Advice about Visiting Germany

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Mainz/Frankfurt and Paris in December

Oct 2006

We will be traveling to the Mainz/Frankfurt area of Germany with our 5-year-old daughter over the Christmas holidays to visit friends, and perhaps taking a short side trip to Paris as well. We will be in the area for about a week and a half. We were wondering about interesting places to visit and things to do, as this is our first trip to Germany. I hear the Christmas fairs in Frankfurt are great. Any other highlights in the area to see? We would love to learn about the local Christmas customs and perhaps catch some music concerts, dance, or theater as well (any great local Nutcrackers or Christmas plays for children?) We could also take short trips out to Heidelberg, etc., although we could use some tips on how to navigate the seemingly complex German rail system. As this is our daughter's first trip abroad, recommendations for books that might introduce German customs, especially at Christmas time, would be very useful. A German language/phrase book for children (and adults!) might also be helpful. Also, we would like to take a side trip to Paris to visit a dear friend who has been very ill. Any recommendations on inexpensive flights or trains between Frankfurt and Paris? Looking forward to a European Christmas

About taking your 5 year old to Germany over Christmas. Wonderful idea! We took our 4 and 2 year olds a couple years ago, to that same region, where I had also lived as a child and college student for upwards of 7 years. Advice: it gets dark in mid afternoon, so plan accordingly. The Christmas markets of Rudesheim (on the Rhein river) and Rothenburg ( a little south) are actually not crowded , despite summer crowds in those touristy , but good little towns. Even at nighttime it is charming, safe, and interesting. Visit a couple castles on the Rhein, too. In Mainz you have the Gutenberg museum with his printing press and original Bible, plus a medieval cathedral. In Wiesbaden, next door, you have a pedestrian shopping zone , plus the Bonifatius Church, and at night, it is a little Christmas Markt. You might stay away from crowded big city zones (Frankfurt downtown) and go to the smaller villages or towns. Marksburg castle is a drive north, but amazing medieval fortress. Bingen , also on the east side of the Rhein is home to St. Hildegard's home, church (with heated kneelers!),town, songs, and a wonderful bookstore that sells also nativity pieces and wines and honey, made in her convent gardens. I loved my childhood there! Frieda

Munich for a night?

May 2006

We are a family, two parents, a 9 year old and an 11 year old. We have a stopover in Munich for a night, arriving at 6pm and then leaving at 6am the next day. By the time we get through customs, who knows what time it will be. Does anyone have any recommendations for where we should stay or dine and whether we should try to get a view of the city, or should I just accept that we'll see nothing and make reservations at an airport near the hotel? anon

The Munich Airport is quite a ways from downtown Munich. I would recommend that you get a hotel for the night close to the airport - there is a Kempinski rigth at the airport ($$$). Once you settled in, you have three options:

(A) go downtown taking PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION - that is the S-Bahn - (not a taxi - costs you a fortune!) - and go straight downtown to the Marienplatz. Have dinner there at one of the many great places. All are good! The S-Bahn trip takes about 30 minutes each way.

(B) a ''quicker'' option is to get a cab ride to one of the smaller towns around the airport and have a nice Bavarian dinner in one of the restaurants (''Gasthaus''). The towns are: Freising, Neufahrn bei Freising, Erding, etc.

(C) although this option is right IN the aiport, it's probably the least stressful and still very enjoyable: go to the Airbraeu - a micro brewery with a wonderful restaurant right between Terminal 1 and 2. Have a beer and relax! S

It's hard to be in a great new town and not check it out, but if I were you, I wouldn't plan to see much. You and your family will likely be tired, you don't know what time you'll leave the airport, and it would take you about 45 minutes to get downtown. But the real clincher for me is your 6 am flight---even if you stay near the airport, you'll have to be up by 4 or so. That's a lot of tiring travel, especially for kids.

If it were me, I'd plan to stay in one of the boring old chains by the airport. Then if it turned out we all felt perky enough, I'd cab downtown (or take the S-Bahn, much cheaper) and have dinner, maybe someplace fun like the Augustiner Bierhalle, wander around Marienplatz, then get some sleep. Have a great trip DL

I have 4 kids and had a hard time finding accommodations in Munich. We actually checked out early and wound up staying in a guesthouse in Dachau. The accommodations were fantastic, sorry can’t remember the name of the guesthouse. We found several excellent restaurants in Dachau and had one of the best meals in one just down the road from McDonalds. (And it was inexpensive.)

You can find tons of places to eat around Marienplatz. Try the Bürgerbräukeller or at least visti it. Since you have kids, I would visit the White Rose memorial. I took my kids there after they were taught about Sophie and Hans Scholl, and Christopher Probst. After returning the states I wanted to lean about it and found this What a powerful message this is for kids Dougg

Hope this isn't too late, but as someone who lived in Munich 8 years and traveled from that airport weekly, I feel confident answering you. My simple answer is: stay put. The Munich airport is far outside the city (40 Mins and 50 Euros by cab or even longer by train) and with the stress of checking in and out of a hotel PLUS the risk that you'll miss your flight if anything goes wrong...

