Germany is a diverse country - modern cities, picturesque Alpine villages and verdant countryside all make it a haven for families.
From exploring fairytale Christmas markets to hiking through verdant countryside, this is our expert guide to a family vacation in Germany.
Hit the tracks
With the advent of Slow Travel, train is becoming the preferred method of transport the world over. Germany is no different, and long picturesque train journeys across rolling Alpine hills are sure to keep the kids entertained for hours. Once aboard one of Deutsche Bahn’s classic trains, head south to the majestic Alpine Lake Constance. Bordering Germany, Switzerland and Austria, Lake Constance is the perfect place for a peaceful respite at the heart of central Europe.
If hiking and biking are your thing, take the family to the Rhine Valley, a haven of adventure and discovery. Deutsche Bahn’s trains have plenty to keep the children entertained on board too, with designated spaces for both families with toddlers and families with older children on the InterCity Express (ICE) routes. The former – known as Kleinkindabteil – has facilities for buggies, sockets for heating bottles, nappy changing facilities and so on. The latter, Familienbereich in German, has space to roam around and hang out with other like-minded family travellers. The onboard entertainment programme for children is free too, and doesn’t need to be booked in advance.
Celebrate the festive season
Christmas markets have been synonymous with Germany since time immemorial. They generally last from late November to Christmas Eve, and there’s a plethora up and down the country to choose from. In Munich, the city’s traditional market takes over the main square Marienplatz. Live advent music is played every evening, and in nearby Neuhauser Strasse, you’ll find what is Germany’s largest manger market.
For more of an off the beaten path market experience, head to Ravenna Gorge, whose fairytale setting in the heart of the Black Forest provides a veritable escape from reality. Complete with nativity scenes, German pastries and an abundance of gluhwein, Germany’s Christmas markets are an all round unforgettable experience for all the family.
Explore the fairytale past
A land that gave birth to the Grimm brothers’ fairy tales, Germany is filled with mystical palaces and castles waiting to be explored. With over 25,000 castles across the country and four designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites, there’s plenty of other-worldly sites to choose from across the country. From the splendour of Berlin’s Bellevue Palace to the iconic Wartburg Castle – where Martin Luther translated the New Testament – Germany’s castles and palaces are a real testament to the country’s history.
One of our favourites is the Schloss Neuschwanstein in Bavaria, which was used as the very model for the castle in Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. Built as a romantic castle by King Ludwig II, work started on the castle in 1869 and like many of Ludwig’s schemes, was never quite finished. King Ludwig spent a miniscule 170 days in residence, but today the impressive castle is open to all those who wish to visit. Don’t miss the impressive Sängersaal (Minstrels’ Hall), whose frescoes depict scenes from the opera Tannhäuser. For a postcard-perfect view of the castle from the outside, head to the nearby Marienbrücke (Mary’s Bridge), which also offers a vista over the spectacular Pöllat Gorge and a waterfall just above the castle.
Hike through the verdant countryside
From the Black Forest to the Harz Mountains, Germany is awash with countryside hiking opportunities. Perfect for families, the Harz Mountains suit both avid climbers and laid-back travellers alike. Choose from exploring toy towns with fairytale castles like Goslar Old Town, discovering medieval UNESCO World Heritage Sites such as Quedlinburg or meandering through Harz National Park.
In the Thuringian Forest, also known as the “green heart of Germany,” get off the tourist trail and hike amongst the locals. With approximately 4,700 square kilometres of verdant woodlands in the area, families can get wonderfully lost here for hours. Take a mid-hike pause in one of the region’s many sleepy yet charming villages, or take to two wheels and cycle through the 16,000 kilometres of different routes on offer.