. Check website for current location.

Irrenhouse The name means 'insane asylum', and that's no joke. Party hostess with the mostest, trash queen Nina Queer puts on nutty, naughty shows at Kreuzberg's Musik & Frieden, which are not for the faint-of-heart. Expect the best. Fear the worst. Third Saturday of the month.

L-Tunes (www.l-tunes.com) Lesbians get their groove on in the dancing pits of various locations around town, including Spindler & Klatt and Quasimodo. Last Saturday of the month.

Members (www.members-berlin.de) Monthly tech-house party has been running strong since 2013 on Hoppetosse moored in the Spree.

Revolver (www.facebook.com/RevolverPartyGlobal) This London export hosted by Oliver and Gary is a sizzling and sexy party at the KitKatClub with no special dress code required. Second Friday of the month.

Festivals & Events

Easter Berlin One of Europe's biggest fetish fests whips the leather, rubber, skin and military sets out of the dungeons and into the clubs over the long Easter weekend. It culminates with the crowning of the 'German Mr Leather'.

Lesbisch-Schwules Stadtfest The Lesbigay City Festival takes over the Schöneberg rainbow village in June, with bands, food, info booths and partying.

Christopher Street Day Later in June, hundreds of thousands of people of various sexual persuasions paint the town pink with a huge semi-political parade and more queens than a royal wedding.

Lesbischwules Parkfest The gay community takes over the Volkspark Friedrichshain for this delightfully noncommercial festival in August.

Folsom Europe The leather crowd returns in early September for another weekend of kinky partying.

Hustlaball The party year wraps up in October with a weekend of debauched fun in the company of porn stars, go-gos, trash queens, stripping hunks and about 3000 other men who love 'em.

Best Lists

Gay & Lesbian

  • GMF Glamtastic Sunday party with pretty people in stylish and central location.
  • Roses Plush, pink, campy madhouse – an essential late-night stop on a dedicated bar hop.
  • Möbel Olfe Old furniture shop recast as busy drinking den; standing room only on (unofficial) gay Thursdays.
  • Chantals House of Shame Eponymous trash-drag diva's weekly parties run wild and wicked.
  • SchwuZ LGBTIQ club with different parties – great for scene newbies.

Venues by Day of the Week

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

Gay Bars

  • Möbel Olfe Relaxed Kreuzberg joint goes into gay turbodrive on Thursdays; women dominate on Tuesdays.
  • Heile Welt Stylish lounge good for chatting and mingling over cocktails.
  • Himmelreich This '50s retro lounge is a lesbigay-scene stalwart in Friedrichshain.
  • Roses Over-the-top late-night dive with camp factor and strong drinks.
  • Coven Stylish Mitte bar with industrial decor and strong drinks.

Camp

  • Rauschgold Small glitter-glam bar for all-night fun with pop, karaoke and drag shows.
  • Roses This pink-fur-walled kitsch institution is an unmissable late-night fuelling stop.
  • Zum Schmutzigen Hobby Fabulously wacky party pen in a former fire station.

Lesbian Bars & Partys

  • Himmelreich Women's Lounge on Tuesday brings cool chicks to this comfy Friedrichshain bar.
  • Möbel Olfe Pop, disco and rock music get lesbians and their friends into party mood on Tuesday.
  • L-Tunes (www.l-tunes.com) Flirting, dancing and making out at legendary SchwuZ on the last Saturday of the month.

Sex Clubs

  • Lab.oratory Fetish-oriented experimental play zone in industrial setting below Berghain.
  • Greifbar Friendly cruising bar in Prenzlauer Berg with video, darkroom and private areas.
  • Connection Club Legendary dance club in Schöneberg with Berlin's largest cruising labyrinth.

