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Christmas Markets: Switzerland, France & Germany 2019 - GERMANY & MISC- Part 4 [of 4]

On our last day, we traveled by train from Rothenburg to Frankfurt, [as we flew out the next day.] The journey included taxi to the train station, followed by three plus hours and three train connections. We stayed at the Frankfurt Sheraton, which is actually in the airport complex, which was VERY convenient.

We had big ambitions to visit markets on this last day: either Wurzberg, where we had to change trains, or in the Frankfurt area, after we checked into the hotel. However, the trip took longer than expected, due to significant S-train delays in Frankfurt; once we put our feet up in the hotel, the bodies refused to move. The trip was incredible and glorious, and 12 days on the ground was the right amount of time.

GENERAL INFO-
In the winter, it was dark until 8:00am, and was dark again around 4:30 pm.

In Germany, it was easier to buy our DB train tickets via the app; the machines in the stations often wanted a pin # from our credit card.
S-train machines: wouldn't take $20 dollar bills, [only smaller] and wanted a pin # for our credit cards.

TRAIN CONNECTIONS- Most of our connections had 4-9 minutes between trains. It's pertinent to know what track# you're coming in on, and on what track# the next connection departs. Have your luggage ready to jump off as soon as the train stops, & be prepared for lots of stairs. If you sleep on trains, set your phone alarm.

SHOPPING & FOOD AT THE MARKETS
We found the markets to be a total festival-like experience, not just a shopping expedition. The markets were a combination of the decorations, the lights, the people energies, the aromas. For me, I had my xmas shopping completed before the trip, as there wasn't much time afterwards.

Food and alcohol are a big part of all the markets, and the prices very reasonable. Judging by the strollers and/or dogs with the folks present, the markets are a big draw for the locals. Most dishes were about 6 Euros, and the Gluhwein was about 5 Euros, with an additional 2-3 Euros deposit for the mug. If you liked the mug, you kept it, and struggled with the fact you couldn't carry back a mug from every market. [And- we didn't see anyone who had over-imbibed.]

All the markets had their local versions of the Gluhwein, chocolate, breads, pastries, pretzels, gingerbread, cookies, gooey desserts, cheeses, sausages, along with main dishes, so sampling each variety is a must! I don't know why European chocolate tastes so much better than it does here, but I did enough research, so it's a fact!

I'm a vegetarian, but didn't starve, just had to look a little harder, and found some incredible food. To do so required eating before the crowds arrived, so I could see and ask questions regarding ingredients.

There is a lot of standing at the markets; the vendors usually don't have tables for drinking/eating. However, there were no issues with sitting on available steps or walls to eat/rest.

SHOPPING-
Overall, the markets were cash only.
In all the markets there were original, made-in -the area items, and there were also repetitive items, probably imported. Items in Germany were marked with their origin; items in France were not. I was bored with the candles and soaps, but that's me. Many stalls sold children's items; jewelry, scarfs, hats, gloves, wool slippers were readily available for all. There were hundred of xmas ornaments for sale, between 10-20 Euros, and I avoided the larger, breakable ones. I tried to find the local artists. What I couldn't find were artists with oil or watercolor paintings of the local scenery, which I typically see all over Italy.
All the markets were in, or close to, areas with year-round specialty shops, many brands which aren't available in the U.S.

Hopefully, I've addressed your questions, and I've managed to stay awake until after 7:00pm tonight, so thanks for the help with the jet-lag.

Safe travels to all!

Posted by
1084 posts

Thank you for the extra details and time it took! Some of these same markets are on my agenda (with friends) for 2021. I am glad you and your daughter had a wonderful trip!

Posted by
1004 posts

Enjoyed the report. I will be taking my mom next year for Christmas Markets as well. We will spend time in Amsterdam, Munich as a base, Strasbourg/Colmar & ending in Paris.

Posted by
643 posts

Great trip report! I just returned from the Alsace Christmas markets and look forward to exploring the German markets next year!

