A dream trip to the Swiss Alps, driving to Austria and visiting the beautiful Lake Bled – what if it was all child-friendly?! Well, traveling in Central Europe is surprisingly one of the most child-friendly areas in the world. Destinations in Central Europe are so accommodating to families and honestly seem to default to assuming there will be children, with highchairs, safe sleeping options, and activities plentiful. Central Europe is truly the land of playgrounds.
This driving (there are fabulous train options also available for a great deal of these trips) itinerary of Central Europe starts in Zurich, Switzerland, and returns home from Vienna, Austria. Along the way, we will spend time in Interlaken and Lauterbruann Village, Switzerland; Innsbruck and Salzkammergut region, Austria; Lake Bled, Slovenia; and Vienna, Austria.
Arrive in Central Europe: Zurich, Switzerland
Upon landing in Central Europe, if your child has a major case of wiggles after that long flight, there is a fabulous family lounge in the Zurich airport that includes a kid’s play area and even a diaper changing center. If this does not meet your wiggle needs, after picking up your rental car, Lindenhofplatz is a fabulous park that includes a playground and stunning views of the city from the top. This is a nice, fun pitstop to exhaust your little one before packing up for your two-hour drive to Lauterbruann Village and allows you to see Zurich even if you are not overnighting there. This is the first of many beautiful playgrounds in Central Europe.
Insider Tip What to Do: Visit Lindenhofplatz Park while in Zurich for a great view and playground.
Lauterbruann Village, Switzerland
Our first stop in Central Europe: stay in Lauterbruann Village for a few nights while in Switzerland, as it is a fabulous central location with beautiful scenery. You cannot go wrong with Wengen, Murren, or Grindelwald as a home base, but depending on your means of travel, keep in mind some of these options are car-free towns.
Insider Tip Where To Stay: Check out many great Airbnb options, like our pick in Lauterbruann Village.
Wherever you choose to stay in Switzerland, there is so much to love. You will be in awe of its beauty, towering mountains that are always snow-covered regardless of the season, crystal blue lakes, serene rolling hills, wildlife, and parks galore. We haven’t even mentioned all the chocolate and cheese yet!
Take a cable car from Lauterbrunnen to Grütschalp station and hike from there to Mürren (an hour and 15 minutes). Sightsee in Mürren for a bit and then take the cable car to Allmendhubel to the Flower Park Playground. The Flower Park Playground is one of the most beautiful playgrounds in Central Europe! There is a fabulous spot at the top for dinner.
Insider Tip What to Do: Cable car to Allmendhubel and then to the Flower Park Playground.
Drive from Lauterbruann Village for a day trip to Interlaken. Once you arrive at the Interlaken area, enjoy a walk to Lake Brienzersee. There are two lakes that surround the city of Interlaken, but lake Brienzersee is more popular and is much easier to find. It’s about a forty-minute walk from the city center and a relaxing spot to view the beautiful mountains. Lake Brienzersee is one of the most beautiful lakes in Central Europe, the water is so blue, people refer to it as “the blue Gatorade water.” In Interlaken, be sure to check out Funky Chocolate Club Switzerland and some of their famous watch shops.
Insider Tip What To Do: Take time to walk around Lake Brienzersee and check out Funky Chocolate Club Switzerland.
If you are following our driving itinerary for Central Europe, this will be your longest ride at around five hours. The drive from Lauterbruann to Innsbruck is scenic, but uneventful. Innsbruck is a great town to break up the drive from Switzerland to Salzkammergut Region of Austria. Innsbruck offers great, clean hotels, delicious food, and beautiful scenery. It is a hub for history, winter sports and showcases bright Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque architecture along the Inn River.
Insider Tip What To Do: Take the Innsbrucker Nordkettenbahnen cable car to visit Alpine Zoo and then connect to the Panorama Cable Car to Hafelkar.
READ MORE: Prague: An Adventure in Walking
Salzkammergut Region, Austria
Salzkammergut is the lakes and mountains region in Austria that has garnered so many praises from people all over the world. This place is located east of Salzburg and provides stunning scenery and pristine waters for hiking and water sports. There are many fabulous destinations in this region, about a two-hour drive from Innsbruck. Other areas in Central Europe you may want to check out while staying in the Salzkammergut Region: Lake Fuschl, Wolfgangsee, and picturesque Hallstatt. Our suggestion is to stay in Fuschl or Wolfgangsee and if you desire to see Hallstatt, check it out on a day trip, as we find it very busy and can be overwhelmingly touristy.
