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Christmas markets December 2019-January 2020

A little late, true -- but I have lots of time now. This is copied from the reports made on-the-fly to the Sacramento Travel Group in December and January. Six-week trip originally was to start in Paris but got hijacked by the French train strikes.

Flew into Frankfurt (actually, I think the plane landed in Belgium and they bussed us to the FRA gate -- longest transfer from plane to terminal that I can remember!) Jet lag hit about four hours after we landed and lasted for two days. Loved the Frankfurt market in the beautifully restored Old Town area. (Thank you Ms Jo!!) Had a great (and inexpensive) hotel across the street from the train station -- Fleming's Express -- with enormous breakfast buffets. Five nights.

German train to Strasbourg, France. Colmar was skipped because the train service was questionable due to the SNCF strike (didn't want to get there and not be able to get back to Strasbourg.) Beautiful city and markets, as always. We stayed, as before, at Residence Hotel Louise, a student residence about 15 minutes walk from Cathedral and markets (and Monoprix!) -- has free laundry room so I did a couple loads.

Next to Stuttgart (3 nights) which also had an extensive beautiful Christmas market area with decorated roofs on every booth. Took a train to Esslingen to see medieval market -- very cute! Hotel was Park Inn Radisson -- chain style, but good and well-located and big buffet breakfasts.

Nürenberg (3 nights) with another enormous market area. Hotel was a Rick recommendation, Privat Hotel Probst, walking distance to train station and Christmas markets. Charming family-run, possibly renovated since the last RS review. Multiple delicious pastries at breakfast, eggs soft-boiled to order.

Then Bayern pass train to Munich (3 nights) for Ed's reunion with his home town of 9 years.
Munich -- main market at Marienplatz, Ed got raiber dachi (latkes) in honor of Hanukkah. (AKA kartoffelpuffer.)

Hotel Brecherspitze, outside downtown by a direct tram from Hbf. Our third or fourth visit.

Salzburg -- our favorite Christmas maket. On the 26th since many/ most things were scheduled to be closed we did an all-day Bob's Tour which included Sound of Music stops plus a drive to Hallstatt and its incredibly beautiful views of lake and mountains. Would have been more fun if the other 6 passengers in the van had said a word on the drive. (But no, we did not sing ' Do , a deer")
Goldenes Theater Hotel, 10 minutes walk from Altstadt, great breakfast and mini-bar where we stashed soda from Spar market and sandwiches from said breakfasts for Christmas meals. Also a return visit -- third ?

Local specialty foods sampled:
Frankfurt - Green Sauce
Strasbourg - Flamküche
Stuttgart - Spätzle
Nürenberg - Lebküchen (and tiny Nürenberger sausages)

Items purchased to date (excluding glühwein, cookies and other comestibles) :
one €2 night light, 2 glühwein mugs.

Posted by
5697 posts

Continued (ran out of room)

Next to Vienna for New Year's Eve with waltzing on the street. Saw the closest we got to snow on the trip -- flakes that we walked through on the way to the U-bahn. My first visit to to the Kunsthistorisches Museum.
We split an enormous schnitzel at Schnitzelwurst and had tiny sandwiches at a random cafe (we were hungry and didn't want to brave the crowd at Trezwinski's)
We stayed at an apartment about four U-bahn stops from St Stephen's and direct line from Hbf, rented directly from the owner (multiple times.) We were there 8 nights so used the washing machine twice. (!)
Went to the Sylvester market at Rathaus on New Year's Day, watching symphony performance on the outdoor Jumbotron and had our final glühwein (bought piggy cup)

Budapest -- bought a 7-day transit pass (Ed, with an EU passport, traveled free as a senior.) Took trams to the end of the line to see less-touristed areas of Buda and Pest, plus scenic rides along the Danube on tram #2. Toured over-the-top heavily-gilded Parliament building. And, of course, a relaxing day at Szechenyi Baths where water was 38° while air temperature was 6°C.
Lots of goulash both in restaurants and heated from cans at the apartment.

Apartment at Liszt Studio, on Liszt Ferenc ter, near the Opera. And washing machine ! (3rd trip)

Berlin -- EasyJet flight uneventful, which is the best way for flights. Return visits to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe and j4uthe Brandenburg Gate. Toured on the 100 public bus. Visited the largest department store in Europe, Ka de We (and bought nothing.) Dined at a restaurant near the hotel that Ed says has the best calf's liver he has ever had (always excluding Mother's.)
Stayed at Hotel Pension Columbus just off the Ku'damm shopping street and transit from the Zoo train station. Our third stay with them, including one when they recommended a doctor when I had sudden hearing loss. Family-owned small pension with great breakfasts: fresh-made soft boiled eggs; meats and cheeses; home-made yogurt. On our last morning we had to leave for our flight before scheduled breakfast so owner Chris got up before six to make sure we had coffee and eggs and stuff to pack as sandwiches.

Flight home -- Swiss Air, with a connection in Zurich. Because of the distances between gates I had requested wheelchair assistance at Zurich and SFO. WHAT A PLEASURE! Only downside was that at Zurich the wheelchair-to-cart-to-van-to-wheelchair-to-gate service (excellent!) dropped me behind immigration control, on the other side from the lounges, so we missed our Priority Pass lounge visit. On a previous connection in Zurich we had spent a few hours grazing a substantial buffet, and we were looking forward to that again. But time was limited and we didn't want to get stuck in a passport-control line, so ... we ate the sandwiches from Berlin.

SFO -- another wheelchair ride to the Global Entry area for our enrollment-at-arrival interviews, then all the way to BART. Painless interviews; cards arrived within 2 weeks.

Posted by
3083 posts

Great trip report! Sounds like a wonderful trip!

Posted by
653 posts

Excellent trip report, Lauri! Even though I heard a first hand summary of your trip at our RS travel group meeting, it was fun to read about it! You reminded me about how much I love the decorated roofs on the Xmas booths!

Thank you for posting!

Posted by
2791 posts

Fun reading, Lauri! I had toyed with a Christmas markets trip this year. With all my rescheduling I think I'll just bookmark this for 2021!

Posted by
945 posts

We did the Munich, Salzburg & Vienna RS tour in December and loved the Christmas markets, it is so different traveling in winter but I liked it.

Posted by
608 posts

Thank you for your report! I have a trip in December planned for many of the same places. I'm holding out some small hope that I will still be able to go, but if not this year than definitely one year soon.

Posted by
1309 posts

Thanks for sharing this, Lauri. You are an example of what it means to be flexible! We hope to make it to Budapest in the next few years so your description of riding the tram is really interesting. Also, though we are no longer loyal to one airline, we have enjoyed our share of their buffets!

Posted by
1127 posts

Nice report. I have mine and my mothers Christmas Markets booked (Amsterdam, Munich & surrounding area, Strasbourg/Colmar & Paris) for end of Nov beginning of Dec, this year. Of course uncertain if traveling will be recommended and if markets will be open.