Ten reasons why it's great to be a parent in Munich
Munich is a fantastic place to raise children, whether you are expecting a new baby or have a teenager in tow, writes Naomi Kaye Honova.
Daily life in Munich with a family combines all the advantages of an urban location - excellent public transit, lots of shopping opportunities, a vibrant cultural scene - with a small-town, slow-paced charm and plenty of green spaces. Here's ten reasons why it's great to be a parent in Munich.
1. Support networks and family services
In particular for families who may not have family around in Munich to help out, Munich's many services and support networks for parents can be a lifesaver. The many family centres (Familienzentrum/Mutterzentrum) around the city, such as the Fabi centers, offer classes, playgroups, open hours and sometimes midwives or lactation consultants to help out new parents or provide socializing opportunities.
Organizations such as "WellCome" provide some assistance to families who have no one around to help with older siblings or household tasks after a new baby is born, and there are even programs to "rent a grandmother" for subsidized occasional childcare.
The city provides many free-of-charge counselling opportunities for psychological, social or economic issues surrounding having a family, as well as self-help groups and even specialized assistance for cases like babies with severe colic.
2. Healthcare, including pregnancy and birth
The experience of being a parent in Munich starts during pregnancy. Munich has a variety of state-of-the-art hospitals and birth centres for childbirth, and every woman is entitled to a midwife for postnatal care (but act quickly- Munich has been experiencing a baby boom in the last several years), and insurance will cover a portion of a birth preparation class, a postpartum pelvic floor class for mothers, and sometimes even part of a prenatal yoga course.
Every child is issued a passbook for well-child visits, which are more frequent during the first few years of life. Preventative care is emphasized and medical care is generally of excellent quality - though parents should be prepared for some long wait room times on occasion! Family centres and hospitals often provide inexpensive courses for parents on topics like first aid, easy home remedies and infant massage.
A big plus point for raising a family in Munich is the city's relative safety. You will see young children walking or biking independently to school, or even doing some grocery shopping at a young age; and locals are usually happy to help the kids out should they need it. Street crime and violent crime rates are very low, and the Munich police tend to be friendly and approachable, but also effective and focused.
The culture of Munich also tends to be helpful and honest - when you leave your credit card behind at the supermarket cashier, someone is likely to come running after you to try and return it; a common sight on a fence is someone's missing glove or hat, propped up right by where it was left so the owner can come and find it later.
4. Schools and education
Children on their first day of school in Munich. Photo: DPA
The quality of education in Munich is quite high, whether in a public Gymnasium or a private Grundschule. It can be a bit challenging at times to get a spot in one of Munich's infant/toddler creches or a kindergarten, but the options are plentiful, from a Munich public kindergarten to a private parent-initiative Spanish-language creche.
Teaching standards in Bavaria are very high with a lengthy course of qualification to become a teacher. For international families only in Munich for a short period of time, international schools like MIS and BIS are well regarded, and there are a variety of bilingual schools such as Phorms, Jan Amos Comenius and Jules Verne that provide both German and English classes. Montessori and Rudolf Steiner (Waldorf) schools are also available as options in Munich, and for kindergarten children, there is the option of a Waldkindergarten, where kids spend the majority of their day outdoors, no matter the weather.
5. Culture and diversity
When it comes to the arts, Munich has a lot to offer for families. The Münchner Theatre fur Kinder puts on theatre productions for children, the Babykonzert series offers babies and toddlers an opportunity to be exposed to classical music, and the Munich opera and ballet feature myriad programs targeted at children and teenagers.
Bavarian and local holidays are celebrated with gusto, which is a lot of fun for kids (and their parents) - people dress up in costume for Fasching, go to the Christmas markets during the holiday season, and children have lantern parades on St. Martin's day. Munich is also a very international city, with people from all over the world choosing to make their home here.
