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German Christmas Market Trip

I am planning a trip to Germany for the week after Thanksgiving – 12 days including travel. We plan to spend the first 3 nights in Salzburg, which leaves 7 nights for Germany. Although the Christmas markets are the main motivation for our trip, I am planning the itinerary around towns I wanted to see even without the markets. Some of the markets are not open until the end of our trip, but I don't feel like I have to go to a market every day. We prefer a base with day trips to moving around a lot. We will be traveling by train. I am considering the following itineraries for the German segment, which I would like to be primarily in Bavaria, but not Mittenwald or Fussen where we have already been. Option 1: Tue & Wed - Heidelburg, Thu & Fri - Rothenberg, Sat & Sun - Wurzberg or Bamberg, Mon - near whatever airport we fly out of. Option 2: Tues-Thu - Rothenburg, Fri-Sun – Wurzberg or Bamberg, Mon - airport. I was also wondering if we could spend most of the time in Wurzberg. It looks like it would be a good base for day trips, but I'm worried I would get tired of it. We like history, medieval towns, food & beer/wine, scenery, and architecture. No interest in night life beyond the markets. Not big on crowds. Any suggestions are welcome. Thank you.

Posted by
2712 posts

Hi Carroll, I can't be of too much help, but I wanted to say we visited Salzburg for the Christmas markets during Thanksgiving week of 2010 and loved it. We've been to Salzburg many times, but we enjoyed it even more during this time of year. For a less crowded Christmas market experience, try to visit St. Gilgen while based in Salzburg. Paul

Posted by
1631 posts

I did your exact trip this past year. However, I flew into/out of Frankfurt and drove to the markets. I visited a lot of markets in Bavaria and ventured over to Salzburg. Also went to Bamberg, Wurzburg, and Nurnberg. Fourteen markets in all. Check out my blog at www.christmasmarkets2011.blogspot.com to get particulars and see lots of pictures. Feel free to send me a personal message for any specific information. I had a great trip and look forward to enjoying the magic and ambiance of the markets in the future.

Posted by
1346 posts

Würzburg is my favorite town in Germany but I would still move around. The best part of visiting the markets to my tastes is the evening walks about them and about town. It is about the only time that my wife can get me to window shop. Taking a late evening train back to base would not appeal to me but might to you. Bamberg has a minimal market but the town makes up for it. We liked both it and Würzburg for two nights each. Same with Rothenburg. All three towns will be crowded near the markets; that is why the markets are there. Go a couple blocks away and things are much quieter. We visited the markets three of the last four years. It has been our favorite time to go to Germany. We sight see during the day and visit the markets at night. Hope you enjoy it as well.

Posted by
289 posts

Hi Carroll - I'm sure Denise's blog has some great information but I can give my experience. I also went to Germany this past December, primarily for the markets, but saw other stuff too. We started in Munich, using that as our base for day trips (4 nights) and it was quiet nice and convenient. With Munich as our base, we did Salzburg (for a day was enough), Nuremberg (loved this market and got there first thing in the morning and then went and saw the castle and strolled the side streets while everyone was in the market) and then peaked at Augsburg since it was on the way back. We also saw some of Munich, including the Hofbrauhaus. We then spent a couple nights in Rothenberg which we loved - the market was cute but we just relaxed here and explored the walls around the town and embraced the quiet and calm of it all. Frankfurt for 3 nights - saw Wurzburg (loved the residence there and castle and the market was just something extra), Wiesbaden and peaked at Seligenstadt (but we were there on an off day and it was dead). Frankfurt was a very convenient base and we did see the market there which was very neat too (but other than that it was just a place to sleep - Hotel Victoria is great). Only regret is not seeing Bamberg - haven't been there but everyone says it's great. We actually ended our trip in Luzern, spent a couple nights there and went up into the mountains to see some snow and went home. We have similar interests and also not big on crowds or night life. We loved trying different foods at the different markets (there was usually something unique) and also trying the different mulled wines. It was great though b/c in between we were able to enjoy a few museums here and there and the calm of Rothenberg (which I hear is insane usually).

Posted by
3696 posts

I also did some of the markets this past Nov/Dec. and loved it. Heidelberg, Salzburg, Rothenberg, (stayed in Dinkelsbuhl and visited their small, local market) Wurzberg, Frankfurt (with Jo) and a few other areas. We did have a car so were free to travel as we wished.
It was a wonderful experience and the whole ambience of Germany/Austria at this time of year was great. There are plenty of other markets to see, but we enjoyed all that we visited. The drive from Salzburg to the Romantic Road was absolutely beautiful as all the trees had this wonderful glittery frost on them, yet the grass was still green.... stunning, and needless to say lots of stops for photos along this route. You will have a wonderful time... I am thinking of trying to go again this year and see some I missed.

Posted by
204 posts

My wife and I have been to German and Austria several times and we have visited most of the Christmas markets in both countries. We would rate the best as follows: Rothenburg, Salzburg, Munich, Nurnburg. Also the market in Baden-Baden was smaller but fun.

