My dad and I are planning on going to Germany this December. We've never been there but have heard the Christmas markets are amazing which is the main point of our trip. Right now we have a tentative plan of going to Nuremberg, Munich, Ulm, and Heidelberg. Any suggestions of must sees in these towns or other cities that we should go to? Thanks!
We have plans to visit Esslingen, Stuttgart and Munich markets in about 2 weeks from now. Mostly it depends on what you want to see in the city too. The large markets can get very crowded and some people find that fun, as everyone is drinking Glühwein, and others prefer the smaller, more intimate markets. My other favorite markets are Bad Homburg (only weekends) Wiesbaden, Mainz, Idstein (this weekend) Büdingen (7-9) and Seligenstadt. As to Frankfurt only having skyscrapers Ralph, I guess you have missed my couple of hundred posts about the other things that Frankfurt offers. The fact that this Christmas market is one of the oldest in Germany, (1393) takes place in front of our city hall built in the 1300's, and the Alte Nikolai built in 1290 and the Kaiserdom built in 1400 must have escaped you.
The Tollwood Winterfest looks like it combines aspects of a Christmas Market with an international circus thing, I don't know if it looks very traditional or "hippy" but it does look like a change of pace, and it's on the Oktoberfest grounds, so that might be worth checking out. Or any of the somewhat "non-traditional" markets because it is true that sometimes they tend to blend together. I would also maybe do a search for markets in those areas that have "mittlealtermarkts" - Christmas Renaissance Festivals, basically (on a small scale) - they're really fun. Ulm has one in Neu Ulm across the river, walking distance from the big market in front of the Cathederal. Augsburg might be another one to check out between Ulm and Munich, and Jo can (and has) directed you to some not too far from Heidelberg. Nurnberg is the most famous one, I haven't been there but plan on going sometime in the next week or two.
Our family went to the Christmas markets last year. While they were interesting, we really spent very little time at them. Unless you are really going to buy a lot of decorations, I would plan my trip around other activities and consider the markets a bonus.
Ralph, if downtown Frankfurt is like downtown Atlanta or Charlotte, does that mean the place is dead at night, except for the bums and winos?
I agree with Steve above. Christmas markets look and smell great – the Mulled Wine, fried snacks and all but after 20 minutes unless you have some shopping to do they can get a little dull. They are something that has been massively overhyped by the tourist industry and while they are great for a lot of Germans they are fairly social affairs as much as an event A if it is great food and atmosphere that you want then you will not be disappointed with the cities you have suggested.
As much as I like Heidelberg, I find their Weihnachtsmarkt disappointing. It's too fragmented, so you never get that feeling of immersion that some of the other markets give you. Few foreign tourists visit nearby Mannheim (for good reason), but for a city of its size, their market is one of the better I have seen. Ditto Darmstadt about 30 minutes to the north. I enjoy the Christmas markets, but I think the primary attraction for Germans, as noted above, is the festive socialization... including the outdoor public drinking. If you're there primarily for the merchandise, you might be a bit disappointed, as most of them sell essentially the same stuff. And some of the smaller markets can be little more than glorified rummage sales. One smaller Weihnachtsmarkt that really stands out, though, is in Lindau. Mainly because you couldn't possibly pick a more scenic location than the harbor, with a backdrop of both the Bodensee and the snow-covered Alps.
Thank you everyone for your suggestions. I will definitely keep it all in mind!