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Munich with Kids ~ Beyond Beer and Pretzels in Bavaria’s Capital

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Ninety minutes after our flight touched down in Munich from LAX, my husband was downing a liter of beer at a picturesque beer garden. Meanwhile my children stuffed hunks of giant pretzel in their mouths and I gazed at swans floating in a nearby lake. This scene sums up our glorious week in Munich with kids: green, easy, relaxed. This mellow urban gem in Germany is full of world-class museums, sprawling parks and kid-friendly beer gardens. The German love of orderliness made it an easy place for us to get around with our three children, too. Here's what to do in and near Munich with kids.

Munich with Kids ~ Beyond Beer & Pretzels

Englischer Garten – Munich's “Central Park”

For anyone visiting the city with kids, your first order of business should be finding a hotel within walking distance of the Englischer Garten. Enter my pick, Hotel Biederstein. Clean and friendly, with decent-sized rooms for families — this hotel provides the perfect launching pad for exploring Munich with kids.

Book a trip to Germany with kids with our travel partner, Ciao Bambino

From here you can easily explore Englischer Garten's pathways, babbling brooks, giant open fields and no less than three beer gardens. This enormous park is larger than both Hyde Park in London and Central Park in New York City. Our favorite beer garden in the park was Seehaus. It offers cafeteria-style service, a playground, and nearby paddle boat and bike rentals.

Boats for rent at Kleinhesseloher Lake in the English Garden in Munich with kids

Boats for rent at Kleinhesseloher Lake in the Englischer Garten in Munich (Photo credit: Hackman, Depositphotos.com)

The Seehaus is in the center of the Englischer Garten. This lovely garden makes a great place for a picnic, a breezy bike ride, or a makeshift soccer game. Small playgrounds dot the park. At the southern tip there is even a popular surf break created by an artificial wave in Eisbach River. Surfers in wetsuits line the banks of the river waiting for their chance to slip and slide this perfect wave. Even my California kids were mesmerized for a good 45 minutes watching these daring Deutschers surfing the wave.

A German surfer hanging ten in the Eisbach River ~ Munich with kids

German surfers at the Eisbach River (Photo credit: kasto, Depositphotos.com)

Deutsches Museum – A Museum for All Ages

There are a multitude of amazing museums in Munich. One that families absolutely can’t miss is the Deutsches Museum. From dugout canoes and WWI U-boats to experimental airplanes, this gigantic assemblage of man’s technological advances is full of cool techie information. More importantly, it contains a warehouse full of interactive displays to keep kids captivated for hours. The entire basement floor has been turned over to kids ages 3 to 8. Called the Children’s Kingdom or Kinderreich, there’s no chance for boredom here. This adventure zone includes water play, pulley swings, and a giant fire truck made out of LEGO bricks.

Inside a giant guitar at the Deutsches Museum, kids can find out how it feels when someone plucks the strings ~ Munich with kids

Inside a giant guitar at the Deutsches Museum, kids can find out how it feels when someone plucks the strings (Photo credit: Deutsches Museum)

Marienplatz – Munich's Pedestrian Zone

Find the center of Munich and you’ll discover a charming old town straight out of a storybook. The central plaza in this pedestrian zone is called the Marienplatz. This is where to view the famous Rathaus-Glockenspiel, a mechanized puppet show at the top of the Neues Rathaus (New City Hall). The clock's tiny knights joust and miniature jesters twirl in a carillon performance that rings at 11 am, noon and 5 pm.

Tower of the New Neues Rathaus ~ Munich with kids

Tower of the New Neues Rathaus (Photo credit: santirf, Depositphotos.com)

From here, pick a direction and follow the cobblestone streets to some of the city’s best shopping, sidewalk cafes and historical sites. You can't miss the Frauenkirche. This church with its double onion domes is the emblem of the city. Also, you must visit Hofbrauhaus, the gigantic if touristy beer hall. An eccentric toy museum called the Spielzeugmuseum is full of vintage teddy bears and goofy amusements stuffed into a handful of rooms in the Old City Hall. And then there's the Viktualenmarkt, an open air farmer’s market with plenty of stalls to sample everything from unusual cuts of meat to local cheeses.

Enjoy traditional Bavarian beers and cuisine at the Hofbraeuhaus in Munich with kids

Enjoy traditional Bavarian beers and cuisine at the Hofbraeuhaus (Photo credit: Tobias Ranzinger, www.hofbraeuhaus.de)

Olympiapark – Munich's Olympic Park

Another must-see while in Munich with kids is the Olympiapark. Built for the 1972 Summer Games, it is now an activity complex complete with water sports and a zip line. The groovy Olympic Schwimhalle is where American swimmer Mark Spitz won his medals. It is still open to the public for swimming. A giant tower called the Olympiaturm rises 290 meters over the park. Take an elevator to the top to see a panoramic view of lower Bavaria all the way to the Alps, with landmarks labeled in white by the efficient tourist office.

