Travel with Children
With its tradition of lager, beer halls, Lederhosen and tipsy oompah ensembles, you'd be excused for thinking southern Germany is a wholly unsuitable place to bring the little'uns. But you'd be wrong. Germany's south, especially its larger cities, lays on lots of tot-focused activities. In fact, having kids on board can make your holiday a more enjoyable experience and bring you closer to the locals than a few tankards of ale ever could.
Best Places for Kids
Bavaria's most child-friendly city with attractions as diverse as the Deutsche Bahn Museum, a school museum and a zoo.
Plenty of hands-on and high-octane diversions as well as a classic toy museum and fantastic trams to ride all day.
- Rothenburg ob der Tauber
Edible snowballs and Christmas tree lights in the heat of the summer holidays – pure magic if you're six.
Europe in miniature and Welt der Kinder (Children's World) at Germany's biggest theme park.
Most kids love Lego and most adults love the fact Legoland keeps them occupied for a few hours.
Some kids will burst into tears at the sight of a titchy bird lurching out of a clock, others will go cuckoo at the very thought.
- Playground of the Senses, Nuremberg Education by stealth at this large open-air experiment park.
- Englischer Garten, Munich Large playground, ice creams, boat rides and acres of grass.
- Steinwasen Park, Black Forest Alpine animals, rides and a huge hanging bridge.
- Tierpark Hellabrunn, Munich Themed playgrounds, a cafe, feeding sessions and a special children's zoo.
- Deutsches Museum, Munich The Kinderreich at Munich's science museum is hands-on fun.
- Deutsche Bahn Museum, Nuremberg Germany's top railway museum has a huge interactive section for choo-choo enthusiasts.
- Children & Young People's Museum, Nuremberg Heaps of hands-on experiments.
- Weihnachtsdorf, Rothenburg ob der Tauber This Romantic Road institution houses a hands-off museum meaning kids are usually more interested in the adjacent Yuletide superstore.
- Spielzeugmuseum, Munich An 'I had that in 1974' kinda museum, so not just for kids.
- Bayerisches Eisenbahnmuseum, Nördlingen Retired locos to clamber around on and seasonal steam-train rides.
- Spielzeugmuseum, Salzburg Classic toy museum with Punch and Judy shows and free tea for the adults.
Rainy Day Sights
- Playmobil, Nuremberg Headquartered in Zindorf just outside Nuremberg, the adjoining fun park is one of the city's best family attractions.
- Münchner Marionettentheater, Munich Bavaria's top puppet theatre.
- BMW Welt, Munich Kids can grip the wheel of BMW's latest models and wish they were old enough to have a driver's licence.
On the Ground
City centres can be a headache for parents of nappy-wearing children – your best bet is to pop into a department store, though these usually position their toilets as far away from the entrance as possible, on the very top floor, and some now charge (thanks, Sanifair!). Things are better at places of interest, and at child-centric attractions nappy-changing amenities are first-rate. In emergencies you can go into the nearest pub or restaurant – staff rarely object.
Family tickets are available at the vast majority of sights. It's always worth asking if there's a discount, even if none is advertised.
When it comes to feeding the pack, Germany's south is one of Europe's easier destinations. Most restaurants welcome young diners with smaller portions, special menus and perhaps even a free balloon.
Youngsters under 16 are allowed into pubs and bars at any time, as long as they are accompanied by a parent. This includes beer halls and gardens, the latter being particularly popular with families who can bring their own picnics. Thanks to the region's smoking ban, fume-filled premises are a thing of the past.
Breastfeeding in public is perfectly acceptable.
Trains are preferable to buses when travelling with toddlers as they can leave their seats and wander around quite safely. All trains have at least half a carriage dedicated to carrying prams (and bikes and wheelchairs) and copious amounts of luggage.
Most forms of city transport – such as Munich's trams, trains and underground – are pram-friendly and lifts are ubiquitous. Various discounts are available for families.
Most car hire companies provide child booster and baby seats. They are often free but must be reserved in advance.
Overseen by the Bavarian tourist board, the Kinderland Bavaria (www.bavaria.by) program guarantees the good standard of children's facilities as well as rating amenities used by holidaying families. Businesses sporting the Kinderland Bavaria logo have been checked for everything from toy safety to availability of pram storage.
The majority of hotels and guesthouses are pretty kid-friendly and the higher up the hotel food chain you ascend, the more facilities (babysitting, laundry) there are likely to be. Small-hotel and guesthouse owners are generally willing to supply extra beds and even cots for babies. Of course campsites are the most entertaining places to stay; some have playgrounds and kids' clubs.
When to Go
The best times to visit are spring and early autumn. Summer temperatures see the niggle factor climb and central Europe's sub-zero winters are no fun.
Kids & Oktoberfest
Fancy a few days at Oktoberfest but can't find a babysitter? Well, grandma may raise an eyebrow when you inform her you're taking the darlings to the world's biggest booze-up, but Oktoberfest lays on quite a bit to keep kids happy. Having parked the pram in the dedicated pram garage, the fun fair is obviously the biggest draw. There are also special games arranged by the Oktoberfest organisers, kids are welcome in all beer tents until 8pm and the two Tuesday afternoons are dedicated family times. Gingerbread, roasted almonds and candy floss are toothrotting attractions that push the pester factor high and when it all gets too much there are quiet areas and changing facilities aplenty. Special family Wiesn maps show all the facilities and child-friendly businesses and attractions.