Planning to travel to the Christmas Markets this December for 2 weeks. Tentative plan is to fly into Frankfurt and fly back from Munich. In between we would visit Stuttgart/Eslingen, Rothenburg, Nurnberg, Regensburg, Munich, and Salzburg. If time permitted from Salzburg, may travel to Berchtesgsden, St. Gilgen or Strobl. We will be traveling by train. Is this too ambitious? Any input would be appreciated.
I'm not sure if I can advise on anything but the markets in Salzburg- where we spent Christmas two years ago. The city was Lovely! Beautiful markets, and holiday decorations. We stayed in the old part of town, so it felt like a little village, but it really put us in the holiday spirit! Enjoy!
We have visited the markets at Würzburg, Stuttgart/Esslingen, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Nürnberg, Regensburg, Munich, and Salzburg during three recent December trips. We like about 2 nights per town, maybe three in a large city. The pace of travel is an individual preference. We are returning for 4 nights to Stuttgart this year for several day trips in the area. All the places above are easy to reach by train. I have no train experience with Berchtesgsden, St. Gilgen or Strobl. We take about 10 days per trip, two weeks sounds great. Plan your train schedule at: http://reiseauskunft.bahn.de/bin/query.exe/en The Christmas Markets are a bit redundant; Munich has the greatest variety. The towns are different enough to make it worthwhile.
Agree with Gary on the redundancy of the Christmas markets. After visiting 2-3, you'll see that they pretty much all sell the same kinds of merchandise and food. Some of the wealthier towns, spa and Alpine resorts may have more artisanal crafts, but for the most part, it's more of the same stuff. Concentrate more on towns that interest you, and if there's a market during your visit, all the better. I think everyone who has visited more than a few markets has their one that stands far above the rest. For me, it's Lindau on the Bodensee. Their market is far from the largest, and most of the merchandise is about typical. But, you couldn't dream of a more spectacular location- on the harbor with the Bodensee and the Alps as a backdrop. The food offerings were also considerably more varied than the usual Wurst and Brötchen.
Part 1 Last year, I did an 11-day trip just for the Xmas markets. My Itinerary: Frankfurt (4 nights), day-tripped to Mainz and Wiesbaden (same day), Budingen (beautiful town, not much of a market), Bad Homburg (market's far from train station). Stuttgart (1 night), spent the day at Eslingen (the absolute best) Colmar (2 nights), including a day in Strasbourg Munich (2 nights)
Salzburg (1 night)
Part 2 My overall impressions: 1. A lot of the goods for sale are similar and mass-produced, but in every one there are also interesting, different, well-crafted articles. 2. Most of the markets have distinctive decorative themes. I tried to spend more time looking at the way the stalls and the towns were decorated. Every town has a creche and a tree, all are different.
3. French markets were very different from the German ones and made for variety. The shops had wonderful decorations too. I liked Alsace better - less emphasis on drinking and eating, more on crafts and children. 4. Most of the markets don't get going until after noon, so there's time for sightseeing. The German (and Salzburg) markets get really crowded by 7 or 8 pm with locals out for the evening to eat, drink and be merry. Look for something else to do in the evenings - late dinners (if you haven't stuffed yourselves at the market), concerts, relaxing. I got a flight home from Salzburg on Lufthansa (connecting in Vienna) so I didn't have to return to Munich. I had no jetlag or long-haul flight so I was able to "hit the ground running." I was very pleased with my itinerary, though in hindsight, I would have preferred 1 or 2 days more in Alsace and less in Frankfurt (where I'd been before). I didn't find the many hotel changes or train trips onerous. Growing up in the U.S., I always loved the Christmas decorations and music. There's none of that where I live now. For folks in the U.S. it may be too much of a good thing, but if you get tired of the markets, just sightsee.
"The German (and Salzburg) markets get really crowded by 7 or 8 pm with locals out for the evening to eat, drink and be merry. Look for something else to do in the evenings" But that's when the markets are most fun! I've made more than a few temporary friends while drinking too much Glühwein in the evenings.
Last year, I went to Salzburg (3 nights), Regensburg (2 nights), Rothenburg (2 nights) and Wurzburg (2 nights). From Wurzburg, we did day trips to Bamberg and Nuremberg. In hindsight, I wish we had taken the bus out to St. Gilgen from Salzburg. I thought the pace was fine. Traveling by train in Germany is easy and pretty inexpensive. I was not really looking to buy merchandise in the markets; I was more interested in soaking up the atmosphere. I found I enjoyed all the Christmas decorations and store windows as much as the markets themselves. I agree with the suggestion to pick towns that you are interested rather than pick Christmas markets. I liked every town we went to except Wurzburg. It had too many modern buildings and not enough Christmas decorations outside of the market for my taste.
I think it is a little too ambitious. In Dec. 2011, we visited Stuttgart (I thought this was the best), Rothenburg (very small - but we love the town), Nuremburg (we visited in early afternoon and it wasn't crowded), and Salzburg (very nice). We weren't in the market to buy many deoos, so we were glad that the markets were just a part of our trip plans. My trip report is on Bavrai Ben's site - www.bensbauernhof.com.
We were in Germany & Austria last December. In Regensburg, be sure to go to the Thurn und Taxis market! This market is about a 15 minute walk from the city center; it is an easy walk if you are up for it. (We walked it on a beautiful, snowy day.) It had the most beautiful atmosphere of all the markets we visited (and we visited a lot!!!); also, there are more handcrafted items here than at most other markets. They do charge an admission, but it was well worth it. A great place to visit in late afternoon/evening. You may want to see if it is possible to tour the Thurn und Taxis castle while you are there. Also, St. Emmeram's church is just a couple of blocks away. We "stumbled" on it--had it to ourselves, and it is exquisite. Nurnberg is packed on weekends, so try to visit there during the week. While in Munich take a look at the window displays at the major department stores. The Spatenhaus in Munich has excellent food if you want a reasonably priced meal in a pleasant setting. Enjoy--I can't wait to go back!
We've done the Christmas market tours several times. While the Nuernberg market is probably the biggest we don't like it as well as others. It's just way too big and SO crowded most of the time. You can barely squeeze through the sea of people and that, to me, is no fun. We enjoyed the Munich Christmas market and I would suggest taking the Ubahn to Schwabing, which is a suburb of Munich. The market there was really unique, featuring creations from local artisans; truly one of a kind items. Also enjoyed Regensburg; it's Christmas market seemed more spread out but unique too. Rothenburg has a small Christmas market and although it's not special (IMO), the whole town is a jewel and should be a definite stop on a Christmas tour.
Ann, We really enjoyed our visit to the Rudesheim (favorite) and Weisbaden Christmas markets in Germany 2011. Before we visted the Weisbaden market we had arranged for a personal tour guide of the city. She was delightful and worth the time. One important thing to remember for the markets is that they are only open at certain times and most of them close before Christmas. I would look up the German Market website and take note of when the markets close that you are interested in. We went during our kid's school break so most had already closed for the season. Have fun, we hope to return.
On your Austrian visit I would eliminate Strobl and go to St Wolfgang,beautiful location on the lake and great Christmas Market.We have been to your other destinations and they are all good.