Munich Olympia Park makes a fun visit for families

Munich Olympia Park makes a fun visit for families (Photo credit: manfredxy, Depositphotos.com)

BMW Welt – For Car Loving Families

For those with car obsessed kids, a short five-minute walk from the tower brings you to the dark glass and steel behemoth of BMW Welt. This is a combination museum, mega dealership, and corporate headquarters dedicated to all things BMW.

Get your fill of all things BMW at BMW Welt in Munich with kids

Get your fill of all things BMW at BMW Welt in Munich (Photo credit: jacklondon, Depositphotos.com)

Nymphenburg Palace – A Grand Place to Visit

Just outside the center of the city, and easy to get to via subway or streetcar (the S-Bahn), Nymphenburg Palace is a baroque but serene grand residence. Explore its expansive garden lined with pathways. You'll find surprisingly ornate outbuildings and a superb kid-friendly natural history museum.

Swans at the pond near famous Nymphenburg Palace in Munich with kids

Swans at the pond near famous Nymphenburg Palace in Munich (Photo credit: grafalex, Depositphotos.com)

Dachau – Tragic History Lessons

Dachau, a 20-minute streetcar ride outside of the city center, is the former concentration camp. It now houses a thorough museum that covers not just the horrors of daily life at the camp, but also the political situation that gave rise to Hitler’s Nazi party. You can book a half-day walking tour of this site to give context to the site for kids.

A memorial to the victims at the Dachau concentration camp

A memorial to the victims at the Dachau concentration camp (Photo credit: wulwais, Depositphotos.com)

Neuschwanstein Castle – Disney Inspiration

Finally, Neuschwanstein Castle is the quintessential fairy tale castle, located an hour and a half outside Munich by bus or rental car. Built by Mad King Ludwig II and borrowed by Walt Disney as the inspiration for his Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland, this building is an architectural wonder. It's full of one of a kind Wagnerian flourishes. Tickets can be a problem during high tourist seasons. Be sure to book ahead. Many tour companies offer it as a one-day excursion from central Munich, like this private tour that you can reserve through TripAdvisor.

The world-famous Neuschwanstein Castle, the nineteenth-century Romanesque Revival palace built for King Ludwig II

The world-famous Neuschwanstein Castle, the nineteenth-century Romanesque Revival palace built for King Ludwig II (Photo credit: pandionhiatus3, Depositphotos.com)

Of course there are delicious beer and pretzels to be had in this Bavarian city. But as you can see, there's so much more to enjoy near and in Munich with kids, too!

Book a trip to Germany with kids with our travel partner, Ciao Bambino

Do you have any questions or suggestions for visiting Munich with kids? Let us know in the comments!

A Note from Travel Mamas: This story originally posted in 2012 and was updated in 2018.

About Halle Shilling, Travel Mamas Guest Blogger

Halle Shilling was a journalist for several newspapers in the Midwest before moving to the Golden State to teach writing and drive her three children to soccer practice. She and her family live in Solana Beach, California. 

Comments

  1. Munich looks like a beautiful city – and we have never made it out of the airport! I would love to visit Neuschwanstein Castle sometime. I’m sure my kids would love that as well but I’m certain they’d get a kick out of seeing a surfer in a river!

  2. Octoberfest is on right now in Munich. My husband and I were there 6 years ago and it was terrific. It lasts 16 days and attracts more than 6 million guests. Its important to book a room well in advance.

  3. Wow, who knew?! Thanks for this post…I guess I’ll put Munich on my list!

  4. Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

    Lisa – Agreed. I think I’m going to add Neuschwanstein Castle to my bucket list…right now!

  5. Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

    Phil – Munich IS pretty awesome. I’d love to go back with the kids someday!

  6. Here now and using your list!! Too bad there’s a foot of now on the ground 🙂

  7. Charlie says:

    My family and I lived in Germany for a short while and Munich was always the first city we took our guests to, if only for a day or two. Our favorite stops were always the Glockenspiel, Hofbrauhaus, and Neuschwanstein. While Dachau is not family friendly, it is an excellent experience for the older members of the group.

  8. great article – thank you!

  9. Leigh W. says:

    Dear Halle, my husband and I are considering going to Munich with our seven-year-old daughter. What did you think of the tour of Neuschwanstein Castle? I can’t imagine it being all that interesting for kids, but maybe I am wrong. Do you remember how long the tour lasted? Does it mainly involve listening to an adult drone on about history as you walk through dusty rooms and look at them from behind a velvet rope? I would love your thoughts on how child-friendly this attraction is for active children who do not want to listen to an hour-long history lesson–thank you!

