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4 days in December

Hi everyone,

I will have an unexpected 4 night/3 day stopover in Frankfurt coming back from a work trip in Dubai in mid-December. My husband will be with me and we would like to enjoy a little Germany at Christmastime before we head home. We are fine with renting a car and have no real interest in staying in Frankfurt. We've been to Bacharach and we've been to Rothenberg and to Bamberg. All lovely, but am open to new places. I'm fine with Christmas markets but that doesn't need to be the main focus. I also don't need to be in the center of Christmas Market madness in Nurnberg.

Any tips for festive places within a few hours to enjoy for a few days? We enjoy biergartens (although probably not open in December!), great beer and food, chocolate! good music, strolling around the historic districts of towns, occasional shopping and museums, beautiful scenery that I can take photos of, and cycling (although again, probably not a winter event), and pre-Covid I loved the occasional spa experience.

I would love to hear your ideas. Hopefully, my post offers enough detail about my interests for you all to give me your best suggestions. Thanks!

Posted by
3110 posts

My suggestion would be to go to the Alsace region of France, taking the bus (or train) from the Frankfurt Airport to Strasbourg or Colmar. If you haven’t been there (or even is you have) it could be a festive time to be in that region. Check out the Lufthansa Express Bus.

This is complicated a bit by the changes in the Pass Santaire for France but doable.

Posted by
341 posts

Sharon, good suggestion for Strasbourg. We've been to the Alsace but in Colmar, not Strasbourg. Definitely possible!

NickB, thanks for the insight on Cochem! We've been to Bacharach in the Mosel valley but Cochem sounds wonderful.

Posted by
1117 posts

Strasbourg I am sure is a great idea, just don't tell them you came to "enjoy a little Germany at Christmastime" unless you want to cause political unrest. :-)

great beer and food

I am not a beer person, but Cologne might be a good place for that. December certainly isn't the greatest time for beer gardens, but ever since smokers have been banned from the indoors, and the more so since Covid, outdoor places may actually be open, who knows.

chocolate!

Yup. Cologne. :-)

good music

What type of music do you consider "good music"? Josquin Desprez? Aretha Franklin? Led Zeppelin? In December, you'll find anything Christmassy from the worst kitsch to all kinds of high class concerts, Covid permitting.

cycling (although again, probably not a winter event)

That's something you would have to decide on spontaneously depending on the weather. It's totally possible that you have dry days in December, and as long as you are properly wrapped up, sure, you can do bike tours. It's going to be a bit of a contrast coming from Dubai. :-)

Posted by
5500 posts

Forget cycling ( I once cycled about 5000 miles a year) in Germany in the Winter.

Straussbourg, France or the Black Forest (Friberg and Triberg are nice. Heidelberg is great.
Also, consider Trier, near Luxembourg.

Posted by
341 posts

Anna, glad to hear Cologne has much of what we're looking for. We haven't been but it was one I was considering. And a whole museum of chocolate. Yes, please!

Good music for me can range from small jazz combo to violin quartet to opera - all depends on the atmosphere. Getting to see Don Giovanni in Prague one year was pretty amazing. We also found a small jazz combo in a downstairs bar in London and they were incredible - they were music students at a local university.

Posted by
341 posts

geovagriffith:

Forget cycling ( I once cycled about 5000 miles a year) in Germany in
the Winter.

Straussbourg, France or the Black Forest (Friberg and Triberg are
nice. Heidelberg is great. Also, consider Trier, near Luxembourg.

Thanks for the tips!

Posted by
27759 posts

when you see references to "Straussbourg" the correct English and French spelling is Strasbourg which will help your searches...

Posted by
1117 posts

Yeah, you wouldn't want your GPS to lead you here. :D

Good music for me can range from small jazz combo to violin quartet to
opera - all depends on the atmosphere.

O.k., you seem to be a serendipity kind of person, that's good. Because in December, you'll just have to keep your eyes open. There will be concerts and Advent types of music all over the place (again, Covid permitting), from the local church choir singing in the small village to high class concerts of all kinds in the big cities.

