404 Travel Turtle Family Travel Blog

Breakfast while traveling

B

Welcome back to Day 2 of the A to Z Challenge, also known as Day B.

One of the first scenes in the television show Arrested Development has Michael asking his son, George Michael, “what’s the most important thing?”

And at the same time they say “Breakfast”/”family”.

At which point George Michael mumbles that he thought he was asking what the most important meal of the day is.

I love Arrested Development.

When I travel, I love having a good breakfast.

Here are some random observations about breakfasts while on vacation.

  • If possible, pick a hotel that offers breakfast with the price. We’ve had the unfortunate luck of having centrally located hotels that were nowhere near open breakfast spots when my kids woke up hungry at 6:30 am. Most hotel breakfasts start at 7:00. (And the reason I say that breakfast should be included is because finding out the hotel breakfast will set you back 20 Euros per person is never a fun experience.)
  • In one of the upcoming letters, I’ll likely talk about booking accommodations. One thing that has saved us an incredible amount of money is having a Hilton rewards card. With our club status, we are able to get free breakfasts (and wi-fi). Both of which are not too common in European hotels. (For the record, we weren’t as big of a fan of the free Hilton breakfasts at the hotels we stayed at in the US.)
  • It is often suggested that families rent apartments while on vacation. This gives them access to a kitchen making breakfast preparation and eating easy. You don’t have to change into decent clothes. This is a good idea, too. However, take a day out of your schedule and eat out. See (or better yet, taste) what the locals are eating. Breakfast is not cereal, pancakes, and bacon all over.
  • One of the best places to experience local breakfast is a Sunday brunch. Especially in Germany, you’ll find many brunch restaurants with a staffed play area for kids. Win and win.

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Airplanes with small children

Thanks to my friend DJ at Dream Euro Trip, I have decided to participate in this year’s A to Z challenge.

Today is brought to you by the letter A.

A

Airplanes and small children

As a mom who not only loves to travel with her clan, but also actively encourages others to do the same, the topic of flying with kids is one that is close to my heart. 

Many parents dread flying. We typically have no experience bringing our kids into an enclosed space with a bunch of strangers, limited in what we can bring to satisfy our kids, while depending on variables out of our control.

Sounds like fun a situation. Add the grief of knowing that most people around you have already decided that your children will ruin their flight, and I can see why more parents simply don’t want to do it.

If you are a parent traveling with a small child, ignore anyone around you who is not smiling. They’re either ignoring you or rolling their eyes at your decision to show your kid the world and you don’t need to pay them any mind. Know that your one job during this flight is to keep your child comfortable. It’s exhausting at times, but this is your responsibility. In the end, it will be ok. The flight will not last forever.

If you are traveling in the vicinity of a small child, think of it like turbulence. It can get bumpy, it can get uncomfortable. The person in charge is doing everything they can to fix the situation. It may be hard, you may need to wear your seatbelt (or headphones), but you will get to your destination.  

P.S. 24 Great Tips for Flying with Young Children

The Devil’s Wall

The Harz Mountains is northern Germany’s largest mountain range.

Though not a part of the famous Fairy Tale Route (a 600 km route through Germany that includes many towns and sites made popular by the Brothers Grimm), the Harz region parallels it. The area is known for their witch and devil legends. Chances are some of the stories that the Grimm Brothers wrote about originated in these mountains. And it was this thought that sat in the back of my mind as we drove around town.

The Teufelsmauer – Devil’s Wall

Between the towns of Quedlinburg and Thale, we saw rocks jutting out of the earth. It’s called the Teufelsmaur, or Devil’s Wall.

Devil's Wall, Germany

 

There is a nice path leading around and to the top. We passed the time by counting the steps with our son. First in English, then German, Japanese, Spanish, and French. Our three-year old was able to walk on his own all the way up, which was a nice surprise.

Devil's Wall, Germany

The views from the top, along with viewing the wall up close, was one of my favorite experiences during our weekend trip in the Harz Mountains. Once there, all I could think of was Snow White’s famous witch. I could imagine her sitting on these stones, holding that poisoned apple, plotting her revenge.

