Hello- My husband and I are visiting Germany for a week, arriving in Frankfurt on the 24th in the morning and flying out of Frankfurt on Sunday the 30th. We can't change the dates of our trip. I'm concerned about what we can do once we arrive. It seems that most of the Christmas markets will be closed, which I'm disappointed about. Are there restaurants/concert halls/gift shops still open during this time? I'm wondering if we should just pick a city and stay put. I want to make the most of the short time we have. I was hoping to experience a Christmas Eve service at a church and visit museums, gift shops, restaurants, etc.. I've read that Munich is a favorite with tourists. What about Cologne or Frankfurt? Thanks for any advice you can give.
Many places, including restaurants, do close Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. As soon as you decide your itinerary, you need to make reservations for meals on those days. Munich is very nice, but I would not visit it with only one week, flying in and out of Frankfurt. I would visit the Frankfurt area as there are many wonderful places to see. Someone else will have to talk about Frankfurt but it certainly has museums, churches and gift shops. I liked Mainz for a couple days in that area. Würzburg is a short train ride from Frankfurt and worth two days. You could visit, Nuremberg, or Marburg, or Bamberg, etc. depending on what you like. Check out a comprehensive guide book to see what grabs your fancy; the Michelin Green Guide is my favorite. It will be a quiet time but the cities will be as beautiful and a vibrant as always.
All stores and restaurants close in Germany on the 24th, about 14:00 at the latest. The 25th and 26th are official holidays and all stores will be closed. Restaurants do a booming business on the 25th and 26th, so you shouldn't have any problems at all finding places to eat. Frankfurt on the 24th is quite special. At 17:00, they have the Pealing of the Bells, which is 50 bells from 10 downtown churches all ringing together for 30 min. The Römerberg is packed with 1000's of people who come out for this event, drinking glühwein or sekt. Then they go to services or go home to open their gifts. I don't have a list of services yet, but come back again closer to your trip and ask me. This would include lots of English language services if you are interested. Do find a nice hotel where you can have dinner on the 24th. Museums take turns being open on the 25th and 26th, so best is to check their websites. The Alte Oper usually has some concerts going on, and many churches may also have musical concerts, organ, choirs, or chamber music. The souvenir shops around the Römer should be open, as will the stores at the Hauptbahnhof. For museums, I suggest the Städel, the Schirn, Judengasse Museum, Liebieg Haus Sculpture Museum, the Historic Museum, and the Film Museum. Speyer has a Christmas market that is open from 27th on, and this is easily reached from Frankfurt. http://www.speyer.de/de/tourist/feste/weihnachtsmarkt2011?switch_language=en If you base in Frankfurt, you can take day trips to Mainz, Wiesbaden, Bad Homburg, Würzburg, Heidelberg, Büdingen, etc. Short 4 min. video of the Pealing of the Bells from 2009:
My recommendation for the 24th is to stand on Eiserner Steg (iron footbridge) in Frankfurt at 5pm for the Pealing of the Bells (as Jo suggested as well). It's great AND there will be many, many families enjoying this with you. Afterwards have a nice Christmas dinner at a nice restaurant...
Thanks so much for the suggestions. I am thinking that the pealing of the bells sounds wonderful and fun! What are these drinks that have been mentioned and can you buy them while outside? Are there any restaurants that are recommended for a Christmas Eve dinner? Later in the week, we may take the train to visit friends in Cologne for the day or perhaps do an overnight up there. Otherwise, we'll be spending the remainder of our time in Frankfurt.
You will need reservations at a hotel that has a restaurant open on the 24th. All the other restaurants are closed. Glühwein is hot, spiced red wine, sold at all the Christmas markets. A few vendors will set up small stands to sell this at the Pealing of the Bells. Sekt is sparkling wine / champagne. Have stood on the Eisener Steg bridge to listen to the bells, but enjoy it more down around the Paulskirche/ Römer area, and also up by the Kaiserdom. They ring long enough that you can walk around and hear the difference from each location.