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Trip report: Frankfurt as a base for Christmas Markets

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12 December 2022

Today is my last full day in Frankfurt, which I've used as a 7 night base to visit Christmas Markets, museums and family.

I was going to wait until I was home to write this, but seeing this forum question, I decided I had better get busy!

Disclaimer: I have no relationship with Frankfurt on Foot except as a happy customer and now friend.

Posted by
4817 posts

Is there enough to do outside of the Christmas Markets to fill up 7-8 days?

Yes! Details to follow.

Posted by
4817 posts

Why I Chose Frankfurt

I chose Frankfurt for my first Christmas Markets in Europe trip because:

1. Things to do: I can't spend all day at Christmas Markets. I wanted a city with lots of other things to do.

Frankfurt has dozens of great museums. I've already visited the Liebeghaus Sculpture Museum and the Stadel art museum. I spent 15 lovely minutes in the impressionists room, largely by myself.

2. Easy flight: There is a non stop flight from San Francisco. No connection worries.

3. Easy connections from Frankfurt: easy to get to and from the airport; easy train and S-Bahn connections for day tripping to visit markets in at least half a dozen nearby towns. (More on those later. )

4. Family: I have a cousin who lives here so I have been able to visit and sightsee with her.

5. Ms. Jo from Frankfurt on Foot is here and helping me to choose all the best markets and kiosks to visit! Yesterday, she helped me in finding a few souvenirs that I wanted to make sure were authentic. I feel as though I've gained a friend in Frankfurt!

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4817 posts

Easy Connections

I love the public transit system in Frankfurt.

I bought an RMV day ticket to each destination, which gave me round trip travel on any combination of regional train, U-Bahn underground metro trains, S-Bahn surface trams and local buses in Frankfurt and at the destination. The exclusion is the ICE/IC long distance trains.

It's just easy. The ticket machines have an English option and took my US tap-to-pay credit card with no complaint and no need for a PIN.

What's not to love?!?

Tip: my tickets were checked 3 or 4 times this week, sometimes by swarms of ticket control personnel. Please read Ms. Jo's transit info page to avoid a €60 euro fine.

https://frankfurt-on-foot.com/2022/07/01/public-transportation-in-frankfurt/

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4817 posts

Motel One Frankfurt Römer

https://www.motel-one.com/en/hotels/frankfurt/hotel-frankfurt-roemer/

I know that Motel One will always be in a great location. It is less than a 5 minute walk to the Römer, a hub of Christmas Market activity that not only includes market stalls, but also a stage for several choirs.

There is a tram stop steps from the hotel door. And multiple transit stations within a 5-10 minute walk.

I took the SBahn into town and the UBahn to the hotel. (I'll add details later.)

The hotel is a short walk to the river, and from there to the many riverfront museums.

Tip: book early. This week was sold out by the end of November.

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4817 posts

Solo. But Not Really

Frankfurt is an easy solo destination. Easy transit. Easy connections to lots of nearby towns. And safe, with the usual big city precautions, including against the pickpocket Scrooges.

I am here solo, but visiting and Merry making with Italian cousins who live locally: some moved here from Sicily, the 20-somethings were born here.

I've gotten amazing insights into the challenges of being an Italian immigrant in Germany, post Covid work life, professional advantages and challenges, and Christmas Market family traditions, especially from my young Frankfurt-native cousins.

And it's been a fun opportunity to practice my Italian with cousins who don't speak English! The younger ones do, but they don't know Italian, so on occasion, I've even gotten to be the translator!

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4817 posts

Scores of Museums

There are so many museums in Frankfurt that I had to be selective. My original plan was to visit one Museum each day, and then the markets. I found so many other things I wanted to do that it didn't work out that way.

I bought the 2-day MuseumSufer ticket. For €21, I gained entrance for 2 consecutive days to a host of museums.

https://www.museumsufer.de/en/admission-und-tickets/season-tickets/museumsuferticket/

I visited the Liebeghaus sculpture museum and the Stadel art museum.

Tips:

Most museums in Frankfurt are closed on Mondays. Plan accordingly, especially if you want to maximize a MuseumSufer ticket.

Some museums are open late on Wednesday or Thursday. That can be a nice way to come in out of the cold.

Some museums cost more than others. I paid for the cost of the MuseumSufer ticket with just 2 of the more expensive museums.

Once you've gotten value from the 2 day ticket, visit other, less expensive museums a different day.