When I got home I eagerly looked up the actual legends associated with this wall. Unfortunately, Snow White’s witch isn’t part of that legend. (Or, at least, I like to think it’s not part of the known legends.) Instead, the story goes that God gave the devil one night to claim the area he wanted by building a wall around it. The devil was almost done when something happened and morning came earlier than expected. He was so upset, he tore down pieces of the wall. So today, that’s what we get. A devil’s wall broken into three section in Germany’s Harz Mountains. (The full story, as well as the scientific explanation for the wall, can be found here.)

Should you visit the Devil’s Wall?

If your travels are taking you to the Harz Mountains anyway, take the time to stop and explore this area. You’ll get beautiful views and a memorable experience. If you’re traveling with small children, be prepared to carry them if they can not walk too much. This site is not stroller friendly.

This post is part of the Instagram Travel Thursday linky hosted by Skimbaco LifestyleDestination Unknown,  Hines Sight BlogHouse of Anaïs, and many others. Click on any of those links to access all Instagram travel posts.

Also, why don’t you follow me on Instagram?

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The best customizable luggage tags

A few months ago I showcased some of my favorite handmade family travel wallets from Etsy. I really loved highlighting these talented artists and plan to do it more often when I find a product that works for family travelers. Today, I want to introduce you to some of the best customizable luggage tags.

Why families should use customized luggage tags

My son loves helping us look for our luggage when we’re standing at the carousel. Unfortunately, our suitcase preferences look like 85% of the suitcases out there – black. The defeated look on his face when yet another black bag passed us that was not ours made me thinking of what I could do. Buying new luggage isn’t an option, and besides,  And our poor, helpful son gets his spirits crushed when he points out yet another piece of luggage that isn’t ours.

Then we bought some luggage tags.

From a mom perspective, the luggage tag is like a great scarf or pair of shoes. A little luxury item to dress up the outfit. It can show my personality without overwhelming me (because, in reality, I prefer plain with a touch of wild).

Best of all, it’s the one feature that is easily recognizable to our son, making luggage claim just slightly more enjoyable than it used to be. We will take what we can get.

There’s also the practical aspect – if you’re bags get lost the tags help them get returned to you.

Here are some luggage tags that I just really like:

Please note: I am not affiliated with any of these companies. These are just wallets I saw, I liked, and now I want to share with my readers. I get no compensation for any purchases.

Cocosheaven

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JK sells custom leather accessories made in her shop in California. Her leather luggage tags come in a yellow, dark brown, cherry red, and black. She uses one of my favorite fonts, Century Gothic. The best news is that they are completely customized. Either pick a tag for your address, or a tag for your name, or both!

Prices start at $25.

Go to her shop to look at more options, then contact JK to start customizing your new luggage tag.

Destination Handmade

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Jamie is a Houston-based artist making an assortment of travel-related accessories and has sold over 500 luggage tags in her store. Her fabric tags are double layered, reinforced with industrial strength backing, top-stitched, double-stitched, and uses grosgrain ribbon to attach to the suitcase… in a word – it’s strong! Her options include ready to go tags in a variety of colorful patterns, or made-to-order tags that can be customized with names, addresses, or quotes.

Prices start at $7.99 and $8.99.

Visit Jamie’s shop to find your perfect luggage tag (and while you’re at it, get a matching passport cover.

Susanholland

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Susan specializes in leather goods in her Alicante, Spain-based shop. Her luggage tags come in over 20 colors and can be customized in wording completely. She hand engraves the words and information on your tags, and can add information on both the front and the back. This gives you the opportunity to have your name, address, and a favorite travel quote on your favorite color – in leather.

Prices start at $14.99 for one luggage tag.

Visit Susan’s shop to get started on your own tag today. 

 

 

 

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Focus: A new perspective

Here we are, 10 days in 2014, and I finally decided to share my word for this year.

FOCUS

This word came to me one night in December as I thought of what I wanted my word to be. In the past I’ve forced a word just to have one, and my success rate with sticking to that word wasn’t really that good. But this one just appeared and I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

My kids are growing fast. It’s absolutely crazy. My oldest is three, my youngest is a just over one.

The first year of each of their lives was utter chaos to me. Adjusting to a new normal, then readjusting, while living abroad, and trying to figure out exactly how “I” actually fit into this all was, and continues to be, a challenge. Coming out of this haze in late 2013 means really focusing on thriving in 2014.

