Christmas Market 2014 Itinerary help

Jul 30th, 2014, 01:03 AM
  #1  
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Christmas Market 2014 Itinerary help

Hi, I need help in planning an itinerary to see the Christmas markets in the following places:

1. Berlin
2. Dresden
3. Salzburg
4. Vienna
5. Prague
6. Nuremberg

Here are my questions:

1- Where would be my base city? What cities/towns can be day trips?(Or would be going home hard at night because it'll be late, which would necessitate an overnight?)
2- If I do an open jaw flight from the US, where would I fly in and out of?
3- We would be traveling with a 5 year old so we want to be realistic, especially with the weather. We really dread the winter but we just brave it because of the Christmas market. We only experienced one when we were in London last Christmas and we were already happy with it, so we're looking forward to this trip
4- Are there parts that I can travel by train? and others by car? Or do I need to rent a car the whole trip?
5- Would this be easier if we were to do a river cruise?
6- Most importantly, we need to be able to attend a midnight Catholic mass on the 24th, where do you suggest we do this?
7- If a lot of places will be closed on the 25th, what can we do on that day?

Any other tips are appreciated

Thanks so much in advance!

J.
jing7600 is offline  
Jul 30th, 2014, 02:16 AM
  #2  
 
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It depends on what you want from your base. For example, Dresden is roughly the mid-point between Berlin and Prague, so if you stayed in Dresden, you could see the Prague and Berlin markets as daytrips. With Dresden as a base, you could also visit the scenic Erzgebirge area as a day trip if you have enough time in your schedule. By the way, the transport museum right next to the Dresden Christmas market (the one by the Frauenkirche) has fun interactive displays suitable to a 5 yo.

OTOH, if you also want some nightlife or a bigger city buzz, then Berlin should be your base and you could visit Dresden as a day trip. But Prague would be too far away for a day trip.

Re Nuremberg, I will admit to not being the biggest fan of their Christmas market only because it's the most famous (arguably) and therefore the most crowded. I'm not into crowded markets. The Dresden market, although also well-known, can be surprisingly uncrowded -- at least that has been my experience.

Finally, (again this is just my own viewpoint and experience) it's pretty easy to overload on Christmas markets, esp the big ones. The crowds can be wearing. With a young child, IMO, your trip might work better if you eliminated one or two of the big markets and went to a small town instead or did something else with that day.

Also, IMO, you don't need to rent a car. All of the places that you have listed are well served by public transportation. And during Christmas market season, finding parking can be difficult, esp on week-ends.
WeisserTee is offline  
Jul 30th, 2014, 02:22 AM
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Another plus-point for Dresden: there are several really nice serviced apartment/hotels that are reasonably priced. They have kitchenettes for making simple meals (very useful on Dec 25 when almost everything will be closed) and also come with washing machines.
I stayed in one of these for four weeks in December 2011 and loved it:
http://www.aparthotels-frauenkirche....n-english.html

I've also stayed in their Munzgasse and Neumarkt units. They were fine, although they didn't have the wonderful Frauenkirche views that come with the Altes Dresden units. However, all of their properties are justifiably popular so you need to make a decision quickly and book ASAP if you decide this is a preferred housing option.
WeisserTee is offline  
Jul 30th, 2014, 05:19 AM
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Your cities are too far apart to consider a "base city". Just overnight in each city.
sparkchaser is offline  
Jul 30th, 2014, 05:20 AM
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And rent a car. It will cheaper than trains and buses.
sparkchaser is offline  
Jul 30th, 2014, 05:30 AM
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One bit of advice for the Christmas market in Vienna--it is actually many different markets throughout the city. The main one in the center of town was more touristy, but the smaller ones off the side streets had better stalls and a more fun atmosphere. So be sure to ask around and explore!
kimharp is offline  
Jul 30th, 2014, 08:33 AM
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How many days do you have? Are those cities set in stone?
My picks would be fly into Berlin for 3 nights and see the markets in Berlin with day trips to Dresden, Weimar and Leipzig. Erfurt on the way to Nuremburg has a great market.
After Nuremburg head to Munich and then to Salzburg and Vienna. Fly home from Vienna.
It would be up to you on where to stay after Berlin. and after this you would have your fill of christmas markets. but I do love them and I go back almost every year.
MarthaT is offline  
Jul 30th, 2014, 12:01 PM
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Hi MarthaT, based on your suggestion, how many days do you think we need? I looked at the map and I like your suggestion. I'm torn between a car and taking the public transportation. I'm anticipating the problems with parking but I can imagine the convenience of bringing one.

Hi Sparkchaser, I did read some of your advice in another topic. Thank you for your inputs here as well!

Kimharp, how many nights do you suggest I stay in Vienna?

WeisserTee, that's a lot of useful information, thank you so much. That puts it all in perspective for me. I also like the idea of Dresden being my base just for me to see Prague as well, but how do I sequence the days?I really prefer to see all those cities I mentioned.
jing7600 is offline  
Jul 30th, 2014, 12:05 PM
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What if I fly into Munich and use it as base for Salzburg, Vienna and Nuremburg. Then we transfer to Dresden to use it as base for Prague and Berlin and flying out from either one of them? Does that make sense?
jing7600 is offline  
Jul 30th, 2014, 12:44 PM
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Salzburg and Nuremberg (not -burg) can be done from Munich but Viennna is too far for a day trip.

