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German Holidays Dec 26-Jan 4

Hello,
Our family of 4, (2 adults, and 2 boys, 12 and 10) is flying into Munich from Dec 26th thru Jan 4th, 2015. We'd like to get a taste of German Christmas or at least a flavor of a very European Winter Wonderland... I understand that we will be late for Christmas, but we'd like to obtain the "ambience" of Xmas and not necessarily go into a town where nothing is going on. We are NOT going shopping either, but would welcome Xmas markets because of the ambience, with restaurants open, etc.

I'd like to ask for suggestions of places to visit nearby, we are thinking either spending the full time in Germany (visiting areas surrounding Munich) or do a combination of Germany/Switzerland... We are NOT skiers, but would like to be surrounded with mountains, enjoying the landscape, with the occasional hike in nature. We are not bringing any major winter gear, except some very good hiking boots, like the Columbia type, not 100% water proof but offering good water protection.

We've already been to both Germany and Switzerland before, although never in Winter. Also, although I don't want to rent a car during the time, it's seems the most appropriate way to get around with side trips rather than buying a country pass or train tickets... I'm a bit concerned too about parking in major cities, should we decide say, spend a day in Salzburg or some other small towns nearby.

Any help is well appreciated! Thank you in advance for your responses!
Alex

Posted by
8889 posts

Christmas markets run from the last weekend in November until 24th December. All the Christmas attractions will be over by the 26th. Sorry.
If you want Christmassy, it would be a lot better to move this trip to before Christmas.
Any places you want to visit (Museums, Salzburg, Neuschwanstein) you need to check if they are open during this period.

You could spend a few days in Salzburg or Innsbruck, both a few hours by train from Munich.
My personal recommendation for a small town in the mountains fro a short stay is Oberstdorf, but there are plenty more.

Posted by
104 posts

Thanks Chris... Our dates cannot be changed, we'll just have to make the best with our current dates ...Oberstdorf looks great, I'll explore some more!
Seeing you're based in Basel, are there any major differences between small town Germany and Switzerland Alpine regions? We've been in Lauterbrunnen in Spring, must be lovely now in Winter...

Posted by
8889 posts

German alpine towns (or should I say Bavarian, the Bavarians are Bavarian before they are German) are less intensively touristy than the Swiss ones. They tend to get mostly German visitors, less foreign and few overseas visitors. The food is German. Less English is spoken. It is also cheaper than Switzerland.

Oberstdorf is at the end of a valley. It has hills on 3 sides. Cable cars go up from the edge of the town from the top which you can hike anywhere. There is a regular train service from Munich to Oberstdorf.

Posted by
8100 posts

Many cities leave their decorations up until 6 Jan. which is 3 Kings Day, so they are still very pretty. Though most Christmas markets have closed on the 22nd or 23rd, so that everyone can be home by the 24th, there are still a very few markets that will be open. Speyer I know has some, and I think Tollwood in Munich might also still be open. The 25th and 26th are official holidays, so if you want to go to museums, check their websites.

If you stay in Bavaria, use the Bayern Ticket, it is the cheapest and easiest way to get around. You can even use this to get to Salzburg.

NYE anywhere you go in Germany will be exciting for the boys. A zillion fireworks will be let off. Any open plaza or riverbank in a city is fair game. You can buy them the 3 days leading up to the 31st in any store. Grocery store, Dept. store, everywhere. For safety sake, carry them in a separate bag and not in a back pack. People get really drunk and don't pay attention to where they are shooting their fireworks. A backpack full of them can be really dangerous then.

Posted by
104 posts

Thank you Ms Jo!... I knew of the fireworks, wasn't sure they could be purchased ;( ... that is a great idea for our boys.
(We live in New Jersey and they're not sold in stores, we need to drive to Pennsylvania to purchase them... Talk about culture shock!)... I've read of a few towns that have the Xmas markets open but they tend to be anywhere between 2-4 hrs from Munich...
The Bayern Ticket is also a great idea, better than driving and parking in Salzburg...

Our plans don't include museum trips, it'll mostly be enjoying the outdoors and landscapes and the Xmas Winter "ambience"... I'm really torn between 2 options my wife and I have debated: either spend the full 9 days in Munich (her idea), and splitting between 2 towns, Munich (4-5 days) and another yet to be determined destination (4 days)... Oberstdorf looks like a side trip from Munich... We loved medieval Rothenburg when we visited, and Berner Oberland in Switzerland... having a car for the full-time will be a plus...

