Just returned from a girlfriends trip I’m calling “Chasing Christmas Lights Across Europe” and want to share some ideas if you're planning a winter trip next year. Every other year I organize a German Christmas market trip to show friends some of my favorite places from the years we lived in Germany. But since this year’s group had already done the highlights of Germany with me, this trip was something different - - a quick landing in Stuttgart, then on to Colmar, Paris, and London, all by train.
I’ve always driven before, because many of my favorite German destinations are along scenic country roads, but trains worked well for connecting cities on this one. We probably packed even lighter and accumulated less, knowing it all had to be packed up and carried, with no car to leave it in.
We flew into Munich from Atlanta on Delta, because we found decent fares when we booked flights last summer. Since Christmas market dates are set with Advent, I try to leave early in the week after Thanksgiving which gets us there as the first markets open, and back home by December 13-15.
From Munich’s airport there are frequent S-Bahn trains to the downtown main train station, but one of the perks of traveling in a group of four friends is taking taxis when a fare divided by four just makes life easier. I make all our reservations and everyone writes me a check before we leave. We work out of a kitty from the moment we land, and the CPA or math person in the group pays for everything. I love the planning and don’t mind the driving, but really love not dealing with the money.
Stuttgart is only a couple of hours from Munich on a fast train. It’s one of the markets I’ve never visited, and Sarah from Stuttgart always gives it high marks. We stayed two nights at the City Hotel Stuttgart, which was less picturesque than its online pictures, but still a pleasant, friendly place, with compact rooms, an included breakfast, and an easy walk into the heart of the city.
The market is a big one, and unique because all the stalls have elaborate decorations on their tops. Loved the gigantic elephant and red Porsche done all in lights in the big open air space in the centrum. A very festive atmosphere in the food stalls and we heard a wonderful free big band concert in the courtyard of the schloss one night. We discovered that restaurants in Stuttgart book up even on weeknights, so make reservations. We were lucky to finally get into the Alte Kanzler for a very good dinner.
Second day we took a quick train to nearby Esslingen for their traditional market and Medieval Market. Very different from Stuttgart, this is a well preserved smaller town with half-timber houses and a river running through it. Pretty town; calm, uncrowded market. Fun street entertainers in the medieval part. In combination with Stuttgart, three very different market experiences.