Castles, Palaces, Walled Cities

Traveling with kids can be daunting, especially if you fail to keep them entertained. Thankfully, there are thousands of castles in Europe. Seems like everywhere we go there is a castle to explore. The kids are fascinated with castles (think…dungeons, dragons, swords). We have explored our fair share of castles and I thought I would highlight a few of our favorites.
The Neuschwanstein Castle Hohenschwangau, Germany
One of the most famous castles in Europe
 
We have visited here a  few times, as the kids like to call it their castle. Neuenswander is a family name, so the kids feel they have a claim to it….. wouldn’t that be nice.
The castle is in Bavaria, Germany.  Since it is famous,  I recommend buying your tickets online.  We have waited hours in peak season for a tour.  A tour is included with the purchase of a ticket .
You have the option to tour both castles. The other, smaller castle, was King Ludwig II fathers’ castle.  If you want to get an idea of the time period furniture and decor, I recommend also touring the Hohenschwangau Castle.
Once you buy your ticket you have to walk up to the castle. The walk is beautiful in the summer but freezing in the winter. I recommend, especially with kids, taking the bus or hiring a carriage to the top. The horse drawn carriage was a favorite for our kids.
 
The Prague Castle – Prague, Czech Republic
The Prague castle is noted to be the biggest castle in the world.  To me, it seemed like a little city in itself. There are many churches and palaces all built within the walls.

There are different types of tickets you can purchase to tour the castle.  Decide which works best for you. A “long visit ticket” may prove too long for little kids.
* A note to the reader, the castle may appear closer than it really is. You may find that your mid afternoon stroll turns into a walk filled with tears and ice cream bribes.  It’s recommended, by me, a fellow “let’s walk – it looks close” person, to just take the tram.

 

The Sanssouci Palace – Potsdam, Germany
Palace of Frederick the Great, King of Prussia 
 

The grounds of the Sanssouci Palace reminded me of the Palace of Versailles, seemingly going on forever.  Potsdam is just outside Berlin and home to many summer Palaces. The above picture does not do justice. The grounds are immaculate with multiple Palaces scattered throughout.
You can buy tickets for a guided tour upon arrival.  The area is crawling with tourists during the summer, but we found  the lines were manageable.  If find yourself in Berlin and need a break from the city touring, I can highly recommend taking a break in Potsdam.

 

 

Palace of Versailles – Paris, France

It’s only fair if I make a comparison to the Palace of Versailles, I also review it.    Home to Louise XIV The Palace of Versailles is fascinating.  For our kids it was also a great history lesson regarding the French Revolution.  The grounds are just as amazing as the inside. I found this castle to be so ornate in detail, unlike the inside of the Neuschwanstein castle.
Buying your ticket ahead is highly recommended. This is a definite must see while in Paris.

 Château du Haut-Kœnigsbourg – Orschwiller, France

 

Overlooking the Alsace valley of France, this Chateau has a breathtaking view.   The few time we have visited, spring and summer season, we have had no problems with the lines. You can purchase your tickets upon arrival and go on a self guided tour.The castle has some impressive furniture inside its apartments.  Our kids were kept entertained with the drawbridges and cannons along the tour.

 

Rothenburg ob der Tauber – walled city in 
Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany
 This little city is, by far, the most darling medieval town we have visited. The town is completely surrounded by a wall. A walk around the city wall is a must. Guided walks through the town are offered to fill you in on the history.  I’d recommend the night tour with a medieval guide carrying a torch to light your way. You can visit the tourist center inside the wall to purchase your tickets. The town is also famous for the shop Wohlfahrt, another must see. 
Château de Chillon – Montreux, Switzerland
This Castle sits on Lake Leman, in the French speaking part of Switzerland. You might ask- what’s so cool about his castle? You can hire out the castle for birthday parties (weddings too). How cool is that?  Besides being able to party in the castle, you can also tour it.  You can purchase a guided tour and get an in depth history lesson.
Carcassonne – More than just a board game, 
a walled city in Carcassonne, France
Our boys asked for years to visit Carcassonne. The only knowledge they had of this city was from a beloved family game we play, Carcassonne. So, when we informed them we would take a road trip there, they were ecstatic.
The fortified city has it’s own drawbridge and 53 towers to watch out for the enemy (in the past, of course).  I could best describe the city as imagination-gone-wild for the kids.  No tickets are needed.  It’s free to explore the grounds.  You can walk through the walled city anytime but many of the restaurants and shops are closed  in the off season (winter months).
Civita di Bagnoregio – Civita di Bagnoregio, Italy
 
And in the spirit of walled cities I figured this city needed to be mentioned. The city itself, perched up on a hill, is a site to see.  No cars are allowed in the city,  you must park before crossing the bridge. There are a few spots of metered parking close to the bridge. From there you can walk across the bridge to the beautiful town of Civita di Bagnoregio.  No tickets are required to tour. The town is pretty secluded but it’s a great little town to explore. Not to mention, a breathtaking picture.

Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Rothenburg is a beautiful medieval town that looks like it’s right out of a fairytale.

This was our last stop in Germany as we made our way home to Switzerland. My sister declared it her favorite town.

The local shop was advertising 1 meter hot dogs for sale……. and of course, we had to give them a try.

The local favorite all over town was the Schneeballen. They look quite tasty but, unfortunately, we did not find them so.



This quaint little town is also famous for their Christmas store. The minute we walked in we felt the Christmas spirit, which is year round in this town.

The town is surrounded by a wall and you can climb the stairs to have a look over the village.

How darling is the little portal into the town square?

Beautiful view from our apartment window above a bakery.

The morning before we left we walked along the wall. What fun city to end our vacation in. We had such a fun time with my sister.



Berlin



We rented a flat in Berlin for a week. The flat was in a great central location so we could leave our car parked and use the U-bahn to go everyhere. Berlin has over 3 million people.

Memorial to the Murdered Jews

Inside the museum were quotes from the victims, this letter was beyond heartbreaking…. it read
“Dear father I am saying goodbye to you before I die. We would so love to live, but they won’t let us and we will die. I am so scared to this death, because the small children are thrown alive into the pit. Goodbye forever. I kiss you tenderly.” Your J

Part of this church, The Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche, was left after the war. You can see how it was bombed out.

It was raining one day so the boys enjoyed most of their day inside Legoland. Legoland is inside the Sony Center, which was a pretty impressive center. I would recommend it for a rainy day activity with kids.

Later in the day, when the sun came back, we explored more of Berlin. What a gorgeous city with so much history. We explained to the boys all about Berlin’s history. For such a vibrant modern city today it’s amazing to think about how much sad history is behind it.


Any little boy would find this picture outside a toilet funny.

The famous TV tower built in East Berlin designed to show the strength of the German Democratic Republic.

Check this dude out. A propane backpack and a grill on front = perfect little restaurant.

Of course we had to try one, or 2, or 3……..

A little graffiti message on the Berlin Wall ……….For Astrid: Maybe someday we will be together

I still remember watching the wall come down on the news when I was a kid. Crazy to think, it wasn’t really that long ago.


A view down the wall. This section of the wall stands next to The Topography of Terror. It was given this name because it’s on this site the Gestapo and SS headquarters of the Nazi Regime were. It was never rebuilt, they just left the rubble and built the documentation center on top of the site that just opened this year.

Listening to some survivor letters in the Documentation Center.

Checkpoint Charlie – The famous crossing point between East and West Berlin.

The Reichstag Building. On top of the building is a giant glass dome we went up.

The glass dome was pretty cool. You could walk all the way to the top and get a great view over Berlin.

Outside on top of the Reichstag.

We ate dinner dinner by the river one night in these lounge chairs.

Berlin has a Island called Museum Island with a ton of Museum. We visited a few. I couldn’t figure out how they got this giant Pergamon Alter all the way to Berlin. Can you imagine?

And we even got to see the Gates of Babylon. Pretty Awesome! This was the 8th gate into the inner city of Babylon, constructed in 575 BC.

“Wow, did they really let me out of the stroller??”

Today Berlin is a modern city with so much history. Our time in Berlin went fast but I felt like we got to see a lot of the city. We didn’t take a picture of the U-bahn (the train system) but we found it very interesting that when the wall was up the U-bahn that went through East Berlin was completely closed off. So when the wall finally came down, they re-opened the U-bahn and a few of the stations look preserved straight out of the 60s.

Dachau Concentration Camp



Dachau was very moving. It was the first Nazi Concentration camp. I must say the first time we visited I was hesitant with the kids but history must not be repeated so I thought it was very important that our children understand what went on here. There were many questions but I feel like it was an amazing history lesson for all of us. It was a very sad, moving experience.

Walking through the rod iron fence gave me an eerie feeling. It read “Arbeit macht frei” which translates into “Work will make you free” How sad, so many who walked through these gates and had to die because of discrimination and stupidity.

Outside the crematorium. We did not take our 7 year old into any of the buildings, as it was not age appropriate. They recommend 12 or older. We felt our 11 yr was old enough and felt it was important for him to see and understand. Education is the best way to make sure this doesn’t ever happen again.

This is a memorial in the center of the camp. There is also a memioral that says Nie Wieder, Never Again.

There were a few barracks that had been rebuilt to show how those imprisoned lived. Overall Dachau was a very sad place to visit but we felt that it important to see.

Mainau Island

Saturday we enjoyed a visit to Mainau with some friends. Mainau is a little Island in Lake Constance near Konstanz, Germany. It is maintained as a Garden Island, very beautiful.


We were there a little early in the season so not everything was in bloom but it was still very pretty.

Enjoying the flower Easter eggs on display

Ducks swimming in a pond

Wild flowers
The boys enjoyed their awesome playgrounds

Just like Tom Sawyer
Butterflies galore…..


Just having some fun



Taking a leap