10 Best Spots for Travelling in Germany with Kids
10 Best Spots for Travelling in Germany with Kids
Travelling in Germany with little ones isn't always easy. Obviously, you're going to want to shelter youngsters from the morbid history that makes up a lot of the German tourist trail. On top of that though, Germans still tend to be strict towards children, and not all cafes, museums and restaurants will be especially welcoming. If you're headed to Germany though, there are some spectacular attractions that are child friendly, so check out some of these...
The DDR Museum (Berlin)
Even the most impatient of kids will love Berlin's DDR Museum, a fully interactive museum dedicated to East German history. Full of listening devices to play with, clothes to try on, mock ups of living rooms and kitchens and even cars to clamber inside, this place is a God send for rainy afternoons. Younger kids might not understand what's going on, but they'll still love a museum where they can touch whatever they want, while the older ones will get a solid understanding of what Communism meant to the people who had to live it. There's nothing too graphic or gory, so no worries there, there is a Stasi interrogation chamber, but nothing to indicate anything inappropriate for little eyes. All the signage is in English too, which is a bonus for parents. You can visit the museum web page here. The museum is open every day from 10 am to 8 pm and10 pm on Sundays.
Die Insel Der Jugend (Berlin)
One of our favourite hidden spots in Berlin, populated by nearly only German families in the summer months, Youth Island (Die Insel der Jugend) is a city beach that's perfect for some chill out time after a long day of walking around Berlin's sights. Berlin is full of city beaches that spring up in the summer months, but most of them aren't particularly welcoming to children and are full of teenagers drinking. In contrast, Youth Island is hidden away in a suburb of the city, and has a sandy beach, river swimming, boat rental and plenty of food and drink stands as well. Be warned that live music and parties start on weekend nights when it gets dark, but during daylight hours this is a kid's paradise tucked away on a bend of the River Spree. Your kids will be sure to pick up some German from their playmates too. The website is here, but it's only in German. ‘Offnungszeiten’ for hours and ‘Kontakt’ for the address and directions.
Linderhof Castle (Bavaria)
Dragging children around historical castles isn't always easy or fun, but Linderhof is definitely an exception. This small palace, close to the town of Oberammergau, is a perfect first castle trip for little ones. Tours are short (averaging around thirty minutes or so) and the palace is set in huge gardens with sculptures, temples and lots of water pools. Kids are free to run around and burn off energy, while the grown ups can appreciate the stunning grounds. Linderhof has a hidden treasure too: King Ludvik's underground Grotto - a massive underground lake that the king used to ride around in a swan shaped boat. You're free to enter the grotto and children love the weirdness of the underground lake. Linderhof is a great compromise between the serious history and culture of the bigger castles and a really child-friendly chateau. Best time to visit is late spring or early summer when the gardens are in full bloom. You can find Linderhof's webpage here.
If the outdoors and the mountains are more your scene, then you won't want to miss Garmisch-Partenkirchen, site of the 1936 winter Olympics. A traditional Bavarian village set high in the mountains, this is the most family friendly German ski resort. But Garmisch isn't just for winter. In the spring and summer the mountains bloom with wild flowers and the whole family can enjoy a trip on the Rodelbahn (basically a sled on wheels that zooms down a mountain track, safe for all but the very young). There's also a great cable car trip up the Zugspitze, which is Germany's highest mountain, from where you can see four different countries - Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Italy! If you're looking for a nature-based trip that still has enough to entertain the little ones, it's got to be Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Do be aware that the tours you will see advertised to the Partnachklamm Gorge are not suitable for children under the age of 12, as the route is fairly rocky and dangerous.
Miniatur Wonderland (Hamburg
Hamburg tends to be a fascinating city for children, with all the beaches, docks and huge boats to look at. But if you're tired of walking around the port, or it's raining and cold, then you should certainly check out the Miniatur Wonderland. This is the largest miniature railway in the world, but it's so much more than that. Basically this is an entire miniature world, complete with different continents that cycle through day and night in about an hour. There are working airports and even space stations! The biggest bonus for the little ones (and possibly for dads too...) is that the whole place is full of buttons to press. Nearly every exhibit has three or four buttons that make the trains, factories or even people act in different ways. You can easily spend an afternoon here and the staff are particularly indulgent towards toddlers (one of them even laughed when our two year old left chocolate fingerprints on an exhibit case). Check out Miniatur Wonderland's website here.