Forget cycling in Germany in the Winter.

Why? December is not the time to schedule a regular bike vacation, sure, but if you have a dry day, why not get on a bike and do a nice tour?

Posted by
341 posts

Anna, good catch. That would be quite a detour! I once typed in the "Jewish Quarter" or something like into Google maps while in Prague and Google maps created a 31 day walk to Israel, crossing through war-torn Syria for good measure!

O.k., you seem to be a serendipity kind of person, that's good. Because in December, you'll just have to keep your eyes open. There will be concerts and Advent types of music all over the place (again, Covid permitting), from the local church choir singing in the small village to high class concerts of all kinds in the big cities.

I like that - serendipity kind of person. Yes! I just wish that those serendipitous moments could be created again, but that's the thing about serendipity...they're usually once-in-a-lifetime moments. I will keep my eyes open. I'm thinking your suggestion of Cologne may provide the greatest opportunity for that since it's a bit larger than some of the smaller towns I was initially thinking of.

if you have a dry day, why not get on a bike and do a nice tour?

We've really enjoyed doing bike tours. The Fat Tire bicycle tour in Paris was a favorite short tour - done at sunset.

Posted by
1117 posts

That's another serendipity thing. Geovagriffith is totally right in cautioning insofar as you can't plan that in December, you can only look at the weather and decide spontaneously.

Posted by
1783 posts

Beilstein is a 2h drive from the Frankfurt airport and Luxembourg city is a 2h drive from Beilstein. Trier is 1h 30m from Beilstein.

Posted by
1783 posts

Where's Bellstein?

Thanks Anna, it's Beilstein. I'll fix my post.

Posted by
1117 posts

Oh, o.k. :-)

I must admit I had been wondering about the above mentioned "Friberg and Triberg" too...

Posted by
5568 posts

If you had more time I'd send you to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, a good base in the Alps for your stated interests.

But closer to Frankfurt, I think Koblenz is a good choice in winter. Small towns like Cochem are lovely for a very brief visit in winter but not so good for a 4-night stay - way too small, too much is closed. But Koblenz (100,000+ pop.) in between Frankfurt and Cologne on the Rhine River, has a smallish old-town center, shopping, and the other things you are looking for, including some great scenery nearby and some nearby destinations along the Rhine, Mosel and Lahn Rivers. Day trips to Cochem, Marksburg Castle in Braubach, Cologne, Linz am Rhein, and Limburg an der Lahn are no sweat from Koblenz. Rüdesheim is not far from FRA itself and on the way to Koblenz - you might visit there or (stay there) on your way to or back from Koblenz.

Koblenz and Ehrenbreitstein Fortress: https://www.nuernbergluftbild.de/images/luftbild/P10041456d.jpg

Marksburg Castle in Braubach (10 min. from Koblenz):

https://www.museumsportal-rlp.de/fileadmin/_processed_/c/4/csm_2358_3967796bf0.jpg
https://www.marksburg.de/en/circuit/#/
https://fotos.schloemp.eu/wp-content/gallery/braubach/002Braubach-Bauernschaenke-Eck-Fritz.JPG

Limburg: https://www.touristinfo-limburg.de/output/download.php?fid=3400.5.1.PDF

Rüdesheim: https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attractions-g187345-Activities-a_allAttractions.true-Ruedesheim_am_Rhein_Hesse.html

Koblenz museums: https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attractions-g187391-Activities-c49-Koblenz_Rhineland_Palatinate.html

Linz, old-town city guide: https://www.linz.de/fileadmin/user_upload/PDF/Tourismus/Linz_FL_Altstadtrundgang_EN2021.pdf

This destination and the day trips would be easy and less expensive for you by train. That's how I'd do it. Koblenz is just over one hour from FRA by ICE train. VRM mini-group ticket - a day pass for €23.60 will cover the two of you to on day trips to nearly all these destinations:

https://www.vrminfo.de/en/tickets/tickets/leisure-ticket/minigroup-ticket/

Posted by
341 posts

Russ, thanks so much for the detailed suggestions!

