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Christmas Markets and Travel Question

I am in the process of starting to plan a family trip to Munich and Paris for December 2023. It will my husband and I, along with our daughters who will be aged 8 and 12 at the time of travel. The draw of the trip is the Christmas Markets, but this will also be our first time in the region and my girls first time in Europe, so we will want to see some of the non Christmas based sights as well. My initial plan is that we will fly into Munich, and use Munich as our base and do day trips from there for 7 nights before heading to Paris for 3 nights. I am leaning towards using a Eurail Global pass, since that will allow us to do day trips and travel from Germany to France, but am getting confused about how much I can really use the pass to get to some of the smaller towns in the region. Would it be more beneficial to get a Germany specific pass? Or even perhaps a rental car? I was not looking into renting since that honestly seemed overwhelming and maybe more expensive than using the amazing public transportation options.

Also, I was pretty confident of my choices of day trips, but after reading some of the other posts, I am rethinking what we would like to focus on. Even though not everyone seems to enjoy Munich, we for sure are going to do some of their markets. I'm for sure going to hit Stuttgart, and was thinking Nuremberg, but now am thinking that might be replaced with someplace smaller and perhaps less touristy. I'm adding Esslingen to the list. This is where I start to get super overwhelmed and confused. Again since this will be our first time in the region, it will all be wonderful and new to us, but I also want to make sure I plan a trip that is not too much for our girls, allows us to truly see the area and region and offers us the opportunity to just have a really enjoyable time.

This will not be our last visit to the area, so I'm not worried about the things I will miss out on. I know we will come back and explore and experience more at a later time, I just want to focus on really making sure we spend our time this go round in a meaningful and reasonable way.

Posted by
6457 posts

We lived in Augsburg, Germany about 50 miles west of Munich for four years (87-91) and loved Bavaria.
The Christmas Markets are special, we had a nice one in Augsburg, but I understand Nuremberg has a great one.

Having lived there, I can say that there is a distinct disadvantage to going to Bavaria in the dead of Winter. It gets dark at 4:30pm and is cold. You might get snow.

Not sure a Eurail pass is worth the cost. I suggest planning your rail trips and check with the German rail roads to see what the cost would be without the pass. We never purchased one.

My wife lived in Stuttgart before she moved to Augsburg and frankly, I don't recommend going there. The city is spread out and more difficult to get around in a car or public transport. Also, the only real things to see are the Mercedes and Porsche factories.

You might wish to go to Salzburg, Austria on the train for a day trip, it is great, especially if you saw the Sound of Music.
Mozart's home is there as well.

Garmisch/Fussen is near the Austrian border south of Munich (Salzuburg is SE of Munich. You can ski on the Zugspitze, highest mountain of Germany or visit the castles in the area.

Not sure you want to visit Dachau I would not recommend taking young kids there.

Augsburg is a great historical city and it also has a Christmas Market.
PS take a warm coat, hat, gloves and warm shoes.

Posted by
5794 posts

Would it be more beneficial to get a Germany specific pass?

Yes, and you should very probably drop the idea of a Global Eurailpass altogether.

A day trip from Munich to Nuremberg is possible with a regional day pass called the Bayern Ticket, valid for a day's travel throughout Bavaria. Details:

As you can see, a day's travel to anywhere in Bavaria - Regensburg, Landshut, Oberammergau for example - will cost your entire family just €34/day.

This map shows you the vast area that is Bavaria. It's all covered by the Bayern ticket:

Because you're interested in both Stuttgart and Esslingen, and because neither is in Bavaria, and because this would be a far more demanding (and probably undoable) day trip from Munich, you should alter your initial plan such that you have maybe 2 nights in that area. You will have a better experience if you do it this way anyway. There's nothing so special about spending 7 nights in just one place.

A family-sized day pass that you could use for Munich > Stuttgart is also available - the Day Ticket for Germany, €49/day for your whole family:

As with the Bayern Ticket, you travel by regional train. It's about 3.25 hours to Stuttgart, slightly less to Esslingen.

I would stay in Esslingen if at all possible.

Your one-way journey from Esslingen or Stuttgart to Paris can be ticketed here:

Posted by
748 posts

Be sure and look at the calendars as many markets close 12/23. We go over almost every year and while Munich is easy to fly in and out of, the Xmas Market there isn't good. But it is an hour train ride to many amazing markets.

While many say the Nuremberg Market is too big and touristy - it is one of our absolute favorites - and the city has 2 spectacular Cathedrals - the main cathedral in front of the Xmas Market also has amazing concerts in the evenings outside that adds to the magic. It also has a wonderful Children's Xmas Market. Go to YouTube and watch Rick Steves Xmas Nuremberg video - it is 5 min long and VERY good. Nuremberg also has some of the best food in all the markets. If you need a hotel recommendation, we LOVE Hotel Victoria - it is within the OLD TOWN wall, very close to the Market and across the street from the train station, you can actually walk underground - so easy. The hotel is also right next door to the famous Handiworks area with all the Authentic German Vendors - another great place to look and shop. We are already booked at Hotel Victoria both this year and next year.

Vienna, Salzburg, Passau, Regensburg also have great Xmas Markets and gorgeous quaint towns. Regensburg Thurn & Taxis Market is private and you have to pay - but it gets you into the Palace and access to one of the best Xmas Markets we've been to.

Posted by
8443 posts

The daughters of the OP are 8 and 12, so I doubt they will be going to Dachau! Why are people suggesting this? Besides, this is a Christmas market visit.

I agree with going to Esslingen and Stuttgart for a couple of days. Their markets are the best. There are palaces to see around Stuttgart too.
Perhaps consider Regensburg instead of Nuremburg?
Munich was ok, but nothing really special, but your kids are going to enjoy the lights, sounds and smells. That is the plus of it getting dark early. When the lights start going on at 1600, the kids can enjoy it for several hours before their bedtime.

Posted by
990 posts

We have been to Munich a few times, and ended up adding it to our Christmas market trip after some travel delays and we unexpectedly ended up in Munich! I loved the markets there, and we had a fabulous time.

You could day trip to Salzburg - I think that would be great, but we had only stopped there on the way to Vienna... and it was cold and overcast and my children were acting horribly that day, so it has colored that market for me. But I hear it is fabulous.

Nuremberg as a city is great and I am sure the market is amazing. That was the place we ended up skipping when we were in Munich. :(. Need to go back!

Not that you asked for other places, but Vienna's markets to me were magical.


Posted by
3 posts

I would recommend the Christmas Market in Nuremberg, and if you are going to Salzberg I would recommend the salt mine it is a really cool experience. You get to do down a slide into the mine. My favorite castle is Neuschwanstein, it is beautiful. I would recommend you check for tickets online before you go just in case they are booked. My parents took me to Dachau when I was 10, it is a somber experience but one I have remembered and appreciated all my life. Just have fun and enjoy every moment and eat lots of German food.

Posted by
65 posts

We went a few years ago and based ourselves out of Nuremburg. That market was wonderful, but a little crowded at night. We also went to Regensberg, Bamberg and Bayreuth. I can honestly say that all of them were worth the trip, but my favorite was Regensberg.It actually consisted of two markets. One more modern and the other that had a more Medieval feel to it. Then we walked the city and loved it. Can't wait to go back!!!

Posted by
1974 posts

Plan the trip as a regular trip and consider the Christmas markets as a bonus. As mentioned, forget the Eurail Pass since you will only have 1-2 days where you might use it. Day trips from Munich will be made with the Bavaria Ticket. If you just stay in Munich and Paris, consider flying between them.