So in the spirit of some blogging friends who have made their intentions public, here are some areas I’m going to focus on more and how I’m going to do it.

Focus on Travel…

… focus on Germany: Even before starting this blog I’ve loved traveling to new places, new countries, and other countries. But, this year I want to embrace Germany. There’s a reason we live here. I studied both the language and history in college and I feel like it’s always been an important part of my life. We will still travel outside of this country (it’s just too easy) in 2014, but I want to see a lot more within the ‘schland.

…focus on microadventures: I had the idea before I knew what it was called, so I’m glad I read about it today. For our family this is all about exploration. I want to get more in tune with nature, something we tend to do when on vacation, but don’t do enough when we’re closer to home.

… focus on nature: Whether in or out of Germany, close to home or far away, I want to spend less of our vacation time in big cities and crowded destinations. Yes, we’ll probably take in some big cities because I love them and they exhilarate me, but I’m going to actively seek a slower pace.

… focus on UNESCO: This is something I just thought of before our recent trip to Amsterdam. Before any trip, I want to research the UNESCO World Heritage sites in the area. I’ll learn more about the area and, possibly, add some sites to our list. I’ve always been interested in these things, but I rarely seek it out. While I don’t plan to go out of my way just to check a place off our list, I am more than willing to make a detour for a place that simply interests me.

… focus on transportation: Two things I’m really looking forward to this year involves the journey. I’ve always believed in “the journey is the destination,” but with two little kids the journey is not always fun. This year, though, we have a longer road trip in the works and a long distance train ride. Wish us luck!

… focus on family: All of these ideas, actually, stem from family and connecting. One of the biggest reasons I absolutely love traveling with my family is that I feel like we learn so much about each other. It’s addicting. Kids grow fast – too fast. By shifting our focus in the types of travel we will have this year, I think I can really focus on the family experience. This is what it is all about.

Focus on the website’s three E’s…

… focus on ENCOURAGEMENT: I’m very excited to get to the meat of why I started this blog. Families I know who don’t travel are often discouraged by the logistics of it all. It can be overwhelming to think about. As a former travel agent, I get it. I feel like helping with logistics clears one the biggest hurdles for those families, so you will start to see more practical information and tips around these parts. Also, I really love logistics.

… focus on EXPLORATION: This is something leftover from my travel agent days, too and something I feel can be an obstacle for families. Exploration, when I think about it in terms of microadventures, can happen anywhere. I think microadventures can easily be adjusted to fit anyone’s locale. Along with the anywhere microadventures, I plan to offer specific destination tips for things to consider from the family travel perspective.

… focus on ENGAGEMENT: There’s a lot going on with this word. My favorite travel stories have always been when the traveler connected with other people on their journeys. There are so many interesting people out there, and there is something magical about meeting someone while on a trip who offers insight when needed. I am very shy, so this is hard for me to do, but I try. Additionally, as a mom, I cherish the moments when my kids are engaged in the places we travel to. Whether it’s the people, the sites, the paintings, the scenery, the food, whatever. That’s what makes travel so important. Breaking out of shells and engaging with the place.

… focus on MEMORIES: While not one of my three E’s, memory keeping is one of the main reasons I started this blog. One thing I tend to be really good at, have professional and personal experience in, and can talk about all day long is the logistics, methods, and experiences in travel. And I can not wait to start doing more of that on this website. We’re going to go on several trips this year, and it is so important for me to collect these memories and stories for my kids. For myself. However, memory keeping is hard for me. I’m not a great photographer or storyteller. I don’t have a lot of time. But, I want to do it. I need to do it. I want to inspire other families who travel to do something with their photos and stories, outside of a blog or email or online journal. Make something tangible for their family to hold. I’m going to get pretty crafty in 2014, and I hope you’ll join me.

Along with all those things specified above, I’m bringing more focus into other areas of my life. Here’s to 2014! Have a great weekend.
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Even the Rijksmuseum is child friendly

Last week I found myself in Amsterdam aching to go to the Rijksmuseum. Aching? Really??

Yes!

On our previous trips to the city I had managed to avoid some of the city highlights, and if there’s one thing I love, it’s highlights. I’ve known that the Rijksmuseum was undergoing renovations, but that wasn’t the real reason I didn’t go.