Personally I would choose the Kempinski hotel which is walking distance from the airport terminal, to minimize hassle. There are several less expensive hotels that you can reach with a shuttle, which I'm sure you can find online. Hope you will make it back to Munich on another visit - it is definitely worth a day or two! Linda

Munich with 2 young children

April 2006

My husband and I are thinking about taking our boys to Munich next summer to visit some friends. By the time we go, they will be 1.5 and 3.5. Can you recommend child-friendly activities in Munich and the surrounding countryside? Lisa

Hi Lisa, Munich is a gateway into the Bavarian Alps, so you might be able to enjoy some *short* family walks. (I keep thinking of the 1.5 year old). There are lots of fairy-tale castles in the area. Neuschwanstein Castle is the model that Walt Disney used for Sleeping Beauty's castle.

There is also a cogwheel train from Garmisch-Partenkirchen (twin towns at the base of the Bavarian Alps) that takes you to the top of the Zugspritze where you will be able to see three countries. Hope this is a start (and that you get other good ideas from your posting)! David

hi, i believe there is a really cool hands-on science museum in munich. i haven't been there since it was built, but have heard great things about it, people who have been there said it is a great place for kids joanne

We lived in Munich in the past two years with our son who is now 2.5. I got to now this city through the perspective of a mother with a baby/toddler, and I must say that Munich and its surrounding is a great place to spend a vacation with young kids. You always can escape from the busy city to the English Garden or the Isarauen and the lakes which are close to the city. A lot of the Biergaerten have big playing areas with sand and climbing structures. Take your own picnic with you, buy a beer or a Radler and have a nice time. If it is raining, take your child to the Deutsches Museum or other great exhibitions in the inner city . I could continue with a list of things to do in Munich, and maybe the webite can help you with some other ideas. Have a nice vacation. bk

Nuernberg for a day

April 2004

We will be in Germany this summer, spending at least a day in the Nuernberg area. A web search reveals that there is a Playmobile FunPark nearby. Is anyone out there familiar with this park? Is it too young for a 10-year-old (he still plays with his playmobile stuff now and then)? Is it worth a couple of hours? Or - any other ideas near there? (no major amusement parks - he doesn't do big rides). R.K.

I'm not familiar with playmobil funparks, but you were asking from alternatives what to do in Nuernberg with a 10 year old child, too. There's a castle hill in the middle of the city, with many traditional buildings, a wall around, museum, all this open to the public. You can easily hang out a whole day there, explore, make up stories, and try ot imagine how people used to live a few hundred years ago. (Well, some people, other's had to live in little huts rather than castles... ) The Youth hostel of the city is right there, too, and as many Youth hostels it's in a historical building. This one has 7 attic storeys, that means you see 7 rows of dormer windows. When I was a child, I wished my parents and me had spent the night there in a B & B. We learned about life in Middle ages in elementary school. If you son had no information about this yet, I'd prepare him a little bit, with books etc. Have a good trip, Julia

Germany for 2 weeks - tour group or on our own?

Feb 2004

We are planning a two week trip to Germany and wanted to get recommendations on places to stay and semi-leisurely itineraries. Anyone take an escorted tour on a bus? What was your experience? We are having a difficult time planning this and deciding if we should do Germany on our own or book it with a travel agent for an escorted bus tour. hana

I suggest the Mosel River Valley (yummy, cheap wine...not the nasty super sweet stuff that is sold here as Mosel River Wine). My favorite weekend trip while living in Europe was to that valley. Write to me if you choose to visit this part of the country. I can give you specific suggestions on places to stay, a fabulous wine maker, etc. My second favorite place is down in Garmisch (down in the Alpine region). From there, you can see Saltzburg (cheesey Sound of Music still lives on, but it is goofy fun anyway) or Venice without too much of a drive/train trip. I would suggest booking your own trip and using trains when possible. Hanging out with a bunch of other American tourists is hardly the way to experience Europe. Jan

Check out Rick Steves' 16-day tour of Austria, Germany, and Switzerland. My husband and I did a 21-day ''Best of Europe'' trip with ''Rick Steves' Tours'' -- the guy who does the travel show, ''Europe Through the Back Door,'' on PBS. He offers a variety of different itineraries and packages. My husband had never been to Europe, so the ''Best of Europe'' was the best introduction to Europe for him (I've been several times). This trip was my first time, in 20 or so years of independent travel, going on an organized trip. I did some research, and found that Rick Steves adhered, as much as possible when you are traveling with a group, to my philosophy of travel -- stay in small hotels/pensions, walk lots, eat well, and travel light. It was the best of both worlds -- a tour to get you around and into see the highlights (both big cities and small villages), and time to wander on your own. Of course by the end of our trip we wanted no schedule, and so we planned at the end of our tour to stay an extra 6 days in Paris on our own.

We were very pleased with the trip and found it excellent value for the money we paid. Please read the website to see if this type of travel/group tour is for you. Happy travels! Kathleen