By Neighbourhood

  • Museumsinsel & Alexanderplatz GMF, the best gay Sunday party, currently has a residency at House of Weekend.
  • Scheunenviertel Gets a mixed crowd, but its trendy bars and cafes (especially near Hackescher Markt and on Torstrasse) also draw a sizeable contingent of gay customers.
  • Kreuzberg & Neukölln Hipster central. Things are comparatively subdued in the bars and cafes along main-strip Mehringdamm. Around Kottbusser Tor and along Oranienstrasse the crowd skews younger, wilder and more alternative, and key venues stay open till sunrise and beyond. For a DIY subcultural vibe, head across the canal to Neukölln.
  • Friedrichshain This area is thin on gay bars but is still a de rigueur stop on the gay nightlife circuit thanks to clubs like Berghain, the hands-on Lab.oratory, Suicide Circus and ://about blank.
  • Prenzlauer Berg East Berlin's pink hub before the fall of the Wall has a few surviving bar relics as well as a couple of popular cruising dens and fun stations for the fetish set, mostly around the Schönhauser Allee S-/U-Bahn station.
  • Schöneberg The area around Nollendorfplatz (Motzstrasse and Fuggerstrasse especially) has been a gay beacon since the 1920s. Institutions like Heile Welt, Tom's, Connection and Hafen pull in the punters night after night, and there's also plenty of nocturnal action for the leather and fetish set.

Need to Know

Tours

  • Queer Berlin Long-running tour company Original Berlin Walks taps into the city's LGBTIQ legacy on tours through Kreuzberg and Schöneberg.
  • Berlinagenten Customised gay-lifestyle tours (nightlife, shopping, luxury, history, culinary).
  • Lügentour (www.luegentour.de) An interactive and humorous walking tour takes you back to the lesbigay scene in 1920s Schöneberg; alas, in German only.
  • Schröder Reisen Comedy Bus (www.comedy-im-bus.de) Outrageous comedy bus tours led by trash drag royalty Edith Schröder (aka Ades Zabel) and friends.

Magazines

  • Blu (www.blu.fm) Online and freebie print magazine with searchable, up-to-the-minute location and event listings.
  • L-Mag (www.l-mag.de) Bimonthly magazine for lesbians.
  • Siegessäule (www.siegessaeule.de) Free weekly lesbigay 'bible'.

Websites

  • Gay Berlin4u (www.gayberlin4u.com) Covers all aspects of Berlin's gay scene, in English.
  • GayCities Berlin (https://berlin.gaycities.com) Berlin edition of the worldwide guide offers a basic overview of the scene, in English.
  • Patroc Gay Guide (www.patroc.de/berlin) Focuses on events but also has some info on venues; in German.

Resources

Insurance

  • Comprehensive travel insurance to cover theft, loss and medical problems is highly recommended. If you already have a homeowner's or renter's policy, check what – if anything – it will cover and only get insurance to protect against the rest.
  • Make sure that the policy covers ambulance costs and an emergency flight home.
  • Before you leave, find out if your insurance plan makes payments directly to providers or reimburses you for health expenditures. If you have a claim, be sure to keep all necessary documents and bills.
  • Paying for your airline tickets with a credit card sometimes provides limited travel accident insurance – ask your credit card company what it is prepared to cover.
  • Worldwide travel insurance is available at www.lonelyplanet.com/travel-insurance. You can buy, extend and claim online any time – even if you’re already on the road.

Checking insurance quotes…

Internet Access

  • Free public wi-fi is available at 650 access points throughout the city. Locations include public squares, landmarks like the Brandenburger Tor, libraries and town halls. See www.berlin.de/stadtplan/w-lan-hotspots for a map.
  • Almost without exception, free wi-fi access (W-LAN in Germany; pronounced vay-lan) is available at hotels, hostels and guesthouses.
  • In some accommodation wi-fi may be limited to some rooms and/or public areas; if you need in-room access, be sure to specify at the time of booking.
  • Many cafes, bars and even bakeries and boutiques have free wi-fi hotspots, although you usually need to ask for a password.
  • Internet cafes have pretty much gone the way of the dodo. If you need one, ask at your hotel.