I didn’t go because I’m just worried about my kids in an art museum.

It turns out, I had nothing to fear.

It turns out, the Rijksmuseum doesn’t mind kids.

It turns out, they even have special things for kids.

It turns out, I liked it so much, we went twice!

Rijksmuseum with kids, Part 1

(AKA: Does it count as a visit with kids if the kids were asleep the whole time?)

I’m not sure if I really intended actually going the first time we went. My kids were asleep in the stroller. The rest of our party was on a canal cruise and I needed to pass the time. I was sick, it was cold, and decided to just walk past the museums.

The day before we discovered just how long a long line could be. Even with a museum card or previously purchased tickets people had a serious wait in front of them. I thought if the line’s short, maybe I’ll go in. I approached the line and distracted myself by looking down into the lobby – the warm, inviting lobby.

Then someone said, “do you want to go in?”

Sure.

So he opened the obvious, not so obvious elevator and pushed “0” and we were on our way. (And for a while, I wasn’t even sure if he worked at the museum or was just someone walking by. I’ve since confirmed he DID work at the museum. I’ve also confirmed I’ll trust anyone that offers me warmth when I’m sick.)

Fortunately, I have a museum card for the Netherlands so I didn’t have to wait in line to buy tickets… because yes, the people that are waiting outside to get in then have to wait to buy tickets inside.

I walked past some renaissance art and headed for an area marked “Asian art” before finding a room called the Picknick room. There were placemats and blank postcards set up with colored pencils, art work, pencils, and pens inviting me to have a seat and draw. Which is exactly how I spent most of my time visiting the Rijksmuseum with kids the first time.

Rijksmuseum with kids, Part 2

(AKA: This time they’re awake!)

One reason we knew the museum was going to be child friendly was their map specifying a route that is interesting for kids. This included stops to see the Dutch Old Masters, doll houses, airplanes and more.

The highlight for my son was Rembrandt’s Night Watch. Not because he’s an art aficionado, but because of the excitement surrounding the piece and because the image is also used on the museum’s ticket. Plus, it’s massive.

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Around that time we discovered removable information sheets located next to some of the photos. We played a game of locating the art work listed on the information sheets, and pointing out a detail or two before moving on. Some of the staff even helped us locate the pieces.

While it was fun exploring the museum, kids are still kids. Ok, to be fair, I need a lot of breaks when I’m visiting an art museum.

The Rijksmuseum cafe and Picknick room were both good places for adults and children for those breaks. The cafe has a children’s menu that includes the very popular hageslag (chocolate sprinkles) on bread, or cheese and bread. The presentation was just nice enough to make it feel like a special occasion.

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After 4-5 hours at the museum, we headed back to our hotel. What was a big surprise to me is that the kids didn’t even nap while we were in the museum. I guess they were too caught up in the art, but it definitely exhausted them since they napped the whole walk back.

Thoughts and tips on visiting the Rijksmuseum with young kids

  • If you have a stroller you can avoid the long lines and enter via the outdoor elevator. It may take a little looking for, but it’s at the other end of the lobby from where the line forms.
  • It’s best to purchase tickets, or a museum pass, in advance.
  • It’s free for children under 18, but they will still need a ticket. When you enter the museum, the person checking your ticket will be able to give you one for your child.
  • You aren’t allowed to bring backpacks in the museum, so use a different bag to bring anything you will need for the children.
  • Keep your tickets or cards easily accessible because you have to show it at various entry points past the main entrance.
  • There are many elevators within the museum itself. The very first elevator you find will likely have a long wait, skip it and go to another one.
  • Go online and print pictures of some of the artwork you might encounter at the Rijksmuseum. Share those with your kids to start building excitement in the trip.

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This post is part of the Instagram Travel Thursday linky hosted by Skimbaco LifestyleDestination UnknownChild ModeHines Sight BlogLive.Do.Grow.House of AnaïsLuxury Travel Mom. Click on any of those links to access all Instagram travel posts.

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Hogmanay for families with young kids

As the official Edinburgh website puts it Hogmanay is, basically, a New Year’s celebration of,

THREE DAYS of spectacular events, incredible bands and amazing crowds from every corner of the globe.

