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 www.bayern.by
German National Tourist Office 800-651-7010
Ruhpolding Tourism www.ruhpolding.de