Christmas in Europe

Old May 3rd, 2017, 06:31 AM
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Christmas in Europe

Hi All, looking for some advice about best place to head in Europe over the Christmas period. We are planning a family holiday for 2018. There could possibly be as many as 10 of us but definately 5 as a minimum, adults and kids ( 9&11). We will have 5/6 weeks which will include Lapland for Christmas, then Edinburgh for New Years and then down to London before flying home. What I need help on is the before Christmas, we would like to take in the Christmas atmosphere with the markets etc but are unsure where to start from. We will have approximately 11 days. At the moment options under consideration are:
1) fly into Paris then to Strasbourg, Colmar possibly Aachen or Cologne
2) fly into Vienna then to Cesky Krumlov and Prague
Any suggestions or experiences or even alternatives greatly appreciated. We will be travelling from Oz leaving around the 9/10 of Dec and planning an open jaw ticket flying into Europe and out of London. Thanks in advance
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Old May 3rd, 2017, 09:52 AM
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I would do #1. German Christmas markets are the big draw. Why those particular cities? And I would add two days into that portion- the markets close down the 23rd.

I'd probably do Strasbourg- Nuremberg- Dresden- wherever else you are interested in. Other than markets, you haven't really put your interests. Are you doing time in Paris before heading out? Or just using Paris as your entry?

Lapland for Christmas sounds like a lot of fun!
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Old May 3rd, 2017, 10:05 AM
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While German Christmas markets are excellent, the ones in Scandinavia are also beautiful. The poster could just as easily do Stockholm, Talinn, and Copenhagen.

If I were going the Germany/Austria route, I'd probably fly into Vienna, then go to Salzburg, Munich, and Nuremberg (the biggest in Europe). Norwegian Air serves Munich, so they could probably get to Lapland via Norwegian from there. But Budapest has a great Christmas market, too.
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Old May 3rd, 2017, 07:05 PM
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Nuremberg has a castle. And really amazing churches. If you have any interest in Nazi history, the documentation center (cite of the old parade grounds) was great. Gave excellent insight into Nuremberg's history and what it had to do to rebuild after the war. The market is one of the larges and most authentic oriented. And the market food is amazing- i loved the Nuremberg sausages.

Rothenberg ob der tauber is fun, and not too far from Nuremberg. I wasn't crazy about the market, but the town is a walled city- fantastic city museum, but the whole town is like walking into history.

Munich is another possibility. If you don't know much about Germany, chances are you're picturing Bavaria. Beer halls, the glockenspiel, etc.

There are of course Ludwig's palaces. Probably the best known German "castle" but ironically not a castle. I believe you can see those on a day trip from Munich. Dachau is also close to Munich. Munich, though, is a major city and if you have any interest in the major sights, 3-4 nights is basically a bare minimum for just the city.

You can even stay in a castle- there are hotels and hostels in castles. So you may want to choose a destination based on special lodging.

But I honestly don't think there are an bad choices. I'd google "best German Christmas markets" and read through the descriptions to see what appeals. They're all a little different. Different regional specialities, different settings, different traditions. I really wanted to see a miners parage but it unfortunately didn't coincide with my dates.

It can be tempting to fit as many cities as possible in but keep in mind that even tiny places have great museums and churches and you want to leave time to just wander and see stuff. And like you said everything is very close together. You could just pick one region of Germany- Black Forest, or Bavaria or Thuringia and that would fill up all of your time with far less travel.
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Old May 3rd, 2017, 07:30 PM
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Hm. Typed up a nice long reply and the site ate it. (Well, it's not showing up, anyway).

Short version: lots of great castles. Nuremberg has a castle and that might be most convenient if you don't want to go out of your way. But there are hotels in some castles, and one of my favorite parts of Europe was the old buildings you can stay in. So maybe explore locations from that angle. Ludwig's palaces can be done as a day trip from Munich and chances are that those might be what you're thinking of- although not castles at all, they are among the most recognizable German architecture.

It's tempting to cram too many locations into your itinerary; keep in mind that even little villages have a tremendous amount of history. As you've noticed, distances between places is rather short (at least if on the fast rail line) but attractions are dense in concentration.

