We are a group of 4 adults and two kids aged 10 years travelling to Germany. We are vegetarians. We are travelling from 25th May for around 12 days. We will be renting a car to drive around. This is what we’re planning:
Munich: 3 nights
Black Forest region: 3 nights
Cologne: 3 nights
We planning to do Europa Park as well .
There seems to be a lot to do so wanted your help in short listing a few. We plan about 10 to 12 days in Germany. As we going with kids won’t be able to do lot of museums and historical places but would do atleast a couple of them. Please suggest kids-friendly options, vegetarian food joints and cafes, small villages towns, etc.
MUNICH: SEE, DO & EAT
- Neuschwanstein Castle
- BMW Welt or Deutches Museum
- Englischer Garten
- Beer garden
First off, I would recommend that even though you’re travelling with kids you do not only restrict yourself to things that are definitely and obviously catering to children because that is the surely the way to insanity. Unless, of course, you love those slightly cliched, cute sightseeing options and then by all means, go for it. So while I am including baby-proofed tourist attractions I am also mentioning general must sees.
Munich is certainly an odd bird. Many consider it to be one of the best European cities to travel to with your family and that probably is due as much to its many child-friendly attractions as to its intrinsic differentness
(that’s a made-up word, kids). Munich is Germany’s third largest city but you’d never guess that from seeing a picture of it. There’s a law in Munich that does not allow new buildings to be taller than the Frauenkirche, the iconic onion-domed cathedral that, therefore, towers over the city. So no skyscrapers, a centre that is pedestrianized (the Marienplatz) and buildings topped with sweet red roofs that you associate with smaller towns. This refusal to grow up has earned Munich the nickname, Millionendorf: village of a million. How adorable is that! And as if that wasn’t enough, many of its beer gardens are so eager to welcome children that they even have playgrounds and a deer park. Yup, it’s a no-brainer.
In terms of hotels, here are some suggestions of family-friendly ones in Munich:
BLACK FOREST: SEE, DO & EAT
- Drive the Schwarzwaldhochstraße
- Vogtsbauernhof Museum
- Kinzig and Gutach valleys
- Black forest cake
- Farm stay
Brooding forests, timbered houses leaning over swift-flowing rivers and cuckoo clocks, the Black Forest seems to overflow with things to offer. Which is why it may be difficult to choose a town to stay in. Since you have a car at your disposal, just choose the best looking / priced accommodation you can find rather than a specific town and then just take day trips to explore other towns.
You will be visiting Europa Park, which is in the northern Black Forest region but actually the Kinzig and Gutach valleys sound more interesting to me.
Aside from being almost unfairly picturesque, this area is also home to the Black Forest Open Air Museum Vogtsbauernhof, an open-air museum of history and culture. Here you can walk around the fifteen or so farmhouses complete with farm animals and kitchen gardens to explore the Germany before the industrial age. I can imagine kids getting a kick out of this.
Rick Steves’ Europe recommends the small town of Wolfach also on the Kinzig River.
You can make your way to this part of the Black Forest by driving along the 65km long Schwarzwaldhochstraße, considered one of the prettiest drives in the region. This scenic, high-altitude road stretches between Baden-Baden and Freudenstadt and sounds like a must do.
I would recommend you try a farm stay here. The kids are sure to love staying on a real farm complete and you’ll get to experience a very different side of Germany. You could book one through AirBnb or Vrbo. Booking.com has a list of their top 10 Black Forest farmstays. Official tourism websites (here and here) also many farmstays but unfortunately have descriptions only in German. Maybe Google Translate can help.
The Telegraph UK has an article with tips from readers for this bucolic region. Even though the article is from 2012, there’s a lot of basic information which should still hold true.
COLOGNE: SEE, DO & EAT
- Kölner Dom
- Chocolate Museum (Schokoladenmuseum)
- Römisch-Germanisches Museum
- Bike or Segway tour
- Hostel stay
- Train ride: Mainz – Koblenz
Surprisingly, even though Cologne is considered Germany’s cultural capital it’s not as quaint as Munich as first glance. Bombed during World War II Cologne had to rebuild itself so it looks more industrial and modern than Munich but a section of the old town still remains (the Altstadt) and the new buildings are not allowed to be taller than the dramatic city cathedral or Kölner Dom.
From your description it sounds like Cologne may come at the end of your trip and here I think you may have to try a little harder to keep the kids interested.
People in Cologne take brunch pretty seriously. The Sunday Times thinks the Cologne’s best brunch is served at (wait for it)… the zoo! Who would have guessed that? I love this quick but comprehensive guide from The Independent UK. They also have a recommendation for a vegan brunch. The above two articles also have accommodation suggestions. This article is by a mum who travelled to Cologne with her eight-year-old daughter.
Would you consider staying in a hostel with the kids? My sister in law did it with her then-eight-year-old twins and they loved it. Its such a quintessential European experience that I think it could really add to the trip. Here is a list of some great hostels and here is one hostel that looks really interesting, I think.
On the way to Cologne you could opt to do a part of it by train. This train route through the Rhine Valley is considered one of Europe’s most scenic. Plus, I think train journey would be a great thing to do with the kids because they can run around and stretch their legs, unlike in a car. It sounds really lovely so even if you can’t do the entire 2 hours by train, I would recommend that you at least do the hour-long journey between Mainz and Koblenz. Mainz itself seems like a great place to explore; a university town that dates back to Roman times ought to be an intriguing mix of history and street culture. More about Mainz here.
Even though you don’t immediately think of vegetarian food when you think of Germany you will definitely be able to find vegetarian and vegan restaurants since you will spending a lot of your time in large cities. I’m adding some links to specific restaurant suggestions below.
But if you’re sorry about missing out on the local food culture there may just be some Bavarian classics you can try. Like Brezn with Obatzda, for example, pretzel served with Bavarian cheese spread laced with paprika and topped with onions. Or Bavarian crème, a whipped cream custard served with fruit compote and berries. You may also be able to find the famous Hutzelbrot or Christmas bread laden with dry fruits and nuts in bakeries and supermarkets.
But even if you can’t find the Hutzelbrot you will undoubtedly be able to eat the authentic version of the cake we’ve all grown up with… BLACK FOREST CAKE!!! Or as the locals call it: Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte. A cake soaked in Schnapps, bursting with cherries and topped with chocolate mousse and whipped cream. If you ask me that’s a three course meal right there. drool
And, of course, all the cheese. Like literally, all the cheese. Please treat yourself to ALL the cheese. Local favourites include the Allgäu mountain cheese.
Most of this food will pair well with beer. And even if it doesn’t, who cares? Here’s a guide to Bavarian beer.
TIP: Ask for a children’s discount or family tickets at museums and attractions, in hotels (if they’re sleeping on an extra bed in your room), on public transport and guided tours.
Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents, Terry Pratchett
All photos: www.123rf.com