Media

  • Newspapers Widely read local dailies are Tagesspiegel, Berliner Zeitung, Berliner Morgenpost and taz.
  • Magazines Zitty and Tip are the main listings magazines for Berlin. Siegessäule is a freebie for the LGBTIQ community.
  • Radio & TV Radio 1 (95.8 FM) and Flux FM (00.6 FM) are popular radio channels. For local TV news, tune into RBB station.

Money

ATMs widespread. Cash is king; credit card acceptance is growing, but don't count on it.

ATMs & Debit Cards

  • ATMs (Geldautomat) are the best and easiest way to get cash. Most are accessible 24/7 and are linked to international networks such as Cirrus, Plus, Star and Maestro.
  • ATMs not affiliated with major banks may charge higher transaction fees (€5 or more). ATMs do not recognise pins with more than four digits.
  • Since many ATM cards double as debit cards, they can often be used for payment in shops, hotels, restaurants and other businesses, especially MasterCard and Visa cards.
  • Most Germans use a debit card known as an EC Card. Foreign debit cards are not always accepted.
  • Most places use the ‘chip and pin’ system: instead of signing, you enter your PIN. If your card isn’t chip-and-pin enabled, you may be able to sign the receipt, but not always – ask first.

Cash

Cash is king in Germany, so always carry some with you and plan to pay in cash in most places. It's a good idea to set aside a small amount of euros as an emergency stash.

Changing Money

Currency exchange offices (Wechselstuben) can be found at airports and major train stations. They usually have better hours and charge lower fees than commercial banks. Some convenient offices:

  • Reisebank (www.reisebank.de) Zoologischer Garten, Hauptbahnhof, Ostbahnhof and Bahnhof Friedrichstrasse.
  • Euro-Change (www.euro-change.de) Alexanderplatz station; Europa Centr, Friedrichstrasse 80.

Reisebank keeps slightly longer hours; on Sundays, the airports are your only option.

Credit Cards

  • Credit cards are becoming more widely accepted (especially in hotels and upmarket shops and restaurants), but it’s best not to assume that you’ll be able to use one – enquire first.
  • Visa and MasterCard are more commonly accepted than American Express and Diner's Club.
  • Some places require a minimum purchase with credit card use.
  • Cash advances on credit cards via ATMs usually incur steep fees – check with your card issuer.

Tipping

It's considered rude to leave the tip on the table. Instead, tell the server the total amount you want to pay. If you don't want change back, say 'Stimmt so' (that's fine).

  • Hotels Room cleaners €1 to €2 per day, porters the same per bag.
  • Restaurants For good service 10% or more.
  • Bars & pubs 5% to 10% for table service, rounded to the nearest euro, no tip for self-service.
  • Taxis 10%, always rounding to a full euro.
  • Toilet attendants €0.50.

Opening Hours

The following are typical opening hours, although these may vary seasonally and by location (city centre or the suburbs).

Banks 9.30am–6pm Monday–Friday, some to 1pm Saturday

Bars 7pm–1am or later

Boutiques 11am–7pm Monday–Friday, to 6pm Saturday

Cafes 8am–8pm

Clubs 11pm–5am or later

Post Offices 9am–6pm Monday–Friday, to 1pm Saturday

Restaurants 11am–11pm

Shops 10am–8pm Monday–Saturday

Supermarkets 8am–8pm or later; some 24 hours

Post

  • You can buy stamps at post offices and at convenience stores offering postal services. The rate for standard-sized letters up to 20g is €0.70 to destinations within Germany and €0.90 elsewhere in the world. For other rates, see www.deutschepost.de.
  • Mail takes a day or two within Germany, two or three within Europe, and three or four to the USA and Australia.
  • Full-service post offices are a dying breed as small shops and kiosks now sell stamps and handle shipping services. Look for the yellow post logo.
  • Central post office branches with late hours can be found in Charlottenburg and near Alexanderplatz.

