Europe in December

Our family of 5 can only visit Europe together this December 21-Jan 2. We have been planning where to go by car starting from Dusseldorf, Germany and going around Amsterdam Luxemburg, Paris, Zurich, Munich and back to Dusseldorf. Any suggestion will be appreciated. Our kids are 17-20 and they love winter.
Help!

Posted by James
Frisco
1781 posts

Pretty ambitious for two weeks, more ambitious given the time of the year. I would try and narrow it down a little so you can have more time enjoying the locals. Each town you mentioned you could spend 3 to 5 days in and not get bored, most are worth 2 full days at a minimum. Or, the cross country trip might be a lot of fun with the family. You would know that the best.

Posted by Minerva
Lake Worth, Florida, USA
6 posts

Thank you, and we agreed -so the question could be which cities will be better option to visit in those two weeks?
Any city within our route that should be included?

Posted by James
Frisco
1781 posts

Minerva, I have been to the UK, France, Netherlands, Slovakia, Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria, Greece, Italy, Austria, Russia and I think I am forgetting someplace. So I am not going to be a lot of help. In the winter my preference is to go to a place that is famous for winter as opposed to accepting a compromise vacation in a place that would have been wonderful if the weather had been better. Based on that I would say spend the winter between parts of Germany and Switzerland (using places from your list). Save Paris and Amsterdam for a spring trip someday in the future. You might guess by my list that I love Central and Eastern Europe and they also work very well in the winter.

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
2685 posts

Hi, Given the cities you listed within that two week time frame, I suggest Munich, (plus a day r/t to Salzburg) Düsseldorf, Paris, and maybe Amsterdam, Apart from its important sites such as Anne Franks' House, and some museums, Amsterdam as city doesn't do anything for me. I recommend Frankfurt over Amsterdam. I'll assume that your kids won't be bothered by the cold in winter. Keep in mind that the farther east you go on the above listed days, the colder it gets...normally. For example, Berlin will be colder than Paris and Düsseldorf.

Posted by Tom
Hüttenfeld, Hessen, Germany
9097 posts

And also, southern Bavaria is usually the coldest part of the country in the winter. If you want to experience snow, this is the region that offers your best chance. Everywhere else on your list (except maybe Zürich) is more likely to be kind of damp and gray rather than cold and white. Düsseldorf isn't my favorite city in Germany, but they host a decent Christmas market every year... actually, more like a series of Christmas markets spread throughout the downtown area. The Oberkassel district across the river is worth at least a short peek. There's no real "sites", but it's simply a very attractive residential area. I also think this is too much for the time you have allotted. Not counting your arrival and departure days, you only have 11 days on the ground, and you'll lose at least half of 7 of those days traveling between destinations. That only really gives you 4 full days of site-seeing to share among 3 of the biggest tourist draws in Europe, plus 3 other cities. Also, if you're only visiting cities, you don't need a car for this trip. All of the cities are connected to each other by frequent highspeed trains (Zürich and Luxembourg a little less so). A car will prove more of a hassle than benefit, particularly in Paris and Amsterdam.

Posted by Kathy
Germany, Germany
800 posts

That time frame is also a busy travel time for Europeans, so you should absolutely get going on hotel reservations. Europeans book early. Be aware of different countries' traditions in closings so you don't find yourself without some place to eat on Dec 24 (Germany most everything is closed) and Dec 31 (usually have to reserve a restaurant's full course dinner well in advance). Of your list, I think you're best served by visiting Dusseldorf, Zurich, then Munich and drop Paris and Amsterdam and Luxembourg. If you really love winter, check out iglu-dorf.com If there's enough snow and it's cold enough, they could be open by then.

Posted by George
Canada
817 posts

Sorry Minerva, I'm just not seeing any WOW in your latest iteration, particularly with your inclusion of Cologne, Bonn, and Dusseldorf.

Posted by Minerva
Lake Worth, Florida, USA
6 posts

Thank you all, recommendations appreciated.
Will train for 5 people be cheaper than renting a car for 11 days (1,000 dollars), considering going from Düsseldorf to Amsterdam, Brussels, Zurich, Cologne and back to Düsseldorf?

Posted by Tom
Hüttenfeld, Hessen, Germany
9097 posts

"Will train for 5 people be cheaper than renting a car for 11 days (1,000 dollars), considering going from Düsseldorf to Amsterdam, Brussels, Zurich, Cologne and back to Düsseldorf?" Only one way to find out. Go to the Deutsche Bahn, Thalys and Swiss Federal Railway websites and plug the numbers. Keep in mind that ticket prices will get more expensvie the longer you wait. Also consider the price of petrol in Europe and the complete inconvience of having a car in Amsterdam, Paris and Munich. Even with the advanced purchase discounts, a car might be cheaper for 5 people (hard to know for sure without doing the math), but if you're only going from one large city to another, it will be much less convenient.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8735 posts

