Germany and Prague in December.

I need travel suggestions for Germany and Prague in December. I started out wanting to go to the Munich/Fuessen area, but I have a couple of friends who want to hook up with me during the trip. One will be in Cologne and the other in Prague. The problem is I only have about a week for vacation (give a day or two) and from everything I see, the legs of the triangle from Cologne, Fuessen, and Prague make this not really feasible. I am curious if the train or flights make it any better. I prefer trains, as it seems to be cheaper and quicker, and a Eurail pass might be in my plans anyway. I am thinking about dropping Fuessen from the itnerary, as I have already been there, but it was the whole reason to go in the first place, as I love the German Alps. Has anybody done a Germany/Prague vacation in a short time, like a week? Any suggestions for places to see, that will include Cologne and Prague? I have done the Frankfurt-Munich-Vienna loop a couple of years ago (Was in Cologne a very long time ago, too.), and so would not be opposed to seeing new places.
I see that Prague has an interesting Dec 5th (St. Nicholas Day) event that would be fun to see, so in that respect Prague already has my interest, but don't really know much about it or the Czech Republic. Is there a central location that I might be able to coax my friends to meet me? Any suggestions and ideas would be appreciated. Bob

Posted by Sarah
Stuttgart, Germany
2012 posts

A Eurail pass is not likely to be a good deal for you, while you're largely going to be traveling in Germany which is better for Eurail passes than other countries (due to the lack of seat reservations required on most high speed trains) you really have to have many long-haul trips on high speed trains to justify it. I doubt a week will be long enough for a Eurail pass to justify itself. Instead, buy point-to-point tickets as far in advance as you're allowed (between 90 to 120 days in advance depending on rail company) for the cheapest prices provided you are OK with being locked into a specific departure. Again, with only a week, this shouldn't be a problem, as to maximize your travel time you'll want to have everything planned out in advance anyway. Don't totally discount flights, either. They can be as cheap as or sometimes cheaper than rail travel, and can offer significant time savings, particularly for distances that would take more than 6 hours via train. But pay close attention to the fine print, extra fees, and baggage restrictions. Skyscanner.net is a good site for pricing out flights. As far as suggestions, that's tricky. I agree that in a week, Koln/Munich/Prague is a bit much. Could your Prague friend meet you in Nurnberg? It's quite close to Munich and has Geramny's most famous Christmas market. If you haven't been, I think it's a city well worth seeing, although one full day/night is generally sufficent for most travelers. What about Salzburg? It's also close to Munich and if you like Fuessen and the mountains, Salzburg is also very scenic and very close to some great Alpine sights.

Posted by bronwen
maplewood, new jersey, usa
750 posts

We visited Munich Wurzburg Bamberg Nurnburg and Salzburg - one week with a rail pass and it was our favorite trip ever. You can take a bus to Prague from Nurnberg I believe. While we like Prague we lived all of Germany and Salburg. Maybe you could meet up in Nurnberg? Regarding the pass - we had a twin pass (two adults and they must travel together) and a youth (12 year old). I liked that we could just jump on the train and not deal with ticket machines. I have the Bahn app on my phone so we would check the next train dart to station and go - we took all high speed when possible (flew into Dusseldirf and out of Munich). I am sure we spent a little extra for passes (I went back and forth and it wasn't THAT much) but it was worth it for me as it was a short trip an no hassle.

Posted by bronwen
maplewood, new jersey, usa
750 posts

We visited Munich Wurzburg Bamberg Nurnburg and Salzburg - one week with a rail pass and it was our favorite trip ever. You can take a bus to Prague from Nurnberg I believe. While we like Prague we lived all of Germany and Salburg. Maybe you could meet up in Nurnberg? Regarding the pass - we had a twin pass (two adults and they must travel together) and a youth (12 year old). I liked that we could just jump on the train and not deal with ticket machines. I have the Bahn app on my phone so we would check the next train dart to station and go - we took all high speed when possible (flew into Dusseldirf and out of Munich). I am sure we spent a little extra for passes (I went back and forth and it wasn't THAT much) but it was worth it for me as it was a short trip an no hassle.

Posted by Robert
Tarentum, PA, USA
45 posts

I will be probably flying into Munich. I thought about Frankfurt or even Prague, and the doing an open jaw flight home from another airport. I guess it all depends on where I am finally going to travel and visit. I have no problem doing trains for all my travel. When I was in Fuessen before, I rented a car there and travelled the the area, but the rest of the trip was all trains. The convenience of a Eurail pass is very tempting, even with the extra cost. I agree that it gives much more freedom to just board a train, whenever, and not have to rush around. However, with only 9 days, and two of those travel days to/from home, I also see the advantage of a strict itenerary. This time I was hoping to just stay in one or two places and see the Christmas season without having to actually be there on Christmas. The plan to be there the first week in December, around St. Nicholas Day, and so I thought I would be able to avoid a lot of the Christmas rush/crowds. My original plan was to Fly into Frankfurt, take the train to Cologne and the Rhine area for a day or two, then take the train down to Fuessen, and stay in that area the rest of the time, flying out of Munich. To add in Prague, would make that probably too much for just 7 days on the ground. I kinda like the idea of working Nurnberg into the equation, and possibly Prague by bus. I have been to Munich and Salzburg, and agree they are worth many more visits, but perhaps it is time to see new things... I am not seeing how to get the Rhine area and Cologne into the equation at this point, without losing one of the other points...

