Christmas in Europe ~ an essential guide
It’s almost here, Christmas season in Europe and I’m like a little kid waiting to open presents Christmas morning. This season is so magical and delightful with so much to do it’s hard to figure out where to start. Some of what makes Christmas so special is the fun activities like Christmas markets.
Don’t MISS these fun activities this SEASON!
Christmas markets in Europe are such an old tradition, dating back to the late middle ages and of course, in our beloved Germany. Celebrating the four weeks of Advent, Vienna was one of the first beginning around 1295. In this part of Germany, Baden-Württemberg we call them, Weihnachtsmarkets, in southern Germany they are typically called “Christkindlmarkt.” So if you head to Bavaria this holiday season, keep an eye out for this difference.
If you are interested in the smaller markets, remember to just type in the city name and add a (.de) the town will typically list any events or upcoming markets on their homepage.
The Stuttgart Christmas market is one of my favorite’s and we are so blessed with having it so close. We take the train in and usually just buy the all-day group pass making it highly affordable and less stressful than finding a parking space.
Two of my favorite Christmas markets in Austria are:
Close by and easy to get to from the Garmish-Partenkirchen area, Innsbruck is an easy day trip from that area. The Tyrolian city of Innsbruck is decorated exquisitely and actually serves these doughnuts filled with sauerkraut. Don’t judge, their awesome! An already gorgeous town and filled with palaces and gardens, Innsbruck’s market is amazing.
“Brown paper packages tied up in string,” YES. Salzburg the city of Sound of Music is mesmerizing during their Christmas market season. We brought my parents here a few years ago. The market in the fortress was incredible. Set up in medieval style you could get glühwein (heated spiced red wine) in what looked like a carved mug or goulash soup in a gruel bowl. Really funny. Everyone is dressed up in medieval costume too.
The Christmas market in the Altstadt platz is like stepping back in time with the horse and buggy tour guides and the endless huts of vendors.
If you would like to visit a Christmas market in France, close to Stuttgart, I would recommend Straßbourg. This ancient town has an absolutely beautiful market filled with Alsatian goodies and treats and have different vendors than you will see in Germany. Additionally, it’s only about an hour and a half drive from Stuttgart, making it a great day trip.
Parking can be tough but Straßbourg has it figured out, so park HERE! Trying to find a parking spot closer into old town during holiday season is CRAZY, plus you’ll enjoy the Tram system ~ real easy to navigate.
This year Colmar has a theme and it sounds incredible, Colmar’s Christmas Magic. I hope to include this in my repetoire as it lasts for several weeks.
Riquewihr and Ribeauvillè
Riquewihr and Ribeauvillè are two small Alsatian towns are literally like Belle’s enchanted village, this will be my first time visiting and I look forward to snapping lots of photos. Both of them so close together, I’ll be making a day trip to see them. Again, just a short 2 hr. drive from the Stuttgart area, these would be quaint village markets worthy of family visits to France.
Market Tips ~
- If possible avoid weekends these are usually quite packed, if this is your only choice, go early in the morning, right when it opens up!
- DRESS WARM and with comfortable shoes
- Carry smaller bills, nothing over a 50€, and try not to carry more than €200 on your person at any given time, especially in the bigger cities
- Have smaller EU coins available too
- Take your passport with you if you are traveling over borders
- Restrooms are generally located on the square somewhere, but are most often port-a-pottys. Restaurants typically don’t mind, but during this season will ask for a €.50 donation.
I have a feeling this winter we are going to get lots of snow. I love it. Growing up in northern New York, we were surrounded by snow sometimes from mid-October to April. No kidding. Sometimes, I just miss the white-outs so you can snuggle up with a blanket and a good book.
This season, get out and enjoy the many hiking and walking trails around Germany and explore. Here are a few outdoor winter sport activities around Germany that can make this season unforgettable!
Being so close to the Black Forest, Cross-country skiing is quite easy to do every weekend. This year, that will be one of my goals. Maybe not every weekend, but close to it! Last year, this was my favorite. This area is near Freudenstadt and Baiersbronn.
- Rent skis, poles and boots, HERE, last year about €16/day
- Ski, HERE (Wintersport Kneibis) look for signs for X-Country skiing as there is also a ski-lift that is separate Google Maps address ~
- Eat, HERE
Although it’s been quite a while for me going on a downhill ski trip, I have several friends who have gone, here is their collective advice.
This is another experience I hope to enjoy this year as well and I’ve found out they are about everywhere you can rent Cross-country skis! Lots of trails and close by again. Baiersbronn also looks like a great place to investigate, hmmm! Snow hurry up!
Hiking and Walking
Whether you are a hiker or a walker, there are umpteen trails in the region. Here are a few of my favorite winter hikes. I will have more information in my new Hiking e-book will be coming out next year!!
- Bebenhausen – very close to Stuttgart, day hike and great places to eat. Trails along 464.
- Baiersbronn – you can hike here also to a great hut for a wonderful meal, the Wanderhütte Sattelei
- Lichtenstein Castle routes
- & many, many more, check out this website for more information on hiking in Baden-Württemberg.
While you here I hope you enjoy the many, many opportunities for fun and activities that are available around Europe. If you’re stuck or have any questions about an upcoming trip and need some help, leave a comment below or send me a message.
It’s always an adventure when you ©Travel with Wendy!