A German Christmas Market Tour – Magic, Food and lots of Glühwein
I spend more time regretting the things I didn’t do, than the mistakes I may have made. That’s why when I got an email about taking German Christmas Market Tour a few weeks ago, I only hesitated long enough to clear it with my family. After all, a week away in December (well, 10 days with travel), during the busiest family time of the year, is huge. And then there was the “you need to be in Chicago on Tuesday” part. It was a scramble to pack and organize my family. Still… thanks to Bryan and Edie, I was able to join a great group of people on a tour of Christmas Markets in Germany, and it was a trip I will never forget!
Our group of mainly Chicagoans (go Bears) were bused from Munich to a home base in Mitterfels. (Honestly, I had to look it up…it’s in the Mitter of nowhere) (Sorry, that was painful). The Landgasthof Fischer and the next-door Café Schwarz was a central location to all of the Markets. Every day after a delicious German Breakfast we would hop on a bus, and our skillful and ever-patient driver Bene would take us to a new unforgettable city.
German Christmas Market Tour
An unforgettable week at the Christmas Markets in Germany
Nuremburg’s Christmas Market from Above
This was my first ever visit to Nuremberg, and I can’t wait to go back. We arrived just as the Christkindlmarkt was opening, and I couldn’t wait to taste the Lebkuchen and Glühwein. They didn’t disappoint. The main Christkindlmarkt is in front of the Dom (as so many are) and there are rows and rows of stands with red and white striped roofs. There was so much to see and buy (and eat). Get up high to see the view from the top! The Children’s Market is around the corner, just past the Kinder Punsch and Schaumküssen stand (don’t just pass that stand, they are AMAZING!) There you will find lots of hands on Christmas activities for kids, like a bakery (to make and decorate cookies) and a post office (for sending letters to the Christkind). Around the OTHER corner of the Dom is the Sister City Christmas Market with booths from around the world. At 3pm the Christkind made an appearance in front of the Dom, and read us a poem. I’m delighted to say that after years of watching for her… I finally got to see her! (with a photo to prove it!)
I met the Christkindl!
Rothenburg ob der Tauber
The Christmas Market by the Rothenburg Dom
Just over 5 months ago my family and I were enjoying Spaghetti Eis in Rothenburg… this time I arrived in the middle of a snowstorm. It felt good to be on familiar (if cold) ground. My new friend Paula and I wandered to the Plönlein, admired a snowy view, shopped the Christmas Market, and enjoyed a delicious lunch at Der Reichsküchenmeister (we even had the same waiter who was there in July… watch for the guy with the Kentucky belt buckle). The Christmas Market in Rothenburg sprawls around the Dom, and has far fewer stalls than Nuremburg, but the town itself is one big year-round Christmas Market with plenty of shops selling Christmas décor and treats. There are 4 or 5 Käthe Wohlfahrt stores. (And it was nice to duck in when the rain started). It’s such an enchanting city, the snow just made it better.
Snow in Rothenburg
Paula and I started the day with Glühwein
I thought the Marienplatz was crowded in summertime, but oh MY there were a lot of people there shopping (or just wandering aimlessly) in the Christmas Market. Don’t miss the windows of the Galleria Kaufhof, they are decorated this year with stuffed animals, and many are animated! After a bit of being jostled and bumped, Paula and I headed to the Middle Ages market in the Residenz Courtyard. Old fashioned booths sold items you don’t generally find everywhere else (like bone handled knives and Charivari charms). The animated figures in the Märchenwald had kids wide-eyed! My favorite was probably the Viktuelenmarkt. Yes, yes, I know it’s all year, but at Christmas, you find loads of holiday goodies and décor. Plus, the Biergarten is always open! I HAVE to admire the crowds of locals drinking their beer in the drizzle. My secret shopping tip- go to the Samen Schmitz shop in the Viktuelenmarkt. they honestly have the cutest things!