Public Holidays

Shops, banks and public and private offices are closed on the following nationwide gesetzliche Feiertage (public holidays):

Neujahrstag (New Year’s Day) 1 January

Ostern (Easter) March/April; Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Easter Monday

Christi Himmelfahrt (Ascension Day) Forty days after Easter, always on a Thursday

Maifeiertag (Labour Day) 1 May

Pfingsten (Whitsun/Pentecost Sunday and Monday) May/June

Tag der Deutschen Einheit (Day of German Unity) 3 October

Weihnachtstag (Christmas Day) 25 December

Zweiter Weihnachtstag (Boxing Day) 26 December

Smoking

  • Except in designated areas, smoking (including e-cigarettes) is not allowed in public buildings or at airports and train stations.
  • Smoking is not allowed in restaurants, bars and clubs unless there is a completely separate and enclosed room set aside for smokers. This rule is often ignored.
  • Owners of single-room bars and pubs smaller than 75 sq metres, who don’t serve anything to eat and keep out customers under 18 years of age, may choose to be a 'Raucherbar', ie allow smoking. The venue must be clearly designated as such.
  • Shisha bars may operate as long as no alcohol is available and no one under 18 is allowed in.

Taxes & Refunds

Value-added tax (VAT, Mehrwertsteuer) is a 19% sales tax levied on most goods. The rate for food, books and services is usually 7%. VAT is always included in the price. If your permanent residence is outside the EU, you may be able to partially claim back the VAT you paid on purchased goods.

Telephone

  • Mobile phones (Handys) work on GSM900/1800. If your home country uses a different standard, you’ll need a multiband GSM phone in Germany. Check your contract for roaming charges.
  • If you have an unlocked phone that works in Germany, you should be able to cut down on roaming charges by buying a prepaid, rechargeable local SIM card. These are sold at supermarkets, pharmacies, convenience stores and electronics shops and can be topped up as needed.
  • Calls made from landlines to German mobile phone numbers are charged at higher rates than those to other landlines. Incoming calls on mobile numbers are free.

Mobile Phones

  • Mobile phones operate on GSM900/1800.
  • Local SIM cards can be used in unlocked European and Australian phones.
  • US multiband phones also work in Germany.

Phone Codes

German phone numbers consist of an area code, starting with 0, and the local number. The area code for Berlin is 030. When dialling a Berlin number from a Berlin-based landline, you don’t need to dial the area code. When you're using a landline outside Berlin, or a mobile phone, you must dial it.

German mobile numbers begin with a four-digit prefix such 0151, 0157 or 0173.

Calling Berlin from abroad Dial your country’s international access code, then 49 (Germany’s country code), then the area code (dropping the initial 0, so just 30) and the local number.

Calling internationally from Berlin Dial 00 (the international access code), then the country code, the area code (without the zero if there is one) and the local number.

Time

Clocks in Germany are set to central European time (GMT/UTC plus one hour). Daylight-savings time kicks in on the last Sunday in March and ends on the last Sunday in October. The 24-hour clock is the norm (eg 6.30pm is 18.30). As daylight-savings time differs across regions, the following times are indicative only:

Auckland

Noon in Berlin

11pm

Cape Town

Noon in Berlin

1pm

London

Noon in Berlin

11am

New York

Noon in Berlin

6am

San Francisco

Noon in Berlin

3am

Sydney

Noon in Berlin

9pm

Tokyo

Noon in Berlin

8pm

Toilets

  • German toilets are sit-down affairs; it is customary for men to sit when peeing.
  • Free-standing, 24-hour self-cleaning public toilet pods have become quite commonplace. The cost is €0.50 and you have 15 minutes to finish your business. Most are wheelchair-accessible.
  • Toilets in malls, clubs, beer gardens etc often have an attendant who expects a tip of around €0.50.

