I’d dreamed of visiting the German Christmas markets for therefore lengthy earlier than I lastly made the journey a actuality with a swoonworthy highway journey via Germany and France. As idyllic as it may be to walk via the picket market stalls sipping glühwein, it’s attainable to get market fatigue. Nevertheless, this 10-day Christmas Market itinerary goes to provide the good combine of massive metropolis, little city, and distinctive market experiences that may have you ever brimming with festive pleasure.
Christmas in Germany brings subsequent stage attraction and is so completely different from the hustle-bustle consumerism within the U.S. It’s about custom, gathering collectively within the chilly, and appreciation for handcrafted items versus the mass produced. It’s unimaginable to not get caught up within the magic of the vacations whereas visiting the German Christmas markets.
In case you are trying to plan a German Christmas markets journey, I’m going to offer you some Christmas Markets planning suggestions, recommendation on whether or not to cruise, drive, or practice, and lay out an in depth German Christmas market highway journey itinerary which you could copy and go, together with the place to remain and issues to do past the markets.
Ideas for Planning a German Christmas Markets Journey
There are over 1,500 German Christmas markets which have over 50 meals stalls…and much more smaller markets. Determining the place to begin will be overwhelming, however I’m right here to assist. To get began planning your Christmas Markets journey, listed here are some issues to think about.
How Lengthy Do You Want for a German Christmas Markets Journey?
I’d recommend planning at the very least per week lengthy German Christmas market journey itinerary if you wish to expertise a number of cities or areas. If in case you have much less time, it will make sense to choose only one metropolis, similar to Frankfurt or Stuttgart and plan day journeys to close by Christmas markets.
I spent 16 days in Germany and France visiting Christmas markets and in that point I visited 17 Christmas markets (extra actually since there are a number of markets in lots of cities and cities). It was loads. A bit greater than I’d recommend except you might be actually obsessive about Christmas markets. The query I heard probably the most is…did you get uninterested in the markets? And truthfully, probably not! Every has its personal distinctive character. However it may nonetheless get tiring and also you may get just a little uninterested in bratwurst and glühwein.
I believe the candy spot is to plan a seven to 10-day German Christmas Markets journey.
Must you cruise, drive, or take the practice?
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River cruising is a highly regarded method to go to the Christmas Markets, particularly alongside the Rhine River. It’s definitely the simplest method to go to a number of markets, as you don’t have to unpack or fear about any logistics. Most river cruise strains embody excursions similar to guided strolling excursions or transportation to markets to take pleasure in free time. The one downsides are the fee and that you’re extra restricted in the place and if you go to the markets, making it a bit more durable to keep away from crowds or expertise the markets at completely different occasions of day.
Touring by practice is an effective way to journey as a result of even most of the smaller cities are accessible by practice and also you don’t want to fret about winter driving. Nevertheless, you do want to fret about potential practice strikes (there was one occurring in Germany after I was there) and cancellations. You additionally have to plan forward concerning baggage storage, particularly if you happen to aren’t staying in a single day in every place or in case you are staying in an Airbnb.
A German Christmas markets highway journey provides you probably the most flexibility and independence. I discovered driving in Germany fairly simple and even crossing the border between Germany and France was fairly seamless. It was additionally fairly reasonably priced to hire a automobile (I paid solely about $350 for 11 days — I exploit Auto Europe to seek out the very best charges.)
You Must Plan Forward
The German Christmas markets have gotten more and more well-liked with worldwide vacationers (thanks Instagram!) and it is very important plan early. If you wish to take a river cruise, I’d recommend reserving that at the very least six to 9 months prematurely. For lodge reservations, you have to to plan at the very least two to a few months earlier than your journey to seek out reasonably priced lodging within the metropolis middle, particularly if you happen to want rooms with two beds.
Examine Dates and Hours
German Christmas markets usually open in late November and run via December twenty third. There are exceptions, and a few are solely open throughout introduction weekends. So earlier than you e-book your journey, make certain the markets might be open while you’re there! Only a few stay open between Christmas and New Years.
Additionally, some smaller markets are solely open on the weekends or solely within the late afternoon or evenings. There might also be completely different hours relying on the day of the week. Remember to do some analysis earlier than you go and attempt to hit the massive cities midweek so decrease the crowds on the markets.
