History, nature and traditions in the Rhineland
The area of the Rhineland is more or less defined by three rivers: the Maas in the west, the Rhine in the east and the Mosel in the south. People who live in the Rhineland area are supposed to be tolerant, unhurried, friendly and easy going; what more could you want for a family-friendly holiday destination?
The Fifth Season
Spring, summer, fall, winter and probably the most important one for the Rhineland the fifth season – Carnival. For people who love and live for carnival, the season starts on 11th November at 11.11am and ends on Ash Wednesday. Don’t be surprised if you meet people dressed up as vegetables, animals or superheros during this time. Carnival is of course a big party mainly for adults here, but children of all ages love to dress up too and take part in the parties and parades. Kids collect as many sweets as possible when the kamelle are tossed into the crowds. Make sure you shout the right slogans: Helau in Düsseldorf and Alaaf in Cologne!
Tip: With kids it is more enjoyable to join the Veedelszog – these are smaller parades through different areas of the bigger cities which are less crowded than the main parades.
When traveling with kids, food is always important and there are many culinary specialties from the Rhineland to suit children as well as the parents. Himmel und Erde (heaven and earth) – apple puree is heaven and mashed potatoes are the earth – this is served with black pudding, called flöns, and onions. Halve Hahn, literally a half chicken, is actually rye bread with chesse and herbs. Mutzen, diamond-shaped sweet pastry baked in oil and floured with icing sugar, especially common during carnival and new year, is perfect for those with a sweet tooth.
The river Rhine itself is hugely important economically for the region. Next to the water and on the river itself you will find a great array of leisure activities. Rafting on the Rhine is great fun for older kids. Take the train to Bad Honnef and enter the river at Rheinpromenade. Cycling along the river is another great activity for all the family. You can take a boat in Düsseldorf and make a short tour through the harbour and enjoy the beautiful architecture of the Gehry buildings or take a day cruise to Cologne or Bonn. The best views of the river, however, can be experienced when riding the Cologne Cable Car – a gondola lift that runs across the river connecting the two banks of the Rhine at the height of Cologne’s Zoo Bridge.
Tip: If you plan to go rafting take spare clothes to change into and get a waterproof camera so you can capture the day in pictures.
Twenty-five million years ago volcanos formed the landscape south of Bonn. This means there are excellent spots for hiking tours with fantastic and diversified outlook points. The Roman Aqueduct Trail in the Rhineland Nature Park is over a 100km long from Eifel all the way to Cologne and offers magnificent trekking options. There are four visitor centres – Gymnicher Mühle, Friesheimer Busch, Himmeroder Hof and Haus der Natur – in the park with a wealth of information about the surrounding area. The Werewolf Trail is a child-friendly hiking trip which you can find at the Bedburg Palace Gardens. Seven stations along the route explain about the cruel history of the werewolf of Epprath. The Gymnicher Mühle (Gymnich Mill) in Erftstadt is a great place for children (and adults) to explore, play and experiment with water.
In the Rhineland everything, or almost everything, began with the Romans so there is a wealth of history to explore. The LVR-LandesMuseum, a museum in Bonn, run by the Rhineland Landscape Association, offers fun for children with building, playing and digging activities. You can experience how the Rhineland looked 2,000 years ago, build Roman constructions and experience Roman life using typical costumes, dishes, and food. At the therme in Zülpich children can enjoy special guided tours “kids explain for kids”, costume tours, or a night tour with torches which can be a bit scary but great fun. They also offer organised birthday parties where your children can celebrate like the Romans did. Another great activity is exploring the ruins of the villa rustica in Wesseling-Keldenich and try to imagine how the Romans lived there thousands of years ago.
Amusement parks are certainly not specific to the Rhineland, however there are some good ones here where children, tweens and teens will be entertained for hours. Phantasialand in Brühl, about 20km from Cologne, has shows, entertainment, roller coasters and fire works. One of the most popular rides is the mine train roller coaster called Colorado Adventure, which was opened by Michael Jackson. There’s a good choice of hotels if you want an overnight stay, with familiy-friendly options. The Tolli Park in Mayen, offers fun and action indoors and outdoors for families with toddlers or kids up to about 9 years old. There are plenty of things to do indoors if the weather is not so good. At the Neuland Park in Leverkusen, you find 12 playgrounds, mini golf and a beach bar next to the Rhine for us parents!
Tip: Some attractions at Tolli Park have a minimum height restriction of 1,1m or 1,25m.
In conclusion, the Rhineland offers a great selection of activities to suit all tastes and ages, beautiful nature, plenty of history and traditions, great food and a lot of fun!
Julia, a native of Bavaria, is founder of the travel blog Travelingkinder