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4817 posts

Transfer from Frankfurt Airport to Motel One Römer

It was super easy to go from the airport to my hotel. I used Ms. Jo's tips from her Frankfurt on Foot website to buy my transit ticket:

https://frankfurt-on-foot.com/2022/07/01/public-transportation-in-frankfurt/

I took:
• S9 S-bahn from the airport to Frankfurt (Main) Hauptbahnhof
• Tram 11 from there to Frankfurt (Main) Karmeliterkloster, which is steps from my hotel entrance

There are other routes that don't involve a transfer to a tram. But I wanted to minimize walking on arrival. On the way back, since I know my way around now, I'll walk to the Hauptwache station and take the S-Bahn directly back to the airport.

Posted by
4817 posts

Any other recommendations on what to do in the Frankfurt area?

Frankfurt on Foot English Walking Tour

I had been to Frankfurt during a trip in 2019 and had taken the Frankfurt on Foot English walking tour. I took it again this visit and of course you pick up different bits of information each time, plus I was reminded of interesting places to visit.

I would highly recommend doing this tour on one of your first days as it gives you a valuable overview of the center and helps you get your bearings. After your flight, it's a nice brisk walk to help fight jet lag. In December, the numerous indoor stops were good to warm up. And the tour passes through some of the Christmas Market areas that you can revisit during your stay.

The daily tour begins about a 3 minute walk from Motel One Römer.

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4817 posts

What I Learned About Christmas Markets

I regularly travel solo. This trip started out that way, but it became a much better version of "solo" when I had some local insights from Ms. Jo and learned things from my local cousins about their traditions with Christmas Markets.

On arrival day, I wandered around the Christmas Markets by myself. It was pleasant. I sampled food, browsed for handmade gifts and souvenirs, and enjoyed the children's choir.

And I people watched. Groups of friends chatting. Colleagues clustered in conversation. Grandparents smiling at grandchildren on the carousels.

I quickly realized, these Christmas Markets are a great big social gathering place. I wasn't so sure that 7 solo days of this were going to be all that fun. Good thing I had museums planned!

Day 2, my first full day, my cousin and I met up with Ms. Jo and we went to Mainz. We wandered a bit, then grabbed a wine barrel table. Pretty soon we were 3 friends laughing and chatting.... in 3 languages.

The next night, I met up with my cousin and her 2 20-something nieces who grew up in Frankfurt. They shared memories and their traditions of coming to the markets when they were young.

I asked them what foods they liked at the market. In answer, they took me on a progressive market dinner of currywurst, fries with "Hawaii sauce," Gluhwein, and chocolate covered fruit on a stick to finish it off!

The entire time, we were laughing and sharing their traditions and stories of our shared family history.

So, really, this hasn't been a solo trip at all! Perhaps the best thing I learned about Christmas Markets is how they bring people together.

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4817 posts

What I Love (and Hate) about Christmas Markets

I Love trying all the food! I learned from my cousins to basically eat my way through a market. A bit tricky with gloves though!

I Hate the crowds. I hate crowds anyway. I much prefer the markets when they're less crowded during the day, though they're so charming at night with their lights and music and the smell of chestnuts (and almonds) roasting on the open fires.

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4817 posts

Cash cash cash

Most of the food stalls take cash. Only. Kiosks may take cards for a larger souvenir purchase, as will shops.

I used my trusty Schwab debit card to get Euros. There are LOTS of the Euronet ATMs, willing to give you cash for an awful exchange rate. Bank ATMs are not as widely located, but there is a Sparkasse bank a 5 minute walk from my hotel with a 24 hour ATM lobby that I gained entrance to with my Schwab card. The other bank I found had long lines during the day for their ATM lobby.

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4817 posts

The Weather

The forecast was for cold and rainy or cold and snowy. All week. They got the "cold" part right.

Fortunately, the rain only materialized once. And the snow was lovely little flurries for atmosphere.

I felt goofy leaving San Francisco with my winter boots, winter coat, furry winter vest, leggings and tights, hat and ski gloves. I did not feel silly wearing them: I fit right in.

Fashion tips for ladies: leggings with warm boots, knit headbands to keep your ears warm, hair in a ponytail.

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4817 posts

Corollary: Fashion Doesn't Factor

If "noone cares what you wear" when you usually travel, they really don't care in the winter. They'll see your coat, hat, boots and gloves. Not much else.

(Remind me to tell you about the accessory store, in case you need a warmer hat, warmer gloves or a warm headband to keep your ears warm.)

The little Canvero Accesoires shop is right at the corner of the street at the Römer. I can't find it on Google Maps. They will sell you any accessory that you forgot... in December they have racks and racks of hats, gloves, scarves and mittens.

My cute little hat was no match; I bought a warmer one. I'm glad I brought my Colorado tested ski gloves!

