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Christmas/New Year's Salzburg/Munich Opinion

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Aug 25th, 2014, 11:26 AM
  #1
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Christmas/New Year's Salzburg/Munich Opinion

I am finalizing trip plans for myself, my son (22) and my daughter (14). My son will be spending the next four months in Ireland and we have decided to meet and spend Christmas together. After much reading of posts and trip reports I have decided (I think!) on Salzburg for Christmas and Munich for New Year's.

Rough itinerary is as follows:
Arrive in Munich (due to airline availability) on 12/21,
night of 12/21 in Munich to rest
Train to Salzburg 12/22
Stay in Salzburg 12/22-12/29
I would like to visit the markets around Lake Wolfgangsee, visit the ice caves, go to midnight mass and take an overnight to Vienna.
12/29 depart for Munich
I would like to visit the sights there, visit Neufschwanstein Castle and I have heard Munich is a fun place to spend New Year's eve.
Depart for home on 1/3

My questions are:
Does the time I've allotted seem good?
Do you agree with Munich for New Years or would Vienna (or another place?) be better.
Is an overnight trip to Vienna sufficient?

I chose Salzburg as it seemed smaller and more manageable during the Christmas season but I am open to suggestions including Vienna for Christmas with an overnight to Salzburg.

Thanks so much for any input.
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Aug 25th, 2014, 11:29 AM
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I also meant to say that I realize it is getting late to be planning this but I have found two nice apartments (one in Salzburg and one in Munich) to rent and have checked availability in Vienna as well. Thanks you!
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Aug 25th, 2014, 11:56 AM
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Hi Travellingmom,

Sounds like a great trip, but I definitely think you are not giving Vienna enough time. It is such a lovely city. I was there a few years ago (not at Christmas)and spent 4 days in Vienna and 1 in Salzburg. I am not saying you should change you whole trip around, but I would give Vienna at least one more night (if not two more). 7 days in Salzburg seems like a lot, but it looks as though you have some things that you definitely want to do, so maybe not. Enjoy the trip no matter what you decide!
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Aug 25th, 2014, 12:18 PM
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Thanks macksix - I was feeling like this was the case. I can definitely split the week or switch our base city and spend an overnight in Salzburg. I am drawn to the markets of Lake Wolfgangsee and they seem less commercial than I've experienced in big cities such as Paris. My guess is that I would find some similar near Vienna.
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Aug 25th, 2014, 12:43 PM
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Our family spent two Christmases in Salzburg, and we've visited the Salzkammergut on extended trips at other times of year as well. We loved Salzburg at Christmastime... it's truly magical. The Christmas markets there wrap up around noon on Christmas Eve and Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are very quiet. (We went to concerts on Christmas night in Salzburg both times.)

You'll need a car to visit the Salzkammergut. St. Gilgen, St. Wolfgang, and Hallstatt are all special, though they will be quiet at that time of year. In St. Gilgen you should be able to take the cable car up to the top of the Zwolferhorn mountain.

I agree that Vienna needs more than an overnight trip, especially since you'll spend 2-1/2 hours to get there. It's a great city... I'd recommend a concert there as well. And you can spend much of a day at the Schonbrunn.

Both of our Christmas trips started in Munich and we spent time there, once at the beginning and once on the back-end. I really liked the Christmas market in Munich. We've been to Munich many times and there's a lot to see and do there at any time of year. I can see that it would be a good base for New Year's. I expect Vienna could be a good New Year's base too.

We had a car to drive out to the Bavarian Alps and spent a few nights in Oberammergau. Garmisch would also be a good base there and you could travel to/from Garmisch by train, but you'd ideally need a car to visit the castles or smaller villages. (Some people take a day tour from Munich.) You could also do a day trip to Innsbruck.

One year we did have quite a bit of snow when we were in Oberammergau. Our rental car had snow tires, but that's still something you might be prepared for.

Kathy
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Aug 25th, 2014, 12:47 PM
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I live in Munich, and I'd pair Salzburg (for Christmas) and Vienna (for NYE).
Munich is somewhat the same size in Vienna (1.3 vs 1.8mn), but Munich has much more a "small town" feeling than Vienna.
You may also want to check Ryanair for nonstop flights from Dublin to Salzburg, so you don't have to go via Munich.
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Aug 25th, 2014, 01:07 PM
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Thank you KathyWood and Cowboy1968. This is such helpful information. I was hesitating to rent a car - is driving confusing/difficult is I do not know German? I would love to be able to go up into the mountains. Thanks for the suggestion to pair Salzburg and Vienna - this is my biggest question mark! We have two weeks and if I arrange it well I believe we can visit all three (Salzburg, Vienna and Munich).
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Aug 25th, 2014, 02:44 PM
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I cannot say if it is confusing or difficult as German is my mother tongue
Just some generic advice: If you start your trip in Munich and want to end in Vienna, check the rental car companies' fine print for the extra fee for cross-border rentals. It can be a substantial amount.
Otherwise people drive here (with winter tires) in December or January as much as in July or August.
It can be "difficult" for someone who usually does not drive on snow, ice or slush, but there is no rocket science involved. Mountain roads are plowed/gritted as much as those in lower elevations - with the exception of some mountain pass roads which stay closed until spring.
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Aug 25th, 2014, 03:28 PM
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How true Cowboy1968! Thanks for your encouragement!
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Aug 25th, 2014, 07:23 PM
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I don't believe the ice caves are open in the winter.
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Aug 25th, 2014, 09:32 PM
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Depending on when you time your visit to Vienna, there may be some of the smaller and more interesting Christmas markets open (many are only open on certain weekends). For example, the Military History Museum in Vienna hosts a middle ages market for only one weekend, as do several of the area palaces and castles. A little research may help to avoid the bigger and more commercial markets.