Posted by
8064 posts

My favorite Christmas markets would be in Buedingen and Idstein, but they are just on one weekend, usually the 1st weekend in Dec. Both of these towns are on the Fachwerk route and are simply charming. Buedingen also offers a medieval market along the city walls. I also really like the one in Seligenstadt which has wonderful artists showing their crafts in the Abbey, as well as the outside market. For really high quality gift items, you can't beat this. Bad Homburg is great, set partly in the courtyard of the Palace and then winding down through the town, though it is only open on weekends, but for all 4 weeks of Advent. Nestled in a valley next to the Taunus mountains, the scenery is beautiful. Frankfurt Hoechst is a little one, but with all local clubs and organizations providing the food, drink and handmade gifts. During this market, you can also visit the Justinus church, built in 850, as well as attend the organ concerts they offer during the market. If you want a market in a castle, check out Kronberg, or for a medieval flair, Burg Ronneburg.

Posted by
5486 posts

Carroll writes, "We like history, medieval towns, food & beer/wine, scenery, and architecture." It surprises me that both your plans omit Nuremberg. Its Christmas market is probably the most well-known in the country, and N'berg's old town, Kaiserburg, and Documentation Center are big draws all year long. http://www.nuernberg.de/internet/portal_e/reiseziel/sightseeing.html You might like the Barfüßer for a food/beer experience: http://www.barfuesser-nuernberg.de/360grad.html http://www.barfuesser-nuernberg.de/english.html I would rank a visit to Nuremberg a few notches higher than one to distant Heidelberg or Würzburg.

Posted by
5486 posts

(cont.) Consider untouristy Regensburg too. Its old town retains medieval buildings and is now a UNESCO-designated and protected world heritage site. Like Bamberg, Regensburg is a short train trip from Nuremberg by direct train. http://www.regensburg.de/sixcms/detail.php/3854 I think 3 days in Rothenburg is one day too many. I'd probably do something like this: (2) Rothenburg (4) Nuremberg (with daytrips to Bamberg and Regensburg)
(1) Stop in Würzburg, spend day there on way to FRA airport for night. Trains: the first 6 days can be done by Bayern ticket daypass (29€ per day for the two of you) http://www.munich-touristinfo.de/Bavaria-Ticket.htm ...but use the cheaper VRN tagesticket plus for the trip between Rothenburg and Nuremberg and also for the daytrip to Bamberg. This daypass costs 16.20€ and covers two adults. http://www.vgn.de/tickets/?Edition=en&p=1 Just buy these tickets from station machines.

Posted by
211 posts

Hi Carroll-One thing I can tell you is that almost no matter where you "Market" you will love it. I have done 2 "tours" on my own of Christmas Markets, and loved the quaintness of Salzburg, Prague, as well as the larger and busier Munich markets. The community really is the key. I love your itin, and most likely, you do have an extra day in Rothenburg that you could spend elsewhere. They are all great fun, and a truly unique experience. Have a ball. You will love whatever you experience this time of year.

Posted by
2211 posts

Thanks so much for all the responses. I found them really helpful. Denise, I enjoyed reading your blog - made me really excited about going. I am now pretty set on the first 3 days in Salzburg and the last 3 days in Wurzberg which includes my last night, assuming I can get the train to the Frankfurt airport in the morning. That leaves four days in the middle. I could spend 3 of the in Rothenberg (one day being mostly travel and one day for a day trip to Dinkelsbuhl) and another day in Wurzburg (this being a good base for day trips to Bamberg, Nuremburg and one other). The 2 days in Heidelburg or Frankfurt or even Munich (although the market won't be open yet) before moving on to Rothenberg for 2 days. I'm leaning toward the later. I had thought about Nuremburg as a base, but the market doesn't open until my last weekend, and I have read that it is horribly croweded on the weekends. I was thinking I could do it as a day trip on Monday. Are the crowds as bad as they say, or can you work around them? I expect lots of people at all the markets, but I don't want to be constantly bumping into people and unable to get near the food stalls. Russ, thanks for the train information.

Posted by
8064 posts

Looks like most of the big city markets, such as Munich or Nuremburg will open officially on Friday, 30 Nov. I bet they will have the stands open before that though. I know in Frankfurt, it means that the market kind of begins a day or 2 ahead of time with the official opening on a different day. This year, the official opening is for Frankfurt is Monday, 26 Nov. but I imagine the market will be open for business on the weekend. They just save the lighting of the tree for the official day.

Posted by
1734 posts

I think you are wise to plan other things to see in addition to the markets. We went last Dec to Rothenburg, Stuttgart, Nürnberg, and Salzburg. We enjoyed the markets, but spent only a couple of hours each in Stuttgart and Nürnberg, an hour in Salzburg, and half hour in Rothenburg. Granted, we did not buy many ornaments/decorations.

