Travelling to Germany with tots can be child’s play, especially if you keep a light schedule and involve them in trip planning. Plus, kids are a great excuse if you secretly yearn to ride roller coasters or dip into the fairy-tale landscapes of the Brothers Grimm.
Best Regions for Kids
- Stuttgart & the Black Forest
Fairy-tale forest trails, farmstays and outdoor activities galore. Zip across to Lake Constance for kayaking, swimming and cycling, Triberg for its whopping cuckoo clocks and Europa-Park to race around Europe in miniature.
- Munich & Bavaria
Storybook Germany, with its Christmas-card mountain scenery and high-on-a-hill Schloss Neuschwanstein, the blueprint for Disney's Sleeping Beauty castle. Find diversions aplenty in Munich and sight-packed Nuremberg – one of Germany's most engaging cities for kiddies.
- Central Germany
Hike in the mythical Harz Mountains and the Thuringian Forest and enjoy happy-ever-after moments along the 600km Fairy-Tale Road, taking in castles, hamlets and other stops that inspired the tales of Brothers Grimm.
- Northern Germany
Go for the puppet theatre in Lübeck, pearly white beaches and candy-striped lighthouses on the Baltic and North Sea coasts. Müritz National Park is fabulous for paddle-and-camp trips, and Sylt for boat trips to seal colonies.
Germany for Kids
Travelling to Germany with kids in tow? You're in for a treat. Kids will already have seen in bedtime picture books many of the things that make the country so special: enchanting palaces and legend-shrouded castles lifted high by mountaintops; medieval towns and half-timbered villages that take you back several centuries; islands and meandering rivers; and deep, dark forests that fire little imaginations. This is the birthplace of the Brothers Grimm and their unforgettable fairy tales. Follow the Fairy-Tale Road to see Sleeping Beauty's castle and dance to the tune of the Pied Piper in the town of Hamelin.
Cities also have much to keep the little ones amused, with interactive museums, imaginative playgrounds, puppet shows, outdoor pools and zoos.
Tourist offices can point you to children’s attractions, child-care facilities and English-speaking paediatricians. If you need a babysitter, ask staff at your hotel for a referral.
Breastfeeding in public is practised, although most women are discreet about it. Restaurants are rarely equipped with nappy-change facilities, but some fast-food places have a fold-down change table in the women's toilet.
Many museums, monuments and attractions are free to anyone under 18 years, but the cut-off age varies. In general, you can assume kids under five don't pay at all. Most places also offer family tickets.
Children qualify for discounts on public transport and tours, where they usually pay half price, sometimes less. Some hotels, including many international chains, have discounted rates for kids or don't charge extra if they're under a certain age (varying from three to 16) and stay in their parents' room without extra bedding. The Kurtaxe (tourist tax) you pay in most resorts gets you a Gästekarte (guest card) for free local transport and entry to museums, pools and attractions.
As long as they're not running wild, children are generally welcome in German restaurants, especially in informal cafes, bistros, pizzerias or Gaststätten (inns). High chairs are common and the server may even bring a damp cloth at the end of your meal to wipe sticky little fingers.
Many less formal restaurants offer a limited Kindermenü (children's menu) or Kinderteller (children's meals). Dishes generally loved by children include Schnitzel mit Pommes (schnitzel with fries), Bratwurst (sausage), Nudeln mit Tomatensosse (pasta with tomato sauce), Spätzle (egg-based mini-dumpling-like noodles) or the German version of mac 'n' cheese, Käsespätzle. Maultaschen, a spin on ravioli, may also go down well. Pizzerias are cheap, ubiquitous and most will be happy to customise pizzas.
Germany is fabulous snack territory. Larger malls have food courts, while self-service cafeterias are often found in department stores; farmers markets also have food stalls. The most popular snacks on the run are bratwurst-in-a-bun and doner kebabs (sliced meat in a pita pocket with salad and sauce). And there's no shortage of international fast food chains. Note that you have to pay extra for ketchup.
Baby food, infant formulas, soy and cow’s milk and nappies (diapers) are widely available in supermarkets and chemists (drugstores).
Tap water is clean and fine to drink, although most cafes and restaurants are either reluctant to serve it or will refuse to. In that case, order a Mineralwasser (mineral water), either mit Sprudel (fizzy) or ohne Sprudel (flat). Mixing juices and fizzy mineral water (Schorle) is refreshing and popular.
Germany is full of child-friendly museums that play to young imaginations or impart knowledge in interactive and engaging ways. Kid-oriented audioguides (in German and English) are becoming more widely available. Staff also run tot-geared activities, although these are usually in German.
Germany's great outdoors yields an endless variety of activities. Tourist offices can recommend well-marked walking trails suitable for families, including those pushing strollers, or can hook you up with a local guide. Ask about kid-geared activities such as geocaching, animal-spotting safaris and nature walks.
Water babies will love frolicking on Germany's beaches, which are clean and usually devoid of big surf and dangerous undercurrents. Water temperatures rarely exceed 21°C (70°F), though lakes tend to be a bit warmer. Many have an inexpensive Strandbad (lido) with change rooms, playgrounds, splash zones, slides, ping-pong tables, restaurants or boat rentals. Kayaking is active fun for children from the age of seven, and short excursions or multi-day paddle-and-camp trips are available.
