We all have one of ‘those’ friends that you begin to vaguely dislike around Christmas time. You know the type: the friend playing Mariah Carey on repeat come the 1st November, and busying themselves erecting complicated nativity scenes around the house.
Unfortunately, for our friends, we are ‘those’ people. We take Christmas seriously. Christmas day has always required a brand new ‘smart’ outfit and life is unbearable for us if pigs in blankets haven’t made an appearance over the festive season.
And so, it will come as no surprise that we’ve had more than our fair share of Christmas breaks over the years: wandering European cities in search of our Christmas tribe. Our quest has taken us far and wide, but after much consideration, we’ve decided that there’s one place that simply does it best and that’s the region of Bavaria in Germany.
The scent of grilled sausages, mulled wine and gingerbread waft on the air of Bavaria’s Christmas Markets, and cosy stalls crammed full of locally produced toys and gifts can be found at every turn. The festive markets of this region are the definition of Christmas: offering the sort of scenes only found in fairytales – or so you thought.
And so, with the festive season fast approaching (hurrah), we’ve put together a guide to visiting the top Christmas Markets and sights in Bavaria.
Sit back and take a read. It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.
Munich Christmas Markets
Direct flights to Munich are available from the UK.
The Munich Christmas Markets are Germany’s worst-kept secret. Dating back to the 14th century, the city’s markets are said to be some of the best in Europe. The main market can be found in Marienplatz (St Mary’s Square), where you’ll find the city’s main Christmas tree, which is donated annually from a neighbouring town or village. Across the city you can find another 20 smaller markets taking place.
For more general information about what to see in Munich, if you’re in need of a break from the festivities, take a look at our one-day guide.
On our last visit to the city, we stayed at the beautiful boutique Cortiina Hotel, which we would highly recommend.
Tip: Looking for something a little different? Head to the Pink Christmas Market, organised by the gay and lesbian community of the city, for a unique take on the traditional.
The drive from Munich to Neuschwanstein Castle is just under 2 hours.
Located close to Munich sits the magical Neuschwastein Castle. This Bavarian palace is the perfect Christmas escape if you’re looking for snow, a Disney inspired castle and a breath of fresh air. The castle is open all year round but in severe weather (usually January and February as we discovered) the local bus can be closed.
If you’re planning on staying in the area longer than a day, then head to the top of the Bavarian Alps (a cable car runs every day from Füssen) to enjoy a local beer in a sun-lounger, whilst taking in breath-taking views.
Füssen is the town located at the bottom of Neuschwanstein Castle, with plenty of cosy hotels and restaurants. We stayed at Hotel Hirsch and would recommend it to those travelling on a mid-range budget.
Tip: Arrive early at the ticket office to beat the queues and tour buses arriving with large groups.
Rothenburg ob der Tauber
The drive from Neuschwanstein Castle to Rothenburg is approximately 2.5 hours.
Rothenburg is a town that lives for Christmas: it even has a Christmas shop (open all year round if you need that festive spirit sooner than December). It’s no surprise, therefore, that its Christmas Market, known as Reiterlesmarkt, is anything other than magical. This beautiful medieval city looks like something out of a film-set and even more so at Christmas, with twinkling Christmas lights at every turn.
Make sure you snap up one of the local delicacies – Schneeball (snowball), which is made from strips of sweet dough, deep fried and covered in powdered chocolate or sugar. Delicious!
Hotel Herrnschloesschen for a moment of calm away from the Christmas crowds.
Tip: For a Christmas history blast, pop along to the local Christmas Museum of Germany!
Nuremberg Christmas Markets
The drive from Rothenburg to Nuremberg is just over 1 hour.
The Nuremberg Christmas Markets are the last stop on your festive itinerary. Known as the Christkindlesmarkt, these markets are over 400 years old and have inspired the countless other Christmas Markets you see in both Germany and across Europe.
Here, you’ll find intricately made toys from the master toy makers of Nuremberg, who have supposedly been making toys for Father Christmas since time began! Another great reason to visit Christkindlesmarkt is for its law that prohibits the selling of cheap, plastic products – instead only offering locally made gifts and crafts from its 180 stalls.
For a hotel located centrally inside the medieval walls of the city, try Hotel Steichele.
Tip: take a bite of the famous Nuremberg gingerbread, which has been baked in the city for over 600 years.
Photo curtesy of Franken Tourismus.
Fly home from Stuttgart airport.
If this itinerary doesn’t leave you feeling ‘Christmassy’ then nothing will. With snow, deep fried treats, twinkling lights, warming mulled wine and beautifully produced gifts, there’s nowhere better than Bavaria when it comes to getting in the festive spirit. Sp, see you there?
The Christmas Markets are on from November 25 – December 24 across Bavaria (and the rest of Germany!)