So if you are a multicultural family in Munich, you certainly won't be alone. Your children's classmates will hail from all over Europe and the rest of the world, and there are numerous festivals, classes and programs that feature the cuisines, arts, and histories of a multitude of cultures.
6. Green spaces and proximity to outdoor sports
Even though Munich is technically a city, due to its bounty of parks, the Isar river and lakes, it often feels less "urban" than cities of comparable size, and families love all the green spaces. Urban apartment dwellers sans backyard will have easy access to a nearby park. The famous English Garden cuts through a large swathe of the city and is filled with families year-round enjoying its wide open spaces. Other family parks around the city include Ostpark, Petuelringpark and the Rosengarten.
Playgrounds abound, including many water playgrounds during the summer months. Open-air swimming in one of the city's swimming pools or in one of the surrounding lakes is another popular family activity. Munich is a short, easy train ride away for hiking and skiing; popular destinations include the Tegernsee-Schliersee area for hikes and leisure, and Garmisch-Partenkirchen for winter sports. Football is, of course, wildly popular in Munich and you'll see people playing and attending football games with passion.
7. No lack of city activities to do with children
Munich boasts a wide range of museums, libraries and art centres that families with children of varying ages can enjoy. Many Munich museums cost just one euro on Sundays, and the majority of the museums offer children's workshops, audio guides and tours; other museums are naturally interactive, such as the science and technology-oriented Deutsches Museum and its sister museums focusing on transit and airplanes, Verkehrzentrum and Flugwerft Schleissheim.
Children get a free library card at Munich's public libraries and every library has areas set aside for teenagers and kids. During school holidays, there are a multitude of programs available in the city for schoolchildren, such as circus camps and nature outings. Families enjoy exploring the various royal residences around Munich like the Residenz or Schloss Nymphenburg. There are even scavenger hunts and special city tours geared specifically for families that focus on the history and landmarks of Munich.
8. Spielcafes, family restaurants, food quality and availability
Bavaria is the largest agricultural hub in Germany, so it stands to reason that the produce, meat and dairy in Munich is often local, fresh and at a good price. Grab some Munich-made honey at your local farmer's market or the famous Viktualienmarkt with your family in tow - it makes for a fun outing and kids love learning where their food comes from (many nearby farms are often easy to visit with kids).
Munich doesn't lack for large grocery stores, organic supermarkets such as VollCorner and Denns, and small family-run butchers, fishmongers and produce shops really lend themselves to the Gemütlichkeit and friendliness of getting integrated in your local neighbourhood. Many restaurants in Munich are welcoming to families, frequently offering facilities such as high chairs, changing tables and kid's portions. Wirtshaus an der Au is a fun Bavarian option.
Spielcafes, or play cafes, target parents with small children and offer play corners alongside a cafe where parents can enjoy a coffee while their baby or young child plays nearby; Cafe Glückskind and Cafe de Bambini are two popular Spielcafes.
9. Well-connected public transit and a biking lifestyle
If you're up for it, your family can actually live in Munich car-free, thanks to the city's extensive network of trams, buses, subways and commuter trains as well as clearly marked bike lanes throughout town. You'll see many parents bringing their kids around on bikes, whether in a seat or in various styles of bike trailers. If you need a car on occasion, taxis (with car seats available upon request) or car-sharing networks like DriveNow are readily available.
10. Kid-friendly shopping, from flea market bargains to local boutiques
Within Munich city limits and the surrounding suburbs, you'll find all your needs for children's clothing, toys, furniture and baby items met. If you're looking to buy secondhand, you're in the perfect city. Children's flea markets occur on a weekly basis year-round and the city offers a number of secondhand children's clothing shops.
Online Munich-based forums provide further deals. Large baby and toddler supply shops such as Babywalz or Kinnings make it easy to try out items like strollers or infant carriers in person, and all the department stores like Galeria Kaufhof carry a vast selection of children's items. Local boutiques such as Thierchen or Zuckerschnurl offer speciality clothes, toys and silverware for kids.