Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Munich for kids

One thing we didn't compromise on our short holiday to Munich was that we wanted to make it a child friendly visit to a big city. Basically, I've had enough of dragging an uncooperative toddler through cities and places within cities that she really didn't want to be. It's stressful for everyone involved. We were keen not to let this happen and to make it a holiday that worked for us all, that was relaxing as well as varied.

And luckily, Munich was game for it. I guess it does help that Munich is a well to do city, a green city and has rather helpful and friendly people in it. Coupled with lots of green spaces and a fabulous public transport system that surprised even someone used to good integrated public transport (in Cologne, not Glasgow, just to be clear), we were winning.

So if you ever fancy a city break with toddlers, Munich is a good choice. Here's what we enjoyed:

1. Olympiapark
A massive park built for the 1972 Olympic Games. Great for walking, picnics, with swing parks and a small beer garden, a little train with a guided tour, ponds, ducks, and good views of the city. You can also go up the Olympia Tower (which is a no no for me as me and heights don't talk) and visit a Sea Life Centre

2. Taxisstrasse Beer Garten
It's a big beer garden with traditional food - but you can also bring your own food. It comes with a play park and is popular with families. Cubling instantly made new friends.

3. Botanical Gardens
We visited them in the pouring rain and were rather thankful for the huge glass house and cafe. The glass house has different rooms for the flora of different countries, even a prehistoric dinosaur room (which was a bit problematic because Cubling thought there were dinosaurs behind the ferns and was rather reluctant to go in). I'm sure the actual gardens are great too, lots of space to walk and beautifully landscaped. The Botanical Gardens are connected to the Nymphenburg Palace and its gardens; where you can find:

4. Museum fuer Mensch und Natur (natural history museum)
A delightful museum about the world, nature and mankind. Cubling particularly enjoyed the quizzes upstairs where you can categorise animals etc (which really is aimed at children who can read and know a lot more, I struggled with some of the quizzes) - as long as there's buttons to press, she's happy. There's something for everyone in this museum, from geological information to dinosaur sceletons, it's all there. And once you're done, you can explore the palace or its gardens (we let Cubling nap after all the museum excitement and enjoyed reading a book in the gardens).

5. A stroll through the shopping precinct and Virtualienmarkt
The great thing about Munich is that its main streets are rather boulevards. They are wide, lined with trees, and in the shopping precinct, they are pedestrianised. So even the city centre doesn't become claustrophobic. There are endless fountains, so our progress was slow as every fountain had to be explored. We visited the Frauenkirche and a fabulous old fashioned toy shop just next to it (note: don't take toddlers in there, it's hard work to keep their quick hands off the toys), before we explored the Virtualienmarkt - a market mainly for food.

6. Englischer Garten and Chinese Tower Beer Garden
The Englischer Garten is apparently the biggest city park in the world. It's definitely big and we only explored part of it. It's beautifully landscaped along a little river, with play parks, lots of fowl, and - can you guess - a beer garden at the Chinese Tower, where you can refresh your batteries after your stroll through the park.

7. Fountains and more fountains, particularly the one at Hohenzollernplatz
There are countless fountains in Munich, but the one Cubling enjoyed best must be the one at Hohenzollernplatz. It's not a location you necessarily have to see, it's just that the fountain is perfect for little people. They can walk on/in it, and have hours of fun.

8. Best Western Apart Hotel
I don't want to advertise a specific hotel, but I have to say we were very pleased with our choice. The hotel is just a tram journey from the centre, next to the Olympiapark and with easy access to the Nymphenburg Palace. The service and breakfast are faultless. Above all, because it's an Apart Hotel, the rooms have a kitchenette/hall area which is separate from the bedroom. This meant that once Cubling was sound asleep, we had a space where we could sit without disturbing her. Also the room was spacious and simply comfortable, just perfect for what we were looking for.

We travelled with Ryanair to Memmingen airport which worked really well. There is a shuttle bus connecting to Munich and the trip was really easy, considering the distance. Direct flight from Scotland to Memmingen, bus trip and  - well, nothing. There. Arrived. A rather stress free trip.

Of course there's probably lots of other stuff that can be done in Munich, but I think we made pretty good choices (with little information, we didn't even bring a guide book) which kept us busy for 6 days and made it possible to combine a bit of sightseeing with meeting up with friends. We took it easy, so you could probably fit in more.

One thing I would warn about though is that restaurants are not necessarily as child friendly/acceptant of toddler behaviour as you might be used to from the UK. We had one rather unpleasant experience where we got the stare and some comments on our parenting style, but in the beer gardens all was very easy going and in general people were very helpful towards us as a family.



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