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Christmas Markets in December 2021

Hi all,

Here's hoping that COVID slowly starts to become nothing more than a minor nuisance by this coming December so we all can get back to what we love to do ... travel!

My wife and I are having a hard time deciding which place to start our Christmas Markets tour this December, COVID-willing. We're looking to start our trip around December 6th and have six or seven days to spend before we need to be in Prague around Dec. 13 to meet up with friends where we'll spend more time exploring markets there and then in Poland until the 24th.

So... we're flexible as to where we should fly into (Munich, Frankfurt, Vienna, Budapest) and spend these six-or-seven days before Prague.

Option 1: Fly into Munich or Frankfurt and do some combination of Munich, Nuremberg, Dresden, Wurzburg, Leipzig or smaller cities.
Option 2: Fly into Budapest and split the six days between there and Vienna before heading to Prague
Option 3: Other options we should be considering?

We're very easy-going in our 50s, and we enjoy both touristy places and unique, off-the-beaten-path locations. We'll be traveling by train, so ease of transit is important to us and we'd want to be able to get around reasonably quickly without spending most of the day on a train (i.e. I'd like to avoid 7-8 hour trips).

(A side note, we have been to almost all of the cities listed above, but mainly in the summer time and by car, not train. This will be our first extensive trip by train.)

Thanks to all for any feedback and suggestions you may be able to offer!

Posted by
5507 posts

"...unique, off-the-beaten-path locations"

Arrival day is messy - I wouldn't plan much for that day - so with the remaining 6 days, I think you're wise to keep it simple and avoid long train rides.

Let's say you land at FRA and don't want to add a long train trip at the end of a long overnight flight.

One place that's off the Rick-Steves-beaten-path is Mainz, just 20-25 minutes by direct train from FRA airport. It's a walkable city with lots of pedestrians-only streets and a very fun Christmas market as well as a fair number of sights you can check out during the day.

On Day 2, I think I'd head to Nuremberg for 3 nights (2.75 hours from Mainz by direct train.) Great old-town zone with fortifications and the Kaiserburg castle, lots to see and do, and a very popular Christmas market. **But it's also just 45 minutes (by direct train) from its lesser-known neighbor, Bamberg - and Bamberg's old-town is a nicely-preserved UNESCO World Heritage site that you could/should explore on a day trip. Bamberg is also a major beer mecca for local breweries and a center for Franconian food and culture.

On Day 5, head to Munich for 3 nights. A day trip to Salzburg might be in order during this stay.

On Day 8, head to Prague.

Posted by
3054 posts

we're flexible as to where we should fly into (Munich, Frankfurt,
Vienna, Budapest)

You don't mention where you live but Frankfurt and Munich are big hubs with direct flights to several North American cities, so it is probably easy to find good flights there. You also don't mention if you have been to Christmas markets before. But of your three options, I would recommend option 1, Christmas markets is a German(ic) tradition so if it is your first Christmas market trip, starting in Germany seems like a good idea. And all towns you mention are well connected by rail so getting around will be easy.

Posted by
19 posts

Badger -- I'd be coming in from Toronto, Canada.

I've been to the region numerous times (7th time to Prague), but almost always in the summer. I have not been to a Christmas market, so this is something I am greatly looking forward to.

Posted by
1767 posts

Russ has given you excellent advice and FRA might be cheaper to fly into. I would take a direct train from Frankfurt’s airport to Mainz (30m) and spend the night. I also suggest that you bring plenty of hand and feet warmers because I visited a Christmas market in Munich, and the cold made it an early evening. Furthermore, I’m not the only one this has happened to. Visiting during the daylight hours is warmer if the sun is out, but do invest in a very warm coat and hat.
From Mainz you can take a direct train to Nuremberg (2h 45m) and from Nuremberg you can take direct train to Bamberg (45m). From Bamberg you can take a direct train to Munich (2h 30m) and from Munich you can take a day trip to Salzburg (1h 30m). Lufthansa has nonstop flights for less than $100 between Munich and Prague. What a wonderful trip to look forward to.

Posted by
19 posts

Thanks for the tips, Russ and MaryPat. Lots to think about and I've been looking into Mainz!

MaryPat - no worries about the cold as we're used to it, coming from central Ontario (Canada) where it gets into the -20s Celsius overnight pretty regularly. Nothing that a few gluhweins won't cure!

Posted by
19 posts

Also, just wondering... have either of you (Russ or MaryPat) been to Heidelberg's Christmas market? Just wondering if it's worth the extra detour as it's just down the road from Mainz. No particular reason for Heidelberg other than it was a fond (but distant) memory from my family's trip in 1977.

Posted by
1767 posts

Hi Pat,
If you go to Heidelberg (which I’ve never stopped in, but it is pretty when passing by train), you may need to take the airport train to the city center (15m) and then change lines. It’s another 1h 15m from Frankfurt’s main station to Heidelberg. From Heidelberg you can take a direct train to Munich (4h 45m).

Posted by
5507 posts

I can't weigh in on the Heidelberg Christmas Market. But should you find time, old-world Rüdesheim is accessible by train from Mainz (about 50 minutes) and has nice one - at nighttime, its narrow streets are fairytale-adorable.

