Christmas Markets in Europe

Discussion in 'General Discussion | Travel' started by autolycus, Dec 26, 2012.  |  Print Topic

  1. autolycus

    autolycus Gold Member

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    As Christmas has now come and gone, my wife and I started thinking about Christmas next year. One thought that seems to have taken seed is going to Europe in December--probably not for Christmas itself--to enjoy some winter weather, possibly snow-covered mountains and rooftops, and a few Christmas markets. Of course the internet is full of lists of the "best" Christmas markets. And those lists are helpful. But... We'd like to read more before we settle on a possible set of itineraries. Does anybody know of any comprehensive websites or books that describe the different cities and markets in sufficient detail to plan a trip around?

    Or, alternatively, if someone has their own thoughts to share, that would be appreciated as well. We would most likely want do Bavaria, Austria, and/or Czech Republic. Of course Munich, Vienna and Prague are large cities and so they have a large variety of markets. Nuremburg, I have read, is also a wonderful christmas market destination. But what hidden gems are there in the smaller cities and towns? And is there any major reason to avoid the three areas I mentioned?

    For more information, we will likely be renting a car or doing train travel, and would probably do 8-10 days total, preferring not to do a Griswald-family-style whirlwind tour but would rather be relaxed and enjoy each place for a sufficient amount of time to appreciate its own character. In other words, 3-4 days in any major city, and at least an overnight in any smaller ones. Oh, and is a rental car practical at all in mid-December driving around Bavaria, Bohemia, and/or the Austrian Tyrol? Are road closures an issue if we wanted to go to Neuschwanstein/Fussen, or Obersalzburg, etc?

    Thanks in advance!
     
  2. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

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  3. KathInJax

    KathInJax Silver Member

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    We did the Prague Christmas Market a few years ago. We loved Prague and the Christmas Market in old town is not the far from the one in Wenceslas square.

    We did a day trip to Karlovy Vary, and there was snow on the ground, which was a pretty winter sight.

    Now, to go with the snow and the wintertime was COLD. So cold that the tour guide cut the walking tour short and did not stay around to collect any tips. Of course, the weather is the ultimate YMMV.

    The Christmas Market itself is a mix of food booths and items for sale, many of them local and handmade. I think that it is similar to the local festivals here, just with a Christmas and European twist.

    We were there on opening day, and they had a tree lighting and Christmas Carol concert.

    My sister keeps talking about going to another Christmas Market, but it will be a few years before we can go again.

    I did post a couple of pictures in the Prague picture thread a while ago.
     
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  4. BuckleandBoots

    BuckleandBoots Silver Member

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    Give yourself some time in Munich. The city has a few different markets and they are all interesting.

    Also, even some of the really small Bavarian towns have little markets in case you want to plan a day out of the city.
     
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  5. jgg630

    jgg630 Silver Member

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    I just returned from a Christmas Market cruise up the Rhine River. We visited several Christmas markets including 5 in Cologne. I found that Christmas markets are a matter of taste. Koblenz is a great market on a weekend night to watch the locals gather. There is always plenty of good food. I have a blog from my trip if you want to PM me for the link.
     
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  6. cliburn
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    cliburn Gold Member

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    Lots of good ones.... Nurenburg as you say is famous and you should visit it. But some of the less well-known seem more authentic and local to me.
    One that is cool is the medievel Chirstmas Market and the Thurn and Taxis Palace in Regensburg.
     
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  7. autolycus

    autolycus Gold Member

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    Thanks for the responses so far! Y'all are proving exactly why I had hoped there was a book out there. So many different options, many of which probably suit different tastes. Munich is almost a guaranteed stop for a few reasons, not the least of which is that it's a nonstop flight from ATL. I've spent 4-5 days total in Munich, and my wife just 1 1/2, and all in the spring. All the photos of it in the winter look idyllic. Nurnburg is a possibly stop too, but it's tempting to go south from Munich to Innsbruck and then go to Vienna from there.

    We definitely would anticipate COLD and would pack accordingly, especially if going to Innsbruck. I mean, Innsbruck has hosted a winter Olympics, and Salzburg bid for one...
     
  8. mgrepo

    mgrepo Silver Member

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  9. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

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  10. autolycus

    autolycus Gold Member

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  11. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

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    To comment on a few more things:

    I think Nuremburg is the most famous (but perhaps also most touristy) Xmas market. I've never been there. Personally, I am not convinced that the differences are that big that traveling from city to city is worth it, but then I am sometimes a bit of a curmudgeon :)

    Keep in mind the distances. Vienna is pretty far east, so train or car trips take a while to get there. Nothing compared to US distances, of course.

    You won't need the car in the major cities. In fact, it will be a hassle to have one as you need to find/pay for parking, and you'll be walking or taking public transportation. I'd research train travel.