If you had more time I'd send you to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, a good base in the Alps for your stated interests.

Well, thanks for bringing my attention to it, because that is now on my list for future adventures.

But closer to Frankfurt, I think Koblenz is a good choice in winter.
Small towns like Cochem are lovely for a very brief visit in winter
but not so good for a 4-night stay - way too small, too much is
closed. But Koblenz (100,000+ pop.) in between Frankfurt and Cologne
on the Rhine River, has a smallish old-town center, shopping, and the
other things you are looking for, including some great scenery nearby
and some nearby destinations along the Rhine, Mosel and Lahn Rivers.
Day trips to Cochem, Marksburg Castle in Braubach, Cologne, Linz am
Rhein, and Limburg an der Lahn are no sweat from Koblenz. Rüdesheim is
not far from FRA itself and on the way to Koblenz - you might visit
there or (stay there) on your way to or back from Koblenz.

That seems like a definite possibility.

This destination and the day trips would be easy and less expensive
for you by train. That's how I'd do it. Koblenz is just over one hour
from FRA by ICE train. VRM mini-group ticket - a day pass for €23.60
will cover the two of you to on day trips to nearly all these
destinations:

So helpful! We never mind driving, but not having to rent a car and just take the trains seems like a great option too.

Thanks so much!

Posted by
186 posts

You are in for a treat going to Germany in December. A beautiful time and Christmas will definitely "be in the air" everywhere. We have been and traveled by train without any problems. It eliminates the issue of parking, particularly in the smaller towns with narrow, medieval streets. I recommend considering Nurnberg even if you do not look forward to the Christmas Madness. There are wonderful museums, churches, and sobering remnants of the Nazi years to fill the days. South of Frankfurt is Heidelberg with its lovely old town and the University as well as Castle ruins. A little farther south is Freiburg (highly recommended in the RS Germany guide). That opens up the Black Forest area. We have been to Alsace in December and it is a wonderful Christmas experience. With all due respect to the Rhine and Mosel valleys, they are lovely in spring, summer and fall with the vineyards, etc., but somewhat drab in the winter and not sure they go all out for the Christmas markets. Have a wonderful trip!

Posted by
5568 posts

Lynda writes,

With all due respect to the Rhine and Mosel valleys, they are lovely
in spring, summer and fall with the vineyards, etc., but somewhat drab
in the winter and not sure they go all out for the Christmas markets.

Drab: True that in the warm months the valleys are full of color, but in winter, this largely deciduous area turns brown. To be fair, that's something that happens across nearly all of Germany save places at higher elevation. So no, you wouldn't go there in winter looking for plump grapes, evergreens, or fall colors. You probably don't want to stay in one of these small shuttered towns in winter either - could be depressing and lonely. Stay somewhere livelier (like Koblenz.) But I think it's fair to say that the river scenery is still very interesting in winter, and it's worth a visit. Every couple of miles there's an attractive town with half-timbered buildings, a castle or a set of castle ruins, an old town wall. And there's no reason you can't hop off the train and have a good look around. Winter photography in the area is popular because the area is inherently dramatic, no matter the season:

Rhine scene, location unknown
Rheinstein Castle near Bingen
Rheinstein Castle as seen from Assmannshausen on the opposite River Bank
Burg Landshut on the Mosel
Burg Liebenstein Castle-hotel in Kaub
Cochem

The attractive old-world buildings are there all year, bad weather or good:
Bacharach
Braubach
Marksburg Castle - open year-round for tours

Christmas Markets: You can get to any of those that follow from Koblenz pretty easily.

Rüdesheim (Rhine River town) normally has a fantastic market. But it's closed this year as they can't or aren't willing to comply with the Covid regulations.

MAINZ has a great market too. It's being split up onto 5 different squares around town.

COLOGNE'S market is on as well and will have smaller venues like Mainz is doing.

KOBLENZ, where I suggested you stay, is on for Christmas - and through Jan. 9 this year.

TRIER (worth a visit for other reasons too!) will also have a market.