Germany, Austria, France and Switzerland Travel Ideas
April 6, 2013 7:26 AM   Subscribe

The Murrey family is heading to Germany this July and staying in Stuttgart with friends. They have a car. We need your guidance on what to see and where to go.

I will be there with Toddler Murrey for the whole month and Mr. Murrey will be there for the last 2 weeks. Our friends are game for whatever we want to do (they have a toddler too). However, they suggested renting a home on the French coast (Eze/Nice/Cannes/Villefranche-sur-mer/Monte Carlo) for 4 or 5 days. This sounds lovely but it is a bit of a haul and am wondering if it would be worth doing all of that traveling on top of the long flight from Texas. But I love the beach!

Basically, we are looking for suggestions as to what we should do/see. Our lodging is free in Stuttgart and would like to keep costs down a bit but we are willing to stay somewhere if there is a must see place to go. In other words, if there are day trips around Stuttgart, great. But we are also willing to go to France, Austria, and Switzerland if there is something great to do and see.

Here is what we have on our paltry itinerary so far:

One night, 2 days in Paris for me and Mr. Murrey (our friends will watch our son while we bullet train it over there).

Last 2 or three nights in Amsterdam.

That's it!

Also, bonus points if you can give information about whether to rent a car to get to Amsterdam from Stuttgart or take a train -- are great things to see along the way there where a car would be better?
posted by murrey to Travel & Transportation (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I think you need to decide whether you want to do a Europe trip starting from Stuttgart, or you want to be discovering in and around Stuttgart. The first can't really be on the cheap side, the latter can be. Be aware that some of your planned journeys have travel times of more than a day.

Then, what interests you? Do you want to see famous places, cities, landscape? Do you want to do sports, enjoy the arts, or dance off?

I'm sure you know Lonelyplanet.
posted by oxit at 8:12 AM on April 6, 2013

I lived outside Stuttgart as a kid!

I had so much fun going on day trips to: the Wurzburg Residence and Ludwigsburg Palace (twelve km outside Stuttgart). Also Rothenburg ob der Tauber, an ancient walled city. There are lots and lots of castles and palaces and gardens, more than I can list.

There are also lots of good Bavarian forests -- they all have walking paths and picnic areas and are nothing like USian forests. So go on a Volksmarch!
posted by brina at 8:14 AM on April 6, 2013

It looks like taking the train from Stuttgart to Amsterdam will run you about €200 to €300, which is about what it will cost to rent a car. The car isn't going to save you any time unless you drive without stopping.

But if you are up for stopping along the way, Cologne is definitely worth visiting.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 8:29 AM on April 6, 2013

Seconding Rothenburg ob der Tauber. It's also the home of Käthe Wohlfahrt, the all-year Christmas market. You can get cool wooden ornaments to bring back as souvenirs for friends and family.

Legoland Germany is also about an hour away in Günsburg. Might be something to do with the kids if they are a little older, say 4 and up.
posted by JoeZydeco at 9:57 AM on April 6, 2013

With toddlers, I would find the south of France a long haul. Why not go to Lake Constance (semi-official site) There is water, a lot of things to do, both nature and culture, and probably fairly reasonably prices, compared to the Riviera.
Or just go somewhere in Schwarzwald - maybe your friends find that too banal, but in my view, it is a bit like in the ancient fairy-tales, I remember going to a tiny village to stay after a visit to Stuttgart, and feeling I'd come 500 years back in time.
A bit further away is Salzburg and its surroundings, with everything Mozart and "Sound of Music", but also lots and lots of great toddler-friendly hikes (and cakes, an amazing amount of cakes, to be truthful). Actually, I think that might be my choice for a short week off from Stuttgart.
Alsace is a really nice place for holidays, too, with the Strasbourg Cathedral as a must-see, and quaint villages with cosy little inns and lovely hearty food all over the place. (website)
If you decide to go to the sea, I like the Italian Riviera a lot better than the French, and it's cheaper, too. Italians are more child-friendly, the food is more consistently good, and it's (slightly) less overrun.
The Museum Insel Hombroich is on the way to Amsterdam. Worth a detour, actually.
What about going to the beach in the Netherlands, on your way back? The weather is not as reliable as in the south, but the beaches are splendid.
Generally, with toddlers, I'd say don't be too ambitious. You can't ever see everything, so you might as well focus on having a nice, relaxed holiday. The central part of Germany is very dense, and I feel that can be a little overwhelming. But the mountains and forests are beautiful, and as brina mentioned, very friendly, with well-marked paths and little "almhütten" - places where you can have a sandwich and a drink for a low price.
posted by mumimor at 12:26 PM on April 6, 2013

When I lived in Germany, our weekends were spent visiting and photographing castles. There were bunches within a reasonable drive and most involved little or no money to see them. We had a toddler and our second baby was born while we were in Germany. Some are tourist spots. Others are in use as hospitals, senior care centers,etc.

Wurzburg was one we went to. It is larger than most. But I think the castle I mean is different from the Residence mentioned above. Linky We also were fond of the castle at Trimberg. We discovered it before it became a tourist trap, though I have no idea what it would be like now more than two decades later.

We also took the opportunity to visit an old Roman wall, a Roman outpost and a related(?) museum. I think the wall was called Der Limes. It had actually been a log wall on a manmade hill. We walked along the hill looking for a wall and came to a historic marker that explained the situation. It had been gone for a thousand years so there huge trees growing out of the hill. It was a very eye-opening experience for an American. It gave me a different perspective of time, context, history and so forth than I previously knew.

I just loved the sense of history there of a sort that does not exist here. I also liked going to the older parts of towns which were built before cars existed but are still in use today.
posted by Michele in California at 1:03 PM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

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