I'd get a guide book if you haven't already and also google "best Christmas markets in Germany". There is so much info out there. And they're all a little different. Different settings, decorations, foods, traditions. I loved the Nuremberg angel. I didn't get a chance to see a miner's parade, which was a bummer.

You could just as easily pick 1 region of Germany to see and cut down on your travel. Thuringia, Bavaria, Black Forest, etc. these all have distinct histories and cultures.

And then it's what else interests you. Munich has a great science museum. Nuremberg has the Nazi documentation center which was fantastic. Dresden has the Green Vault- basically a king's treasury in jewels, art, etc.
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Old May 3rd, 2017, 07:31 PM
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We live in Vienna, and have taken several long weekends with our children (teens at the time) to enjoy the Christmas markets in Salzburg, Munich, and Innsbruck. Here are our impressions if you are interested.

http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...zkammergut.cfm

http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...et-weekend.cfm

http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...as-markets.cfm

In Vienna it really pays to do your Christmasmarkt homework; otherwise it is too easy to be lulled into monotony. There is, of course, the "big" WienerChristkindlmarkt at Rathaus: commercial and touristy, but so merry and bright that you can't help but feel holiday cheer. For other markets, the setting is more enjoyable than the actual market offerings (Schloss Schönbrun and Schloss Belvedere come to mind, especially at night); while the reverse is true for the AltWiener Christmasmarkt and markets like the ones at Karlsplatz and Am Hof, all of which offer beautiful handcrafted items and excellent food but without a palace backdrop. Then there is the Spittelberg Adventmarkt, which combines artsy and handcrafted items in the tiny lanes of the Spittelberg area, trimmed with pretty Biedermeier architecture. Other markets are only open for a particular weekend, and may be in a spectacular setting (Schloss Graffenegg and Burgruine Aggstein, for example) or have a theme, like the medieval Adventmarkt at the Military History Museum or the botanic theme at Hirschstetten Botanical Garden.

The market at the Altes AKH (Old General Hospital) is super child-friendly with small and pleasant rides and often animals to pet. Traditional craftsmen can also be seen practicing their crafts, too. The food and drink is "meh," though.

A little further afield (and a short train ride) from Vienna are the Bratislava Christmas markets. A friend and I day-tripped to experience their two markets, and found them enjoyably small, folksy, and with no shortage of heavy and delicious Central European fare.

I hope this is helpful.
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Old May 3rd, 2017, 07:32 PM
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Sorry for the double post. No idea what is going on with this site tonight. Good luck!
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Old May 3rd, 2017, 07:34 PM
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Where "in Lapland" are you going?
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Old May 3rd, 2017, 09:39 PM
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Thankyou very much for your replies. If we fly into Paris we will plan to spend and few days there. I am hoping to spend 2/3 days in each place. Those suggestions sound great and I will definitely look into Nuremberg as another option. I just didn't want to spend too much time in travel however I have just had a look at travel times between places and 4 hours or so isn't bad, Im not used to major points being so close together.

Seeing the Christmas markets is the big drawcard however we would like to take in other attractions as well, historical sites, a Castle or two. Strasbourg was picked simply due to reviews I had read and I was trying to keep travel to a minimum when picking other not realising that the distances between places wasn't huge.

None of us have been to Europe before so I am having a hard time narrowing down our options so we are not trying to fit in too much. Thankyou so much for your help
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Old May 3rd, 2017, 09:47 PM
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Wow thank you for your great responses. Yes the German War history is of great interest to me so I would love to include that. My Grandfather was a WW2 Bomber pilot so I will be trying to work some those sites into our trip. Vienna sounds just amazing and I think I am leaning towards that area rather than the French side just for this trip. It's mind boggling to think that there is so much culturally to do in such a small area (compared to Australia) and I do think you are right it can be tempting to cram to many places in and the miss the real feeling of where you are.