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4817 posts

Day Trip to Rüdesheim

I went to Rüdesheim with a group tour from Frankfurt by Ms. Jo. Such a fun day! This little town was a great day trip for more than just the Christmas Market.

Getting there: about 90 minutes, by regional train.

Frankfurt on Foot Video: Rüdesheim Christmas Market

This was my favorite day out because the tour included not only a wander through the adorable little town center, but also some sightseeing.

We took a gondola ride (€10 round trip) with Santa up the hill above town. There, the enormous "Germania" sculpture commands a beautiful view up and down the Rhine. Descriptive boards (English and German) tell the story of the monument, which commemorates the foundation of the German Empire.

(After that lovely view, I have decided I need to do some sightseeing along the Rhine!)

Back down the gondola with Santa, we continued our ramble through the Christmas Markets in the twisty lanes of old town.

Back near the station, we stopped in at a very cool wine tasting place! It has little rooms, each with descriptions of various wines available to taste. You buy 10 tokens for €10. You insert one token into the self serve machines, hold your glass under your desired spigot and press the button to be rewarded with a tiny taste.

You can go from room to room, trying as many tastes as you have tokens. Of course, if you find a wine you like, you can buy a bottle or two. Or twelve.

I highly recommend Rüdesheim if you'd like some other fun things to do, in addition to visiting their charming town and Christmas Market.

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4817 posts

Day Trip to Mainz

Getting there: a super easy, 50 minute ride on the S8 from Frankfurt Hauptwache station.

Favorite thing about this market: there is a seating area made of enormous wine vats. A very cozy place to drink your Gluhwein or Apfelwein while chatting with friends and family: in my case, Ms. Jo and my Sicilian cousin who lives in Frankfurt.

We chatted in 3 languages and someone translated. Add Gluhwein and you can imagine how that went!

Frankfurt on Foot Video: Mainz Christmas Market

Tip: While you're there, please visit St Stephans Church to see the incredible Chagall stained glass windows. They alone are worth the trip!!!

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4817 posts

Day Trip to Wiesbaden

Getting there: about 1 hour on the S8, plus a 10-15 minute walk from the train station to the market. Please walk slowly and admire the architecture from the 1800s along the way.

Favorite thing about this market: this market can handle crowds better than the twisty lanes of Rüdesheim. It felt lively without being jammed. And their big Christmas tree was lovely.

The skyscraper towers of the church make a stunning backdrop for the market, especially right as the sun sets and lights the red brick on fire. The inside, in pink and gray, is worth a peek.

Frankfurt on Foot video: Wiesbaden Christmas Market

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4817 posts

Markets in Frankfurt: My Impressions

I had no idea the Christmas Markets in the center of Frankfurt were so extensive. I had seen the list of places, but was still surprised that they string from the river, through the Römer, up to the Hauptwache. And still they're jammed at night. I enjoyed visiting them during quieter times during the afternoon.

The roofs and facades of the Frankfurt market stands are beautifully and individually decorated, with sleighs, Santas, reindeers, holly and mistletoe. Whereas kiosks in some towns were uniform, these were unique and picture worthy - worth their own little sightseeing loop.

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4817 posts

Winter Lights at Palmegarten

For a lighthearted change of pace, we visited the light displays at the Palmegarten. With its lakes, bridges, ducks and swans, it's a peaceful getaway from evening markets.

Little light displays will make the young and young at heart smile: singing frogs, lit up dominoes that look like they're ready to tip, a dancing hangman who the little ones tried to imitate. A light display of seahorses dancing on the lake kept everyone mesmerized.

The lights cast on the trees turned the snowflakes into a colorful display of their own, with lots of great family photo opportunities!

Frankfurt on Foot Video: Palmegarten Winter Lights

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4817 posts

Vodafone UK SIM

Post-Brexit, my Vodafone UK SIM is less of a bargain. But they have an 8-day Europe Roaming Extra pass for £8 that was perfect for my 7 night trip.

It worked perfectly and I only used 0.5 GB of the 3GB allocation.

Posted by
33116 posts

standing by for the detail ...

Isn't Ms Jo wonderful?

Posted by
1519 posts

Thanks! I've been waiting for this! And eager for the 'to follow'.

Posted by
10329 posts

Following…

And I have to agree that Ms. Jo is wonderful.

Posted by
33116 posts

Patience. I must demonstrate patience. deep breaths.... deep breathes.... oh the hell with patience. I'm not a demanding sort....

Posted by
4817 posts

I'm working on it! We're on the SBahn back from Wiesbaden.... with wifi!