German Christmas Market Itinerary
So let’s get into it. If in case you have adopted my travels for a whilst you know that I really like planning out my journeys and share my itineraries with tweaks primarily based on what I discovered alongside the way in which. That’s why I’m suggesting a shorter 10-day Christmas markets highway journey and focusing simply on Germany. For those who don’t have 10 days, I will even make some strategies to show this into an eight or 9 day journey (so that you solely want one week of PTO plus weekends.)
This Christmas Markets itinerary is finest as a highway journey to supply probably the most flexibility. It makes a loop from Frankfurt, masking a lot of Southwest Germany. As a result of it’s a loop, you possibly can fly out and in of Frankfurt, which is a serious airport served by American, Delta, United, Lufthansa, and others. This lets you e-book a less expensive spherical journey airfare than if you happen to flew into Munich and out of Frankfurt for instance.
This 10-day German Christmas Markets highway journey itinerary contains stops in:
- Rüdesheim am Rhein
- Freiburg im Breisgau
- Ravenna Gorge
- return to Frankfurt
It looks like loads of transferring round however I’ve really organized this itinerary to spend two nights in every lodge and go to a number of markets in sooner or later (generally through practice). And, the longest drive you will have between stops is 3.5 hours, however most drives are a lot shorter.
This map was created utilizing Google My Maps and covers my instructed German Christmas Markets highway journey itinerary. You possibly can click on on the star subsequent to the title and save this to your Google Maps account or click on on the share icon to ship it to your self through electronic mail.
Day 1 – Arrival in Frankfurt
In case you are flying into Frankfurt from the U.S., you’ll possible arrive within the early morning. It is sensible to remain in a single day close to the airport, since you’ll want to decide up your rental automobile on the airport as soon as you might be prepared to go away Frankfurt. Nevertheless, the German rail system makes it very simple to get round and you’ll simply take the S-Bahn practice from the airport into Heart Metropolis (with or with out your baggage).
If that is your first time in Frankfurt, I’d advocate reserving a Frankfurt by Foot strolling tour to offer you an introduction to the town past simply the Christmas Markets. Taking this tour helped me get my bearings and made it simpler to discover the markets alone (plus we spend just a little time within the markets on the finish of the tour too!)
On this tour, I used to be capable of see the town highlights together with the New Outdated City, Frankfurt Cathedral, the Holocaust Memorial, Roemerberg, Kleinmarkthalle (an area indoor market), and Eiserner Steg (Iron Bridge) over the River Primary.
To get to the town middle, you possibly can take the S-Bahn (suburban practice) strains S8 or S9 from the regional practice station situated in Terminal 1 of the airport to the Hauptwache station. The journey takes roughly 15-20 minutes and trains run each 10-Quarter-hour.
With no matter power you will have left, you’ll want to discover Frankfurt’s fundamental Christmas Markets in Römerberg, St Paul’s Sq., Primary Quay, Hauptwache, and Friedrich Stoltze Sq. (house to Frankfurt’s Pink LGBTQ+ market.) Don’t fear if you happen to can’t totally embrace the Christmas Market vibe whereas jet lagged, you should have one other likelihood to revisit these markets on the finish of your journey.
After all if in case you have extra time, you possibly can keep longer in Frankfurt and take day journeys to native Christmas markets close to Frankfurt.
The place to remain: I discovered staying on the Sheraton Frankfurt Airport Lodge extraordinarily simple as it’s a very quick stroll to the terminal or the practice station. As a Marriott Bonvoy Gold Member I used to be given government lounge entry, which could possibly be a great spot to kill a while if in case you have an early arrival.
Day 2 – Rüdesheim am Rhein
Choose up your rental automobile from the airport early so that you could have a full day to discover. From the airport, it is just a 45-minute drive to the subsequent cease in your German Christmas Markets highway journey…Rüdesheim am Rhein. Rüdesheim is a small, however well-liked, city within the German wine area of Rheingau on the banks of the Rhine River.
The city itself is tiny and might get extraordinarily crowded within the top of the day so it’s good to get there early to walk alongside Drosselgasse, probably the most picturesque avenue that’s lined with retailers and eating places, as it will likely be elbow-to-elbow later within the day. Regardless of the crowds, it’s well-worth a go to to this charming little city each for its structure, its wine, and, after all, the Christmas Market.