Maybe not the most child-friendly sounding event, but I still think it’s worth a visit.

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Two years ago, our family was lucky to spend New Year’s in Edinburgh and it is something I want to repeat again soon. While we couldn’t (or didn’t want to, at least) attend the crowded concerts and many events, we still did a lot. We took in the city’s sites, visited their Christmas Markets, took a day trip to St. Andrews, and participated in one of the coolest events I’ve ever experienced.

Edinburgh’s Torchlight Procession

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To kick off the three days of “spectacular events”, the city hosts a torchlight procession. It starts in Old Town, winds down the streets and park until turning on to Princes Street, then marches past the shops, restaurants, hotels, and bystanders until it ends at the top of Calton Hill.

There is absolutely nothing as exhilarating as being part of this procession. Last year there were 35,000 participants. That’s a lot of people. Watching the lit torches ahead of and behind us, in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, sent shivers down my spine.

My son had just recently turned one when we went. I worried that the crowds would be too much, but decided we could just step away at any moment if they were. It turned out they were never a concern. There wasn’t a mad rush to make it to the end. It was a peaceful walk.

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Once we started the climb to Calton Hill there were electronic signs letting us know event details. We made it to the top, extinguished our fires, grabbed a quick sandwich from the food truck (one of my best meals in Edinburgh), then listened to the live music, bagpipes, and watched the fireworks show over the city.

For most people reading this, it’s probably too late to book tickets for Edinburgh for Hogmanay this year. If you can make it there, the procession is a free event. The torches are available at a low-cost, but advance sales are sold out. There’s limited supply available the day of, so check there on December 30.

I highly recommend it.

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HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE. I’LL SEE YOU IN 2014.

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Düsseldorf’s Christmas Markets for families

With Köln and Düsseldorf being only a short train ride from each other, there’s a lot of friendly(?) competition between the two. Which is a better place to experience Karneval? Which is a better place to work? To live?

While Köln has a lot going for it: a huge cathedral on the Rhein, direct train to Paris via Thalys, and a beautiful city center, there’s at least one area that Düsseldorf wins – hands down. It’s the better place for families with young kids to see the Christmas markets.

Why Düsseldorf’s Christmas Markets Reign Supreme (over Köln’s) for families

1| Less crowds

Köln’s main markets start right next to the train station. In Düsseldorf, you have to go three stops on the subway to get to them. There are also a lot of markets. If you find that one’s crowded, move on and circle back later. Chances are the crowds have subsided.

2| Family activities

In our short time in Düsseldorf I saw a ferris wheel, several rides, and an ice skating rink. Seriously: family fun at Christmas right in the heart of Düsseldorf.

3| Space to wander

Yes, the crowds are smaller, but there’s also generally more space. The markets seem to have wider “halls”. Not to mention, they’re all located near the Rhein River promenade and the Hofgarten. Have an antsy toddler? There’s plenty of space for them to run around.

 


disclaimer: My most recent trip to Düsseldorf was with Farrah from the Three Under. Although I have gone to the markets before with my clan, this particular trip was without kids. My thoughts above are based on a combination of our girls’ trip and other trips I’ve made in the past. Alternatively, I’ve only been to Köln’s Christmas Market once. I was with the whole family, it was harder to see all the markets to give a proper judgement on some of the topics above. I very well could have missed the super family friendly area with lots of rides and few people. My tip: they’re less than an hour from each other so do both!

Either way, Köln still wins my heart for the Christmas Market with the best food. And not just between it and Düsseldorf, but for all the markets I’ve been to in Germany. 

After exploring a million markets in Düsseldorf, Farrah and I headed to an afternoon tea

 

 

This post is part of the Instagram Travel Thursday linky hosted by Skimbaco LifestyleDestination UnknownChild ModeHines Sight BlogLive.Do.Grow.House of AnaïsLuxury Travel Mom. Click on any of those links to access all Instagram travel posts.

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Köln (Cologne) Christmas Market with Kids

Yes, I’ve written a lot about Christmas markets recently. ‘Tis the season and all that jazz.

Fact is – I love them. It really livens up the fall-to-winter transition around these parts, plus there’s always this great feel of community. Even if the community feels like a million people you don’t know all cramming into one small square in the spirit of the holidays.

