Taking the train through Germany with my two-year-old son: Travel tips from on the road.

Travelling with a toddler, a backpack and on public transport alone …? To many, that means adventure all along. To me, it meant finally getting out the door again after many months of lockdown. I simply contacted friends I knew from previous travels, many of whom now also had children, and asked if Liam and I could come visit as part of a major pan-European trip. Like, why not?

Just why I’ve chosen to do our three-weeks trip through Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg on the train and public transport only, is something I am explaining in more detail here. Summing up, I believe it’s much easier to take a young child along on public transport, and of course it’s less strain on the environment, too. Buses or trains always provide entertainment, I can walk Liam around, there are other kids, you can play, draw or read together, etc. It’s much easier than driving, I believe (especially alone as an adult in a car with a young child).

Unterhaltung bietet im sogenannten Familienabteil der ÖBB übrigens auch das "Kinderkino", in dem die Kids bequem Platz nehmen können!

The Austrian Railway offers convenient “family wagons” that are tailored specifically to meet the needs of travelling families, including a small theatre with short movies for children.

 

Bahnhöfe aller Art sind sowieso ungemein faszinierend für kleine Kinder (und die Großen vermutlich auch!): Züge schauen geht einfach immer!

Central stations, such as the one in Cologne here, always work wonders on young children: There is simply so much to see and marvel at!

 

Auch die Deutsche Bahn bietet übrigens ein sogenanntes "Familien- und Kleinkindabteil" an; letzteres ist nochmal vom gesamten Großraumwagon getrennt und bietet so noch mehr Rückzugsmöglichkeiten und Ruhe. Eine wirklich tolle Art, mit Babies und kleinen Kindern (die beispielsweise noch Mittagsschläfchen halten) zu reisen.

The Germany Railway Deutsche Bahn goes one step further and even provides “toddler departments”, separated departments from the main family wagons that offer space to retreat for families with babies or young children. In here, Liam finally managed to fall asleep on the train, too.

 

Kid-friendly travel options in Germany

So how to set up this trip according to the needs of my two-year-old son? For him (and myself as his sole companion) I’ve of course put some thought into it before leaving. My planning involved choosing train travel times that didn’t exceed four or five hours a day. And also, to spend several days in a row with friends not planning to do much at all. To give him, and myself, some rest on the journey.

It was these same friends, and their families, who came up with all the wonderful ideas for kid-friendly stopovers, for instance in Munich, or tips for excursions in or near Cologne-Düsseldorf that were easy to do with a young child. Playgrounds, cafés, some sightseeing in between, refreshing local grocery stores or shops provided for some great balance when travelling with little Liam!

In München kam mir der Tipp zu Gute, das nahe des Hauptbahnhof gelegene Glockenbachviertel zu besuchen: Flanieren im Grünen, köstliches Eis und Erholung auf der Weiterreise nach Augsburg haben unseren Stopover perfekt gemacht.

Very close to Munich Central Station, we stopped over at the local Glockenbachviertel district, which was very green and refreshing indeed – playgrounds and ice cream parlours included.

 

Augsburg machte uns wettertechnisch einen Strich durch die Rechnung, weshalb wir die Tage größtenteils bei

The city of Augsburg then crossed out our plans for visits by periods of heavy rain. We thus spent most of our time at my local friend’s family home, which was great and cosy, too! If you want to read more about Augsburg as a travel destination, I’ve written about the city as part of a previous visit here.

 

In Köln liegt der Hauptbahnhof ganz "praktisch" direkt am weltberühmten Kölner Dom, weshalb sich hier sogar kurze Kinderwagen-Bummel mit Sightseeing super verbinden lassen.

Cologne offers the advantage that the city’s central station is right next to the world-famous Cologne Cathedral, which makes for easy strolls even right between trips out of and into the main station.

 

What to do in Cologne when travelling with young children?

We have only spent several days visiting Cologne, but did so in the relaxing way of feeling “almost local”! In part, this was due to the great location of our friends’ apartment, in the Köln-Klettenberg district near Sülzburgstraße. It is a part of Cologne I have never seen or visited before, and one I will remember for its many quiet, green streets and easy shopping options!

My friend Mary, her three-year-old son Ferdinand, Liam and I have also ventured a little further and headed down to a Cologne classic: The famous promenade by the Rhine river near the Cologne Cathedral! Right below it, there is a fun little public water park for young children that makes for great entertainment when travelling with kids! We then headed down the promenade and stopped at the famous local pub “Die Ex-Vertretung”, having Tarte Flambee and typical Kölsch beer. Lovely.

First things first: Für Leckermäulchen unbedingt zur Pizzeria Totino an der Ecke Sülzburgstraße - Siebengebirgsallee in Köln-Klettenberg. Die Steinofenpizzen hier sind einfach herrlich!

First things first: If hungry, head over to Pizzeria Torino on the corner of Sülzburgstraße – Siebengebirgsallee in Köln-Klettenberg. Their fresh oven pizzas are simply divine!