Posted by
12040 posts

May as well post this website: http://www.weihnachtsmarkt-deutschland.de/ It's about as close you'll find to a complete listing of all the Christmas Markets in Germany. As we've barely entered spring, the list is pretty skimpy right now, but it will fill up as the year goes on. BTW, my favorite Weihnachtsmarkt in Germany- Lindau. Not that it's particularly large, or that the merchandise is special (all of them pretty much seem to sell the same stuff). But it's held on the harbor, and I can't imagine a more scenic location to hold a Christmas market. Plus, besides the usual Schnitzel and grilled Wurst, they had food items for sale here that I've never seen anywhere else. And my favorite Christmas Market in all of Europe? Winterland, in Hasselt, Belgium.

Posted by
139 posts

1) what Russ said is right - as much as I love Rothenburg, 3 days is more than you need. 2) don't miss Nürnberg if you are doing Xmas markets
3) Yes, Nürnberg is horribly crowded on weekends, but will be manageable @ other times. I've found that there seems to be a "magic hour" in the late afternoon ... after alot of the daytrippers have left, and before the evening crowds pour in. As it starts to get dark, the lights come on, and its got to be experienced. Have fun !

Posted by
2966 posts

lol, the idea of doing "most". Munich has to have more than one to begin with. Anyway I think Russ gives really good advice here. For Christmas Markts Nurnberg would be a really good base plus obviously it's own very famous one, despite crowds. (A good Weihnachtmarkt is going to be crowded, period, it's part of the festivities!) I am personally very fond of the markts in Esslingen Am Neckar but that's not particularly convenient for the other places you want to see. I haven't been to the markt in Heidelberg, but other experienced people here have said it's not that great. I'd skip Heidelberg for this trip. It's really nice in summer, not as interesting in winter IMO. I also wouldn't spend 3 days in Rothenburg odT (or 2, for that matter). Nurnberg is perfect for your interests, it's important history as an Imperial City, the castle, one of Germany's best art museums, and unique regional food and local Franconian wine make it a natural stop for you, either as a day trip or a base.

Posted by
211 posts

Hi Carroll-Linda here, again! I just wanted to comment on themarkets being" horribly crowded." I was concerned about that as well, but really, the crowds are wonderful, friendly local people-except us, of course-just enjoying a night our with friends. The only place where I found the crowds a bit much-and I still loved it-was the main market in Vienna. One thing for sure, there is always another around the corner. So immerse yourself and enjoy the season. Sounds like you have a great itin.

Posted by
2211 posts

Thanks again to everyone who has responded. I looked into train schedules today just to get an idea of how long it will take to get from place to place. I pretty much concluded that Heidelberg wasn't going to work if I want to minimize time on the trains. So I was happy to get your recommendation to skip it, Sarah! I am thinking of substituting Nuremberg instead. My reasons for wanting to stay in Rothenburg (I'm down to 2 days now) are that I thought the night watchman's tour sounded fun -- I think it will be on in November, right? Also, I thought I could go to Dinkelsbuhl as a day trip, but I was surprised to see it takes 2 hours to get there by bus. Is that right? It looks so close on the map. I generally prefer to keep day trips to 1 to 1 1/2 hours each way. Thanks for the advice on the crowds, Laura and Linda -- very helpful. I think I'll be okay. We used to take our kids to DisneyWorld in the summers and managed fine (with preparation and planning of course). : )

Posted by
1734 posts

The only market we went to on a weekend was Sunday in Stuttgart. I wouldn't call it crowded at all. The others were not crowded at all - we went to Nürnberg on a Wednesday around noon. 2 days is not too many in Rothenburg. Our last trip was our third and we spent 3 days - would not have minded staying longer. The Watchman tour is given March through Christmas.

Posted by
2211 posts

Thank you again to everyone who replied. Based on the advice I got, I have come up with this itinerary: Fly into Munich Salzburg - 3 nights with day trip to St. Gilgan Nuremburg - 2 nights Rothenburg - 2 nights with day trip to Dinkelsbuhl Wurzburg - 3 nights with day trip to Bamberg and one more to be determined
fly out of Frankfurt I wish I had more time to include some of the other suggestions, but unfortunately, this is as long as we can get away at that time of year.

Posted by
2211 posts

James, I'm thinking with enough gluhwein, I'll enjoy them all! Thanks for the ideas for another day trip from Wurzburg.

Posted by
1346 posts

The Regensburg Romantic Market at the Thurn and Taxis palace is a bit unique among the cities that you will visit. I am posting from Regensburg right now and really like the city. It is another of our regular Christmas market stops. Nürnberg (Nuremberg) has the largest market but much of it is like every other market. I am especially fond of St Sebald's church there. Goldenes Posthorn near the church is very good for a casual meal. We were stationed at Nürnberg for 18 months. It is a very attractive old town but I still think Regensburg is nicer. Individual tastes.