Posted by
1 posts

Nice and very interesting post about shopping . The markets were a combination of the decorations, the lights, the people energies, the aromas. For me, I had my xmas shopping completed before the trip, as there wasn't much time afterwards.

Posted by
2048 posts

Thanks for the details and the trip report. What a wonderful trip you had, hope we make it to the markets one day.

Posted by
596 posts

These reports are great. I so loved reading all you wrote. Would you in any way redo the trip and avoid some places? Friends tell me that Germany is definitely the place to go for Christmas markets but then like you, I have heard that Strasbourg is supposed to be fantastic. Thank you for so faithfully reporting these!

Posted by
117 posts

Great report—all parts. Now I need to see the Christmas markets! Maybe 2021

Posted by
1359 posts

Jane- there are only a few things I would change in hindsight:
Doing two cities in one day was too much, as we did Ludwigsburg and Enslingen in one day. As we were underwhelmed by Ludwigsburg , I would have skipped that one entirely . If we had one more day in Stuttgart, we would have visited the Mercedes museum.
My daughter and I love Rothenburg , but it was 3+ hours train travel. For us, it was worth it, but if you don't have an emotional connection to that town, it would have been logical to continue towards Frankfurt and explore markets in and around Frankfurt. Mrs. Jo has some great OP info on this site, summarizing the small town markets within 30 minutes of Frankfurt.

Most of our travel [other than Rothenburg] was under two hours of train travel, so it was quite possible to check out of a hotel in one city, train travel, check into the hotel/drop off luggage in the next city, all in time to have lunch at the new markets. None of our hotels actually let us have a room until 3:00pm, but they all had generous noon check-outs.
I really liked starting in Switzerland. I find it a friendly, organized, safe country, and was good for jet lagging and acclimating to foreign travel. We were in the German-speaking areas of Switzerland. Going to Mt. Rigi ,outside of Luzern, was a highlight, and we Californians were able to romp around in the snow.
Regarding the German traditions and the Christmas markets, many of these cities have 400 year traditions of hosting the markets. Strasbough is on the border of Germany, and throughout the centuries this Alsace region alternated between French and German control, so has both influences.
I think the length of the trip was just right: 12 days on the ground, with 14 days with air travel.
Thanks for the interest and the kind feedback. I will try to link all the reports together, as has been suggested- we will see how successful I will be!
Safe travels!

Posted by
596 posts

THANK YOU! I think your advice is invaluable......you are so kind to share it with me. I have friends that did a Viking Christmas Market tour......she loved it but said it had 2 drawbacks........1) by the time she got back home for Christmas she felt she had missed a lot locally and was behind in her own family celebrations and 2) she said after being dropped off the boat at the different ports the markets all began to look alike. My husband and I are adventuresome 67 year olds.....we like to rent a car, plan our days and do our own thing.....so I never felt like a Christmas cruise would be something we would do over planning the stops ourselves. We LOVE Switzerland......have been there twice and like you LOVE the cleanliness, safety, etc of it and consider it an easy country to enjoy....on our second trip there we bought the train pass, based out of Wengen and loved the ease of jumping on and off whenever and wherever we wanted to go. I am printing your reports for us to do some serious planning and thank you again for your knowledge and experience! Merry Christmas!

Posted by
1359 posts

Mrs. Jo is an OP who lives in Germany, and who has great xmas market advice!

Posted by
600 posts

Thank you so much for you wonderful report! I am planning a Christmas market trip for next year so this was great for inspiration!

Posted by
25782 posts

Jane - Regarding Ms Jo - she is one of our longest contributors and has lived in Frankfurt for many years. She knows every inch of Frankfurt and that part of Germany like the back of her hand.

She spent several years visiting many Christmas Markets for research and has contributed quite a lot of answers about them

Here's one from 2016 you might like:- https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/trip-reports/german-christmas-markets-2016