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Germany/Austria Christmas Tour

Hello I am in early stages of organizing a tour of the German/Austria Christmas markets for the 2020 season, and wanted to get some advice, on some points...

  1. When we travel, we will have a three boys, ages 16, 14, 4. So there will be five of us.
  2. We would like to travel with a tour that will pick us up from the airport, bring us to all the destinations, and drop us off back at the airport.
  3. We'd like to see Germany and Austria(particularly Vienna).
  4. We'd like the travel occur between Nov 29 - Dec 14.
  5. We were thinking about a 10 day tour would be perfect.

So, with those points, can anybody recommend a tour service, or other advice, which would help us be successful?

Thank you for any input or suggestions.

Posted by
613 posts

Consider a Chritmas Markets river cruise. Perhaps start or end in Prague. It will seem expensive until you cost it out because it is truly all-inclusive-- all transportation, sight seeing tours, up to 7 meals a day, and lodging.

There are a bunch of cruise lines. We've done Avalon, Viking, AMA, Vantage, Uniworld. Essentially no difference except in refinement, so you won't go wrong by going by lowest price.

Posted by
9680 posts

I hate to offer only a negative comment but I don’t think you are going to find a standard tour that will work for a 4-year-old. Even the Road Scholar Grandparent Intergenerational tours have a lower limit of 5 years. Rick’s Family Tours advertise a lower age limit of age 8.

Posted by
5 posts

OK, yeah, I think a lot of you are on point.

I think with a 4 year old, maybe creating our own tour might the way to go, or stay in one or two cities only(ie. Munich & Vienna)

On that note, what do you think about...

  1. Travelling via the Eurorail with a family. Eurorail is family friendly?
  2. If you had to limit the vacation to one or two cities, with going to the Christmas Markets a big deal, what would you recommend? I am thinking Munich and Vienna?
Posted by
1354 posts

Munich and Vienna are big city experiences. We made a loop a couple years ago: Munich-> Salzburg-> Vienna-> Passau-> Freising (near Munich Airport). We enjoyed Vienna but not that much. I might take Salzburg, Nuremberg or Regensburg as alternatives to Vienna. Nuremberg's Market is one of the most famous (busy at night) and there are several nearby rail day trips in the area: Würzburg, Rothenburg, Bamberg, etc. Likewise, there are several day trip possibilities near Munich: Augsburg, Regensburg, Landshut, etc. Rail day trips are great with families as everyone can do things together.

Posted by
5 posts

I see. This will be our first international trip, as a family, and I feel we are really jumping out there for our first time, so I want the experience to be fun, but I understand great experiences can be a little challenging, however we'd not so much that we lose sight of why we're there :)

Posted by
3019 posts

After reflecting on your situation, here are my thoughts...

  1. I agree that the 4-year-old is going to make participating in an organized tour difficult due to age restrictions on most tours. There are indeed people out there who will be your personal guide through Germany/Austria, but that is a VERY expensive proposition. So... I think creating your own trip is probably your best option, and I think you will find it immensely rewarding to plan it and to enjoy the fruits of your labor. This forum will be a wonderful resource for you if you choose to do so.
  2. If this was my first international trip with my 3 sons, I would want it to be more of a Christmas-flavored trip to Europe than a hardcore, town-to-town, market-to-market, "It's Tuesday so we must be in Nuremberg" trip. A loop tour with 5-6 destinations in 10 days as a first international trip sounds not so fun to me. I think your gut instinct of committing to 1-2 cities is a good one (though I think you could stretch it to 3, if you wanted). I also think you want good cities, not just good markets.
  3. I think your Munich-Vienna idea is a good idea. Both are good European cities with a variety of things for kids and adults to do in addition to Christmas markets. I don't see a lot written about Munich's Christmas markets, so I don't know much about them. Much has been written on this forum about Vienna's Christmas Markets (you can search the forum in the search bar at the very top of the page); I would give particular attention to posts/comments by Emily, who lives in Vienna and who gives her favorite markets in the city. If you want a third destination, I adore Salzburg, which you would travel through in going from Munich to Vienna. The Altstadt/Old Town is gorgeous at Christmas.
  4. Learn the joys of "open jaw" flights. If you choose your initial Munich-Vienna trip, for example, fly into Munich and out of Vienna. Price the trip using the "Multi-city" function on airline websites.
  5. Yes, yes -- do lots of Christmas Market stuff. But don't miss the other things that the cities you are visiting have to offer -- big and small. If your guys like cars, think about visiting BMW Welt in Munich. Pop into a grocery store to see what a German/Austrian grocery store is like. Go up to Salzburg's fortress for great views over the city. Visit Salzburg's main library in the newer part of the city (where tourists never go) and take the diagonal elevator to the Panorama Cafe for more great views over the city and for a late breakfast/snack/coffee served by individuals with developmental disabilities who are employed there. In Vienna, visit the HGM (Museum of Military History), where you can see the car in which Archduke Ferdinand was shot (as well as his blood-stained clothes) -- how many kids in your son's AP European History class can say they saw that?
  6. At the end of the day, think about coming together as a family and coming up with "the really cool thing of the day" and "the travel misadventure of the day" (rename however appropriate for your family). It lets you as a family reflect on what you enjoyed about the day and chuckle at anything that went "wrong."