Tourist Information

Visit Berlin (www.visitberlin.de) has branches at the airports, the main train station, the Brandenburg Gate, Alexanderplatz, the Central Bus Station (ZOB) and on Kurfürstendamm, plus a call centre for information and bookings.

More Information

Visit Berlin (www.visitberlin.de), the Berlin tourist board, operates five walk-in offices, info desks at the airports, and a call centre whose multilingual staff field general questions and make hotel and ticket bookings.

Alexanderplatz

Brandenburger Tor

Central Bus Station (ZOB)

Europa-Center

Hauptbahnhof

Travel with Children

Travelling to Berlin with kids can be child's play, especially if you keep a light schedule and involve them in day-to-day planning. There's plenty to do to keep youngsters occupied, from zoos to kid-oriented museums. Parks and imaginative playgrounds abound in all neighbourhoods, as do public pools.

Museums

  • Museum für Naturkunde

Meet giant dinosaurs, travel through space back to the beginning of time and find out why zebras are striped in the eye-opening Museum of Natural History.

  • Science Center Spectrum

Toddlers to teens get to play with, experience and learn about such things as balance, weight, water, air and electricity by pushing buttons, pulling levers and otherwise engaging in dozens of hands-on science experiments.

  • Deutsches Technikmuseum

Next to the Science Center Spectrum, the collection at the German Museum of Technology is so vast, it is best to concentrate time and energy on two or three sections that interest your tech-loving kids the most. The one-hour kid-geared audioguide tour provides a good introduction.

  • Madame Tussauds

Kids of any age are all smiles when posing with the waxen likeness of their favourite pop star or celluloid celebrity.

  • Legoland Discovery Centre

The milk-tooth set delights in this Lego wonderland with rides, entertainment and interactive stations.

  • Computerspielemuseum

Teens can get their kicks in this universe of computer games – from Pac-Man to World of Warcraft.

  • Mauermuseum

Teenagers with an interest in history and a decent attention span may enjoy the ingenious homemade contraptions used to escape from East Germany.

  • Labyrinth Kindermuseum

Slip into a fantasy world while learning about tolerance, working together and just having fun at this interactive space.

Parks, Pools & Playgrounds

  • Park am Gleisdreieck

This family-friendly park is packed with fun zones including adventure playgrounds, basketball courts, a huge skate park and a nature garden.

  • Kollwitzplatz

This square sports three playgrounds for different age groups, including one with giant wooden toys. All get busy in the afternoon and on weekends. Cafes and ice-cream parlours are just a hop, skip and jump away.

  • Kinderbad Monbijou

Keep cool on hot days splashing about this family-friendly public pool in the Scheunenviertel.

  • Volkspark Friedrichshain

Play in the ‘Indian Village’, gather your pirate mateys on the boat in the ‘harbour’ or find your favourite fairy-tale characters at the enchanting Märchenbrunnen (fountain of fairy tales) at this park.

Animals

  • Zoo Berlin

If the 20,000 furry, feathered and finned friends fail to enchant the little ones, there's also the enormous adventure playground.

  • Tierpark Berlin

Expect plenty of ooh and aah moments when kids watch baby elephants at play or see lions and tigers being fed at this vast animal park.

  • Sealife Berlin

At Sealife, little ones get to press their noses against dozens of fish-filled tanks, solve puzzles and admire starfish and sea anemones up close.

  • Domäne Dahlem

Kids can interact with their favourite barnyard animals, help collect eggs, harvest potatoes or just generally watch daily farm life unfold at this fun working farm.

  • Jugendfarm Moritzhof

A farm playground for kids complete with barnyard animals and courses in basketweaving, forging, felting and other old-timey crafts.

Eating Out with Kids

It's fine to eat out as a family any time of the day, especially in cafes, bistros and pizzerias. Many offer a limited Kindermenü (children's menu) or Kinderteller (children's dishes) to meet small appetite requirements. If they don't, most places will be happy to serve half-size portions or prepare a simple meal. Popular dishes include schnitzel, Pommes mit Ketchup or Mayonnaise (fries with ketchup or mayo), Nudeln mit Tomatensosse (noodles with tomato sauce) and Fischstäbchen (fish sticks).