Have you found a car that will take all 5 of you comfortably, and 5 people's luggage, all in one car? The cars are very small, and the boot (trunk) is very small on most models. What have they offered you for a car type, or similar? There will be a mandatory purchase of a CHF 40 Vignette which needs to be stuck in the approved way to the windscreen before you start driving in Switzerland. Unlike Austria and Slovenia where you can get a Vignette for just a few day inexpensively, in Switzerland it is a 14 month Vignette (Dec minus 1, Jan-Dec current year, Jan plus 1) with no short version. Penalty for not displaying one on a road requiring it is very high. The car will be a heavy expensive weight around your neck in Paris, Amsterdam, Zurich and Munich. Don't leave anything on show in the car. Don't leave anything in the trunk, don't drive with loose luggage in the car. If any of the 5 are small children they are required by law to have approved age/weight related child seats or boosters or huge fines or confiscation of car depending on country. Have plenty of cash for French autoroute tolls. In France you will need 2 alcohol breath testers. If you are tempted to drop down into Italy (it is soooo close!!) each driver is legally required to have an official IDP. With trains, you just show up and get on after buying the appropriate tickets. I'll leave it to you to do the maths, but if you want help finding specific answers please ask.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8735 posts

I've just noticed the kiddiewink ages in the OP. Disregard the requirement for child seats/boosters. Sounds like you have 5 fully grown adults. Read again my caution about car size and especially luggage storage areas. Nobody traveling with anything bigger than a backpack, right?

Posted by stephen
Greeley, co, usa
245 posts

I'd do the Germany portion first and see at least one Christmas market.

Posted by Minerva
Lake Worth, Florida, USA
6 posts

Based in all your feedback we are considering change again!! Now we are thinking Dusseldorf-Amsterdam-Brussels-Luxembourg-Bonn-Cologne-Dusseldorf
Rental car will be a SUV

Posted by Terry kathryn
Ann Arbor, Mi
2600 posts

Have to agree with George... these are ok cities, but really not the 'memorable, trip of a lifetime' locations, so unless there is a special reason to visit these cities, why would you bypass places like Paris or Munich? I would do Paris, Munich and a possible trip to Salzburg to see some mountains and possible snow. Have any of you been to Europe before? What is the reason for the choices you are making?

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
2685 posts

Hi, Good that you're coming along with the trip planning. I'll comment on Bonn, Cologne, Düsseldorf...good choices. Of the three I liked Cologne the least. But, still it's definitely worth visiting. Düsseldorf is worth it, since I know that place the best of these three; culturally I would say Cologne is more important, if you had to choose between the two. I like Bonn, haven't been back there since '87, a good relief from big cities. From Düsseldorf within a radius of one to two hours, you have a number of places to do as day trips r/t esp in lower Rhine area and if you're interested in history.

Posted by Minerva
Lake Worth, Florida, USA
6 posts

Good morning, Thank you all again for your comments, we finally agreed in the plan trip. Based on arrival city and distance between them we decided to go Dusseldorf, Brussels, Luxemburg, Zurich, Frankfurt, Bonn-Cologne and back to Dusseldorf. We already being in some WOW cities (mainly in France, Italy, Spain, Turkey...)the idea is to visit places closed by and have a relaxing vacation. I am sure we are going to have a great time!!

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
2685 posts

Hi, Good itinerary you have settled on. If you are interested in seeing museums/houses related to German cultural history as part of visiting these cities, I would suggest: Düsseldorf...Heine's House, Goethe's House; Bonn...Beethoven's House; Frankfurt...Goethe's House (walkable from the train station).

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17738 posts

Minerva, One other point to consider is that at that time of year, you'll be facing winter driving conditions (possibly severe, judging by the news that I saw last winter). I'm sure the rental firms will provide proper snow & ice tires on the vehicles (unlike rental firms in this part of the world that often only provide "all season" tires, which are totally unsuitable for winter driving). Given your location, it's not clear whether you've had any practice at driving in winter conditions. Cheers!

Posted by Minerva
Lake Worth, Florida, USA
6 posts

Hi!
Definitely we will go for the museums, my daughter is studying fine arts, thank you for the places you mentioned Fred, also very good idea about suggesting winter tires, i will have it in mind..

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
2685 posts

Hi, You're welcome. If you're spending at least two nights in Frankfurt, you could do a day trip r/t to Wetzlar; I went there once to see another Goethe House other than his famous House/Museum in Frankfurt as well as the Zeiss Museum, if you're interested in optics.

Posted by Tom
Hüttenfeld, Hessen, Germany
9097 posts

Unless you're in the Alps or some of the other mountain areas, winter driving in Germany usually isn't any big challenge. We don't get Nor'easters here, so the snow usually only accumulates in a thin layer and the crews quickly clear it from the main roads. If you rent a car in Germany, it will come equipped with the proper tires for the season... but I think for the most part, your proposed itinerary doesn't call for a car. Fred mentioned Wetzlar, which is a very attractive town (they held the annual "Hessentag" festival there in 2012). If you'll have a car in the region and deside to check out Wetzlar, also makes some time for Marburg, the two castles near Gießen, and perhaps Braunfels.