I would love to hear from folks who may have gone to some of the Christmas Markets in 2013. My daughter and I have booked a flight to Munich, and plan to visit theirs as well as Nuremburg, Bamberg and probably Rothenburg. Are there any others that we absolutely should not miss? Does it make sense to take advantage of the Christmas Market train passes that are available? we have no interest in driving in the country in December and figured we would use those as they sound like a pretty good deal. Any suggestions are most welcomed!
If it coincides with your trip, try to visit the Weihnachtsmarkt in Lindau. Mainly because, on a clear day, you won't find a single better view in any other market in Germany- looking across the Bodensee to the Alps. I also found the food here surprisingly different from the usual selection of roasted meats, pea soup, and crepes. They sold some specialties of the Allgäu region that I've never seen elsewhere. The merchandise was about typical for any market, if perhaps there were slightly more hand crafts.
You might also want to add Regensburg to the list. Although I've not visited their Weihnachtsmarkt, their summer Bürgerfest was extremely enjoyable. I can only imagine what kind of party they put on for Christmas.
Normally, I would recommend using the Search function on here to find some of the many posts about Christmas markets, but the Search isn't working very well. There used to be quite a few xmas market posts on the Trip Reports, but I don't know where those went.
Anyway, my favorite markets are farther north, but really, any of them that you go to will be fun. Nearer to Munich, I would think about going to Salzburg, Esslingen, and even Stuttgart for some great markets. Esslingen is my absolute favorite market of all, and I have been going to these darn things every year since '86. It is medieval, and thus, very different from the rest of them.
If you do want to go to Nuremberg, make sure it is a week day and not a week end, or you won't be able to walk through the crush of people.
I totally agree with Jo. Nuremberg is not that big and pales in comparison to so many others. Stuttgart and Salzburg are so much better.
As you finalize your itinerary, check the train schedules and fares at www.bahn.de. I find that for the type of travel I do (my Christmas market report is at http://www.bensbauernhof.com/germanyaustriachristmastrip2011.html ) getting individual tickets are the least expensive choice.
For long distance trips when I want to go on the fast train, getting the tickets online 92 days in advance is the choice. Please note that these tickets are for one specific train, so only use those when you absolutely know that you can get the train. On my recent trip, I missed my train on the first day because of a late flight, so instead of using the ticket for my wife and me that we bought in advance for 29E, we ended up spending 103E.
For shorter trips, the Länder tickets (e.g. Bayern ticket) are good choices. In some areas there might be even less expensive options from the local transit authority.
We loved our 2 visits (2010 and 2013) to Salzburg and Innsbruck for the Christmas Markets. Both are about 2 hours from Munich.
I agree with the consensus on Nürnberg. Don't bother just for the Christmas market. See the city if it interests you, and consider the Christkindlmarkt as an added bonus.
Nuremberg is one of the biggest Christmas markets in Germany. Not as big as Stuttgart for example, but big isn't a criterion for a Christmas market anyway. The thing is that Nuremberg simply doesn't deserve the reputation of the best or romantic Christmas market anymore. This reputation comes from a time when Nuremberg was the most beautiful city of Germany, and the most German city. But this Nuremberg was lost in 1945, and todays city is mostly a collection of postwar boxes. And the Christmas market was killed by mass tourism a long time ago.
My advice: don't visit the big markets in the big cities. After the 30th stall they all sell the same stuff anyway, and all big German cities were destroyed in WW2. Nothing kills the festive, romantic old Europe feel as good as a ugly postwar city and too many people. Instead focus on the small, preserved towns in the surroundings, in case of Nuremberg Bamberg, Amberg or Ansbach for example, and visit the markets when it gets dark.
We've done 3 Christmas Market tours in the last decade. Love the season, the scenery, even the chill... Nuremburg's market is huge but as others have said it's SO crowded that you end up bumping into people (which is no fun in the rain with umbrellas) and not really enjoying the ambience of the market.
Rothenburg is lovely, not so much because of the market (which is really small) but because of the charm of the town itself during Christmas. The Kaethe Wohlfahrt store is also a must-see.
Salzburg is lovely and they have some unique things.
Munich is one of our faves: the one that stretches through the Marienplatz is fun. Last time we went we discovered a market in the Scwabbing district that I would definitely see again: all were artisans with unique things that you didn't see anywhere else.
We also enjoyed Regensburg and Bamberg markets.
After a while, you'll see the same booths selling the same type of stuff. What makes the markets fun is the ambiance of the town. Strolling passed the Salzburger cathedral (where Mozart performed) on your way to a different part of the Old Town makes for wonderful memories.
Having been to Germany many times, I thought I would suggest something a little less known (however well known to the locals and those in the know) - please check out the Christmas Market in Regensburg. I have been to other more well known markets to us Americans but somehow this one seems to be the most charming. They have this amazing Romantic (meaning traditional) Christmas Market around the Turn and Taxis. This one has a paid entry but the other markets are for free. The town itself has a UNESCO World Heritage designation. It is not as well known as Nuremburg but it is one of the larger cities in the region and has good connections by train.
One of my favorites is Heidelberg...partly because it is one of my grandson's favorite towns that we visited. (plus I met Jo there a few years ago) Also loved Salzburg and Rothenberg as well as the tiny market in Dinkelsbuhl (town near /Rothenberg) It was such a quaint little local market and such fun to be part of it. Aschaffenberg (sp) was also a fun market. I would also take Tom's advice about getting to Lindau... next trip I will do that. I have been there in the summer and it is beautiful, but I can only imagine how gorgeous it can be in winter.
You did not mention how long you had.
We visited markets in December and in three other recent years. Like others have said, we visit towns that we want to see and make the markets an additional pleasure.
First, Munich has several markets. We liked the craft market in Schwabbing.
Regensburg has a best combination of town and market to our taste, and it is a reasonable train ride from Munich. The Romantic market at the Thurn and Taxis Palace is a bit different.
The Christmas Market at Rothenburg is nothing but the town is very nice and several tourist shop give over to selling Christmas items:
Count me among those that like Nuernberg and its market. There is a craft area near the train station that is a bit beyond the normal. Nuernberg was destroyed during the war but I found the ongoing rebuild of St. Sebaldus Church to be a bit inspiring.
Bamberg is very near Nuernberg. The Market is not great but the town definitely is.
We visited Stuttgart and Esslingen at Jo's recommendation this last December and both were very nice. Though if your time is short, I might stay in Bavaria as you are flying into Munich. The Bayern-Train ticket is a bargain at about 30 euros for anywhere in Bavaria.
There are so many good choices that you can hardly lose. Hope that you enjoy it as much as us.
We visited quite a few Christmas markets in 2013. I would also vote to visit Regensburg. We loved the Romantic Market at the Turn and Taxis. It wasn't overly crowded either. Other markets we especially enjoyed included Salzburg, Lindau, Konstanz and Strasbourg. I can't comment on the towns you are looking at as we didn't go that direction.
The highlights for us at the markets were trying the different foods and drinks rather than what products were being sold at the huts. Each market we visited would have some different local specialties. We also liked seeing how the different towns would decorate for the season. In particular, Stuttgart does an amazing job of decorating the rooftops of the huts and we had a great time capturing pictures of the decorations, rather than looking at what was being sold. We combined train and driving (driving was no problem in December) so we also were able to visit smaller towns along the way who often had markets. Although the markets were smaller, they were just as much fun.
My suggestion would be to plan your trip to places you also want to visit, not just for the markets. Each day we visited different sites and would stop at a market for our lunch, go back to touring sites in a town and then spend our time visiting the markets in late afternoon and evening.