My daughter and I will visit our first Christmas markets for 6 days, Dec 8-14. Our plan is Strasbourg/Colmar, driving through Black Forest to Innsbruck area (for snowy peaks since we are from CA), then drive to Stuttgart/Esslingen. Can we add Salzburg/St Gilgen after Innsbruck or is it too much? We value atmosphere,scenery and architecture more than items to purchase. Christmas lights, choirs and musicians and with luck a sleigh ride! Will Black Forest & Alp roads be icy mainly after dark? What scenic routes would you suggest? (We fly RT Paris, thought we'd immediately take train to Strasbourg, then on 14th train from somewhere (Stuttgart?) to Paris for 4 days there.) Can we fit in a drive by photo op of Neuschwanstein Castle? I work at Disneyland . . .
Your schedule would be too hectic for me. We have visited Christmas markets 4 times in recent years. Two of those years were cold and snowy. We travel by train and are going to Germany this December, three days in Stuttgart with a few day trips to surrounding towns. Salzburg and Innsbruck are a significant drive from Strasbourg. If just want to visit uplands, you might consider the Schwäbisch Alb south and east of Stuttgart. Bad Urach is often mentioned as a nice town to visit in those mountains. We visited Salzburg last December. It is beautiful but a little overwhelmed in December. It is a wonderful time to visit Germany and Austria. We like to leave ourselves time to slow down and enjoy it. Still, travelers have their own pace. Good luck with your trip.
"What scenic routes would you suggest?" Your schedule is so tight that you need not worry about scenery. You'll have trouble enough fitting in all of your destinations in only 6 days. Plus, if you want a decent Alpine experience, you need to budget more at least three nights to give yourself a chance at good weather. Plus, with the short hours of daylight at this time of year and the usually damp and overcast conditions, scenery is generally kind of gray and dull. I would flat out skip the Black Forest. Although some of the higher peaks may have snow in early December, most of the mountains will look kind of brown and hazy. Plus, the Black Forest is virtually a mirror image of the Vosges mountains in France that you'll see on the way to Colmar anyway. The easiest route from Colmar to Innsbruck will take you via A5 to Karlsruhe to A8 (skirting the western and northern edges of the Black Forest) to Stuttgart to Ulm to Füssen on A7, and from there, through the Alps to your destination. Traffic is usually pretty heavy for most of this route until after Ulm. You can see Neuschwanstein from the road just before you enter Austria, but if you don't know exactly where to look, you'll miss it. Or it may be too overcast to see from the road anyway. Alternatively, you can simply exit the Autobahn to get a better look. As for mountain roads, if they're unsafe to drive, they won't be open. But the route I noted only takes you over one minor pass, so you shouldn't have any trouble driving it.
Thanks for your wisdom, Gary and Tom! I think we'd better eliminate some of our ideas to make a better trip.
Did much of that in Dec. 2012. Strasbourg is wonderful, as is Salzburg. We were in Stuttgart only for the two auto museums. I am not sure where the Christmas markets are in Stutgart, but they were not evident from the area around the train station and up the hill to our hotel. We did it all by train. We started with a week in Paris. After you have seen Strasbourg and Salzburg, I think you will be UNDERWHELMED by Paris at Christams.
Colmar, Strasburg (I would make a trip to nearby Gengenbach - world's largest advent calendar and my new favorite town in Germany), then Stuttgart and surrounding markets and you have more than filled 6 days.
David, if you'd walked 10 minutes down Koeningstrasse from the main train station, you would have encountered one of Germany's largest Christmas markets.
Shirley: California has snowy peaks...? And a shot at clear weather with which to see them. The only area you might want a car for is seeing villages between Strasbourg and Colmar. I would budget at least 2 full days for this area, possibly three. I would not drive all the way down to Innsbruck to get some scenery, that's too much in a short time frame, just drive through the Black Forest from Strasbourg to Stuttgart, perhaps stopping overnight for scenery and to take section of the scenic black forest railway, then continue on to Stuttgart, where you can ditch the car. Spend the remaining time in Stuttgart and Esslingen, and if you have extra time (unlikely!) Ludwigsburg for the baroque palace and baroqe christmas market, or Tubingen, or Herrenberg, or Calw....check the webpages of smaller towns to make sure the Christmas market will be running when you go. Then you can take the TGV back to paris in under 4 hours. Reserve your train tickets now if you want to save any money on them.
With your time frame and desires, I would suggest train to Strasbourg, train to Munich, train to Salzburg, and train to Paris. Strasbourg is magnificent. I haven't been to Munich at Christmastime, nor have I heard much about it, but it is convenient, would allow an easy day trip to Neuschwanstein, and I would be very surprised if it didn't have wonderful Christmas markets. Salzburg is a wonderful town, has the most upscale markets we saw, and has beautiful mountain scenery from the fortress above the city. Unfortunately, the train back to Paris is time consuming. But, flights appear to be equally time consuming, or very expensive. I assume you already have round trip tickets LAX-Paris. If not, I'd definitely look at open jaw, LAX-Paris, Salzburg-LAX. If you already have tickets, you might want to explore the cost of changing them.
Oh, you may be using Ontario or Orange County.
Take a good look at your travel time - by bahn.de and/or viamichelin.com. Strasbourg/Colmar (side trip to Gengenbach or visit on way if you are driving) and Stuttgart (side trip to Tubingen) is more than enough for 6 days.
Go to the Sierras to see snow - or maybe there will be some at Big Bear or Arrowhead this year.