Cycling is big in Germany, with safe, well-signposted routes running along lakes and coastlines, through forests and up into the hills. The vast majority of bike rental outlets have children's bikes and can recommend kid-friendly tours.
All ski resorts have ski schools with English-speaking instructors that initiate kids in the art of the snow plough in group or private lessons. Families with kids under 10 may find smaller resorts in the Bavarian Forest or Black Forest easier to navigate and better value than bigger Alpine resorts such as Garmisch-Partenkirchen. All of them, of course, have plenty of off-piste fun as well: snowshoeing, sledding, walking and ice skating.
There's plenty of fun and thrills in theme parks. The country's biggest is Europa-Park near Freiburg, which has gentle rides for young children, white-knuckle roller coasters for teens and its own mousy mascot, the Euromaus. For fishy encounters, seek out one of the country's eight SeaLife aquariums with touch tanks, fish feedings and activities. The Legoland amusement park in Ulm has shows, rides and a miniature world built from millions of Lego bricks, while Ravensburger Spieleland is like a board game come to life; there's also an indoor one in Berlin. Older kids may be drawn to movie-themed parks, such as Filmpark Babelsberg in Potsdam, for stunt shows, behind-the-scenes tours and potential actor-sightings.
- Europa-Park Huge Europe-themed amusement park with whizzy rides and a mouse mascot.
- Märchengarten Low-key fairy-tale-themed park for tots in Ludwigsburg.
- Steinwasen Park Forest park near Freiburg with rides, Alpine animals and a hanging bridge.
- Ravensburger Spieleland Board-game-inspired park with giant rubber-duck races and speed cow milking.
- Feenweltchen A magical world of elves, fairies and sprites attached to a colourful grotto in Saalfeld.
- Playmobil Tots love the life-sized versions of these famous German toys in Nurmeberg.
- Black Forest Go down to these seemingly never-ending woods for hiking, cycling, skiing, sledding and snowshoeing.
- Spreewald Navigate the channels and canals of this Unesco Biosphere Reserve by canoe, kayak or punt.
- Sylt This wave-lashed island in the North Sea is ideal for surfing, windsurfing or horse riding.
- Bavarian Alps Strike out on foot for those Heidi moments, or take to the slopes in winter.
- Lake Constance A family magnet, where you can walk, pedal, kayak or boat it over to Switzerland and Austria.
- Rügen Sheltered Baltic Sea beaches and family rambles along limestone cliffs and through enchanting beech forests.
Planes, Trains & Automobiles
Also see If You Like… Train Journeys for fun narrow-gauge train rides.
- Nürburgring Legendary car racing track.
- Technik Museum A Boeing 747, 1960s U-boat and Soviet space shuttle await inspection in Speyer.
- Deutsches Technikmuseum Giant shrine to technology in Berlin.
- Phaeno Scientific exhibits and experiments in Wolfsburg's cutting-edge building by Zaha Hadid.
- Miniatur Wunderland In Hamburg, one of the world's largest model railways.
- Deutsche Bahn Museum Choo-choo themed attractions including Children's Railway World; in Nuremberg.
For all-round information and advice, check out Lonely Planet’s Travel with Children.
Many hotels have family rooms with three or four beds, large doubles with a sofa-bed or adjoining rooms with a connecting door. Practically all can provide cots, though sometimes a small extra charge applies. In some properties, smaller children (generally those under 12 years) stay free or are given a discount.
Farmstays (Urlaub auf dem Bauernhof) are popular with families and offer a low-key, inexpensive experience. Meanwhile, Heuhotels (hay hotels) offer the option of literally sleeping in a barn on a bed of hay: see www.heuhotels.de for details. Camping is also huge; in summer the most popular sites book out far in advance.
Hostelling International–affiliated hostels (DJH hostels) have family rooms and activities, but independent hostels tend to have more of a party vibe and don't always welcome children.
Children under 12 years or smaller than 1.5m (59 inches) must ride in the back seat in cars (taxis included) and use a car seat or booster that's appropriate for their weight. Only children older than 12 years and over 1.5m tall may ride in front. Car seats are occasionally provided free by rental companies but must be reserved.
The train is a great way to get around Germany. Children under 15 years travel free if accompanied by at least one parent or grandparent. The only proviso is that names of children aged between six and 14 must be registered on your ticket at the time of purchase. Children under six always travel free and without a ticket.
The superfast ICE trains have compartments for families with small children (Kleinkindabteil) that are equipped with tables, stroller storage, an electrical outlet (for warming bottles) and, sometimes, a change table. Book these early.
Seat reservations for families (Familienreservierung) cost a flat €9 for two adults and up to three children.
- German National Tourist Office (www.germany.travel) Popular family sights and destinations.
- Familotel (www.familotel.com) Family-friendly hotels that are sure-fire kid-pleasers.
- Urlaub auf dem Bauernhof (www.bauernhofurlaub.de) More than 5000 farmstay properties throughout Germany.
What To Pack
Babies & Toddlers
- Front or back sling; cobbled streets don't make for smooth stroller rides and some museums don't allow them
- Change mat, hand-wash gel, wet wipes (changing facilities are limited)
- Kids' car seats; rental companies have them but they need to be reserved early
Six to 12 Years
- Binoculars for young explorers to zoom in on wildlife and palace facades
- A copy of Grimms' Fairy Tales
- Smartphone or tablet with Germany-related apps
- German phrasebook