December trip with small children

We are an American family that has lived overseas for several years, and our kids (6 and 3) have never really experienced a "traditional" Christmas in a place with snow, Christmas trees, etc. We're intrigued by the idea of a mid-December trip to Germany. We can get a pretty direct flight to Frankfurt from where we live and are thinking of taking a train from there soon after arriving and heading south/east. I tend to try to stop in too many places when I travel in an attempt to maximize the trip, but we've learned with kids that it's better to prioritize and avoid moving around too much. I think we would spend a few days in Munich as one base and maybe a few days in another city and then do day trips from each. I spent a week in Bavaria in summer once and loved it, but doing it in winter with kids will be different.

Main things we want to see/do are: Christmas markets, medieval towns, castles, and snow. I recall loving Dinkelsbuhl, Oberammergau, and Salzburg when I went before but am not sure how they are in winter. Have heard good things about Nurmburg and Rothenburg ob der Tauber especially at Christmas, but I know they will be crowded.

Any suggestions on itinerary are most welcome. Our kids are experienced and good travelers, but obviously we don't want to jam pack a schedule for them. I'd be particularly interested in whether people recommend renting a car or taking trains at this time of year and with little kids.

Posted by Paul
NYC area
1898 posts

Hi KrisR,

Our 2 trips in late Nov./early Dec. 2010 and 2013, we flew into/out of Munich, had a car and first based in Schonau am Konigsee near Berchtesgaden. Berchtesgaden and it's Christmas market were very nice. From here we visited Salzburg, which is 30 minutes away by car. Salzburg is beautiful at this time of year. We've ben many times before, but it's especially charming at this time of year. We also spent a day in the Salzkammergut. We drove to St. Gilgen (Salzkammergut) and visited the village and markets here and then boarded a lake ship and spent the rest of the day visiting St. Wolfgang. There's also markets in nearby Hallein, Austria. We had some snow on each of our trips.

We then based in Hall in Tirol, which is close to Innsbruck. Hall in Tirol is a very nice old town and it's market was more low key, meaning it feels like a local event, not held to attract tourists. Innsbruck is amazing during the markets. While we've been many times before, it is just gorgeous with the markets and the snow covered alpine scenery. The Nordkettenbahn trip from Innsbruck pretty much guarantees the kids will get to play in the snow.

We have some photo's of both our 2010 and 2013 trips here:


Posted by Patricia
6 posts

Hi Kris,
While you will find plenty of Christmas trees and fun decor at the Christmas markets, make sure you plan a day in the mountains to ensure you see some snow. We live 1.5 hrs north of Frankfurt and had not one flake of snow last winter :(. I have not toured Bavaria yet, so I'm afraid I can't be more helpful. I will say Germany (at least my area) is very family friendly and your kids will enjoy it. The markets are wonderful.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
12859 posts

Just a few km from Frankfurt am Main is the walled town with great half timbered buildings (called Fachwerk in German) called Büdingen

If you want a medieval town that one is the real thing. Click on the website and then down through the Discover button and see if it appeals.

They even have a guided tour with the nightwatchman most nights for only €5 pp.

You may find snow as you get to the mountains of southern Bavaria, or in December maybe further north.

I hope that you have a wonderful trip.

Posted by KrisR
3 posts

Thanks all! Would you all recommend renting a car rather than taking trains? We are fine doing that. I wasn't sure what road conditions would be like in December.

Posted by Gary Mc
Salt Lake City
844 posts

We have taken 4 Christmas Market trips in recent years. It is a great time and the lighted markets are likely to thrill the children. We had snow two of those years but that is not usual near Frankfurt, or Munich. We lived in Germany for several years and had a car. We enjoyed car travel but have preferred train travel for out Christmas Market visits. It has been easier to visit towns. Traveling by train with kids is an event in which the whole family can participating with no one having to concentrate on driving or navigating.

There are so many nice places for markets nearer Frankfurt that I am not sure about the long trip to Munich, though we finished there on two of our trips. I would consider going to Nürnberg or somewhere in that area and visit several towns: Würzburg, Bamberg, Rothenburg, Regensburg, etc.

If Jo comes on, she can share information on several nice towns in Frankfurt's circle.