The Perfect Getaway in Germany – my Insider Tip for Discerning Families


Whether on a sun lounger or in bed at night, I kept asking myself during my stay at Schloss Elmau: what does luxury really mean? What criteria must be met for my family and me to feel exceptionally comfortable at a hotel or travel destination? Why should we travel within Germany more often?

The Niche Traveller Kerstin Bognar Schloss Elmau
Schloss Elmau Bavaria Nature

Situated at the end of a high valley, free from traffic, and surrounded by crystal-clear mountain lakes, rushing alpine rivers, a hilly, hobbit-like grassland, and impressive mountains, Schloss Elmau has gained worldwide fame over the past ten years. It served as the venue for the G7 Summit twice (in 2015 and 2022). The press photos from these summits are iconic: in the foreground, the rustic wooden bench; in the background, the majestic Wetterstein Mountains. Memorable images include Angela Merkel with arms wide open in front of a casually seated Barack Obama (2015), or the united leaders of the world’s leading democratic economies standing before the wooden bench and Wetterstein Mountains (2022). These images are iconic, but the amusing anecdotes from hotel owner Dietmar Müller-Elmau about the summits are equally captivating, such as which heads of state stayed on which floors and what criteria must be met for the Chancellor to choose a hotel as a summit venue.

Müller-Elmau himself is an interesting character. Not a typical manager, he is a visionary who seeks to inspire and be inspired. He loves grandeur and international flair, variety, and intergenerational appeal. That’s why he hosts political summits, invites writers and thinkers from around the world for panel discussions, and curates a cultural program that rivals any concert or theater house, with the freedom to explore diverse disciplines.

Niche Junior Schloss Elmau

During our three-day stay, the cultural program was fantastic. The first evening featured techno-jazz with the Munich-based Jazzrausch Bigband. The second evening offered a string octet performance by Quatuor Ebène and the Belcea Quartet. I love theater and opera, but rarely find time for them in my daily life, so it was wonderful to enjoy these performances on a short vacation. On the first night, I danced, while the next evening I sat moved to tears by the concert. And the children? They enjoyed the techno-jazz until it got too loud and too late, then had fun in the gym during we attended the classical concert.

Two such evenings in a row were delightful for my husband and me, as quality time alone is rare for us. Our children, when not joining us for walks, meals, or tennis, roamed freely and independently. The youngest explored the meadows and streams, while the older kids fully enjoyed the activities on offer (tennis, mountain biking, gym, jogging, lots of eating). The children's program is diverse and caters to different age groups, offering everything from soccer camps with qualified coaches from renowned clubs to edutainment workshops like programming, tech and many more, all as expertly curated as the cultural program. No need to feel guilty about enrolling your child in these high-quality activities.

Schloss Elmau Mountain Bike Tour

As you walk through the expansive hotel grounds, it becomes even clearer that this is not an ordinary hotel complex. Instead, it is a strategically planned and developed space, resembling a village more than a hotel. There is a large valley with a river and flower meadow, tennis courts, and two main hotel complexes (Hideaway and Retreat). The Hideaway is housed in the original castle, which also contains the main restaurants, kids' club, lounge, library, and reading room, sport´s center, family swimming pool and wellness area. The Retreat is a separate building with slightly larger rooms and a generally quieter and more mature ambiance compared to the Hideaway. However, almost everywhere offers a breathtaking view of the natural surroundings and the majestic Wetterstein Mountains.

Schloss Elmau Family Hideaway

Müller-Elmau mentions that the hotel accommodates around 200 adults and 100 children when fully booked, with the spacious layout ensuring no one feels cramped. There are different restaurants, generous architecture, and various spas—some for families, others for adults only. This suits me perfectly, as I prefer not to eat from buffets or be in crowded spas or yoga classes. I can have breakfast at the buffet with my children or retreat to a seated breakfast if I prefer. Yoga classes are well-attended but not overcrowded, with great views and excellent teachers. This flexibility, combined with qualified staff and the tranquility and stunning scenery, represents the ultimate luxury for me.

Schloss Elmau Outdoor Pool

Our three days flew by, filled with activities I hadn’t done in a long time. I jumped into the icy mountain stream after a tennis lesson, got up early for a swim class to improve my freestyle technique, walked barefoot through flower meadows, did two 50-minute yoga sessions (at home I manage 15), played energetic rounds of table tennis, and enjoyed a gourmet dinner at restaurant Ikigai by Chef Chris Rainer with my husband on top of the cultural events.

Being able to do what I wanted, spend time with my family, be inspired by the excellent offerings, and push my limits in a peaceful, car-free environment far from daily life, with fresh air and beautiful nature, truly refreshed me. The stay reinforced my belief that traveling off-peak is worthwhile. Vacationing in our own country or the mountains in summer and early fall (as it gets warmer everywhere) and traveling farther afield in winter and spring seems increasingly sensible.

Schloss Elmau Family Holiday

Schloss Elmau is open year-round, and I'm already browsing through the cultural program and various workshops, eager to find some gems and perhaps try something new later this year. I would love to attend a yoga retreat just for myself. But last year, I gave my husband a dance class as a gift. They offer dance workshops at Elmau too, and maybe we’ll finally manage to incorporate something new into our daily routine.

One key takeaway from my stay is that a dream vacation isn't about price tags or star ratings. You don’t need to fly halfway around the world to have an amazing holiday. It's more about your mindset—the ability to embrace new experiences and the knack for selecting what makes you feel good. Mastering this is already halfway to a dream vacation.

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