5 reasons to visit Thurgau with kids
I visited Thurgau as a part of a media trip. All thoughts and suggestions are my own and what I think my family would (or has already!) enjoyed.
If you are looking to get away from the stereotypical Swiss highlights and experience something a little different, a trip to Switzerland’s northeast canton of Thurgau should be on your Swiss must-see list. Its capital Frauenfeld is just a 40-minute train ride away from Zurich Airport and is the gateway to the canton which is famous for producing more fruit than any other in Switzerland. Thanks to its apple production and India-like shape, Thurgau is affectionately called Most-India, and a lot of its attractions revolve around the fruit - from hikes to museums. But there is more to Thurgau than the apple.
Thanks to its lower altitude and location next to the lake of Constance, Thurgau is a paradise for families looking for biking and hiking destination that are kid friendly and relaxing, too. There are also plenty of unique accommodations to host you while you spend the days biking, hiking, swimming, or simply enjoying the excellent products the canton has to offer.
1. Bring your bike.
Don’t just come to Thurgau for the apples, also come for the 900km of signposted bike paths. Thanks to Thurgau being one of the more flat cantons of Switzerland, those biking paths are a lot more family friendly compared to the steeper ones closer to the Alps. Families who aren’t too sure how long the kids will last on the bike would be smart to consider the bike path between Kreuzlingen and Schaffhausen, which follows the Rhein river. The local train follows this track as well which makes it easy to head back home when the kids’ legs have had enough. Don’t forget to purchase a ticket for your bike, too!
For those with more experience on the saddle, why not take it up a notch and combine three countries on a multi-day bike tour around the lake of Constance. The almost 300km long journey is on our own family’s “someday” list, where over the space of a good week we would travel from hotel to hotel by bike - for now we will have to wait until little Z gets a little older. However, with plenty of ferries crossing the lake, there are a variety of ways to make this trip if distance intimidates you. Bodensee Rad Weg has an excellent map to get a good overview of your options, and also can organise moving your luggage for you each day. If you would prefer to stick to Swiss soil, consider the multi-day bike ride from Bad Ragaz to Schaffhausen.
For those who would need or prefer to rent a bike or e-bike, the company rentabike.ch has various pickup points within Thurgau including at Kreuzlingen train station as well as a location outside the MoMö Museum in Arbon.
2. In the water
Most tourists don’t associate Switzerland as a swimming destination, but they are wrong! As soon as the sun comes out and the temperatures rise, the locals flock to the closest lake or river to cool down. Thurgau is no exception.
Hugging the lake of Constance as well as parts of the Rhein River, you can imagine how many places one can take a dip on a warm summer day. The local Badis (public swimming areas) like those in Arbon and Romanshorn have swimming pools, diving boards, and lake access. The more laid back lakeside village of Altnau has a sandy beach and public firepits on the lake's edge which is the perfect place to relax after your hike in the area (see tip 3!).
From SUP rentals to a canoe school, as with many lakes there are plenty of ways to enjoy the water other than swimming.
I still get screams of “noooooo” when I mention the word hiking in our household, so an interesting themed trail or awesome playground is often the key to changing my kids' negative hiking attitude.
For a great playground, try the Waldschenke in Bischofszell located in the middle of a forest. Once you have found a carpark or walk from either the train stations in Hauptwil or Bischhofszell (30 min walk), navigate the forest paths to find a playground and restaurant, which also serves up brunch on Sundays, too.
In Altnau the hiking path is the destination with its Apfelweg (Apple Path) themed trail. Walk one of three combinations of the three routes, all of which begin close to Altnau train station, resulting in a 5,6 or 7km long hike. The paths wind through the village and nearby apple orchards, with information boards (in German only) and small kid attractions marking the way. While the most beautiful time to visit may be spring when the apple trees are blooming (call Madame Blüscht (Mrs Bloom) for the most up to date info), visiting in the warmer months will allow you to spot apples growing in the trees. The pinnacle of the apple season is in September when the apples are harvest and celebrated with an Apple festival and market in the village.
For other hiking, options check out the entire list on this map.
4. Enjoy the Food
What you will notice first when entering Thurgau are the fields and fields of crops. Keep an eye out for signs for “Hofladen” (farm shops) which are an excellent opportunity to stock up on authentic locally grown and seasonal produce, the perfect souvenir in my opinion. These shops work nearly always on an honesty system, so make sure you have some cash with you. Some farms also offer the opportunity to pick your own, especially during early summer with the strawberry season. (See this website for a farm shop close to where you are staying).
If you would, however, prefer someone else to do the cooking for you, why not try the ultimate in local cuisine, a “0 km” dish at Restaurant Mühle at the Kartause Ittingen. Thanks to its focus on self-sufficiency, the Kartause produces more than 200 products on site which results in a meal that has travelled 0 km - a real farm to table experience. Before you leave, stop by the onsite shop to pick up some of the locally produced products from dairy to meat, fruit to grains, or why not stay overnight?
5. Stay in a unique location
Turn your Thurgau trip into more than a day trip by staying in one of the unique sleeping accommodations.
The campgrounds in the area are more than just for pitching a tent, with repurposed circus wagons, wooden lodges, and safari tents to make your sleeping experience one to remember. Or you can sleep in a tree house or roll out your sleeping bag at the straw hotel.
For a more relaxing and peaceful environment, the Kartause has 65 modern rooms, as well as the new monks houses that only sleep up to 2 people. Although the Kartause has a family room, I wouldn’t suggest this for energetic kids, and there is not a whole lot for them to do there. It would, however, be perfect for a couples retreat or for when Mum needs a break. Speaking of a break, Thurgau is also home to the bubble hotel, clear bubble like rooms for two people that will have you sleeping under the stars without the fear of getting rained on. You will find various locations around the canton, and early booking is essential.
Have I now convinced you to give Thurgau a go for your next family trip? Whether you’re in the mood for a day trip or one that’s a little longer; the region has plenty to offer families.
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