The food in Central Europe, especially Austria, deserves its own narrative. There are so many unique foods available. Some must-tries are Austrian Goulash (traditional Austrian beef goulash often includes semmelknoedel, or dumplings), Spagral (white asparagus, super popular in the spring), Erdäpfelsalat (Austrian-style potato salad), Powidltascherl (plum jam turnovers), and Melange Coffee (Viennese coffee). Pair these delicious foods with a heartier beer or a glass of spicy, rich Zweigelt wine, one of Austria’s rare reds.
Insider Tip Where To Stay: Nestled in Austria’s “Sound of Music” Salzkammergut region, overlooking Lake Fuschl, the storybook Schloss Fuschl, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa is world-renowned for its spellbinding natural beauty and intoxicating atmosphere.
Lake Bled, Slovenia
Slovenia will blow you away from the beautiful scenery to the quirky and eager to please personalities of the locals. Many travelers consider Lake Bled one of the most beautiful places in Central Europe.
Blejski Otok island is one of the most popular places to visit in Slovenia. The only way to get to this small island is by boat. On Blejski Otok island there is a Pilgrimage Church of the Assumption of Maria. In this 15th century church, there is a famous bell. The legend has it that it can make your dream come true if you can pull the bell’s rope and if there will be three bells, your wish will be fulfilled.
Bled Castle is the oldest castle in Slovenia. During your visit, be sure to check out the antique printing shop and local wine tasting in the castle’s cellar. The most memorable sight-seeing of our time in Central Europe was Bled Castle’s 16th-century chapel and museum with an extensive collection of armor and weapons.
Insider Tip What To Do: We recommend getting a guided tour with a boat ride and skip-the-line ticket.
Insider Tip Where To Stay: Adora Luxury Hotel (pictured above) is positioned right next to Bled Lake and provides unique views of the lake, the island and Triglav Mountain.
Lake Bled is one of the warmest lakes in Central Europe. If you would like to take a bath in a hot thermal pool, you can visit the Živa Wellness Centre or Grand Hotel Toplice. Both locations offer pools with hot mineral water coming from nearby Alpine Springs.
Situated near the Adriatic, the forests of Istria’s idyllic countryside are hunting grounds for both white truffles (in winter) and black truffles (in summer). This is a wonderful afternoon activity and depending on the guide you book, many offer cooking lessons following that incorporate your day’s bounty and fabulous wine.
Insider Tip What to Eat: Cremeschnitte, affectionately known as Bled Cake, is a custard that can be bought at most cafes and restaurants while in Bled and is a must-do.
READ MORE: Top 7 Places to Sail on The Dalmatia Coast
Departing Central Europe: Vienna, Austria
The drive from Lake Bled to Vienna, Austria is about four hours and offers you wonderful iconic views of Central Europe. Once you arrive in Vienna, you will be awestruck by the history, beauty, and food of the city. Get acquainted with the city by having fun at the Viennese Prater amusement park and the Riesenrad Ferris Wheel.
Hofburg Palace is another huge palatial complex that pays tribute to the power and influence of the Habsburg dynasty and served as the main winter palace for the rulers of the Austro-Hungarian Empire for hundreds of years. Today, the complex is home to the offices of the president of Austria, and the buildings have undergone many additions since their creation in the 13th century.
You will also want to be sure to see St. Stephen’s Cathedral and the Opera House.
For your last day of the trip, check out Schönbrunn Palace and Gardens, Tiergarten Schonbrunn (Vienna Zoo), and don’t miss the Apple strudel display. Located within the grounds of the Schonbrunn Palace, the Tiergarten Zoo is the oldest zoo in the world and touts itself as a center for species preservation and educational fulfillment.
Insider Tip What to Eat: Schnitzel and The Sachertorte (a dense, chocolate sponge cake made with thin layers of apricot jam that’s topped with a semi-firm chocolate icing). Where to Try Schnitzel: Figlmuller Wollzeile is a casual sit-down restaurant reputed as one of Vienna’s best spots for schnitzel and is located in the city center. Meanwhile, Schnitzelwirt serves some 15 varieties of schnitzel including pork, chicken, and turkey. Where to Try Sachertorte: This is the signature creation of the Sacher Hotel, an institution in the former Imperial city.
READ MORE: 9 Things to Do in Vienna, Austria
This road trip of Central Europe is a bucket list trip, where you are able to combine beautiful scenery, delicious food, detailed history, and architecture. The main reason this one is at the top of our travel list is just how child-friendly it is. We have never been somewhere that is as accommodating to children and offers so many engaging activities that hold children of all age’s interests.
By allowing your child to partake in the various hikes, playgrounds, and zoos, they are guaranteed to interact with children from all over the world and expand their own world. Providing your child insight into life and cultures from all over the world is the best gift you can provide them as parents. It makes them more empathetic towards cultural differences and helps them to better learn to adapt to changing situations. Gueti Reis!
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