Custom Research Request: We are planning a trip in early August for a full 2 weeks in and around Austria. We’re a family with two primary school aged kids. I’d like to do more cultural things but of course with the understanding that children need some time to blow off steam as well. I have the order of the trip already and flights booked.
Right now, the order is: flight to Munich, rental car to Garmisch (Edelweiss booked) x 3 days, return car to Munich, then train likely to Salzburg, then to Vienna, then Bratislava (day trip maybe?), then ending in Budapest and flying out.
What I need help with is the practicalities – how to get train timings between those places, do I book ahead for the train, how many days to spend in each location, etc. I’d also appreciate any thoughts on places to stay and what to do with kids in many of those places. We’ll definitely have to do a Sound of Music Tour, but I’d also love something Mozart-related that the kids could experience also. I also haven’t decided if it is worth it to spend a night in Munich or not. We’re also vegetarian if you happen to have any insight on where to eat.
Photo of Budapest provided by Spoken Light Photography.
Garmisch (3 days) – while Edelweiss will offer tours for many of these activities, since you have a car you can also do them easily on your own. But I would recommend a visit to their tour office to see about discounted tickets, maps etc… With 3 days you could do a mix of culture and outdoor activities. But really, the gems of Bavaria are to be found outside. It is gorgeous.
- Zugspitze (Germany’s highest mountain) – Take the train or cable car (do the other on the way down). I did this as a child and it is one of my earliest memories. I remember it being so amazing to see 4 countries at once. You also have the option to visit several nearby glaciers. http://zugspitze.de/en/summer
- Dachau Concentration Camp – this is not recommended for children 12. http://www.kz-gedenkstaette-dachau.de/index-e.html
- Neuschwanstein castle (also known as Cinderella’s castle).
- Kletterwald rope course – http://www.kletterwald-neroberg.de/information-in-english.html
- Edelweiss rents bikes if you want to get out on your own, have a picnic, see some of the country (hiking is also an option)
- Alpine Coaster http://www.edelweisslodgeandresort.com/activities/guided-day-tours/alpine-coaster-adventure-and-oberammergau/263-alpine-coaster-adventure-and-oberammergau
- Deutsches Museum Science/Technology museum in Munich http://www.muenchen.de/int/en/sights/museums/deutsches-museum.html
I would not recommend spending the night in Munich. It is only 84 km between the two and there is not a ton of special things to do in the city center. You can do those things you want to do that are in or closer to Munich to and from picking up and dropping off the car.
A question as you are planning your trip as you think about logistics – you are flying into Munich and then renting a car at the airport, driving back to Munich to take the train to Salzburg. You could avoid some back tracking by taking the train from Munich to Edelweiss, rent a car locally if you want to, and then take the train from Edelweiss direct to Salzburg. But it is not a far drive and trains are more expensive and less frequent from Innsbruck to Salzburg than from Munich. But it might save you some hassle dealing with the Munich airport traffic and stuff.
Train from Munich Airport to Edelweiss: As you exit the baggage claim area in the airport, you will need to look for a sign with a solid green circle with a white “S” in it. This is the sign directing you to the S-Bahn (subway). The sign will lead you to the station in the airport that is located in Terminal C. Continue to follow the signs until you reach the Deutsch Bahn (DB) train counter to obtain a ticket to Garmisch-Partenkirchen. The train counter will be able to print up an itinerary which tells you which train to catch, where and when it leaves. You will board the subway downstairs. After 40 minutes on the train pay attention to a changeover at Pasing. Exit the train. The connection time can sometimes be very tight. If it is a tight connection, make sure to ask the counter the track number (gleis) for your train to Garmisch. Once you have made the switch in Pasing (or another stop as specified by the itinerary), you can sit and enjoy the scenery, as you have a one hour and 15 minute ride ahead of you. The train will stop directly in Garmisch. For more information regarding train schedules please visit: http://www.bahn.de. Taxis are located in front of the train station and should cost you 8-10 Euro to any of the Edelweiss Lodge and Resort facilities in Garmisch.
Train Time Table: https://www.bahn.de/p_en/view/index.shtml You can buy them online ahead of time if you want. The train goes to both the Munich Airport and Innsbruck (Garmisch).
As you probably know, German’s love their meat. But Italian restaurants are plentiful. Also here is a link of vegetarian options in the area: http://www.happycow.net/europe/germany/garmisch_partenkirchen/
Salzburg (2 or 3 days can include traveling from Germany if you get a relatively early start)
- Walking tour map: http://www.bigboytravel.com/europe/austria/salzburg/freewalkingtour/
- Original Sound of Music Tour: https://www.panoramatours.com/en/salzburg/tour/original-sound-of-music-tour-tour-1a-28/
- Mozart’s Birthplace/Museum: http://www.mozarteum.at/en/museums/mozarts-birthplace.html
- Concerts: http://www.mozarteum.at/en/concerts/concert-season.html. https://www.classictic.com/en/special/mozart_concerts_salzburg/85/
- This looks like a fun and unique dinner/concert combo. You can order a vegetarian option. http://www.mozart-dinner-concert-salzburg.com/ It is pricey but probably not much more than a concert and dinner separately. A second concert/dinner option in the oldest restraunant in Europe. http://www.stpeter-stiftskeller.at/en/mozart-dinner.html
- Salzburg Fortress (Festung Hohensalzburg) – #1 attraction. 900 year old fortress. Walk up or take the funicular. http://www.salzburg.info/en/sights/fortress_palaces/hohensalzburg_fortress
- Hellbrunn Palace and Zoo – http://www.salzburg.info/en/sights/fortress_palaces/hellbrunn_palace_trick_fountains
Salzburg Card: If you do the Fortress, Palace, Zoo, and Museum, you are right on the line of making the Museum Pass worth it (especially if you do all of those things back to back in 2 days). When you add in public transportation, if you plan to do these main sights, then I would recommend looking at getting it. http://www.salzburg.info/en/sights/salzburg_card
I found this place just outside the city center which looked like a good family option at a great rate. http://www.blobergerhof.at/en/about-us/
This place looks very basic but has wonderful prices and location in the city center. http://hofwirt.net/en/index.htm
If the kids are ok on the couch, this looks like an amazing Airbnb in a fabulous location at a great price. https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/12423228?checkin=08%2F12%2F2016&checkout=08%2F14%2F2016&guests=4&s=cABTmq_n#_=_
Train to Vienna: http://www.visit-salzburg.net/travel/salzburg-to-vienna.htm
Vienna (1-2 days + Day trip to Bratislava)
- Innere Stadt (Vienna’s medieval heart) and Ringstrasse with Stefansdom Cathedral (10th century), shops, museums, City Hall, Opera House, nd the shops lining the pedestrian-only Graben.