 

Nahe gelegene Spielplätze, wie der hier am Nikolausplatz in fünf Minuten Gehweite zum Restaurant, machen den Besuch auch mit kleinen Kindern angenehm.

Nearby playgrounds, such as the one at Nikolausplatz only five minutes from the pizzeria restaurant, make for a nice lunch stop with kids.

 

Plantschen können Kinder direkt am Rhein ...

Check out the Cologne water park right below the Ludwig museum and Cologne Cathedral; it is marked on Google Maps as “Wasserspielplatz in der Altstadt”. Worth it when travelling with young kids!

 

Last but not least: Auch kleine Männer haben ein Recht auf Genuss!

Last but not least: Head over to “Die Ex-Vertretung” pub and restaurant for some pizza-like Tarte Flambee and a typical local beer! Absolutely great for kids, too (the food, not the beer). And the views over the Rhine river, of course!

 

What to do in Düsseldorf when travelling with young children?

Our next stop was another friend’s apartment, Janett Schindler who also writes on her travel blog @Teilzeitreisende. She conveniently lives right between the two major cities Cologne and Düsseldorf, and has happily welcomed us to her country home.

Thanks to her, Liam and I discovered the small medieval town of Zons by the Rhine river, the city of Wuppertal with its historic overhead railway, the local zoo, as well as the Aquazoo Düsseldorf and Düsseldorf old town. All of it explicitly, or also, possible with a young child in tow.

Unterkunft ...

Staying at Janett’s home base …

 

... und Empfang stellen bei Reiseprofi Janett so manches Hotel in den Schatten!!

… and enjoying her sweet welcome was more than we could expect from the average hotel!!

 

In Wuppertal haben Liam und mich die historische Schwebebahn, die sich mitten durch die Stadt zieht, enorm fasziniert ...

Wuppertal welcomed us to its mighty overhead railway, a historic means of transport I have never seen before …

 

... sowie natürlich auch der nahe gelegene Zoo, welcher wirklich schön in einen Waldhang integriert ist. Prädikat: Sehenswert, nicht nur für Familien!

… I can also recommend you visit Wuppertal Zoo, happily built into a hillside forest. Lovely, not just for families.

 

Düsseldorf hat uns zum einen mit seinem groß angelegten Aquazoo bezirzt ...

Düsseldorf then welcomed us to its aquatic zoo …

 

... Pinguine gehen schließlich immer! ...

… where colourful fish and water animals of all kind sure fascinated little Liam …

 

... zum anderen lohnt sich hier der Altstadtbummel entlang der Königsallee mit Kind: Echt schön hier am Wasser und im Grünen.

… we also did the usual stroll along the city’s major “Königsallee” alley …

 

Als echten Geheimtipp darf ich Euch noch Zons nennen, das hübsche mittelalterliche Städtchen direkt am Rhein das durch eine historische Windmühle und zwei köstliche Eismanufakturen besticht!

… and finally got to visit Zons by the Rhine river, a small medieval town that you will simply love!

 

Are there any more questions about our trip? Just ask!

Did Liam manage to sleep well everywhere?

Did he enjoy the local food?

Did you pack (a lot of) toys and other knick-knacks?

How did you pack?

And did anything – something happen to you while on the road …?

🙂

I could imagine these to be the most typical questions about individual adventure trips with a young child. My answer are that yes, Liam did sleep well everywhere – even quite long stretches at a time where he clearly did recover well from the excitement of travelling. As far as eating is concerned, he has always enjoyed food in general, so no problem when travelling either.

I only brought very few toys on the road: As we’ve almost exclusively travelled from one family household to the next, I did not bring more than 10 small toys (cars, trains, books) for Liam.

Packing was quite easy, too: I have packed everything into my middle-sized backpack and one small bag attached to his travel stroller. I packed in a way so as to do our laundry every now and then at our friends’ homes. No issue at all, thank you all who have supported us in this way.

And no, nothing major happened, except for me having had a cold and sore throat for well over a week. It can be a little more exhausting than usual when travelling with a young child, but nothing too difficult, either. Honestly, it was ok.

Blick auf all unser Gepäck am Bahnhof in Luxemburg, kurz vor der Rückreise nach Deutschland und Österreich.

All our luggage, waiting for the bus at Luxembourg central station to take us back into Germany.

 

Bei Tante Janett durfte ich Gläserkultur kennen und üben lernen ...! :D

Liam learning to drink in a restaurant …!

 

Last but not least nehmen wir viele Erinnerungen an eine wunderbare Zeit zu zweit mit nach Hause. Ich freue mich schon, wenn wir die Mama-Sohn-Reisen noch ein paar Jahre fortsetzen dürfen und Liam auch dann noch mit mir reisen möchte, wenn er etwas älter geworden ist ...!

Definitely a trip worth doing: Taking the kid(s) out when they are still young!

 

Where will your next trip lead you to – whether with or without children?

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