For Lapland we are thinking we would try to fly into Rovameni spend 2 days there with the Kids at the Santa attractions and then head up to Levi for 3/4 days over Christmas and do a bit of the Reindeer/ husky/ northern lights from Levi. Reason for this is that I have heard mixed reviews the Rovameni is a little commercialised and that Levi is fun and kid friendly. We thought this was a good option. However happy to be corrected. Our other option is to skip Lapland altogether and focus more time on Central Europe as it would give us a whole extra week. Lapland especially rovameni was an experience for the kids, I am sure we would love it too but really more geared around giving the kids that Santa / White Christmas experience. Us Aussies and our fixation with White Christmas must make a lot of you laugh. Thanks for all your help it greatly appreciated
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Old May 3rd, 2017, 09:48 PM
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The Christmas market on the Champs-Elysees is frankly a waste of time, unless you just want to indulge in "vin chaud" and forgettable street food.
There are other Christmas markets in Paris, but they all seem to sell the same exact items, which can be bought in most department stores.
If you have to fly into Paris, I'd suggest spending the night - you will need a couple or maybe more hotel rooms, if the whole family is coming - and get on the first train to Strasbourg or the other fine Christmas markets people have mentioned.
You should book rooms ahead of time in Paris and elsewhere, since it's a busy time of year.
You should also purchase train tickets 90 days ahead of time for best prices. If the whole family is going, you will qualify for reduced group tickets.
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Old May 4th, 2017, 04:25 AM
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If you go to Paris, you can see the sumptuous Christmas decoration of Galerie Lafayette and Printemps, which can rival any Christmas market. See this thread of kerouac:

http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...paris-2016.cfm

Pair it with the Christmas market in Strasbourg, and Germany then you'll have a varying trip.
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Old May 4th, 2017, 03:18 PM
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I went to Paris during the 2016 Christmas season. I also concur about the Champs-Elysees Market. It was a bust. They are just usual weekly market things plus Vin Chaud. If you have to go to one in Paris, the ones at La Defense was better. Even so, it makes sense to see more markets in Germany than spending any time at markets in Paris. The Strasbourg ones are spectacular, however. There are multiple large markets in Strasbourg and the streets are lit up differently.
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Old May 4th, 2017, 03:48 PM
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The Australian obsession with white Christmas does indeed make me laugh but I promise I am not laughing at you. My last trip two highlights were watching my Brazilian roommates glue themsleves to the window in the morning the first time they saw snow, and then going to DLP with an Aussie during the snow.

It was like watching little kids. And it definitely elevated my own mood which was "ugh. White stuff". The funny thing is that it wasn't even a flurry by my standards (not big flakes and not sticking) and they were twirling around and screeching about how much beautiful snow was falling. sonif I was laughing then it was the joy I got watching them

I don't know. I think you may be able to find snow in the alps, too, which would probably be easier to reach than Finland. No flying, just trains. I didn't see snow in the lowland areas but I met several ski tourists on the train between Munich and Venice- they were headed to Innsbruck. So I'm thinking there must be good white stuff somewhere closer...and then you could maybe add extra time onto your Central Europe time.
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Old May 5th, 2017, 04:50 AM
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Yes we do go a little crazy over it our red dirt doesn't have the same kind of wonderland feel to it. I have been searching some good snowy options for non ( really bad) skiers as a possibility. Thanks all, I really appreciate your helpful response. The trip reports on the Christmas markets were excellent.
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Old May 6th, 2017, 09:16 PM
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Sounds like a wonderful adventure for your family. I was in Paris for a few days in December 2015 and if this is your first trip to Europe I would definitely book some time there. Skip the Paris Christmas markets if you are going to Strasbourg (I loved Strasbourg at Christmas) or Germany and focus on museums if that interests you or Paris' other unique sights. Check online for Christmas concerts at the Sainte Chapelle. The concert we attended was not long and the chapel so beautiful that the children should enjoy it. Stop at the café across the street for hot chocolate afterward and you might see some of the musicians there.

FuryFluffy is right about the decorations at the two department stores, they were spectacular. Don't miss the tree under the dome in Galerie Lafayette. We didn't have time to shop but the next day passed a Catholic bookshop near Le Bon Marche which had some lovely Christmas decorations which we bought. I thought Notre Dame was especially beautiful to visit at that time of year.
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Old May 6th, 2017, 09:21 PM
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Good point about Notre Dame. I went into every German and Italian church I passed to see the crèche/nativity. ND's beat them all hands down!
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