Sorry about the tome... hopefully there is something helpful in there.

Posted by
5 posts

So much good info here, thanks everybody. So much to think about.

I'm glad I'm thinking about this now, and beginning my German language lessons, as I want to make the trip easier and really communicate with the locals better, as well.

Posted by
9680 posts

I am not the expert on German rail travel but there is not a train operated by “Eurail”. That is a company that sells passes that will probably not be useful in your situation.

Look up German train schedules on the DeutscheBahn website. Make sure you realize the dates are listed day/month/year not month/day/year.

https://www.bahn.com/i/view/index.shtml

Go to this website for general basic information on European trains.

https://www.seat61.com/index-mobile.htm

I’d also suggest before you get too much further in to planning that you read Rick’s basic travel skills book Europe through the Back Door. Do this before your start booking non-refundable things there is a learning curve to European travel. He also has some good YouTube videos on travel skills and train travel.

Posted by
8100 posts

If it was me traveling with 3 boys, I would head over to Stuttgart. The Christmas market there is tons better than in Munich, you have the Mercedes museum and the near-by town of Esslingen has one of the coolest, medieval markets around.
From here you could also visit Strasbourg and Colmar. They aren't too far away by train and their markets are also at the top of my list of favorite markets.

If you are stuck in Munich though, head to Regensburg for their market too.

Posted by
3019 posts

I totally agree with Pam. Read Rick Steves' basic travel skills book. I started my European travels in 2014 (now Europe is a bad addiction -- especially the German-speaking world).

Before my first trip, I was googling something like "good Italy tour companies," when somehow I ran across this site and decided, "Hey, I don't need a tour company. I can do this on my own." The Europe Through the Back Door book was a great intro on how to do "this" by myself.

Posted by
3019 posts

The Stuttgart market is great. The Esslingen market is even better. If Vienna is a priority, though, that adds some extra travel time into the itinerary.

Posted by
1760 posts

I was going to suggest the same as Ms. Jo. From my experience, go to places that also have activities you want to do. We spent little time at the Christmas markets and most of that was in the evenings, leaving the days free for other activities.

If you should go to Strasbourg, then consider also visiting nearby Gengenbach with the world’s biggest Advent Calendar and the excellent Narren ( fool ) Museum.

Posted by
3175 posts

Search Christmas Markets on this Forum. I remember someone posting in 2018 or early 2019 about going to the markets with her children.

Posted by
288 posts

I will third (or fourth) Ms. Jo's suggestions. We really enjoyed the market in Esslingen. We hit it on Dec 6 which is St Nicholas day and it was fun to see St Nick walking through the town handing out oranges. The market had a ton of things for the kids to do.

We also really enjoyed the market in Stuttgart. All the roofs of the stalls are different. I remember there being rides for the kids as well. We went to the Finnish market too. Which had a big tent that you could sit in and curl up in reindeer pelts. There was a Finnish style Santa walking around as well.

The Mercedes Museum is one of the best museums I have ever been too, and I am not a huge car person.

We some of the markets around Munich as well. The one at the Residence seemed more kid focused, but it was one of the smaller ones. The windows of the big department stores are a wonder for kids of all ages. The big market in the Marien platz is more for shopping and eating, I don't remember seeing much for kids, but the eating...oh the eating...There is also a small middle ages market that is near the Residence that was fun, but not as fun as the one in Esslingen.

We also did the market in Nuremberg, there is a kids market there as well. We did it on a Wednesday during the day and it wasn't terribly crowded. They also have an international market there, where the sister cities of Nuremberg have stalls set up. That was fun to see.

Not too far out side of Salzburg is the Silent Night Church, which is on my list to visit this summer, so I will have more info after we get back

Where ever you do decide to go, Europe at this time of the year is truly magical!

Posted by
7205 posts

What a fun trip! We were Lucerne Christmas before last and the Christmas Market was in full swing right outside our window 🙂

First - forget Eurail passes because they’re just a waste and overkill. Buy point to point tickets and you’ll be much better off. Putting your own itinerary together sounds much more fun than being on somebody else’s schedule.

If you really need a guide then arrange one when you get to each of your destination cities. Local guides can easily be booked via toursbylocals.com for all destinations in Europe. I’ve used them many times.

Posted by
5 posts

You know, on the thought of combining interests while I'm there, I am also a big J.S. Bach admirer. Is there a city/area that is to J.S. Bach in the same way Vienna is to Mozart? I would love to visit such a place.