    Those areas should be quite familiar with snow and I would not expect significant problems or road closures. That said, just like this year seems to be a year of record warm temps, 2010 had a TON of snow in some parts of Europe.
     
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  12. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

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  13. autolycus

    autolycus Gold Member

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    While I'm sure the markets themselves probably aren't so different, we will actually want to see the cities during the day too. ;)

    Yeah, we fully understand that a day would be "lost" in transit. But then again, seeing that countryside during a different season has its own appeal.

    We will definitely look at train travel, but if we end up doing smaller towns, train travel becomes less practical and much less flexible. If we just stick to Munich, Nurnburg, Vienna or Prague, trains would be ideal. If we wanted to go to Rothenburg, Fussen, etc., trains aren't as easy.

    I was thinking more in terms of roads that are never passable in winter, like Trail Ridge Road through Rocky Mountain National Park, Tioga Road in Yosemite, etc. I also know that Eagle's Nest, for instance, is only open from late April to October because of hazardous road conditions in the Obersalzburg area.
     
  14. autolycus

    autolycus Gold Member

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    Darn it, you're supposed to be helping me narrow my focus, not broaden it! ;)
     
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  15. sobore
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    sobore Gold Member

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  16. HiIslands
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    HiIslands Silver Member

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    We enjoy the Christmas markets in the smaller German towns. Although Nuremberg's is wonderful, the smaller markets tend to have more local charm, local food and local items. Visiting these towns by train is not as difficult as you might think and having an automobile in some of them is actually a liability. Visit Deutsche Bahn's site to help you plan your itinerary: http://www.bahn.com/i/view/index.shtml Also, some of the neighborhood Christmas markets in some of the larger cities (ex: Munich) are more accessible and actually more pleasant to visit. You don't need to visit a lot of different markets to get into the Christmas spirit!
     
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  17. Sunshine7

    Sunshine7 Silver Member

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    I'm currently in Budapest and have just visited the markets here and in Prague, Cesky Krumlov, Vienna, and Bratislava. They are very similar, but of course each has its unique merchandise and some are larger than others. My favorite so far has been Vienna, but I really don't think you can go wrong with any city. I'd suggest choosing a place that has or is close to other sites you'd like to visit. I'd upload some pics, but the files are too large and I'm using an iPad so can't resize them.
     
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  18. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

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    Absolutely.

    Munich to Fuessen is a 2 hr train trip with zero or one connection. Nuremburg to Rothenburg is a 1 1/2 to 2 hr train trip with 1 or 2 connections. http://bahn.de makes it quite easy to plan this (though you cannot book tickets a year in advance; not quite sure how long you'd have to wait). You could, of course, also combine train and car travel. One way rentals might be an option; I have found them to be quite affordable with Sixt.

    Sorry, can't help here.
     
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  19. thegrailer
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    thegrailer Silver Member

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    Don't forget Salzburg --- you mention the Olympic bid but the Xmas market is a lot of fun and a short train ride from MUC
     
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  20. HiIslands
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  21. autolycus

    autolycus Gold Member

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    My experience with Rothenburg and Fussen was that the train station was not within walking distance of the part of town that is interesting to tourists. I suppose taxis and local buses are an option, but to me, they're much harder with winter clothes both on and in the luggage.

    Combining train and car travel will likely make the most sense, so I definitely appreciate the tip on Sixt. I'll check it out.

    Again, thanks for all the tips and photos from everyone! Definitely increasing my interest in this potential trip.
     
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  22. tom911
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    tom911 Gold Member

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    If you get a German rail pass, travel to/from Salzburg is included with those. I haven't found them the great value they were in years past and tend to buy individual tickets now, but there could be value there for others depending what distances are covered, or if you buy after all the cheap tickets are gone. My recollection is you can only book 90 days out on the German rail site.
     
  23. ella
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    ella Silver Member

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    I've been to the Christmas markets in Berlin and Frankfurt in the past, and this year I went to Dusseldorf. I've always heard the markets in Vienna and Prague are among the best. And I'd like, one of these years, to visit a place that actually has snow on the ground instead of 40s(f) and rain.

    Frankfurt I visited on my way somewhere else. I would not have gone there specifically for the market (and good thing !), but I found that at the Berlin and Dusseldorf markets the merchandise offered was pretty much the same. And there were several booths within each market that were duplicated.
     
  24. tom911
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    tom911 Gold Member

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    I was so hoping for snow last December, but it did not come to pass. I'm working with friends now on a Germany trip for February (their first time to that country) and a little snow would be nice. I have seen good snow storms on prior visits:

    Hamburg (March, 2010) PHOTOS

    [​IMG]

    Munich (February, 2009) PHOTOS

    [​IMG]
     
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  25. ella
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    ella Silver Member

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    Oh, Wow ! Love those pics ! I guess I need to forget about Christmas and go in February !
     
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