Posted by
33116 posts

.... no pressure ...

I like Wiesbaden.

I have friends there....

Posted by
33116 posts

two trips with Santa! Wow... Did he check his list and find what you wanted (besides a pocketful of wine tasting tokens)???

Posted by
4280 posts

This sounds like a GREAT week! I love how you planned it. (plus how you planned the report). And the day trips with Ms. Jo sound fantastic!

Posted by
4817 posts

Nigel, that is a great marketing idea: Santa should give out the tokens!! As it is, I hope he gives me a trip back to the Rhein!

TexasTravelmom, the thing I've realized is that you all have to keep skipping back through the report to find what I've just written. A bit tricky.... Perhaps I'd better pull an all nighter to finish this.... except I have to catch a flight tomorrow!

Posted by
4817 posts

A few more entries added, above. That's probably all for tonight. I'm finished packing. I stuck to teeny tiny gifts and souvenirs, so I can still travel carry-on only.

Breakfast at my usual 6am. I love hotel breakfasts!

My flight looks like it's about 1/4 full.

Posted by
33116 posts

oh this is so good to read, summarizes the situation SO well. Thanks for breaking it down by city and category

don't worry about all that ski wear - I'm glad it worked for you

It has been a COLD December so far - minus 5 C (23F) last night in central England, minus 15.3 (4.46F) in Scotland - the coldest recorded at this time of year. Then there's that North and NE wind...

Posted by
1579 posts

Nigel, minus 5? At minus 5 we sleep with the windows wide open. Last night we only kept them open a crack and it was too hot. And it was still only a one-cat night. Only on the coldest nights do we have two show up.

Posted by
33116 posts

oh I know what cold is. In Montréal - went to McGill - we frequently had minus 20 or so.

But after decades under influence of the Gulf Stream the cold bites harder....

Posted by
4280 posts

Lol, Andrea…. a one-cat night. That’s a new one to me but I love it! Of course, I only HAVE one…. but still.

Posted by
3980 posts

I’m glad that you enjoyed all your different experiences in the Frankfurt area with family and friends! I too have an extra warm hat and scarf purchased, in Munich for me, 20 years ago that serve me well even now. Welcome back!

Posted by
4817 posts

Thanks, Mona! It's good to be (almost home.)

I had a 4-seat row to myself on the flight and snoozed the hours away.

My dog loves our visits to the snow and cold, where you'll regularly find her lying atop the biggest snow drift she can find. The look on her snowy little face says "we should be living here!

Posted by
3 posts

Have been following thread. Thanks for your insight. We are grandparents traveling w 2 very athletic 18 yr old boys to Germany for Christmas. Will fly to Zurich and go from there for 10 days. Any suggestions for markets or activities? Have considered Strasbourg Fr. and Nuremberg.. all closing b4 Christmas. Wondering about Baden-Baden for them. Any ideas appreciated ! Thanks.

Posted by
3 posts

Have been following this thread. Thanks for your insight. On Saturday we leave for Zurich for 10 days with two eighteen year old boys who are very athletic. We would like to show them interesting Christmas Markets possibly Strasbourg and Nurnberg. Wondering about Baden-Baden for them. Any ideas appreciated! Thanks.

Posted by
2091 posts

I really want to visit the European Christmas Markets. My problem is the cold weather. I moved out of the cold north east 40 some years ago to Southern California. My blood is too thin now. I’m freezing at 68degrees.

Posted by
4817 posts
Posted by
4817 posts

Diane, I understand! I also moved away from cold weather states and am not much good with it any more. Fortunately, I still had all my ski clothes. The locals were chuckling that I was wearing leggings under my street clothes. Apparently it wasn't really cold enough for those :-)

Posted by
961 posts

Loved reading this! And what a fantastic helpful format!

Love your balance of markets, museums and day trips. Seems like a smart way to do this!

Posted by
4817 posts

Thanks, CaliMom, glad you liked the format!

I really did like using Frankfurt as a single hotel base. So simple. There were at least half a dozen other markets, some smaller, that I could easily have visited. And even more if I were in town at the time of some of the markets that were only open on a weekend or two.

Ms. Jo has posted lots more videos of Frankfurt area markets: Hõchst, Gelnhausen, Büdingen, Koblenz, Idstein and Ravenna Gorge (I heard that one was very cool!)

I could do this same trip again without duplicating market visits! Except in Frankfurt center, of course.

Posted by
4817 posts

All of the markets I visited were easy day trips from Frankfurt: 30 - 90 minutes each way, either direct by S-Bahn or a short regional train ride.

