Family Time

A Bavarian holiday is perfect for children of all ages

By: Judy Koutsky

Bavaria, Germany’s oldest and largest state, draws a large percentage of international travelers each year. In fact, one in five visitors to the region is from abroad. What many travelers may not know is that this region is a big draw for families many hotels, restaurants and sights cater to kids.

Located on the Austrian-Germany border, the picture of the plump innkeeper with rosy cheeks and a constant smile isn’t a myth. Also, to my surprise, many a man was found wearing the traditional Lederhosen leather pants that stop at the knees, socks pulled up high, country shirt and richly decorated jacket, suspenders, a felt hat and traditional shoes. With sights right out of a fairy tale, what child wouldn’t embrace this region?

The food in Bavaria was pretty traditional sausages, dumplings, local fish and spatzle, a German-type of pasta. Restaurants welcome children of all ages, and it’s not uncommon to see kids’ menus. The traditional beer gardens which can be found everywhere are also kid-friendly, and it’s a great way to spend a meal outdoors, taking in the sights, while not spending a fortune on food. There are many cities and towns within Bavaria that work as a home base. I wanted to be among locals, so I headed to Ruhpolding, where 95 percent of the tourists visiting here are Germans. The village is home to 6,000 inhabitants and boasts the same number of hotel beds. In short, tourism is the main industry.

I found this to be a wonderful town for families. The walking trail that surrounds it is a great introduction to the area, and the main street is full of little cafes and shops. With the surrounding Alps as a backdrop, this picturesque town has a leisure park, an Alpine nature trail on the Rauschberg, a myths and fables trail (with stops along the way explaining various stories), a fairy-tale forest and a mini-golf course. The locals are very friendly, and children were everywhere.

A highlight for us, and something kids would definitely enjoy, is taking the cable car up to Mount Rauschberg, one of the peaks in the Chiemgau Alps. This area is called the “Balcony of the Alps” because it’s where the mountain chain begins, and the views from the top are pretty amazing.

The next day we took a boat ride along Lake Chiemsee, Bavaria’s largest lake and often referred to as the Bavarian Ocean. Stops along the route included the castle on the Herreninsel, one of the biggest tourist attractions in Upper Bavaria. In 1873, Ludwig II acquired the island and built a castle modeled after Versailles. While the castle was never completed, what was finished is amazingly beautiful (the hall of mirrors, the countless chandeliers, the gold leaf and marble throughout). Horse-drawn buggy rides are a nice way to explore the island, and the kids can have a photo op in front of the castle alongside the horse.

Another child-friendly activity in the region is visiting the world-famous salt mines in Berchtesgaden. Hundreds of thousands of visitors come every year to take in one of Bavaria’s top attractions. Kids will especially enjoy a visit as Pauli, the park’s mascot, explains simply and clearly to the children how the “white gold” as salt is called is formed and extracted.

Of course, there’s plenty to do in Munich, including the Munich Zoo. Here families flock by the carload to take in the interactive exhibits. Whether it’s the elephants on their “Jungle Patrol,” the sea lions in their “Flipper Parade” or the birds of prey in their “Air Acrobatics,” the zoo does a wonderful job educating and providing a fun atmosphere.

For many visitors to Germany, Bavaria has long been known as one of the most family-friendly regions in the country. The question is not what to do, it’s how to fit it all in.


Bavaria Tourism Office

German National Tourist Office 800-651-7010

Ruhpolding Tourism