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One of the top reasons families visit Germany is to explore its wealth of fairytale castles and medieval towns that bring history to life. From crumbling fortress ruins perched dramatically on hilltops to stunningly preserved palaces still home to royal families today, Germany has castles to fire every traveler's imagination. Walking the crenelated parapets where knights once stood guard, or wandering twisting cobblestone lanes little changed since the Middle Ages, it's easy to feel transported back in time.
Neuschwanstein Castle, nestled amid soaring Bavarian Alps, is the inspiration for Disney's Sleeping Beauty castle and the most popular castle in Germany for good reason. Its Romanesque towers and Byzantine frescoes are straight out of a storybook. Visitors rave about both the exterior beauty and lavish interior halls adorned with paintings depicting Wagnerian operas and medieval legends. Though the castle can get crowded, most say touring it is one of the highlights of their Germany vacation.
Equally breathtaking is Burg Eltz rising from a lush forest in the Mosel region. One of few castles on the Romantic Road never destroyed, this medieval masterpiece has been owned by the same family for over 800 years. Visitors are awed wandering its eight unique towers, chapels, and banquet halls. The rods, trophies, and displays of medieval arms and armor provide a glimpse into the lives of those who once dwelled within its walls.
For a more hands-on castle experience, Marksburg Castle near Koblenz offers demonstrations by artisans dressed in medieval costume, letting kids try activities like coin minting and crossbow shooting. The fortress town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber transports visitors back to the 16th century with its intact city walls, cobblestone lanes, medieval houses, and market squares. Costumed guides share stories of knights and maidens, and nighttime walking tours by lamplight are perfect for families.
No trip to Germany would be complete without experiencing the iconic Oktoberfest, the world's largest folk festival originating in Munich but now celebrated across the country. While it may seem counterintuitive to bring kids to a beer festival, Oktoberfest offers plenty of family-friendly fun beyond the bier tents.
The two-week festival transforms Munich's Theresienwiese fairgrounds into a miniature city of carnival rides, games, live music and traditional costumes. Families enjoy rides like an 80-meter high Ferris wheel and historic carousels. Play carnival games like swatting rubber ducks or testing your strength at High Striker. Let kids burn off energy at a low-key amusement park on site with gentle rides suitable for all ages.
Marvel at the spectacular parades sponsored by the big Munich breweries like Paulaner, HofbrÃ¤uhaus and Hacker-Pschorr. Marching bands, costumed dancers, brewery staff and draft horses pulling traditional beer wagons parade through the grounds daily. Kids love catching stuffed animals and other treats tossed from floats.
Listen to oompah bands playing everything from polkas to chicken dances inside cavernous beer tents. While children are not allowed in some tents after 8 p.m., all have family-friendly sections open until 6 p.m. Savor classic snacks like giant pretzels, roast chicken, and apple strudel.
Don't miss the Trachtler march on the first Sunday, with over 9,000 traditionally dressed participants. Study regional costumes from Alpine Lederhosen to lowland Dirndls and hunt for souvenirs to take home.
Kara Brown of California brought her family to Oktoberfest and said: "We weren't sure what to expect with the kids, but we all had a fantastic time! My son loved the rides and games, and the girls got into the spirit dressing up in Dirndls. It was crowded but everyone was friendly. The food was amazing!"
Amy LeFevre from Texas wrote: "I'll admit I was hesitant to bring my pre-teen daughters to Oktoberfest because I thought it was all about drinking beer. We were pleasantly surprised by how much there was to enjoy as a family during the day - the costumes, music, parades and treats were wonderful. It was a vacation highlight!"
Beyond fairytales and beer, Germany has a thriving arts and culture scene waiting to be uncovered. From world-class museums and musical events to cutting-edge galleries and funky neighborhoods, families can dive into the nation's rich cultural heritage. Exposing kids to the arts enhances creativity, builds empathy, and teaches about diverse perspectives. Germany's vibrant arts scene makes for engaging learning opportunities to supplement more traditional sightseeing.
For art lovers, Berlin's Museum Island is a must-visit. This UNESCO World Heritage site in the Spree River houses five museums focused on everything from antiquities to Islamic art. See archaeological treasures at the Pergamon Museum and Impressionist masterpieces at the Alte Nationalgalerie. The Neues Museum features the bust of Nefertiti and other Ancient Egyptian artifacts. Many museums offer interactive exhibits and hands-on workshops tailored for budding artists. The German Historical Museum brings the country"s complex past to life through multimedia displays.
Beyond Berlin, Frankfurt's StÃ¤del Museum has a world-class collection including works by Monet, Rembrandt and Vermeer. The Kunsthalle in Hamburg showcases 19th and 20th century European paintings. For edgy contemporary art, check out the galleries and funky cafes of Cologne's Belgian Quarter or Berlin's scheunenviertel neighborhood.
