If you are traveling to Germany with your kids, the whole family is in for a treat. Much of what you’ll see seems to come straight out of a storybook - castles and palaces, medieval towns, mythical parks, and busy cities. After all, Germany is the home of the Brothers Grimm and their fairy tales. From enchanting castles and interactive museums, to the world’s largest water park, here’s how to make the most out of your family vacation and have a great time with kids in Germany.
Have fun at a theme park. In Germany there is not only Europe's second biggest theme park Europa-Park, after Disneyland Paris, but also the shows and rides at Phantasialand near Cologne and Legoland in Bavaria (or a smaller indoor Legoland venue next to Germany's biggest shopping centre in Oberhausen) are well worth a visit.
See the Neuschwanstein Castle. If your kid loves Cinderella’s Castle in Disneyland, show them the real deal. Visit the fairy tale castle of Neuschwanstein, which is nestled in the Bavarian Alps and was the model for Disney’s Sleeping Beauty Castle. If your kids don’t want to walk up the hill to the castle (30-40 mins), you can also hop on a charming horse-drawn carriage and then walk 5-10 minutes. You can also take a tour of Neuschwanstein to see the richly decorated interior like the gaudy artificial grotto, the Throne Room with its giant crown-shaped chandelier, and the lavish Minstrels' Hall. Click here for information on how to get to the castle from Munich.
Ride Germany's fairytale road. A great scenic drive through Germany that your kids will love is the Fairy Tale Road, or Deutsche Märchenstraße. The 600 km long route starts in Frankfurt and goes all the way up to Bremen in the North of Germany. You can hike in Little Red Riding Hood's forest, visit the castle of Sleeping Beauty, and climb up the tower from where Rapunzel let down her hair. Almost all of the 50 towns along the Fairy Tale Road offer family-friendly activities, such as puppet shows (in German, but with universal appeal), parades, concerts, medieval markets, historic Christmas markets, and lovely statues of your kids' favorite fairy tale characters.
Enjoy Oktoberfest. Can you take your kids to the world’s most famous beer festival? The answer is yes! Although the festival is famous for German beer, there is so much more. The whole family can enjoy fun rides, concerts, and traditional parades that will introduce your kids to Bavarian culture, food, and history. Every Tuesday the whole family can enjoy family days where there discounted prices on rides. You can also bring your children with you into the Oktoberfest beer tents, although kids under the age of six have to leave the tents by 8 p.m. The most family-friendly Oktoberfest tents are the Augustiner Beer Tent Augustiner Beer Tent and the Wine Tent in the early afternoon.
Swim in water parks. Germany is proud to be home to the largest indoor water park in the world: Tropical Islands. Located near Berlin, this giant dome can be seen for miles around. It features the world’s biggest indoor rain forest, Europe’s largest tropical spa and sauna complex, a 650 feet long sandy beach, endless slides, and even accommodations. And this is just one of Germany's best water parks. Explore the rest around the country.
Ride bikes. 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.
Have fun in the snow. Germany has a lot of mountains and though snow levels aren’t quite what they were 10 or 20 years ago, most peaks are high enough to have snow from November to May. All ski resorts, no matter the price point, have ski schools will English-speaking instructors. Families with smaller children may find resorts in the Black Forest less chaotic than the more famous Garmisch-Partenkirchen etc. If the idea of throwing yourself down the side of mountain is less than appealing, there is always snowshoeing, skating, walking and, of course, the bar.
Go miniature. If something’s worth doing, in Germany it’s worth doing smaller. Tiny engineering has two homes in Germany: Minatur Wonderland in Hamburg, and Playmobil in Nuremberg. Visit the former and you’ll be whisked along 11 km of train track taking you through miniature versions of the Alps and places in Scandinavia, the U.S. and Germany; while a trip to the latter sees visitors dwarfed by life-sized versions of their favorite toys.
Visit a factory. Many factories in Germany offer tours, particularly those that make beer, chocolate, candy and cars. It’s best to call ahead and ask if reservations are necessary for English tours, and also to bring an empty bag or two to collect all the discount loot from the factory store. The Haribo factory in Bonn is where gummy bears were born in 1920 and today the company is the largest manufacturer of sweets in the world. BMW World in Stuttgart has special exhibitions for children and is within walking distance from the BMW factory, where anyone can go see how cars get made. The Chocolate Museum in Cologne has its very own chocolate factory and a chocolate fountain, while over near Dresden, the Meissen Porcelain factory offers tours of workshop where artists still handprint plates, vases and teapots.