Berlin Boat Tours
One of the best ways to get the feel of Berlin is to take a boat tour and we suggest that you skip the tourist bus option (which is truly difficult with kids, since struggling on and off with pushchairs during the short stop times is tough) in favour of a boat. Despite looking huge, the centre of Berlin is relatively small, and a typical boat tour lasts less than an hour. Kids love boats anyway, the adults are all deafened by their speaking headsets giving them a guided tour of the sights, so no one's going to be bothered by a crying infant or playing toddlers. All of the city boats have an inside section which is safe for kids to run around in and warm and dry in winter, though you might want to keep toddlers restrained in pushchairs if you opt for the upper decks, since they could potentially slip under the railings into the water. There are plenty of options - simply walk down the river close to Museum Island and you'll find a host of boats waiting to show you the city.
Deutsches Technikmuseum (Berlin)
Unfortunately, the vast majority of Berlin's museums are stolid, traditional affairs and really not suitable for kids at all, and in many cases you'll find yourself being asked to leave if your child cries or even accidentally touches something. One exception here is the German Technical Museum, which is a child's wonderland. You can't miss the place, since there's a real airplane parked on the roof. Inside you'll find different sections for trains, planes, cars, ships and even knot tying and every department has family friendly activities, buttons to press and things to climb on. Particularly during the weekend you'll find kid-centred workshops, where kids can print, build models or even tie their own knots, all of which are free to join, though you might pay a small fee for materials if you want to take your creations home. The Technical Museum is a huge hit with children of all ages and provides a healthy education in the wonders of German engineering, so parents might learn a few things too. You'll find their website here.
Bavarian Film Studios (Munich)
Avoid taking the kids to Munich's Toy Museum (which is for show only, with no touching allowed, a true torture for the little ones) and instead hit Germany's version of Hollywood at the Bavarian Film Studios. You might not think of German film as ground breaking and this isn't Disneyland, but it offers a fascinating look at the history of German movies, with a bunch of attractions thrown in for the kids, including a ride on the dragon from The Neverending Story and a stunning stuntman show with fire, punch ups and free-falls. You might want to skip the guided tour (it is in English, but at 90 minutes it's a bit long for kids) and show yourself around. A lot of the audio is in German, but it doesn't seem to matter much and means that the studios aren't especially popular with foreign tourists, but even pre-schoolers like exploring the submarine from Das Boot. The studio's web page can be found here.
Park Railway (Dresden)
Dresden can be a tough city with kids, since so many of the attractions are devoted to the war and aren't really appropriate for little ones. However, there is one huge hit, and that's the Park Railway. Located in the Grosser Garten, a large park in the centre of the city, the Park Railway is a miniature steam train that will take you on a scenic trip through the gardens. The surprising thing about the train though is that it's completely operated by children, who volunteer to maintain and run the train during the summer months. Hand your tickets over to your diminutive conductor and hop aboard for a trip that even toddlers will love. The Grosser Garten itself is full of children's play areas and open spaces, so it's a great place to spend an afternoon anyway. The Railway does not run during the winter and the parks are best avoided during wet weather, when the vast amount of grass means that everyone comes home muddy.
The Topography of Terror (Berlin)
It's difficult to visit Germany without having to confront the country's history and travelling with children can make this difficult. While the rigours of the Holocaust Museum or the various memorial concentration camps will be too much for most kids, Berlin's Topography of Terror (despite the fear-inspiring name) provides an excellent introduction to a difficult lesson. The museum is both indoor and outdoor, and focuses on the role of the SS and Gestapo in the Third Reich. Exhibits are explained thoughtfully in clear language and the vast majority of images are not explicit. If you're looking for something to help start the difficult conversation about an era that children will naturally be curious about, then the Topography is it – providing a gentle introduction to an enormous and sensitive subject. It's best visited when the weather is nice, since you'll be able to focus on the outside part of the exhibition. You can find the museums web page in English here.