I also would not try Berlin and Prague in one day from Dresden, but rather visit some of the small towns in the surroundings for local flair and tradition! If there is any area in Germany which has unique and extraordinary local Christmas traditions it's the Ore Mountains in Saxony...
quokka is offline  
Jul 30th, 2014, 11:11 PM
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Pay special attention to holiday closings when planning (e.g. meals on 24 December, 25 December, 26 December (Boxing Day). For midnight masses in Vienna, look at the schedules for Stephansdom, Karlskirche, Augustrinerkirche, and Annakirche.

Christmas markets share many common features (Glühwein, Lebkuchen), but there are also markets with a special theme (Renaissance, handmade arts and crafts, etc.). If you know the dates you will be traveling, looking at each city's Christmas market schedule can help you find ones with a special theme; you can always fill in with the more touristy markets as needed.

We have visited markets in Berlin, Prague, Munich, and Vienna, and I offer our impressions.

In Berlin, the Weihnachtsmarkt am Gedachtniskirche had far more food stalls than items to purchase; the Wintertraum am Alexanderplatz (with a ferris wheel and other rides) was similar to Vienna's Christmasmarkt am Prater--very commercial offerings and lots of ordinary food; and the Gendarmenmarkt was our favorite, with interesting handcrafted items and a pleasant variety of different food stalls, as well.

At the Marienplatz market in Munich the stalls offer different shaped mugs, so it's fun to walk around and choose a favorite to purchase. The Munich markets also sell some of the best potato pancakes and weißwurst (sausage) we've eaten.

The Prague market in Stare Mesto (Old City) ranks as a favorite for the food. Too many touristy-souvernir tchtocke stalls otherwise. We've not been to any others, as we were in Prague after Christmas and many had closed.

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. There is now a small Christmas market surrounding Stephansdom; it's pleasant, but does not offer anything that you will likely not have seen many times over by the time you reach Vienna.

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.

Happy Planning!
fourfortravel is offline  
Jul 31st, 2014, 03:40 AM
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A day trip from Munich to Salzburg is probably doable, even on a cheap Bavaria ticket (reginal trains.)

Dresden as a base sounds perfect. The city offers all sorts of Christmas markets, but some of them close on 4th Advent Sunday. As do the majority elsewhere. If you want to experience the best of the Christmas markets, when they are in full swing, you better travel between 2nd and 3rd Advent.

Anyway, if your travel dates are set, you can still see in Dresden: the main Christmas market (Striezelmarkt, closes on 24 Dec 2 pm), the medieval Christmas market in Stallhof, closes 23 Dec, opens again at 27 Dec, 3 Euro admission on weekends), the Christmas market at Hauptstraße/Baroque quarter (closes 23 Dec) and the Romantic Christmas market at Neumarkt square (highly recommended, closes 22 Dec.)

Day trips to Berlin and Prague are easily doable. I personally was not impressed with Prague at Christmas time. Too crowded, the markets not very good (tacky stuff). And it would be just another city. More rewarding are the markets in smaller towns - like Annaberg-Buchholz, Schneeberg, Seiffen in the Erzgebirge mountains near Dresden.
Ingo is online now  
Jul 31st, 2014, 04:03 AM
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Thanks Ingo. I liked the medieval and romantic markets in Dresden best, but enjoyed them all. And I loved the wonderful live holiday music performed by very good musicians that spilled out from the various markets.

If the OP gets an apartment in the Altes Dresden building, one nice thing to do is get a bottle of good Saxon wine (I like the spatburgunder and Dornfelder reds and the goldriesling whites), sit by the living room windows and watch the market activities in and around the Frauenkirche and listen to the music. Esp. relaxing thing to do while the 5 yo has a nap.

I was surprised to see that some consider Berlin and Prague not doable as daytrips from Dresden. I did both, and also daytripped to Leipzig, Meissen, Bautzen, Herrnhut, and Gorlitz. As you may recall, the complete lack of snow in December 2011 (schade!!) made me cancel my planned trips to Erzgebirge. Maybe next year...and did I tell you that I passed a shop in the Ion mall in Singapore called Erzgebirge Haus? Wo bin ich ;-) http://www.erzgebirgehaus.com/
WeisserTee is offline  
Jul 31st, 2014, 07:53 AM
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Jing, I would say 10 days should cover it. A car would be much more handy to get from place to place but not in the cities so much. Staying in Munich and Dresden makes sense but not for Vienna.
MarthaT is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2014, 01:59 AM
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Weisser Tee, I totally agree that these apartments sound perfect for a stay. Watching the activities at the markets going on while you enjoy a good local red wine in your room would be great! I didn't think of that - must be ideal in too cold weather. Yep, no snow in December 2011, and none in 2013, but a lot in 2012 - can you detect a pattern? ;-)

I didn't know about that Erzgebirge Haus in Singapore. LOL! Thanks for the link, too. Seems they have a good selection of products.

Hope you make it this year to the Dresden markets (and how about having a cup of Glühwein together?)

I.
Ingo is online now  

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