Last weekend I took my first trip to one of those super-busy markets, Köln’s Christmas Market. I’ve been hesitant to go there because of silly reasons. My parents went a few years ago and their pictures didn’t really impress me. But, it’s only a short drive from where we live, it’s free, and what else are we to do on a Sunday afternoon in December?

Getting there

There’s currently some construction going on downtown. This didn’t seem to make the traffic any worse (or better), it just is what it is. Four of Köln’s big markets are focused around the cathedral area, which means it’s easy to just take the train to the main train station. So, traffic shouldn’t be an issue for most people.

(Please note: Vodafone did not sponsor this post… 😉 )

Parking, for those that need it, is actually easy to find. There are several signs letting you know which parking garages have free spaces, how many they have, and which direction you need to go to get there. We parked really close to the markets and there were still a lot of spaces available in our garage. The crowds must have all come from the trains.

Crowds: The bad and the good

I went on a Sunday. It was crowded. As I mentioned in a previous post, Christmas markets along the border tend to be more crowded during the day, and especially on weekends, because of the influx of people from other countries. It was difficult to navigate with a big double stroller, but I can’t imagine how I would have felt if I made my walking boy walk. There were just far too many crowds.

The good news is that even on a Sunday afternoon, the market crowds are really concentrated at the Christmas Markets. The surrounding areas, while busy, are nowhere near as busy. Plus, a walk along the Rhein is always fun.

The best part: the FOOD!

I don’t think I’ve been to a Christmas Market in Germany that made me want to return all the gifts I’ve purchased so that I could have money to eat more. Aside from the standard fare (bratwurst, mushrooms, crepes), they had cheese spätzle, grilled beef sandwiches, raclette, baked apples, these delicious thick noodles that I can only describe as bigger and tastier gnocchi with an assortment of toppings, soup, grilled garlic bread with an assortment of toppings, apple strudel, and so much more. Seriously, the best food options I’ve seen.

Our highlight

Other than the food we did eat, I really loved our ride on the small ferris wheel. Many Christmas Markets have large ferris wheels that seem intimidating for me, as a mom of 2 toddlers. If Köln has a larger ferris wheel, I didn’t see it. This small one, though, is at one of the markets (the busy one pictured above). It was built in 1902. Watching it go, it seemed to go so fast. Still, my son wanted to go on and I went with him.

Upon sitting down and the wheel lifting us about 5 feet off the ground, I remembered I’m terrified of heights. All of a sudden I couldn’t really see my surroundings, held on to my son for dear life, and tried to get back into myself. It took a couple of rotations until I calmed down and enjoyed the ride. My son loved it the whole time.

Overall, this has jumped into my top 3 favorite markets. I loved it so much, I’m contemplating getting a hotel there for a few nights so that we can beat the crowds, check out the other markets, and eat some more cheese spätzle.

(Also, Thrifty Travel Mama is doing a series this month on expat holiday celebrations. My post is up there today about how we celebrate in Germany. Don’t worry, I talk about more than just the Christmas Markets. Check out my post and the rest of the series. It’s really interesting!)

This post is part of the Instagram Travel Thursday linky hosted by Skimbaco LifestyleDestination UnknownChild ModeHines Sight BlogLive.Do.Grow.House of AnaïsLuxury Travel Mom. Click on any of those links to access all Instagram travel posts.

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There’s no place like Berlin for the holidays.

Berlin, in December, is fantastic.

It’s magic.

Walking through the city will have you singing your favorite Bing Crosby’s holiday tune –

City Sidewalks, busy sidewalks, in the Holiday Style. In the air there’s the feeling – of Christmas.

There are many things to keep you and your family in the spirit.

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Weihnachts Zauber Gendarmenmarkt

For starters – Christmas markets. Everywhere. My favorite, one of the best I’ve been to, is at Gendarmenmarkt. For a small fee you can enter the small market and enjoy the crafts, food, and drink. All the stalls are white with greenery and twinkle lights. One of the many things that makes this market stand out is the frequent music, theater, and dance performances.