As soon as city begins getting crowded, it’s time to stroll via the vineyards up the hill behind city to the Niederwald monument, which was constructed within the late 1800s to commemorate the unification of Germany. For those who don’t really feel like strolling, you may also journey the cable automobile up and again, with nice views of the city, river, and vineyards beneath.
On the town, you may also go to Siegfried’s Mechanical Music Cupboard, which is a museum of automated musical devices, and the Rheingau Wine Museum within the medieval Brömserburg Fortress. Winelovers might also wish to pre-arrange a tasting at Georg Breur Vineyard to sip a few of the areas well-known dry Rieslings.
As for the Christmas Market, the first market lies within the Marktplatz, the place a life-sized nativity scene unfolds and you’ll discover dwell leisure. Within the adjoining space you’ll discover a mini curling ice and small family-friendly rides.
The Rüdescheimer Weihnachtsmarkt additionally has a babies’s market with rides and, once we visited, a show of enormous rabbits and fluffy chickens. Personally, I discovered the crafts and items on the market a bit disappointing as they had been primarily imported items versus domestically made crafts, however the meals was scrumptious.
You will discover many conventional German Christmas market meals which might be well-liked on this area together with käsespatzle (cheese spaetzle), flammkuchen (a flatbread with cheese, onions, and ham), kartoffelpuffer (potato pancakes), and apfelwein (apple glühwein).
From Rüdesheim, it’s a two-hour drive to your subsequent cease. You possibly can select to spend the evening in Rüdesheim, or, to attenuate transferring round, you possibly can drive straight to Trier on the finish of the day.
The place to remain: For those who resolve to remain in Rüdesheim in a single day, you can be happy to stroll round after the day trippers go away. I liked the charming rooms on the centrally-located Breuer’s Rüdesheimer Schloss. They even have free parking, which will be actually onerous to seek out in these smaller cities. In any other case, drive to Trier and spend two nights there.
Day 3 – trier
Trier is Germany’s oldest metropolis, situated on the Moselle River close to the border with Luxembourg. It was based by the Romans in 17 BC and you’ll nonetheless see eight UNESCO World Heritage Websites, together with Roman baths, baths, a 25,000-seat amphitheater, and the spectacular Porta Nigra, the one remaining Roman metropolis gate, which dates again to the 2nd century.
When you are on the town, you also needs to pay a go to to the Trier Cathedral, which is the oldest in Germany, relationship again to Roman occasions. This enormous cathedral can also be house to 2 vital Catholic relics, the Holy Gown of Christ and a holy nail regarded as from the Crucifixion.
If in case you have time, you may also go to the archeological museum, which has the very best assortment of Roman artwork and artifacts in Germany.
After all, you’ll want to go away loads of time to take pleasure in Trier’s Christmas Markets, that are unfold all through the Altstadt (Outdated City). Trier’s markets actually have all of it — a picturesque setting, loads of house to maneuver round, terrific foods and drinks, and loads of leisure choices for all ages from historic puppet theater to star tenor and songsmiths.
The principle markets happen in Hauptmarkt sq. and in entrance of the cathedral. However if you happen to stroll down Fleischstrasse to Kornmarkt, you’ll discover extra meals stalls and a small ice rink beneath the lights. The decor was so charming (even with lovable trash cans!)
The meals and craft stalls had been additionally spectacular, with one in every of my favourite käsewurst sausages of the journey and a few scrumptious poffertjes, that are small Dutch pancakes (which we additionally noticed in Amsterdam). I additionally received to attempt eierpunsch, which is a heat egg liqueur-based drink.
The place to remain: I liked my keep on the Romantik Lodge Zur Glocke, proper within the Outdated City. That is one in every of my favourite boutique motels of the yr, with beautifully-designed, luxurious rooms, a tremendous location, and even complimentary breakfast all for a really reasonably priced charge. The one draw back is that there isn’t parking on-site, however you need to use a paid lot close by.
Day 4 – Freiburg im Breisgau
It would take you about 3.5 hours to drive from Trier to Freiburg im Breisgau. Your drive will possible take you thru a little bit of the Alsace area of France, and if in case you have the additional time, you possibly can add in a day in Strasbourg and/or Colmar, or a brief cease in Strasbourg on the way in which.