Lovers of classical music will find abundant opportunities to experience stellar performances in Germany, the birthplace of composers like Bach, Brahms, and Beethoven. The summer months bring open-air concerts at venues from castle courtyards to public parks. Attend a Mozart requiem at the Berlin Philharmonic or take the family to an outdoor orchestral performance in Munich's Englischer Garten. Catch talented young musicians at the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival. Smaller cities like Eisenach and Weimar offer free lunchtime concerts in historic venues.
Grand opera houses like the Semperoper in Dresden or Bavarian State Opera in Munich also offer reduced price tickets for certain performances or dedicated children"s operas. Seeing a Wagnerian masterpiece performed in Bayreuth where it premiered is a bucket list cultural experience. Musical events like the Beethovenfest in Bonn or Bachfest in Leipzig let visitors immerse themselves in composers" legacies.
Mom Marissa Acosta wrote: "I worried the arts would bore my teens in Germany, but they loved the graffiti art and funky vibe of Berlin's East Side Gallery. The Van Gogh exhibit at the Frankfurt museum totally absorbed them too. It was a side of the country we never would have discovered without digging deeper into the cultural scene."
"Taking our girls to their first orchestra concert in Munich was magical," said dad Tyler James. "Hearing Florence Foster Jenkins performed on the same stage where it debuted in the 1920s made classical music come alive for them."
There's no better place than Germany to experience the enchantment of traditional Christmas markets. These charming open-air markets transform town squares across the country into winter wonderlands, offering cozy holiday ambiance, traditional gifts and decor, festive foods and family-friendly activities.
Christmas markets have a long history in Germany, with some dating back to the 14th century. Vendors would gather in the cold to sell food, textiles and decorations in preparation for Christmas. Over time these markets evolved into beloved community traditions with their own local flair.
Today, Germany has over 2,500 Christmas markets that attract tourists and locals alike. Nuremberg's Christkindlesmarkt, dating to 1545, is one of the largest and most famous. Here kids can see the Christkind angel make a grand entrance at the opening ceremony, then visit her ornate golden carriage on display. Nuremberg offers old world charm with booths selling traditional Bavarian Lebkuchen, gingerbread and NÃ¼rnberger RostbratwÃ¼rste sausages. The. Nostalgic carousel and Ferris wheel entertain kids while parents sample spiced wine.
Dresden's Striezelmarkt originated in 1434 and enchants visitors with its famous Stollen cakes, intricate wood carvings and glass ornaments. The medieval market square comes alive with food carts, mulled wine, concerts and handicraft vendors. Kids can decorate gingerbread cookies, watch glassblowing demos and meet Santa.
Smaller towns also shine with holiday spirit. Heidelberg's market glows with walking tours by lamp light, handmade chocolates and a 6 meter high Christmas pyramid sculpture. Goslar's historic market features a medieval mine, blacksmiths' forges and a living Advent calendar acted out daily. The Aachen Christmas market surrounds the stunning medieval town hall since 1393.
Wherever you go, Christmas markets burst with family fun. Kids can ride old-time carousels, take photos with Santa, create arts and crafts, decorate gingerbread cookies, and watch live manger scenes. The festive lights, fragrant pine garlands, handmade wooden ornaments and cozy fires provide a magical escape from the cold. Indulge in sausages, potato pancakes and other local treats. Don't miss the hot spiced wine known as GlÃ¼hwein - kids get non-alcoholic options.
Visiting Germany's Christmas markets creates lifelong memories. "Our family will never forget strolling the Cologne market lit up at night, the kids' eyes wide with wonder," said mom Alicia Mayer. "We've been to many Christmas markets across Europe, but Germany's unmatched old world charm and holiday spirit put it at the top of our list," raved the Cartwright family of London.
Beyond castles and Christmas markets, Germany offers families plenty of thrills at its world-class theme parks and zoos. From record-breaking rollercoasters to up-close animal encounters, kids of all ages can enjoy active adventures between the cultural sightseeing.
No trip to Germany is complete without a visit to Europa-Park, the country's largest theme park and one of Europe's top destinations, drawing over 5 million visitors annually. This immersive attraction near Freiburg transports visitors to different European lands from Italy to Iceland through detailed architecture, cuisine and cultural references. Families rave about the variety of rides from tame fairytales themed areas for little ones to white-knuckle coasters and free-fall towers for teens and daredevils.
Must-try rides include the Euro-Mir inverted coaster with speeds up to 62 mph and the unique Voletarium flight simulation ride. Don't miss Piraten in Batavia's thrill rides and stunt shows. Europa-Park's 13 rollercoasters claim several records, like the Alpenexpress launched coaster hitting speeds over 75 mph. The park also contains Germany"s largest water park and 4D movie theaters. Reviewers say Europa-Park offers nonstop fun for all ages, with delicious dining options from German staples to international cuisine.
