With its diverse landscapes – from the dune-fringed coastline in the north to the forests, river valleys and vineyards of the centre to the rugged Alps in the south – Germany offers almost unlimited choices to the traveller. It is also a land rich in history and culture, with attractions and activities to appeal to kids and adults alike, from romantic castles straight out of a Disney movie to Bavarian timbered villages overflowing with flower boxes and beer gardens. Not to mention the food; schnitzels, pretzels, sausages and roast pork are just the beginning!
Berlin became the German capital in 1990 when East and West Germany were unified. At the same time the old city centre was redeveloped around the Friedrichstrass, and the construction of the new government offices in the Potsdamer Platz began. The city’s best-known landmarks are the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag, and the Memorial Church at the Kurfürstendamm.
Berlin is famous for its many theatres and museums, its vibrant pub scene and its verdant surroundings of woodlands and water. Since reunification Berlin is once again a key factor, the link between Western and Eastern Europe.
Munich is another of Germany’s buzzing cities, and a unique place due its blend of traditional and modern. You’ll simultaneously find edgy art, high-tech attractions and lederhosen in this vibrant city – not to mention its world-famous pretzels. Top things to see in Munich include its many museums, Englischer Garten (Munich’s ‘Central Park’) and the impressive Nymphenburg Palace.
The Black Forest
This mountainous region sources its name from the canopy of thick, lush evergreens that call it home. Kids may feel that they have fallen into a fairy tale as they wander through its many miles of forest trails and discover the picturesque German towns within its borders.
For the kids who live with their heads in the clouds, a stop at this Bavarian alps town is a must. Little princesses will be thrilled by the fairy tale castle of Neuschwanstein – the model for the castle in Disney’s ‘Sleeping Beauty’. It’s picturesquely nestled in the Bavarian Alps and the walk up to it is charming, although if you’re feeling royal, horse-drawn carriages a transport option, too.
Kids will love a visit to Freiburg, home to Germany’s largest theme park, Europa-Park. The park is great for helping kids learn their geography, representing Europe in miniature. Go fjord-rafting in Scandinavia, head to England for a race at Silverstone or Greece to ride the water roller coaster Poseidon. For a nice wind-down, head to Stadtgarten for a family stroll through the gardens, flowers and trees, and walk from here to the city centre for a delicious bite.
Best time to go to Germany
Germany is an attractive travel destination year-round, with a typical four season climate. Summer months are generally warm and seldom oppressively hot, with an average daytime temperature of 24 degrees Celsius. From December to March, snow falls in the highland areas and the average winter temperature is zero degrees Celsius. Although average temperatures can vary dependent on the region, below are the average temperatures in the capital of Berlin.
June to August, average high temperatures of 23 degrees Celsius.
September to November, average high temperatures of 13 degrees Celsius.
December to February, average high temperatures of three degrees Celsius.
March to May, average high temperatures of 13 degrees Celsius.
Germany is a part of the Schengen area, along with a number of other European countries. You do not need a visa to travel to countries in the Schengen area for up to 90 days in any 180-day period.
If you exceed the 90 days within the 180-day period of legal stay in the Schengen area without a valid visa, you may be fined or banned from entering in the future.
The European Commission has more information, including a calculator to help you track your number of visa-free days.
Germany is approximately a 22-hour flight from the east coast of Australia. Several airlines regularly fly from Sydney, Melbourne and Perth to Germany so you should be able to get a flight any day of the week.
Major international airports in Germany include Frankfurt and Munich. Both airports offer duty-free shopping, eateries, ATMs, car hire and 24-hour taxis.
Many smaller German cities have their own airports, and numerous carriers operate domestic flights within Germany. Unless you’re flying from one end of the country to the other, say Berlin to Munich, planes are only marginally quicker than trains once you factor in the hours it takes to get to the airport and go through security checks.
Getting around for families
If you decide to rent a car, Germany’s Autobahn system – together with an excellent network of federal and state highways – makes it possible for motorists to reach any destination in the country quickly and comfortably. With around 11,000 toll-free kilometres, the Autobahn system is one of the world’s most advanced motorway networks. Tourist information boards are posted in all the modern motorway service areas.
If you choose not to drive, family rail passes are available and provide value and convenience on the train networks. Germany’s rail system is operated almost entirely by Deutsche Bahn, with a variety of train types serving just about every corner of the country.
Buses are generally slower and less dependable than trains, but in some rural areas they may be your only option for getting around without your own vehicle.