Large malls have food courts while larger department stores feature self-service cafeterias. Farmers markets have food stalls selling kid-friendly snacks. Bakeries selling scrumptious cakes and sandwiches are plentiful. The most popular snacks-on-the-run are bratwurst in a bun or Döner Kebab (sliced meat tucked into a pitta pocket with salad and sauce).

Baby food, infant formula, soya and cow’s milk, disposable nappies (diapers) and the like are widely available in supermarkets and chemists (drugstores).

Need to Know

  • Public transport Children under six travel free and those between six and 14 pay the reduced (ermässigt) fare.
  • Admission fees Many museums, monuments and attractions are free to anyone under age 18, but the cut-off might also be age 12 or 14.

Travellers with Disabilities

Berlin has made major improvements when it comes to the needs of the mobility-impaired, the wheelchair-bound, blind or partially sighted visitors and people with hearing impairments. The Visit Berlin tourist office has compiled an excellent detailed accessibility online guide at www.visitberlin.de/en/accessible-berlin.

  • Access ramps and/or lifts are available in many public buildings, including train stations, museums, concert halls and cinemas. Newer hotels have lifts and rooms with extra-wide doors and spacious bathrooms. For a databank assessing the accessibility of cafes, restaurants, hotels, theatres and other public spaces (in German), check with Mobidat (www.mobidat.de).
  • Most buses, trains and trams are wheelchair-accessible and many U-Bahn and S-Bahn stations are equipped with ramps or lifts. For trip-planning assistance, contact the BVG (030-194 49; www.bvg.de), Berlin's main public transport company. Many stations also have grooved platforms to assist blind and vision-impaired passengers. Seeing-eye dogs are allowed everywhere. Hearing-impaired passengers can check upcoming station names on displays installed in all forms of public transport.
  • Rollstuhlvermietung provides 24-hour wheelchair repairs and rentals.
  • Download Lonely Planet's free Accessible Travel guide from http://lptravel.to/AccessibleTravel.

Volunteering

Berlin offers numerous opportunities to lend a helping hand and effect social change in ways large and small, short term or long term. In many cases no, or only basic, German skills are required.

Conversation Corps (www.geovisions.org/program/teach-english-germany) Volunteer 15 hours a week to teach a German family English in exchange for free room and board.

Give Something Back to Berlin (www.gsbtb.org) This award-winning outfit is a project platform and network that brings together expats and refugees in such projects as a cooking group, an art shelter, a music school and community yoga.

Vostel (https://vostel.de) Connects volunteers with social, ecological and cultural projects in and around Berlin, such as working in refugee shelters, clothing banks for the homeless or a restaurant fighting food waste.

Youvo (www.youvo.org) Provides opportunities for creative types to volunteer their skills to create logos, videos, websites etc for social projects.

Weights & Measures

  • Weights & Measures Germany uses the metric system.

Women Travellers

Berlin is remarkably safe for women travellers to explore. Simply use the same common sense you would at home.

  • Going alone to cafes, restaurants and clubs is perfectly acceptable.
  • It's quite normal to split dinner bills, even on dates.
  • If assaulted, call the police (110). For help in dealing with the emotional and physical trauma associated with an attack, contact the Women’s Crisis Hotline.

Work

Non-EU citizens cannot work legally in Germany without a residence permit (Aufenthaltserlaubnis) and a work permit (Arbeitserlaubnis). EU citizens don’t need a work permit but they must have a residence permit, although obtaining one is a mere formality. Since regulations change from time to time, it’s best to contact the German embassy in your country for the latest information.

Citizens of Australia, New Zealand and Canada aged between 18 and 30 may apply for a working holiday visa, entitling them to work in Germany for up to 90 days in a 12-month period. Contact the German embassies in those countries for details.