We are a family with two teenagers interested in spending late December in Europe. We'd love to visit a couple christmas markets, enjoy good food ( two vegetarians in our family), art/culture, we won't be skiing but are happy to visit the mountains and enjoy other mountain activities, we are an active family and don't mind the cold temps and snow. We're trying to decide between Austria and Switzerland. Any advise on which may be best option, Or things to consider? Thank you!
How long will your stay be? Switzerland and Austria close to each other and there is nothing stopping you from seeing both, apart from available time.
By late December most markets are shut down. Many close Dec 23. There are a few that stay open past NewYears. You can do a search here as it's been brought up many times. The BEST markets are in Germany as that is where they started. We go every other year. The markets in Vienna and Salzburg Austria are pretty good, so is Prague. I'm sure you can Google the dates and I know it's somewhere in these forums. I'm not a big meat eater and I sometimes struggle over there, although Switzerland has lots of fondue. And Germany and Austria have noodles with cheese. But there is A LOT of meat there. We take the train very easily between Austria, Germany and Switzerland. What are your dates and time frame? Just know the markets will probably be VERY different with restrictions this year. A River Cruise is also another great thing to do that time of year.
If it were me, I would choose CH and visit Gimmelwald and the Berner Oberland for mountains, and Bern for markets.
Is cost a factor? IME a visit to Switzerland ends up being twice the cost of a similar visit to Austria.
Thank you for all the replies. We are considering Dec 19- Dec 30 travel dates. We'd only want to see one or two christmas markets, so we'l have enough time before they close. We need to figure out where to go. Tough decision to make with all the great feedback.
I would suggest researching which areas of interest are open Dec 24, 25, 26, 27, as that is a chunk of your trip. Many places in Europe are shut down on those dates. Dec 26 is a Sunday when much is usually closed throughout the year. And, the Monday after the xmas holiday is often a holiday in Europe.
Perhaps Vienna would be a good choice, as their markets continue thru New Year's, I've read. Any chance of New Year's Eve in Vienna? It's on my bucket list.
Have fun planning a great family vacation!
Youngskelle, if you go to Bern, do that first so you don’t miss the markets.
First of all, how are you travelling--train, car? If mountains are a top priority, and you want to see Christmas markets, then I would do a triangle trip that would include Munich, Salzburg.and Innsbruck. Each city has a market and the mountain scenery is beautiful. You could fly into/out of Munich, go on to Salzburg, then Innsbruck and then head up to Munich going thru Garmisch (they have a market also).. Check out my blogs at www.christmasmarkets2011.blogspot.com and www.christmasmarkets2012.blogspot.com Wow, how the years have gone by, lol.
You may not want to ski, but that is ski season, so hotel availability and cost may be a more significant factor than you're considering. I'd fly into Zurich, immediately take train to Luzern (1+ hours away; rail station in Zurich airport) stay a few days, (mountains, lake, and a beautiful, good-sized city. Then on to Salzburg, up to Germany and fly out of Munich. You only have 11 days (not sure if you are counting travel days) so that's not a lot of time to stay more places.
With a family of 4, finding lodging may be a challenge as you are going in peak season to ski areas. Family rooms that accommodate 4 are more rare in Europe. You may find other rooms that have one full size bed and a sofa bed, but will your kids be ok on a sofa bed? My teen is 6’2, so that wouldn’t work! This is why we stay in apartments. But those may have a minimum stay for peak season. Otherwise you’re looking at two rooms.
I am planning our (family of 4) next trip to Switzerland. We haven’t been there yet. Yes, it will be about 30% more expensive than Austria.
We’ve been to Austria a couple of times. The Salzburg area is our favorite. Plenty to see in the city, plus day trips to Hallstatt and Berchtesgaden. The fortress at Werfen just south of Salzburg is very interesting. And lots of ski areas in that area. Some probably have sledding if that’s what you’re looking for. We stayed at an apartment called Landhaus Armstorfer (bookin.com) for 5 nights in June 2018 and it was wonderful. It’s up in the hills above Hallein (where Silent Night was written) so a car is a must. We’ve also stayed 5 nights in St. Johann im Pongau, which is a ski resort area about 45 minutes south of Salzburg. Gorgeous area.
Salzburg is about 90 minutes drive from Munich, so you could start and end there (to save $ if renting a car). If they have a Christmas market during your dates, I would go to it. Otherwise, their normal market (Viktualienmarkt) is fun.