Posted by bronwen
maplewood, new jersey, usa
750 posts

I choose my vacation destination by where ever we can get free frequent flier first class tickets to - so out flights were into Dusseldorf / out of Munich. So - we had initially assumed we would spend night one in Cologne or Dusseldorf but decided since we arrive so early we would rather get right on a train headed east rather than take a long train ride on day 2. We really enjoyed Nurnberg and the trains were very easy. We spend one week in Europe each year and we move around a lot - much more than other Rick Stevers seem to think is enjoyable but we are the ADD family - a collective lack of attention span and love of walking keeps us moving. We landed in Dusseldorf at 6:00 am took a 7:20 high speed train to Wurzburg (arrived 10ish). Spent the day wandering and seeing the sights. Woke up early - breakfast and train to Bamberg (loved Bamberg) arrived by 11:00 and found a great beer garden on a hill, wandered around all afternoon - more beer and wandering. Great town and great beer. Next day we took high speed train to Nurnberg - spent two days - Nazi sights and castle. Kid loved the comic book store and Nurnberg was a nice sized city which we felt comfortable allowing our 12 year old a little freedom to explore. Then train to Salzburg (two days) - went to Berchesdaten and up to the castle twice and last day / night in Munich. Anyway - too much information!

Posted by Sarah
Stuttgart, Germany
2012 posts

Well if you want the flexibility of a pass, at least do yourself a favor and buy a German Rail Pass, NOT a Eurail pass. It's basically the same as a one-country Eurail pass, but cheaper. You'd just have to pay a little extra for the supplement to Prague, but you'll still save money over the Eurail pass.

Posted by Robert
Tarentum, PA, USA
45 posts

Well, after much thought and discussions, it appears that there is only a 50% chance that either of my friends will be able to meet me when I am in Germany/Prague the first week of December. However, I have revised my plans to basically see the Christmas markets in the Rhine River Valley (Cologne to Frankfurt) and Prague. That being said, I now have a few other questions... I will have basically 7 days (9 days including flights to/from the USA) and want to split my time between the two locations. Obviously, the Rhine River Valley is the larger location than just the city of Prague, and I will want to see other things than just the Christmas Markets (and St. Nicholas Day celebrations). My questions: 1. What are the MUST see places/events in those locations in the first week of December? (Christmas Market related or not) 2. What will be closed/should avoid that time of year? (Castles, tours, cathedrals, etc.) 3. What is the availability of hotels/B&Bs thattime of year and what are the crowds like then? (Ski vacationers, holiday season vacationers, etc.) 4. Recommendations for hotel/B&B in those two locations. 5. Trasnportation concerns: Trains vs. Car vs. Rhine River Cruise ferries... Will the Rhine river crusie ferries still be running in December, or do they reduce or curtail their trips in the Winter season?
6. Any other comments and advice is greatly appreciated. BTW, although I really enjoy Munich and the German Alps, and plan on seing them again, I have excluded them from my agenda this trip, based on time constraints. However, if there are "day" trips that are close to the two locations (such as Nurnberg or the Mosel Valley) that are in the MUST see category, please don't hestiate to suggest... Thanks, Bob

Posted by Tom
Hüttenfeld, Hessen, Germany
9130 posts

I shall attempt to answer a few of your questions... The only things that would not be open are seasonal activities, like outdoor pools and swimming lakes, heritage railways or the Phantasialand theme park near Bonn. Everything else should be open, although probably with reduced hours. Early December is not a busy time of year for tourists. Some hotels in smaller towns may not be open, but you shouldn't have any trouble finding a room in the cities. There's no skiing in the areas you're visiting, so don't worry about skiers taking all the rooms. There's very few tourist attractions in Germany that ever feel truly "crowded" like a day at Disney World (Neuschwanstein being one of the biggest exceptions...)... wait, now that I think about it, some of the Christmas markets can get very packed. When I visited Frankfurt's market on a Friday evening last year, I had to pick up my dog and carry her, it was so packed. Speaking of which... For Christmas markets (Weihnachstmarkten), the markets in large cities usually run for about a month. The markets in smaller towns usually only last for a few days, and they hold them at random times. You can expect that the markets in Köln and Frankfurt will be open for the duration of your visit, but you'll have to check for the individual towns along the Rhine. For transportation... I'll let others fight over that. For boat trips, I'll just say your options are greatly reduced in December. Some of the more upscale multi-day cruises still operate, but usually not the boats for casual day trips. The auto ferries operate all year unless the river freezes, which rarely happens.

Posted by David
Florence, AL, USA
1972 posts

It might be better if you flew open jawed into Prague, and took a train west to Vienna and into Munich. Buying individual train tickets is preferable to Eurail Passes at this time. This is one of those trips I've wanted to take, but I ended up in London and Florence-Rome this past April. Needless to say that Prague and Munich are cities for bohemian style people, and are very lively 12 months of the year. Vienna is also a world class city in every way. I stay @ K&T Boardinghouse when in Vienna. K&T's website also has links to budget bed and breakfasts in Prague and other cities. Then, fly home from Munich.