Germany is also home to Movie Park Germany, featuring rides, shows and experiences themed around Hollywood blockbusters and characters. Families can blast through virtual worlds inspired by Star Trek, battle 24-foot sharks on the Hotel Transylvania dark ride, and snap selfies with Smurfs. Little ones love the Panda School adventure playground while teens flock to thrill rides like the Crazy Crane rollercoaster. Events like Fright Nights around Halloween add seasonal fun.
Beyond manufactured thrills, Germany's zoos like Berlin Zoological Garden and Zoo Frankfurt offer close-up encounters with exotic wildlife from around the globe. See adorable panda bears, majestic elephants, endangered rhinos, and more species. Interactive feeding sessions and demonstrations educate kids about conservation. Berlin's Zoo is the oldest in Germany, dating to 1844, and delights visitors with its vast array of animals, aquarium, and aviary. Zoo Frankfurt impresses with pioneering open enclosures mimicking animals' natural habitats. Families appreciate the playgrounds and interactive learning opportunities at Germany's top-tier zoos.
Winding through Bavaria and Baden-WÃ¼rttemberg, the Romantic Road unveils some of Germany's most breathtaking vistas. This 220-mile route connecting medieval towns and Alpine landscapes has enchanted visitors for over 60 years. From snow-capped mountains to rolling hills dotted with castles, the Romantic Road serves up one stunning vista after another.
Families revel in the diversity of scenery, with landscapes changing from lake country to dense forests to dramatic river valleys. Towering cliffs, storybook castles, and half-timbered villages unfold like living postcards. Cycling even just a portion of the route makes for an unforgettable adventure amid the postcard-perfect backdrops. The Romantic Road follows some exceptionally scenic legs of the river valleys carved by the Tauber, WÃ¶rnitz and Lech over the millennia. From dense woods to open meadows, the vistas capture Germany"s natural beauty.
Several stretches boast such an incredible concentration of castles that they are dubbed "castle roads." Near FÃ¼ssen, the Forggensee reservoir reflects regal Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau castles on its tranquil waters. Further north, the Tauber Valley between Rothenburg ob der Tauber and WÃ¼rzburg contains 40 castles and ruins in just 30 miles, earning it the nickname "Valley of the Castles." Stop to explore these intact strongholds and hilltop ruins. Let kids" imaginations run wild picturing knights and maidens within the ancient walls.
The fabled Zugspitze, Germany"s highest peak at 2,962 meters, also looms large over the Romantic Road near Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Ride a cog railway or cable car up the Zugspitze for stunning 360Â° Alpine panoramas. On a clear day, see views stretching all the way to 400 kilometers away. Adventurous families can brave the new suspension bridge linking the Zugspitzplatt plateau to the peak over a 650 foot abyss. Back down in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, take the Zugspitzbahn cogwheel train up the nearby Eibsee mountain at the foot of the Zugspitze. This high-altitude lake shimmering an unreal turquoise offers yet another iconic mountain view.
Beyond the bigger landmarks, even just driving the backroads between villages opens up beautiful vistas at every turn. Stop frequently to photograph the pretty scenes. Capture the morning mists rising over the valleys or charming towns nestled below mountain ridges. Let the kids run wild in an endless sea of green pastures dotted with draft horses and cows wearing jangling bells. So much natural perfection along the route makes pinpointing top photo ops impossible. Visitors recommend getting off the major highways for a more intimate experience of the Romantic Road.
Travel blogger Simonetta V writes, "We thought the scenery would get repetitive, but each stretch of the Romantic Road surprised us with new beauty - whether it was the emerald waters of Schwansee, a tiny village tucked into hillside vineyards, or a thunderstorm over the Alps, nature put on a spectacular show."
The Roberts family from Australia said: "Driving the Romantic Road was like being immersed in the Sound of Music! The kids kept yelling stop so we could get out and run through the dazzling green meadows straight from a fairytale. The scenery was unreal."
Beyond castles and Christmas markets, Germany tantalizes taste buds with mouthwatering local cuisine. From spÃ¤tzle to schnitzel, German food goes far beyond bratwurst and beer. Families can indulge in incredible regional dishes handed down over generations. The variety of specialties across Germany"s different states provides opportunities to try new flavors at every stop.
While each area boasts signature foods, Bavaria highlights Germany"s rich culinary traditions. This southern state borders Austria, bringing influences from Wiener schnitzel to strudel. Weisswurst, a tender veal sausage, is a Bavarian breakfast staple, often paired with sweet mustard and a freshly baked pretzel. Try another regional specialty, the brezelkrapfen " a mouthwatering doughnut filled with creamy vanilla or chocolate pastry cream.
