We are a travel loving family from the USA with two little girls. At the start of 2017, when our kids were 18 months and 3.5 years old we decided to accept a work assignment to Italy for my husband’s job and have been exploring Italy and the rest of Europe since then. We had an opportunity to travel to the Bavarian Alps when our kids were 2.5 and 5 and loved it so much that we decided to go again the following summer.
Where is Bavaria, Germany? This area of Germany is the most southern region, just north of Italy (across a small strip of Austria) and was a 9 hour drive from our home in Pisa.
We like to drive in the daytime and make the road trip with kids part of the vacation itself, so we try to enjoy our pit-stops and the views along the way. During the car ride to Bavaria, Germany we kept a box of toys, books, and coloring supplies between the car seats so the girls could have easy access to their toys during the trip.
We do let the kids use tablets sometimes but only during the last part of long road trips or when it’s too dark to see their toys, so it really is something special.
Bavaria with a Toddler – Table of Contents
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Check out our list of the best toddler toys for airplanes and screen free toddler travel toys – which would work equally well for road trips with toddlers!
Getting from the Airport to your Bavaria Accommodation
The nearest major airport to the Bavaria region is the Munich airport and is about one and a half hours away by rental car. If you prefer not to drive to Bavaria, there is also a train station in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
Flying with a baby or toddler? Don’t miss our tips for flying with a baby and how to survive flying with a toddler.
Where to Stay in Bavaria with Kids
For our family trip to Bavaria, we stayed in the town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Our hotel was on the Garmisch side of town but we preferred to spend more time in Partenkirchen along Ludwig Strauss street.
If we visit Bavaria with kids again I would consider staying in Mittenwald, which is an adorable Bavarian village about 30 minutes outside of Garmisch-Partenkirchen and on the way to Austria. Oberammergau is another lovely town in the Bavarian Alps which many beautiful sights and fun things to with kids.
For those who’d rather be totally surrounded by nature, there are some lake-side hotels on lakes Eibsee or Riessersee as well. There are also camping facilities around the area.
For those who enjoy the many family-friendly amenities of a vacation rental, instead of a kid-friendly hotel, there are many family-friendly Bavaria vacation home rentals.
Check out our 9 Best Tips for Camping with a Toddler.
Getting Around Bavaria with Kids
We had a car both times we visited the Bavarian Alps and found the signage to be easy to understand and the streets well maintained, especially compared to driving around Italy.
We met with friends who took the train from Munich to Bavaria (they did not have children) and they were able to meet us in Garmisch-Partenkirchen and walk around. Not having a car didn’t hinder their Bavaria trip, as they just planned their outings based on what was available by public transit.
If the weather is good and you want to avoid driving, you could use the trains to get to many of the Bavarian villages from Munich.
But a rental car will give you much more flexibility, especially when visiting Bavaria with kids. Having a car will also be give you more flexibility if the weather isn’t great, when you visit Bavaria.
Both years we traveled to Bavaria with our kids at the end of July and the weather ranged from sunshine and low 80’s F (27C) to rain and high 50’s F (14C) so you need to be prepared for the range of temperatures.
Check out this 11 day European Road Trip with a Baby through Switzerland, France, Germany and Liechtenstein.
4 Travel Tips for the Bavarian Alps with a Toddler or Baby
1. Use a Baby Carrier instead of a Stroller
In most European towns we prefer baby carriers for travel due to small spaces inside shops and restaurants, but I will say that the Bavarian towns we explored seemed to be stroller-friendly if you have a small lightweight travel stroller. I did see plenty of locals with strollers.
We used a baby carrier when our toddler was 2.5 but we let her walk the next year, which made things easier for us.
2. Comply with German Car Seat Laws
Car seat laws in Germany are similar to the USA so I would definitely recommend using an appropriate car seat for your child’s requirements while driving around Bavaria. (See Baby Can Travel’s list on Amazon for the best travel car seats)
Read our post on 5 Things to Think About BEFORE Traveling with Car Seats.
3. High Chairs are not Common
Restaurants were kind and welcoming to our kids but don’t expect a high chair to always be available. If you need one, it’s best to bring a portable high chair for travel like the MyLittleSeat fabric chair.
4. Change Stations are also not Common
Also changing stations weren’t common so be prepared to change your child in alternate locations if you can’t find one. My tot mastered the “standing change” at a young age so that helped us before she was potty trained. Head over to this post more tips on traveling with a potty training toddler.
We brought enough pull-ups with us but diapers are sold at the Lidl in Garmisch along with most other baby supplies needed as long as you’re flexible with the brands available.
Wondering what else to pack for a baby or toddler? You can find all the best baby travel gear and toddler travel essentials plus a free printable packing list for babies and toddlers here.
Things to do in Bavaria with a Toddler
The highlight of our first visit was the day we spent at Lake Eibsee. This mountain lake is at the base of Germany’s highest peak, Zugspitze. The views from Lake Eibsee were incredible and I truly felt like our family was in a postcard.
We chose to take the cogwheel train to Lake Eibsee, but you can also drive and park or even ride bikes. I don’t recommend biking to Lake Eibsee if you’re not an avid biker. We were initially wanting to do it and were thankfully talked out of this by some friends who attempted the ride earlier in the week and really struggled to pull their kids in a trailer.