Strasbourg is known as the Capital of Christmas and the city goes all out in the case of Christmas decor. Whereas I completely liked the charming Petite France neighborhood and all the over-the-top decorations, the market itself was a bit disappointing. You’ll find some distinctive or regional markets however the principle metropolis middle is stuffed with the identical meals stalls and business reward choices.
Simply be sure to go away time to discover Freiburg. This college city has a vibrant Outdated City with cobblestone roads and good retailers and eating places. That is the place you’ll discover the Weihnachtsmarkt with 130+ superbly embellished picket stalls unfold throughout a number of areas, together with the Rathausplatz, Franziskanerstrasse, Unterlindenplatz, Turmstrasse, Rotteckring, Predigertor and the Kartoffelmarkt.
There are actions for youngsters like candle making and a baking workshop. I had some scrumptious Christmas market meals in Freiburg together with käsewurst (cheese-stuffed bratwurst), a potato twister, and kaiserschmarrn (torn candy pancakes served with vanilla sauce). This actually felt like a marketplace for locals, with merchandise together with colourful native cheeses and delightful miniature homes for these trying to to create a Christmas village beneath their tree.
Along with the markets, you need to go to the Freiburg Minster or Cathedral in Münsterplatz, which can also be house to a busy farmer’s market six mornings per week.
The place to remain: We had the toughest time discovering an reasonably priced place to remain in Freiburg that will be a brief strolling distance from the Christmas Markets and ended up on the Freiburg Flats, which had been advantageous however very utilitarian.
If attainable, I’d look to remain on the Colombi Lodge. No matter you do, attempt to prepare for parking prematurely as a result of it’s scarce within the metropolis middle (therefore all of the bicycles.) If it’s essential keep a bit farther from the town middle, the tram system is handy for getting round.
Day 5 – Ravenna Gorge
It is a day that requires some advance planning as Ravenna Gorge is the one cease on this journey that requires tickets, and so they go quick. As well as, the market is simply open on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays — so hopefully your dates will work out! If not, you might skip today and shorten your journey, or spend an evening or two in France as an alternative.
You want to enroll in the publication to study the precise date and time that tickets go on sale and soar on-line on that day (the sooner the higher) to get the prime time slots. You additionally have to e-book a parking spot or plan to take the practice and have a shuttle reservation as an alternative.
However first, let me again up, Ravenna Gorge is situated about 35-45 minutes outdoors of Freiburg. There’s a small village with a lodge and some retailers, however the principle attraction is the 40-meter tall aqueduct set in a picturesque gorge within the Black Forest.
Ideally, it is possible for you to to e-book a time slot to go to the market within the late afternoon till the early night, so that you could get the view within the daylight after which get to expertise the aqueduct with its dramatic uplighting at evening as effectively. The market itself is small, with solely about 40 stalls, however every is an area firm or meals supplier.
That is such a novel, dramatic, and delightful Christmas market so it’s actually value making the hassle to go to in case your dates align. Throughout the day, you possibly can spend extra time in Freiburg or take just a little highway journey into the Black Forest. There are a variety of ski villages close by together with Donaueschingen, Feldberg, or Titisee – Neustadt.
Day 6 – Stuttgart
After visiting some smaller cities and cities, Stuttgart brings you again to a giant metropolis. It’s a 2.5 hour drive from Freiburg to Stuttgart, via the gorgeous Black Forest. For those who get an early begin, you may also make a cease within the small city of Tübingen, which additionally hosts a chocolate competition on choose dates in early December.
Stuttgart can also be house to the Porsche Museum, Mercedes-Benz Museum, the Stiftskirche, and different museums round Schlossplatz.
The Stuttgart Christmas Market is likely one of the oldest in all of Europe, but additionally probably the most lovely. Every stand takes nice care to brighten the stall not slightly below the eaves, but additionally on the rooftop. The market is unfold throughout the town centre in Schlossplatz, Schillerplatz, Karlsplatz and Marktplatz with 300 stalls promoting picket toys, nativity units, arts and crafts, jewellery, sweets, and conventional and worldwide meals.
Along with the standard Christmas Market fare, you’ll discover some distinctive options together with an vintage market, Finnish market, and a dwell nativity scene. Schlossplatz is the place you’ll discover a lot of the motion with gorgeous mild shows, together with youngsters’s rides similar to a carousel, a small Ferris wheel, and an actual mini steam practice. Schlossplatz additionally hosts a big Ferris Wheel, a small curler rink, every day dwell concert events, and an eco-market, that includes native meals and vegetarian choices.
