We would like to experience a white christmas this year and will have approx 5 weeks arriving around the 30th Nov and departing approx 2nd January. We are particularly interested in scenery and culture rather than too much war history, museums and churches. Love castles and small villages vs larger towns/cities. There could be as few as 4 of us travelling or up to 8 if all our children (18-25 years old) and their partners join us. We will be planning on hiring a car vs travelling by train if this is feasible at this time of year. We are needing to book our flights soon to get a cheaper rate and i was wanting to gel on the best itinerary to optimise sights and minimise the need for backtracking or too much travel - not sure if it will be best to fly in and out of Munich or into say Berlin and out of Munich. Also looking for suggestions of where would be the best place to be for Christmas and New Year and to factor this into our itinerary ie we would need to arrive in those places towards the end of our 5 weeks - we had thought of maybe spending Christmas in Salzburg or Innsbruck and New Years in Munich?? but are open to places. We are also keen to see the best of the Christmas Markets. We would also love to take in Prague, Innsbruck and possibly venture into Switzerland (ie Lucern). Sorry for the info overload :)but I am looking forward to your thoughts.
I would fly open jaw (into one city, out another) for sure. Keep in mind that in much of this region, everything shuts down for a couple of days at Christmas, so if I had my druthers, I'd want to be in a big city where at least some stuff is open so I wouldn't go crazy with boredom. Munich doesn't fit that bill because it's so Catholic that everything still closes, big city or not. (I've been in Munich on another minor religious holiday and was shocked at how much was closed...) Honestly I'd spend the week between Christmas and New Year's in Berlin. Berlin is a classic choice for NYE, one of the best cities for NYE in Europe. It also has over 50 Christmas Markets, which will be a lot of fun. I'd consider flying into Munich, heading down to Salzburg, Innsbruck,(and maybe Vienna? I love Vienna!), then heading back up towards Prague, and hitting some of the great destinations between Prague and Berlin - Nurnberg, Regensburg, Bamberg, Dresden... You really don't need a car for this trip, however. If you have 6 people or more, you can get huge discounts on group train tickets. Why worry about winter driving conditions?
To make it logistically simple and avoid backtracking I would fly to Munich, from there to Salzburg. On the way to Prague stop at least for one night in a picturesque fairy tale like town of Cesky Krumlov. The largest Christmas market in Prague is in the Old Town (Old Town Square). It looks absolutely magical with Tyn Church towers in the background especially when it's snowing. I had that luck in 2010. From Prague to Berlin. On the way you can stop in restored Dresden. With a little backtracking you can add Luzern, Innsbruck, etc. Check Rick Steves guidebooks. He is not writing about every place, only about those which he considers the best. With 4-8 people try not to add too many places, it's tiring: pack, unpack, sit on train.
If you want a near guarantee for a White Christmas, spend it in the Alps. Snow cover elsewhere in the country isn't consistent. Plenty of stuff stays open over the holidays in the resort towns. If you want to see Berlin, I would suggest starting there and then making your way south. PS- don't expect the rural scenery to impress too much at that time of year (outside of the Alps, of course). The weather is usually pretty overcast, so the scenery outside of cities looks rather faded and gray.
Thanks so much for all your great thoughts. Just wondering if Salzburg or Innsbruck would be preferred locations to spend Christmas or would Switzerland(ie Lucern) be a better location