- Walking tour map: http://www.bigboytravel.com/europe/austria/vienna/freewalkingtour/
- Hofburg Palace – center of the Austrian empire for over 600 yrs
- Belvedere museum – can make it a quick trip to let the kids see the famous paintings like the Kiss or can take your time.
- Schönbrunn Palace & Gardens
- Guide to Viennese coffee houses: http://www.worldofwanderlust.com/a-quick-guide-to-the-vienna-coffee-houses/
- Ferris Wheel: http://www.wienerriesenrad.com/en/?_wb=en/&lang=EN
See what you think of Hotel Stadthalle. It is a boutique hotel in the city center with lots of green space, organic breakfast, great reviews and good price. They also have a “families” page on their website that have ideas for kids, and talk about family rooms, extra beds etc… https://www.hotelstadthalle.at/en/
Best Western: I usually try to stay away from chains but the Best Western has a good price and great location. http://www.harmonie-vienna.at/
Hotel Wein: https://www.classic-hotelwien.at/en/
**Vienna has several train stations. Make sure you know which one you are going in and out of. It may differ for each leg of your trip.
Bratislava (day trip from Vienna)
Bratislava is a very small but cute city. Don’t let me lack of recommendations discourage you from going. It is a wonderful day trip and you will be glad you went. Just plan to walk around, pop in the churches, and enjoy the small town.
Free Walking Tour: http://www.befreetours.com/
Walk up to Bratislava castle.
Prague (2 days) – You may want to consider including Prague in your trip. You can take the train from Vienna (less than 5 hrs / 3 if you catch the high speed train) and then to Budapest (7 hrs). Or you could split your days in Vienna in order to do them all but spend less time on the train. Salzburg to Vienna. A day or two in Vienna with a Bratislava day trip. Train to Prague and spend 1-2 days. Back to Vienna for a day or two. Then on to Budapest to finish up your trip.
- Old Town Square and Astronomical Clock
- Saint Charles Bridge
- Jewish Quarter
- Communism Museum (small but I loved it) – https://www.pragueexperience.com/places.asp?PlaceID=617
- Mirror Maze for the kids – https://www.pragueexperience.com/places.asp?PlaceID=1495
- Puppet Theater – https://www.pragueexperience.com/theatre/theatres.asp
- St Vitus Cathedral
- Top of Old Town Hall for views
- Strahov Library (one of the oldest libraries)
Vegetarian Restaurants: http://goeasteurope.about.com/od/praguetravel/a/Vegetarian-Prague.htm
Budapest (I love Budapest and it is probably one of my top visited cities that is not somewhere I have lived.)
- Free Walking Tour: http://triptobudapest.hu/
- Castle Hill
- Danube cruise
- Walk across Chain Bridge
- Tour Hungary’s Parliament Building
- Fishermen’s Bastion.
- Visit a thermal spa / bath. http://visitbudapest.travel/activities/budapest-baths/ or http://www.gellertbath.hu/ or http://szechenyispabaths.com/
- Take the Trolley along the river (tram #2)
- Hero’s Square
- Basilica of St Stephen
- Jewish District / Tour the Synagogue (largest in Europe, second largest in the world, good tour)
- House of Terror Museum – It contains exhibits related to the fascist and communist regimes in 20th-century Hungary and is also a memorial to the victims of these regimes, including those detained, interrogated, tortured or killed in the building. http://www.terrorhaza.hu/?language=eng
- Hungarian Natural History Museum (kid friendly)
**Hotels: Compare prices on at least 3 sights. I tend to use Tripadvisor, Booking.com and the hotel’s website. Tripadvisor is a great place to start but just because someplace isn’t on the sight doesn’t mean it isn’t any good, it just means it hasn’t been rated. But on the flip side, if a place has bad reviews then I take those pretty seriously (assuming they are not obviously crazy or overly picky)
You can buy tickets ahead of time if you want to but you can also buy them right before you leave, or just stop at the kiosk when you arrive at each town to buy the next leg of your trip. I have grown to like the last option. It means you have some flexibility if your trip evolves along the way, you talk to people etc. but it means you have your tickets in hand a few days prior so you don’t have to worry about it.
A rail pass is also an option. https://www.raileurope.com/en/index.html I have done it and thought it was more restrictive and expensive. I think it might be for you as well. But regardless, their website is very user friendly for checking out timetables, routes, ideas on what to see etc…
I also like the rome2rio website for comparing travel options.