Most of the towns that Ms. Jo visited and filmed were also Frankfurt day trips, with Ravenna Gorge at least one exception.

I had a very long list of markets to choose from!

Posted by
4817 posts

I did not go to Heidelberg - which I could have visited as a day trip from Frankfurt - or continued from there to Strasbourg and Colmar. But I know someone who did, and I hope we'll be hearing about her trip.... who knows, maybe I'll follow in her Christmas Market footsteps another year!

Posted by
33116 posts

this thread is so valuable I've bookmarked - so much great education in guise of good fun

Posted by
2527 posts

Did you eat at the café at the sculpture museum?
How was the dining in Frankfurt?

Posted by
4817 posts

Did you eat at the café at the sculpture museum?

I saw the cafe, but I was there too early to eat there.

How was the dining in Frankfurt?

I was on a mission to try as many Christmas Market foods as I could!

I managed to eat and drink my way through:

Bratwurst and currywurst

Reibekuchen: 3 different versions of potato pancakes with 3 different sauces (sour cream, garlic, and cranberry sauce)

Pommes: French fries, once with Hawaii sauce and once with aioli sauce

Glühwein and apfelwein, plus gluhwein with sugar crystals soaked in rum

Hot cheesy bread on a footlong skewer - other varieties included olive bread, sausage bread and sweet versions

Crepes with ham and cheese and crepes with chocolate

Raclette with potatoes (bread also available)

Lángos with sour cream and/or cheese (very authentic Hungarian, based on my few samples in Budapest)

Chocolate covered raspberries on a stick (twice)

Gebrannte Mandeln: roasted almonds with cranberry sugar coating - other sugar coating flavors included various fruits, reese's, chocolate, and every imaginable (and previously unimaginable) savory coating

And I didn't even sample the dozens of flavors of popcorn, cookies, cakes and candies.

Oh, I did have Jaegerschnitzel once at a Paulaner's with Ms. Jo and a mini Frankfurt kranz cake in a cafe on the Römer.

I'm not sure any of that counts as dining 🤣🤣🤣

Posted by
4817 posts

I found this fun article about the Frankfurt Christmas Markets:

https://christmasmarketguides.com/frankfurt-christmas-markets-guide/

"Eating and drinking your way through a German Christmas Market sounds like fun until you have to decide what to actually order."

For sure! I actually got worried the first day that I needed to step up my sampling game or I'd never make it through everything I wanted to try!

Posted by
33116 posts

you know, it really does sound like you suffered...

Posted by
33116 posts

like you really need to rum soak sugar lumps to add to the Glühwein ?

🤣

Posted by
2140 posts

Oh wow, what a treasure trove of ideas! Thank you! We just got back from Munich and Salzburg and were already thinking of what other markets we would like to visit. Your trip sounds wonderful, thank you so much for sharing all the details etc.

Posted by
4817 posts

Hah, Nigel, right? It was pretty cool to see an amorphous hunk of sugar crystals, warmed by the flame underneath, and the sugary rum dripping into the vat!

Suffering it was! A week of sheer Christmas Markets gluttony. It's a good thing the hotel breakfast had some redeeming nutritional value! Otherwise, chocolate covered raspberries on a stick were the nearest thing.

Posted by
3879 posts

Trouble sleeping tonight, so I decided to fire up the RS website and scan the trip reports section. I really enjoyed this trip report. Thanks for all the information and detail. I did a tour with Ms Jo when in Frankfurt in fall 2021. It was great.

As for the Niederwalddenkmal at Rüdesheim, it is indeed impressive. It made my heart swell with German pride... even though I have minimal German ancestry.

Posted by
4817 posts

Dave, thanks for dropping in for a late night read!

I know you're a fellow fan of the Motel One chain. This one was everything I airways hope they'll be. A great location for starters. And I like how this one, and the Motel One in Dresden, have breakfast seating throughout the entire lobby and ground floor. It felt very casual and relaxed. And much more spacious than the breakfast in the basement of one location (either Prague or Vienna, I can't recall) which felt cramped and crowded.

My favorite, though, was a Motel One where the storage was on the back of the bathroom wall, with far more practical shelves than seems to be the norm.

But then, maybe you stayed at Motel One when you went to Frankfurt and already knew all that!

Posted by
3879 posts

Hi, CW. Thanks for the response. Yes, I love the Motel One chain. I stayed at the Motel One Römer for one night in 2021 before a flight out of Frankfurt. That was when I did the tour with Ms Jo. I agree that motel and its location are great.

I'm not sure that I have a favorite Motel One. I like all of the ones where I have stayed, but I've never had breakfast in a basement -- that does not sound atmospheric at all.