Posted by
12040 posts

If you're headed to Switzerland after Germany, then Oberstdorf is a very good choice. I had to check online, but they do offer Winterwandern trails for non-skiers. For some reason, this information is only on the Geman language version of the town website, but the English website has information about other non-skiing winter activities. I also think the town has the best skiing in Germany.

Posted by
104 posts

Thank you Tom!
We love to discover these hidden gems, popular with local Germans (or local Swiss) not overcrowded with tourists... Besides Oberstdorf, do you recommend any other towns worthy of visiting (medieval would be a big plus), driving distance from Munich?
We leaning heavily towards staying in Munich the whole 10 days of our stay, rent a place and take side trips with the car.

Posted by
12040 posts

"We love to discover these hidden gems, popular with local Germans (or local Swiss) not overcrowded with tourists..."

Well, Oberstdorf will be filled with tourists over the holiday. The overwhelming majority, though, come from other parts of Germany (particularly Stuttgart, Frankfurt, and the lower Rhine-Ruhr region), the Netherlands and Belgium.

" Besides Oberstdorf, do you recommend any other towns worthy of visiting" If you're considering basing out of Munich the entire time, then you may want to cosider Garmisch-Partenkirchen and/or Mittenwald instead of Oberstdorf. Mainly because they're closer to Munich. GaP's bigger than Oberstdorf and attracts more of an international crowd. I don't know if the town offers any Winterwandern, however. Mittenwald is of a similar size to Oberstdorf, but a little more prone to the scourge of tour bus syndrome. Probably much less in winter, though.

"medieval would be a big plus" Most of what gets portrayed as "medieval" in the tourist literature is not (except for churches, some castles and a few civic buildings). It usually dates more from the 17th century after the Thirty Year's War, with examples here and there from a century or two earlier. Southern Bavaria leans more towards a Baroque appearance, with the Alps and the hinterlands having more of the folksy Gemütlichkeit look. Two beautiful towns that I can recommend that seldom get visited by foreign tourists are Landshut and Burghausen. Both have large castles overlooking, (in the case of Berghausen, one of Europe's largest) and the old town sections are well preserved and quite colorful. They might be kind of dead over the Christmas holidays, however.

A little further away, Regensburg offers much the same, but without a castle.

Posted by
104 posts

I've just checked some images from Burghausen (with snow covered castle) and it's beautiful! Landshut as well, I think this would prove a worthwhile excursion from Munich...

Posted by
2717 posts

HI,

I can recommend staying a few nights in Innsbruck or the immediate area. We've stayed in nearby Hall in Tirol (at the Gasthof Badl) 5 times in the last 12 years, as recently as last Dec.

In Innsbruck there's a good market which will be open until 1/6. The open hours are short on the 24th and it is closed on the 25th. Otherwise, it will be open. We were just there this past December.

www.christkindlmarkt.cc/?m=3

The Nordkettenbahn cable car trip is well worth doing.

www.nordkette.com

Schloss Ambras is worth a visit as is the Hofkirche (Court Church).

www.schlossambras-innsbruck.at
www.innsbruck.info/en/experience/sightseeing/all-sights-attractions/detail/infrastruktur/-139075a778.html

Not far from Innsbruck (30 min?) over the Italian border is the charming old town of Sterzing/Vipiteno, which has markets open into January.
www.weihnachtsmaerkte.it/de/weihnachtsmarkt-sterzing-suedtirol.aspx
www.salzburger-bergadvent.at/de-sterzing-adventmarkt-weihnachtsmarkt.htm

Another easy day from Innsbruck is the nice old town of Brixen/Bressanone, maybe an hour from Innsbruck. Markets open until 1/6.
www.valleisarco.info/en/info/highlight-events/christmas-markets-bressanone-vipiteno-chiusa/

We also visited both Vipiteno and Sterzing this past December.

Paul

Posted by
5552 posts

"We... would like to be surrounded with mountains, enjoying the landscape, with the occasional hike in nature... We love to discover these hidden gems, popular with local Germans... We loved medieval Rothenburg when we visited... We leaning heavily towards staying in Munich the whole 10 days of our stay, rent a place and take side trips with the car."