The place to remain: It’s best to remain close to the town middle or near the practice station, though the U-Bahn trains make it fairly simple to get across the metropolis. Discovering an reasonably priced lodge, particularly one that gives parking, is usually a problem. I stayed nearer to the practice station, to make it simple to take day journeys, on the Jaz within the Metropolis Stuttgart lodge. Simply be sure to additionally e-book a parking house prematurely or plan on parking on the practice station.
Day 7 – Esslingen and Ludwigsburg
From Stuttgart, it’s simple to take a day journey by practice to go to two different Christmas Markets which might be effectively well worth the quick journey. Esslingen is simply 20 minutes by practice and residential to a big Medieval Christmas market that’s nothing like anything you will have skilled to date.
The Medieval Market has hand-operated rides like a merry-go-round and a mini carousel, together with a wide range of video games similar to archery, bowling, and different video games of ability. Additionally, you will discover medieval-style items like leather-based merchandise and ironworks. There are even actions similar to candle dipping for youngsters. It’s nice enjoyable however may get very crowded, so it’s best to go within the morning earlier than it will get too jammed.
On Saturdays and Sundays on Introduction weekends, there’s a particular Adventsmarkt with a further 30+ stalls promoting handmade items that you just won’t discover elsewhere on the market.
After visiting Esslingen, you possibly can take the practice again to Stuttgart and hop one other practice on the station for a 20-minute journey to Ludwigsburg. The Ludwigsburg Baroque Christmas Market was one other one in every of my favourite Christmas markets on this journey as a result of it’s meant for and attended by locals.
I noticed a bigger number of genuine handicrafts in Ludwigsburg than in any of the opposite Christmas Markets I visited in Germany. With wonderful foods and drinks choices too, this market is such a pleasure!
Day 8 – Heidelberg
From Stuttgart, it is just a 1.5 hour drive to Heidelberg. Heidelberg is a multi-cultural college city, full of retailers and eating places. Whereas on the town, additionally, you will wish to go to the Heidelberg Fortress. Set on a hill, you possibly can entry the fortress through funicular and both take a guided tour or simply get a ticket to discover the grounds by yourself.
There are 5 squares all through the city that make up the Weihnachtsmarkt. Kornmarkt, Marktplatz, Universitätsplatz, Anatomiegarten, and Bismarckplatz. Along with the usual meals and craft stalls, you’ll want to see the small ice skating rink and the large wine barrels that function cozy consuming spots.
In case you are getting uninterested in market meals at this level, you will get a scrumptious, genuine schnitzel at Weinstaube Schnitzelbank on the town.
The place to remain: Lodge Villa Marstall is situated in Outdated City, inside a brief strolling distance to the Christmas Markets, retailers, and eating places. The rooms are small however quaint and reasonably priced. There isn’t any parking on-site, however there’s a pay storage just some blocks away.
Day 9 – Frankfurt
It’s lower than an hour from Heidelberg to Frankfurt, supplying you with loads of time to revisit the Christmas Markets in Frankfurt. Nevertheless, you might additionally make a cease in Mannheim, house to a different well-liked Christmas market, one of many oldest and largest in Germany.
While you arrive in Frankfurt, you possibly can drop off the rental automobile on the airport and I’d advocate as soon as once more staying at an airport lodge for comfort. You possibly can simply take the S-Bahn 8 or 9 into the town middle to take pleasure in the remainder of your day.
Day 10 – Fly house
Most flights to the U.S. depart within the morning so you have to to stand up and fly house..filled with Christmas spirit! Simply don’t neglect to pack an additional tote bag or suitcase for all of the items you’ll want to convey house.
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Tamara Gruber is the Founder and Writer of We3Travel. A former advertising government and journey advisor, Tamara is an award-winning journey author and acknowledged knowledgeable in household journey, named the Media Member of the Yr for 2023 by the Household Journey Affiliation. Tamara is a member of SATW, the Journey Journey Commerce Affiliation, and the Household Journey Affiliation. She can also be the writer of YourTimetoFly and the co-host of the Trip Professionals journey podcast.