The Marienplatz Christmas Market
Advent Market in the Katherinenspital
Another city I need to return to, Regensburg. I decided to start far away from where the bus dropped us work my way back, so I headed to the far side of the 1000-year-old Steinbrucke (Stone Bridge) to the Advent Market in the Katherinenspital. This cozy market had a tiny but adorable carousel, delicious Feuerzangenbowle, and sheep! The main Christkindl in the Neupfarrplatz is exactly how I imagine Christmas Markets. Stands containing beautiful ornaments, a magical carousel, and so much food and drink, I didn’t even know where to begin! The half-meter sausages? The Baumstreitzel? Eierpunsch? But the Romantic Christmas Market on the grounds and inner courtyard of the Thurn and Taxis Schloss was BY FAR, the most beautiful market of the whole trip. Unlike other Christmas Markets, this one requires an admission fee, but is worth every cent of the 9€. The lighting of the castle and grounds makes it seem you are in a Fairy Tale! The booths sell high quality goods, and the Christmas Tree that dominates the central courtyard is beautifully decorated. Did I mention the food? Reibekuchen (potato pancakes), Lachs (smoked salmon), Schinken Brötchen (ham rolls) with freshly cooked chopped ham, and of course Sausages. And the special Glühwein made with honey from the Castle’s bees? Unforgettable! Don’t forget to stroll the lit grounds, (And watch for the Princess, it’s her castle, and her market… and she sometimes wanders through)
Thurn und Taxis Christmas Market
Silent Night Chapel
On the way to Salzburg we made a short stop in Oberndorf.… but not for a Christmas Market. Just over 200 years ago on Christmas Eve, the song “Silent Night” was performed here for the first time. The tiny memorial chapel sits on a hill, and is open for visitors. Somehow our whole group managed to squeeze inside, and then they started to sing “Stille Nacht”… that will always be a special memory for me.
Inside the Silent Night Chapel
Mozart Kugeln EVERYWHERE
Ok, Salzburg isn’t in Germany, but who cares? At the main Christmas Market near the Dom there were beautiful ornaments and wood carvings. I was fascinated by the decorated egg ornaments, like the ones you hang on an Easter Tree, but with Christmas motifs. And of course, you can buy every sort of Mozart Kugel imaginable! The Altstadt of Salzburg sprawls a bit between the mountain and the river, so I wandered. There are pocket markets off the Getreidegasse, like the Sternmarkt, that had interesting and different things to see and buy (plus, there is the excitement of discovering a hidden corner!). Our group was taken to the Augustiner Brau at Kloster Mulln to recharge with beer and tasty food. From there I hiked over to the Advent Market Mirabellplatz. This little market seems to attract mainly locals who were enjoying the many Glühwein stands. I loved the candy stand! They had Schokoschirmchen (chocolate umbrellas)! A perfect sweet treat to end my day.
Advent Market at the Mirabelle
Feuerzangenbowle for one
Our trip ended in Straubing. Yes, there is a small Christmas Market in Straubing, with the best Feuerzangenbowle cups EVER, but this stop was mainly about ending the trip with a chance to slow down a bit. There are loads of stores in Straubing (to make sure we all got our supplies of Nivea, Chocolates, and for me, books). I was delighted to discover a few churches and chapels designed by the Asam Brothers. Because I’m a history nerd, I paid a visit to the Gäubodenmuseum and their fabulous exhibit of Roman artifacts. My Christmas Market experience ended on the ultimate high note. Just before the bus was to arrive, I raced into the Ursulinen Kirche, the Asam brothers final church. In front of the elaborate rococo altar, a choir of young people sang “the Carol of the Bells”. The music reverberating through that beautiful space brought tears to my eyes.
Last group photo in Straubing…missing a few people
And then it was done.
That evening the group gathered one last time for a goodbye party. Beer and Wine flowed, and a DJ got everyone up on the floor dancing We all had a chance to spend a little more time together. The next morning would be the usual frantic scramble to pack (we all stuffed our suitcases!), load the bus and head to the airport for the long trip home.
I want to thank Edie and Bryan for the opportunity to join them on this amazing adventure. They did such a great job putting the tour together (and keeping the group on track!). I feel like I’ve made friends for a lifetime.
With the success of this trip, they may be planning more … just as soon as they recover from this one!