Wow - I really don't understand this strategy at all. Munich has no mountains, no landscapes - it's not what you are looking for and it's a long drive for outings from Munich to anywhere, one that will involve heavy traffic and likely some poor weather.

I certainly like Tom's suggestions of Mittenwald and Landshut.

I've visited the Christmas/New Years market in Speyer during the first week in January. It's a nice little market in a fine little city. If you have 10 days, then what you might do is spend 3 nights in Landshut, 3 in Mittenwald/Garmisch, then make your way over to Speyer and the Rhine for a different look at Germany. These places are gems but not exactly "hidden" - still, they'd make for a very nice trip. Marksburg Castle in Braubach is a medieval gem and is open year-round except for some holidays.
Speyer Christmas market (closes early on 12/31 and opens late on 1/1.)
Speyer info
Marksburg website

Braubach and nearby Boppard, Oberwesel, Bacharach, Cochem, and Linz am Rhein are all old-world towns in /near the Middle Rhine Valley that you will probably enjoy very much.
Linz am Rhein
Cochem
Middle Rhine Valley towns

Posted by
104 posts

Paul - thanks for those tidbits from Innsbruck and surrounding areas... It's encouraging you visited those sights in December and had a great time... I've some some pictures and they're absolutely gorgeous places.

Russ - point taken about Munich...Some of the places you mention in the Rhein region we've visited before as well as Rothenburg which we absolutely loved!... But as someone said before, Bavaria is more of a Baroque style, we fly in and out of München, so we'd rather stay relatively close-by... But all the suggestions make it REALLY hard to just stay in Munich, so we'll have to continue tweaking our itinerary...

Posted by
2717 posts

Hi Alex,

Not only did we visit Innsbruck, etc. this past Dec., we did basically did the same trip in late Nov./early Dec. 2010. Yes, we had a very good time.

Posted by
104 posts

Hi Paul - my wife has been checking some of the places you mentioned in/around Innsbruck and she is ecstatic...

Posted by
5552 posts

"we fly in and out of München, so we'd rather stay relatively close-by"

In that case you could spend several days doing Landshut and Mittenwald, and for variety, several days in the old-world towns and cities of northern Bavaria. It will more likely be possible to do some walking in these places than in the Alpine towns.

Bamberg
Ochsenfurt
Marktbreit
Iphofen

Posted by
104 posts

Thanks Russ - I will look into the links you sent!

Posted by
16883 posts

Hope that's enough to get you started. Happy planning!

Posted by
328 posts

Like Russ, I think you will be missing what you are looking for by staying in Munich. Don't get me wrong, I love Munich, but you say you are looking for a taste of German Christmas or European Winter Wonderland flavour. You won't find this as easily in Munich as you will in some of the other towns mentioned. Winter in cities is rarely pretty and winter wonderland-like but the Bavarian towns and countryside in winter is almost always wonderland-like in one way or another. If you have a car, pretty much any of the towns mentioned are going to be convenient to the things you say you are looking for. I've spent several Christmases in Bavaria and although I would day-trip to Munich, it wouldn't be my choice of place to stay with so many other magical options.

Posted by
12040 posts

"Winter in cities is rarely pretty and winter wonderland-like but the Bavarian towns and countryside in winter is almost always wonderland-like in one way or another." I think I know what Chris means, but let me clarify in case there's confusion. The nearly guaranteed "winter wonderland" is in the far south in the Alps and their immediate hinterland. More often than not, this area is covered in snow by early December and it stays that way until March (usually, last winter was an exception). The rest of Bavaria, though, experiences weather like the rest of Germany, if slightly colder than many other areas. Meaning, enjoy the snow if you see it, but don't expect it. More than likely, though, the weather will be damp and gray.

Posted by
11805 posts

I'm concerned about not bringing major winter gear.

If you're going into the mountains in winter, don't forget you're in the mountains in winter. Layers are ideal but be ready for any weather, possibly below freezing temperatures and wind chill. More often than not, the magnificent views will be replaced by low cloud ceilings. Early sunsets make days very short. Snow can build up fast; power can go out.

Ideally, you will catch crisp clear days - just be prepared for anything and check the weather report regularly.