Discovering Germany with Kids

Taking a train, visiting a castle, walking through a market, even riding the U-Bahn—a lot about Germany will appeal to kids, and to their parents, too. Many hotels let children stay for free in their parent's room, or for a few euros more; public transportation offers reduced rates for kids; and all museums and attractions offer at least a half-price reduction for children.

Days 1 & 2: Munich

Spend your first days in Munich. The entire inner city is a car-free pedestrian zone where you and your kids can stroll with ease. There are plenty of outdoor cafes around Marienplatz, the city’s main square; while there, be sure to catch the Glockenspiel show at 11am on the spire of the Rathaus. Right next to Marienplatz is the Viktualienmarkt, the best outdoor market in Germany and a great place to have a casual lunch. Later, you may want to take a tram or subway over to the Englischer Garten (English Garden), one of the largest and most beautiful city parks in Europe, where you can wander along the tree-shaded walks, run in the meadows, or sit in the famous beer garden (nonalcoholic refreshments available for the kids). You should also head over to the kid-friendly Deutsches Museum, the largest science and technology museum in the world. It’s loaded with interesting stuff for kids and adults, including a room with an elaborate model train.

Day 3: More Munich

Schloss Nymphenburg is on the top of your list today. The Schloss (palace) is a breeze to get to (it’s right in the city on the streetcar line), and Nymphenburg Park behind the palace is grand and inviting, with gardens and an English-style park with forested paths, and some intriguing buildings, including an 18th-century swimming pool and a baroque hunting lodge. There’s also a museum with ornate carriages and sleighs that might trigger memories or fantasies of fairy tales. If you didn’t make it to the Deutsches Museum the day before, you might want to head over there in the afternoon, or to the Deutsches Museum Verkehnszemtrum (Transportation Museum), where your kids can see how people got around in the days before cars, and also what early bicycles and cars looked like.

Day 4: Garmisch-Partenkirchen

Take the train to Garmisch-Partenkirchen in the Bavarian Alps south of Munich. First order of business is to ascend the Zugspitze, Germany’s highest peak (2,960m/9,720 ft.). A cog railway and a cable car take you up and bring you back—a fascinating treat for kids. The view from the summit is—what else?—spectacular. If you and your kids enjoy hiking, the area around Garmisch-Partenkirchen is great hiking country, with all levels of trails. Most hikes take an energetic 4 to 5 hours, but some of them are shorter and easy enough for children. Stay overnight in Garmisch. Good skiing and ice-skating in the enormous Eiszentrum, used for the 1936 Winter Olympics, are available all winter.

Day 5: Füssen

Take the train to Füssen, near Garmisch-Partenkirchen, and from there a bus to Neuschwanstein, “Mad” Ludwig’s fairy-tale castle. Germany’s most-visited tourist attraction perches on a rocky spur that requires a good uphill hike to reach. You also can also reach the castle by bus or horse-drawn cab. The forested hills all around Neuschwanstein and neighboring Hohenschwangau Castle are full of excellent hiking paths. Stay overnight in Füssen and explore the charming old town on foot.

Days 6 & 7: Freiburg

Ride the train to Freiburg, your headquarters in the Schwarzwald (Black Forest). Consider renting a car for just 1 day: From Freiburg you can make an easy 145km (90-mile) circuit through a scenic part of the Schwarzwald, with stops for short hikes and cable-car rides to the top of the Belchen, a famous mile-high peak with spectacular views of the Rhine plain, and to the 1,450m (4,750-ft.) summit of a peak called Seebuck. You can also stop at two Black Forest lakes, the Schluchsee and Titisee.

Day 8: Head Home

Make your way back to Frankfurt or Munich for the trip home. How about that—the kids actually had a good time!

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.