Imposing castles and water-fun
Upper Swabia and Allgäu: Southwest
Germany's secret escape
Between Lake Constance and the Danube, rural pleasures are on offer in Upper Swabia and the Allgäu. Traditional thermal spa towns, pretty villages, Baroque churches and castles contrast with rugged moors, nature reserves and clean, clear lakes where you can swim or enjoy canoe tours on rivers, such as the Danube, the Schlussen or the Iller, the eastern border of Upper Swabia.
As well as boasting 5 Premium-quality hiking trails, this is great cycling country for families. Starting and finishing in Ulm, the 365-km / 225-mile Upper Swabian Allgäu Cycle Path is a comfortable 8-day tour. In the foothills of the Alps, pedal through meadows and villages. Highlights include the Federsee Nature Reserve, Aulendorf Castle, as well as soothing thermal baths. Or pedal part of the Danube Cycle Path.
Canoeing the Upper Danube Valley between Beuron and Sigmaringen is a thrill, especially through the gorge nicknamed the Swabian Grand Canyon. But there are other sights, from imposing castles on rocky outcrops to tree-lined banks, rich with birdlife. In Sigmaringen, there are four canoe companies that rent canoes and organise trips in the Upper Danube Nature Park.
Sigmaringen has a Rapunzel-style castle belonging to the aristocratic Hohenzollern family. Set high on a cliff, the highlight is the Armoury, with swords and pikes, breastplates and helmets. “It’s like being part of The Game of Thrones!” according to one excited young visitor.
LEARN SOMETHING NEW:
In Kürnbach, families love the living history of the Upper Swabian Museum Village. See workshops and exhibitions, plus farm animals, meadows and orchards. Step inside thatched farmhouses (some 500 years old) to see how locals lived in the past. Lively events and activities complete a great day out. At the UNESCO World Heritage Site in Bad Buchau, learn how Stone Age man lived in houses set on wooden piles on the shores of Lake Federsee. Federsee lake itself is a birdwatcher’s delight: among the 265 recorded species are marsh harriers and noisy grasshopper warblers.
Ravensburger jigsaw puzzles are in millions of households around the world and they are all made in Ravensburg. Nearby, the company’s puzzles and toys come to life in Ravensburger Spieleland. Regularly voted Germany’s most family-friendly theme park, it offers 70 rides and attractions, a 4D cinema, a kids’ driving school and more. There is also a holiday village with tent, caravan and motorhome pitches.
BEST TIME TO VISIT?
April to October is when all the family-friendly open-air museums, leisure and climbing parks are open.
Get more - Pay less
Motorhome touring is both popular and budget-friendly. Three of Europe’s major motorhome and caravan manufacturers are here, making this the "cradle of the motorhome", with attractive motorhome parks to match. In Bad Waldsee, the Erwin Hymer Museum is dedicated to the founder of the motorhome manufacturer Hymer.
FUN PLACES TO STAY:
Vacations on holiday farms (Ferienhof) are hugely popular. Check out destinations, such as the Hotel Hofgut Tiergarten, the Ferienhof Häckler, the Gut Hügle adventure farm, the Mayerhof and the Ferienhof Neher, with its well-priced cabins. All holiday farms are surrounded by endless countryside. Some offer petting zoos, corn-field mazes or hay bouncy castles; others have heated swimming pools and pony rides. If you fancy cycling, check out bike-friendly accommodation in small family-run B&Bs and inns with ADFC “bett + bike” certification. In Leutkirch, in the foothills of the Alps, the Center Parcs, Park Allgäu has a terrific tropical water world, water slides, wild water rides and an indoor play world.