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      Hi Leigh – This story was written by a guest blogger. Let me check with some fellow family travel bloggers to see if they can answer your questions!

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      I’ve got so many tips for you from family travel bloggers, Leigh!

      Kirsten with Kids Are a Trip says: We did it a year and a half ago. Our kids were 13, 11, and 9 at the time. We did a day trip tour with Gray Line from Munich. They narrated everything but let us explore Neuschwanstein at our own pace. I would recommend doing a tour in your own without the guide. Kids don’t have the patience for boring tour guides…my kids still say the Gray Line tour was their favorite one, next to the Context Tour they did in Paris.

      Christa with New England Kids Guide says: I went with Mike’s Bike Tours. The actual tour of the inside is run by the government. You’re given a specific time for your tour, the tour is the exact same for everyone. You get to see a small handful of rooms and the guide will answer a limited amount of questions. There’s really no time to linger and take photos because another group of tourists will be quickly following behind. We went 2 years ago with our 2 year old and I was pretty disappointed. Oh, and no strollers are allowed so if you’re bringing a young one then one of you will likely end up carrying them up and down all those stairs!

      Mary Penafiel Solio with The World Is A Book says: We went 4 years ago when the kids were 10 and 8. We had a rental car and drove to the castle from Munich. You can’t visit the interior without the guided tour. It was a little over 30 min. It was very well run and you can’t take any photos. We had a great tour guide but it was a lot of information and felt rushed. My daughter loves castles so she was into it but my son wasn’t too interested. I would recommend driving there and exploring the area outside the castle too. (Go to her site for a story on the castle.)

      Amy Whitley with Pitstops for Kids says: We have done it. We all enjoyed it. I am of the camp that believes kids can certainly listen to an adult give a historical tour, even behind velvet ropes. No problem, and it was a good one, as noted above.

      Meagan Wristen with MommyTravels says: Someone guides you through the tour and you can not leave the tour. You must stay with the group. The tour is not that long. The rooms are phenomenal and you do learn a lot about some of them. (Go to her site for a story on the castle.)

      Hope that helps!

  10. The castle is absolutely beautiful and I love those little pedal boats, used to go on them a lot as a kid, Munich is such a beautiful place!

  11. Munich seems like a beautiful place to visit. There is so much to do. I would love to check out Neuschwanstein Castle. It is so beautiful and grand.

  12. These all look like cool places to visit with the family. That wave is very interesting – it’s kind of like the wave we see when we go to the water park where you can boogie board! Munich sounds very family-friendly.

  13. I had no idea there was so much to do there with kids! What a beautiful place. So many things I’d love to do.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      Munich has such a family-friendly vibe too, with people of all ages enjoying the beer gardens and sites together.

  14. That artificial wave creator is such a great idea … what an unexpected neat feature to come across people surfing on a river. I’ve always wanted to visit Neuschwanstein Castle. My parents had an oil painting of it hanging in our living room when I was a kid they picked up as a souvenir when they visited there in the 70s. Hoping I’ll get the chance to explore the place myself someday.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      Neuschwanstein Castle is a bucket list item for many people and for good reason! Hope you can visit soon!

  15. Jocelyn @ Hip Mama's Place says:

    I would love to visit Munich one day and experience all of these for myself. I think it’s awesome that it’s also very much kid-friendly. And I love how picturesque the whole place is! WOW!

  16. These are such great places to visit with your kids! I know mine would love the boats and the museums.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      Munich really is such a fun city for all ages. I hope you get a chance to take your kids there someday!

  17. Cyn Gagen says:

    I so want to go to Germany. It’s where my dad’s side of the family is originally from and I want to experience it for myself. Oh and the German food….mmmmm!

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      I really loooooved the food in Germany. I was kind of surprised by how much I loved it, really!

  18. OMG! That was a beautiful trip! I visited Munich, but I saw only the central part. It was beautiful. But It seems from your post that there are a lot of places to visit and things to do there!

  19. Mommy Peachy says:

    Munich is such a gorgeous place to visit! I am amazed at Munich’s Central Park where you can surf!

  20. The castle, the guitar, the lake, etc…WOW! Munich is gorgeous! I hope I will get the opportunity to visit it someday with my boys.

  21. This is perfect, thank you! Suggestions of where to stay with kids?! We are planning to go to Munich for a few days in July and are trying to figure out where would be the best place to stay with our 3 kids (10, 8, 6). Reasonably priced and centrally located would be ideal!

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