Bavarian restaurants also serve some of Germany"s heartiest dishes perfect for hungry travelers. Schweinshaxe, crispy roast pork knuckle served with dumplings and sauerkraut, offers true Bavarian flavor. SpÃ¤tzle egg noodles dressed in cheese or gravy make an irresistible carb overload. And what dinner is complete without a golden schnitzel, elegantly thin and fried to perfection?
The Black Forest area tantalizes tastebuds with its namesake SchwarzwÃ¤lder Kirschtorte. Layers of chocolate cake interleaved with whipped cream and soaked in kirschwasser cherry brandy should top every family"s dessert list. Black Forest Ham also hails from this region and makes a savory addition to any German breakfast or sandwich.
In Hamburg, dining by the waterfront serves up fresh seafood like North Sea shrimp, tender mussels in white wine, or Matjes herring cured in special sauces. The city"s cosmopolitan side shows in cuisines like currywurst - chopped sausage smothered in a curried tomato sauce that kids devour.
Frankfurt am Main lays claim to Germany"s famous sausages, with over 1,500 varieties to sample. Locals down sausages alongside cider at the city"s traditional cider houses. Green sauce adds zingy flavor to meats and pairs perfectly with Frankfurt"s knackwurst and bratwurst.
And what visit to Germany skips the pretzels? From chewy dough knots to giant baked pretzel wheels, indulge in these satisfying snacks. Pair with delicious dips like obatzda, a smooth Bavarian cheese spread, or tangy mustard.
Beyond regional gems, don"t miss German staples like rouladen, thin beef rolled around pickles, bacon and mustard. Hearty goulash stew warms from within after a day of sightseeing. And the sandwich possibilities are endless with Germany"s fabulous breads and cold cuts.
Satisfy sweet tooths with streuselkuchen, a crumb cake topped with fruit, nuts or chocolate that families devour. Or sample the endless varieties of Black Forest cakes and tortes, from amaretto to marzipan to fruity combinations. With so many baked goodies, Germany is a dessert lover"s paradise.
"We planned our whole Germany itinerary around iconic regional foods," said mom Kat Allen. "From sausages in Munich to kugelhopf in Baden-Baden, it was an incredible 2 week foodie adventure the entire family loved."
Dad Mark Carlson wrote: "The focus on food traditions made the history and culture come alive for our kids. They gobbled up schupfnudeln potato dumplings in the Black Forest like little Gretels!"
When planning a Germany family vacation, finding the right accommodations is key to keeping everyone happy and comfortable. Luckily, the country offers family-friendly lodging options to fit a wide range of budgets.
For families focused on location and amenities, Germany has many all-inclusive resorts and vacation clubs catering to kids. Center Parcs offers several forest resorts across Germany with comfortable apartments, waterparks, restaurants and supervised activities. Families feel immersed in nature while enjoying resort amenities like pools, splash pads, ziplines, and children"s clubs. While pricey, these full-service resorts simplify family vacations.
Top-tier hotels in major cities also entice families with perks like connecting rooms, kids" clubs, and special amenities. Luxury family suites at places like Hotel Adlon Kempinski Berlin provide the royal treatment. Leading hotel chains like Marriott and Hilton have well-equipped kids" suites in prime locations across Germany. Multi-room suites allow privacy and space on longer vacations. High-end hotels spare no expense on children"s activities, family entertainment and childcare services. While not budget-friendly, luxury hotels can be a worthwhile splurge for special occasions or trips focused on major cities.
For families who want more local flavor, Germany has a huge variety of affordable, family-run hotels. Look for smaller hotels that advertise family rooms and amenities. Many boutique hotels offer suites or apartments with kitchenettes, laundries and living areas for great value. Staff at these owner-operated establishments often provide personal touches to make families feel welcome.
Hostels have upped their game in recent years as well, with private family rooms now common. German hostels like Meininger and A&O offer budget-friendly family rooms with several beds, ideal for quick city stays. Take advantage of hostel amenities like communal kitchens to save on dining out. Hostel dorms with multiple bunk beds can be great for older kids seeking independence.
Nothing immerses a family in local culture like staying in a German Ferienwohnung (vacation apartment). These rental apartments represent an affordable way for larger families to spread out in multiple bedrooms with kitchens. Self-catering allows you to control meal costs. Vacation rental sites have listings across Germany searchable by family amenities.
Camping and RVing have long been popular among German families themselves. The country is covered with campgrounds ranging from rustic to luxury. Traveling with a tent, campervan or RV allows unparalleled flexibility to roam Germany"s scenic country roads on a budget. Most sites have family-friendly amenities like playgrounds, pools and recreation areas for kids.