Food and drinks that kids will love
In Germany you can find food to suit even the most particular tastes. There is a broad selection of European and international cuisine or local specialties. The selection of bread, wine, beer and sausages is second to none. There are restaurants to suit every pocket – from snack bars to five-star. Don’t forget to let the kids try an authentic pretzel while you’re here, too!
Some treats to try on your travels include:
- Bratwurst: A pork sausage that is generally fried or grilled. The earliest documented evidence of Bratwurst, which today has some 40 regional varieties, dates back to the 14th century in Nuremberg.
- Sauerbraten: One of Germany’s best known dishes abroad, sauerbraten consists of a pot roast (usually beef) that is marinaded for days in vinegar with peppercorns, onions, and other seasonings before cooking.
- Maultaschen: Essentially a pasta dough dumpling that is traditionally filled with meat, eggs, onions, spinach, parsley, and spices. Sometimes served in soup.
- Stollen: Usually eaten around Christmas time, stollen is a bread made of dried or candied fruit, marzipan, nuts like almonds, and spices like cinnamon and cardamom. It is usually topped with powdered sugar.
Shops are generally open for business from 9am to 8pm from Monday to Friday, and from 9am to 6pm on Saturdays, though there are no uniform business hours for the entire Federal Republic of Germany. On the last four Saturdays before Christmas they can open until 8pm
Regional products include traditional Bavarian outfits (such as Dirndl dresses, Lederhosen, and Loden jackets) and beer mugs are the classic souvenir and come in a diverse range of options – glass or stoneware, plain or decorated, with or without pewter lids. The Black Forest is the birthplace of German clockmaking and purchasing a cuckoo clock is somewhat of a German pastime. Intricate woodcarvings are widely available in the mountain regions, with Oberammergau’s being especially renowned.
If you time your visit around December, Christmas markets across the country will be selling a variety of wares including colourful ornaments, classic nutcrackers and other decorations.
Service charges as well as VAT are included in the prices. Extra tipping in Germany is therefore purely voluntary (up to 10 % of the total bill) and expresses satisfaction with services received.
What to wear
How you dress in Germany will largely depend on the time of the year. In summer you should be prepared for temperatures over 25 degrees Celsius, but take clothes suitable for less than 18 degrees Celsius. Depending on the region, winter temperatures can drop below freezing during the day.
The voltage from a German power outlet is 230 volts, and the power sockets are of Type F – you’ll need an adapter for any Australian devices.
Health risks are broadly similar to those in Australia. As always, you should consult your GP before international travel and take out travel insurance.
Travel in forested areas, particularly in the states of Bavaria and Baden-Wurttemburg, brings the risk of tick-borne encephalitis. Ticks are common in country areas and are active from spring to autumn.
Germany is lucky to have few risks of natural disasters and is generally considered a safe destination. Practice caution as you would at home.
Though English is widely spoken in the main tourist areas, here are a few basics in German for kids to practice:
Hello – Guten Tag (Gooten Tahg)
Goodbye – Auf Wiedersehen (Owf Veeder Zane)
Please – Bitte (Bee Tah)
Thank you – Danke (Dahn Kah)
Yes – Ja (Yah)
No – Nein (Nine)
Do you speak English? – Sprechen sie Englisch? (Sprecken see English?)
What time is it? – Wieviel Uhr ist es? (Veefeel oor ist es?)
How much is that? – Was kostet das? (Vas kostet das?)
Where is/are…? – Wo ist / sind…? (Vo ist / sint… ?)
Excuse me – Entschuldigung (Entshool-digoong)
This stately castle on the River Saale in the Thuringian Highlands of Germany is a stunning relic of Germany’s historical architecture, plus today houses a museum for kids to discover the regal lifestyle of days gone by.
Set on Pariser Platz in Berlin, the Brandenburg Gate is the symbol of the city and its fascinating history. Modelled after the Propylaea in Athens, the entry hall of the Acropolis, it was built as the grandest of several city gates in the wall that encircled the city at the end of the 18th century.
Dresden is the capital city of the state of Saxony. Most recognisable is the baroque church Frauenkirche, which is famed for its grand dome. While you’re here, stop in at the Zwinger palace houses museums exhibiting masterpieces such as Raphael’s ‘Sistine Madonna’.
The Berlin Wall
Similarly to the Brandenburg Gate, the Berlin Wall is an iconic landmark in the city and speaks volumes about the country’s history. The best-preserved and most interesting stretch is the mile-long section known as the East Side Gallery.