There are two foods you have to try if you go, both are desserts. Poffertjes are small pancake-like tasty treats covered in powdered sugar original. They’re Dutch, but We’ve had them at many markets in Germany and the Netherlands and nothing has compared to the ones we had at the Gendarmentmarkt. The other (pictured below) is the Baumkuchen. Unfortunately they don’t allow photos of the process at this Christmas market because it’s pretty cool. There’s a rod spinning over an open fire, and cake batter is poured on it. Slowly, the thin layer starts to cook, then another layer of batter is poured over it. This is repeated until you end up with multiple layers. Once it’s sliced it looks like the cross-section of a tree, this the name Baum (tree) kuchen (cake). In Berlin you can pick several toppings for it or go plain. It’s a must try.

Tips for Berlin Christmas Markets

  • The Gendarmenmarkt chargess a small fee for the evenings (I think we paid less than 2EUR per adult), but is free in the afternoon. The crowds are also much smaller then. It is completely worth the small fee to enter, but visiting in the daytime is nice.
  • There are Christmas markets all over Berlin. I made it to several, and missed so many that I have to save for a future trip. For more information on all the markets, see Visit Berlin.
  • I find Berlin hotels really affordable during the holiday season. Maybe people fear the chill. If you can afford it, stay as close to one of the Christmas markets as possible. I stayed at the Hilton on Gendarmenmarkt which made it hard to resist heading down to that market every evening. There are many options in the area, and it is a convenient base for site seeing with easy access to public transportation.

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O, Christmas Tree – O, History

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Checkpoint Charlie

A short walk from the Gendarmenmarkt in one direction and you are at Checkpoint Charlie – the former gateway between East and West Berlin. Take a moment to enjoy the history of this spot. Yes, there are plenty of touristy things that weren’t here 25 years ago, but see past that. This was where foreigners and Allied troops could enter East Berlin. Soviet and US troops in tanks faced off here in 1961. Any spy movie set in Berlin between the 60s and 80s most likely include this area. There are several museums in this area, but the Open Air Exhibit along Friedrichstr., Zimmermanstr., and Schützenstrasse, is an easy way to learn more. With images and information depicting the escape attempts, the symbolism, and the history of this area.

Brandenburg Gate

Walk for a little while in the other direction and you end up walking along Unter den Linden. Along the way you will find tons of shopping options, the Rittersport chocolate shop (where kids might enjoy a chance to make their own candy bar), and the hotel made famous by Michael Jackson. At the end of the street, the Brandenburg Gate.

I think the tree here is the largest in Berlin, it’s quite the sight. I bet it’s even better at night.

The Reichstag building is just around the corner. It’s free to tour, but you have to make a reservation in advance. It’s suggested to do it early so there’s space available. The audio tour is one of the best. As you walk up the building, the tour stops and starts automatically based on your location. I hear there’s also a good tour for children, but ours were asleep in the stroller for most of the visit.

 

Fun for kids

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Berlin has a lot of activities for kids, and most of those places go the extra mile during the holidays. The Legoland Discovery Center at Potzdamer Platz is one of those places. We didn’t make it during the day, but at night the surroundings had many seasonal Lego sculptures. Some interactive. The kids, mine and everyone I saw, loved it.

 

More Berlin Tips

  • U-bahn (subway) maps indicate which stops have elevators. It doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be operational, but it’s good to know.
  • If you wear the proper attire, Berlin’s Zoo and the Tiergarten are a good escape from the crowds in the winter. And kids will love it.
  • KaDeWe, the second largest department store in Europe, offers child care service during their operating hours. A perfect way to shop or visit their famous international food hall.
  • Be on the look out for Eltern, Spiel, Eltern-Kind, Familien or Kinder cafes . These cafes are specifically for families, with a small play area for the kids and a dining menu for the adults. (Use google translate on this page to see if there’s one in the area you’re visiting: Family Cafes in Berlin.)
  • Visit Berlin offers special packages, at reasonable prices, for families. These package include hotel stay, admission and discounts to several sites, and a map for the kids.(Also, check out their site for more tips on things for families in Berlin.)

 

This post is part of the Sunday Traveler link up hosted by Chasing the Donkey, Latitude 34, Ice Cream and Permafrost, Pack Me To, A Southern Gypsey, A Brit & A Southerner, and Frank About Croatia. Click here for more information about the link-up and read other travel related posts.how to check my google rankingtop google keyword searches