Posted by
270 posts

You have been given some very good suggestions for your trip. Having visited by train some of the Christmas Markets in the areas that you will be visiting in 2016 here is my take:
Heidelberg: It was a nice market that we went to directly after getting off of our plane. We spent one night there.
We then went to Strasbourg France which was one of our most favorite Christmas Markets. Too out of the way for you but worth it at another time.
Rothenburg ob der Tauber: I would pass. We went because I wanted to. We had been to the city a number of times previously and enjoy it. The Christmas market was very small and I was disappointed. Also, depending on your route you have to change trains to get there.
Nuremburg: Highly recommended as others have stated.
Prague: Highly recommend. Inside the walled city with a number of different markets.
Vienna: Another top pick of ours. Spread out and a wonder to see.
Budapest: Our last stop for this trip. Another very good Christmas market spread across the Pest side of Budapest. Very enjoyable. We stayed at the Hilton on the Buda side and had a great view of Pest and the Parliament building.
Buy your train tickets in advance and save yourself some money.
We were in our early to mid 50s and the trip was very manageable for us.

Posted by
19 posts

Thanks to all for the great info and suggestions!

John - I've been to Rothenburg ob der Tauber and we don't feel the need to go there again for Christmas; we'll be giving it a pass. I do want to go there again in the future in the summer. The father of a friend of ours lives in a small town just to the west of Nuremberg, so we'll make plans to visit in the near future with our friend and take in a number of the smaller cities of the Romantic Road.

Posted by
192 posts

It is WAY too early to tell. There are a lot of things changing rapidly, and of course the weather driving people indoors even now may be a significant factor. Here are some major things that factor in.

--The results from outdoor "big" events. Right now our big fair in Hamburg, the Dom, is open--but only with reservations and the 3G rule. You got a three hour window with your reservation, and masks were required when not sitting and actively eating. If it appears that these types of events were not major spreaders, then I could see similar rules in place for the markets--though of course the Dom was at lower capacity in terms of vendors because they simply don't have as many visitors and they can't make enough to be sustainable. I could see Christmas markets being the same--smaller markets not opening, many vendors opting out, reservations, etc. required.

--The end of free testing. Right now it appears Germany will do away with free tests in October. The goal is to push people to either vaccinate or pay their own tests rather than relying on taxpayer-funded testing. It is unclear how this will affect Covid transmission rates.

--Potential new variants or even just more Delta Covid.

--Surges last year came as people moved to indoor dining and activities, schools restarted or returned from October break, etc. I could see similar things happening again, but of course last year we didn't have the benefit of vaccines.

And of course who knows what else might factor in. In short, if you had asked at this time last year I would have said it looked promising, but by November it was clear they weren't going to happen. So asking now is only going to give you anyone's guess. It's pure speculation.

Posted by
19 posts

Thanks, @HowlinMad
That's pretty much what I was thinking these days - we're about 75% decided that we won't be going this December and will have to make a final decision by the end of September to factor in potential flights.

I look forward to the day when things start to get back to normal and we can travel freely. Hopefully that will happen in 2022.

Posted by
13419 posts

I wouldn't plan on Budapest just yet.

As of this moment they are canceled.

That could change (hope so). If they do open and the rules don't change you won't be able to get in without an EU or Hungarian Immunity Certificate.

Neither of which is widely available to US citizens at the moment.

But its a unique country and they March to a different drummer, so who knows what will happen between now and mid November.

Posted by
25 posts

In 2018 I flew into Munich to explore the Christmas Markets. Munich has dozens of unique and small markets to explore... My favorite is the Medieval Christmas Market. I also traveled by train to Salzburg and Lake Wolfgang (St. Gilgen is a short bus ride from Salzburg). I highly recommend Wolfganseer Advent and the small markets in Salzburg (Advent Market at the Franziskischlössl). Be sure to attend the Marienplatz Krampuslauf if you have the opportunity! I also hope to return this December!

Posted by
13419 posts

Okay, well, I am in Budapest and it is a ghost town; but from my point of view, that's not a bad thing sort of reminds me of 20 years ago.

I noted that the Castle Wine Festival is going to happen next week, and last week there was a beer festival that did take place; so maybe the Christmas Markets will happen.

Masks are only required in medical facilities and indoors where there are a lot of people.

Tourists are returning as evidenced by the airbnb's beginning to rent again and I have seen a number of groups during my brief walk this morning.

Getting in was easy with a PCR test (they dont recognize our vaccine cards).

It is very good to be home; still the most beautiful city in Europe.

Posted by
5697 posts

Speaking with some German colleagues this morning DH asked about Christmas markets -- all said that their local markets were planning to be open (but with the caveat "unless things get worse.")

Posted by
198 posts

Hoping to go to the Christmas Markets also in late Nov / early Dec ... so far all those on the itinerary (14 in 10 days, with a side trip to the chocolART festival in Tublingen) show they plan to be open (with the Covid caveat of course) ... reservations made, all with free cancel ... 10 day German railpass will be purchased once the trip is a go, probably a day or 2 before departure ... have been to Munich's and it was awesome, also highly recommend Salzburg ... market is not as big as Munich and others but I love the city ...

Posted by
1924 posts

I hope it works out for you, as the markets are wonderful. I had a full-length down coat, and hand warmers, so the cold wasn't an issue, but it does rain. I would suggest a full length [packable] rain coat or poncho, and/or rain pants. Rain pants also add warmth. You could spray your down coat with a waterproof spray.
Also remember that the days are short- it gets light about 8:00am and dark around 4:30pm.