The cogwheel to Lake Eibsee train was a fun experience for us and the kids, and we didn’t have to stress about parking since the parking lot looked quite chaotic when we arrived. From this point you can also take a cable car up to the summit of Zugspitze, where there is snow year-round (don’t forget your jackets!).
We chose not to take the cable car and stayed down at Lake Eibsee for a more relaxing day. I underestimated how warm it would be so I did not bring swimsuits but we did see people swimming in the lake, even with the cold mountain water temperatures.
We enjoyed wading in the water then eating lunch at the biergarten on the lakeshore before you taking a little hike. The bathrooms at the restaurant were not baby friendly but with so much big open outdoor space, it wouldn’t be difficult to find an area to lay your baby on a portable change mat for a diaper change.
There are trails going the whole way around Lake Eibsee but we weren’t there to take a long hike so we just strolled at a toddler pace until we wanted to turn back.
Baby Can Travel tip: For long hikes, a toddler hiking backpack carrier is ideal since you can keep your child up high where they can see, a rain cover for protection on rainy days, and you have space to store diapers, snacks and water. Plus, it’s easy to travel with a hiking backpack carrier.
Other fun things to do with kids around Garmisch-Partenkirchen include a gondola ride up to Wank Mountain, which is a bit less expensive than Zugspitze summit and has a great playground at the top for children. Bring your sunscreen and hats though because the shade was limited here! The Sunday Afternoons Kids Play Hat is ideal for full sun protection for toddlers.
One family activity we were unable to do from list of things to do in Bavaria was to hike Partnach Gorge. Unfortunately the weather didn’t cooperate with us the day we wanted to do this but my friend managed it during a trip with her 3 year old and said Partnach Gorge was a kid-friendly hike, but not stroller friendly.
You need to walk or take a horse carriage ride (for a small fee) from a parking lot about 1.5 miles away from Partnach Gorge so if you take a stroller, you’d have to leave it at the entrance of the gorge. A baby or toddler carrier is recommended here as well as a comfortable hand on your little ones who might be walking, but the closeness to nature is something kids will love. Bring shoes that can get wet and a flashlight for the darker areas of Partnach Gorge.
Don’t miss our posts on How to Hike with a Baby and Toddler Hiking Tips. We cover everything from hiking tips to the best carriers for hiking.
Our second trip to Bavaria with kids involved much more rain but we did manage to enjoy a very family friendly hike around Lake Riessersee which was a quick 5 minute drive from Garmisch.
The path around Lake Riessersee took us about 30 minutes and would be mostly stroller-friendly except one small section which two adults could easily help the stroller up and over together. We saw ducks, large carp, and even the location of an Olympic bobsled track marked by an old sled and photos showing how the icy tracks were made in the early 1900s.
After our toddler-friendly Bavaria hike we ate lunch at the lakeside restaurant. The place felt so secluded but was easy to find and get to, which is a perfect combination for us.
Visiting Europe with a toddler is so amazing! For example, check out our post on Lisbon with toddlers! Also, for more kid-friendly hikes check out our list of the best baby and toddler hikes in the USA and the top toddler and baby-friendly hikes around the world.
Where to Eat in Bavaria with Kids
We loved eating lunch at Renaissance Riessersee along the banks of Lake Riessersee. There is a playground next to the restaurant and it has the option to eat outdoors in good weather. Pancake soup and spaetzle are always a hit when we travel to Germany with kids.
We also enjoyed our dinner at Gasthof Fraundorfer which included a traditional dance performance during dinner. Our kids loved seeing the Bavarian costumes and the lively clapping and stomping done by the young men who danced to the live German music.
What to Bring to the Bavarian Alps with Toddlers
My best advice on packing for the Bavarian Alps with kids is to have a backup plan in case of wet weather and the clothes to make sure your family is comfortable in a range of temperatures, like a toddler rainsuit or packable warm jacket. There is so much to do that we had no trouble finding alternatives when our initial plans were changed due to rain.
Besides the clothing and a good baby carrier, we also brought items to entertain our kids at the restaurants, like sticker books and small toys. Though our kids were welcomed, they weren’t provided with crayons or any activities.
Read our post on winter travel gear for babies and toddlers for more suggestions on travel gear for colder destinations.
Final Travel Tips for Visiting Bavaria with Toddlers
We attempted to see the iconic Neuschwanstein Castle, known for being the inspiration for the Disney castle seen at the start of every Disney movie. It’s obviously one of the most popular things to do in Bavaria with kids, so after a disastrous attempt to find a parking spot and being turned off by the hoards of tour buses in the area, we decided to just observe the iconic Neuschwanstein Castle from a distance.
Our kids didn’t seem to mind at all and likely preferred the leisurely stroll through a field with the stunning Bavarian castle as a backdrop to waiting in lines with frustrated parents. If this is something you want to see up close with your family, be prepared with pre-purchased tickets for Neuschwanstein Castle and start your day early. We learned the hard way that it’s far too popular to do on a whim, like we did.
We loved visiting the Bavarian Alps with kids and found the laid back attitude of the town to be a great way to enjoy nature and some German culture with our family.