New Year's Eve in Vienna is a remarkable event. The Inner Stadt hosts a series of events throughout the day, "Silvesterpfad" (New Year's Eve Path); and the normally reserved Viennese start with the fireworks in the early afternoon and carry on into the new year. We personally find the behavior frightening, and, dangerous--people have no qualms about lighting fireworks next to cars and trams, or standing around on a busy street setting off explosives, even in the middle of the afternoon. It's not all mayhem, of course, but an experience we're quite content to have "checked off" our list. The main fireworks are at Heldenplatz; bring ear protection.
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Aug 25th, 2014, 10:38 PM
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Hi travellingmom3,

Wow, I find some of KathyWood's information to be very wrong.

You do NOT need a car to see and enjoy the lakes around the Salzkammergut. I spent several days in St. Gilgen without a car and got around wonderfully on the public busses that criss-cross the region. The busses are fun and convenient, so, no, you do NOT need a car.

Similarly, you do NOT need a car to visit the castles and smaller villages of the Bavarian Alps. I live in Garmisch and don't have a car. I get around perfectly well and visit many villages and castles. There are many busses and trains that link them all conveniently.

I would encourage you to think about taking trains for your entire trip and ditch the car.

First of all, using the trains is more fun! It adds a layer of European adventure to your European adventure. You can take a road trip almost anywhere in the world, but using a good transport system is getting more and mroe rare. And since there is such a great system in place, it seems a shame not to experience it at least once.

Secondly, it will get you into the population. You won't be isolated inside your private bubble, and you'll be interacting with locals and people who are not in business or in tourism. It's prime people-watching time -- you can see the fashionistas coming back from a spree in Paris or Milan, the familes out to visit relatives, the matrons enjoying a day out in the city, and the oldersters on a hiking weekend. You'll be able to see how teens treat the elderly and how families interact.

It's more relaxing to take the train. Yes, there are often traffic jams on the highways (Stau) in the wintertime, and you'll be trying to navigate winding streets in the dense traffic of a city. If you take the train, you can eat, read, listen to music, play cards, chat together, meet your seat-mates or even nap. You get to travel from city center to city center without fuss or hassle.

And finally, using the trains is more green, yaaay! We're already feeling the effects of Global Climate Change here -- we no longer have snow on the Zugspitze through the summer, and the glacier is melting at a fast rate (scientists say that all the Bavarian glaciers will be gone in 30 years). Our ski season was cut short by about a month last year, and we barely had enough snow to ski on as early as Feb. So, you may be very happy to take the trains and help keep this area beautiful for future generations to enjoy.

One final note -- I don't think you need to stay overnight in Munich upon arrival. I think it will be more hassle (lugging your cases to a hotel, checking in, unpacking, then packing up again, checking out, and lugging your cases to Salzburg). Just chalk up the arrival day to travel, gut it out, and get to Salzburg (just 2h by train). Then, you'll wake up in the morning where you wanted to be.

Have fun as you plan!

s
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Aug 26th, 2014, 11:33 PM
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Thank you fourfortravel and swandav2000 for your suggestions. I am leaning towards Vienna for New Year's after reading about the New Year's path. Thanks or bringing this to my attention (and I'll be sure to bring ear protection!).

I love traveling by train for all the reasons you pointed out swandav2000 and I am encouraged by your comments that I can make my way where I want to go using public transportation. Since you live there, may I ask if you think Garmisch would be a good base for a few days or could you recommend another spot? Thanks also for the suggestion to not stay in Munich. I thik you are right that it would delay the transition.
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Aug 27th, 2014, 02:23 AM
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travellingmom3, swandav makes valid statements in favor of public transportation, but also do consider renting a car, as it may be more economical for 3 persons and would give you greater flexibility to detour here, stay a little longer there, or stop for lunch/shopping in a small village where the local culture is likely to be more authentic than the tourists on WestBahn going between Salzburg and Vienna.

By way of example, I looked earlier this week for roundtrip train tickets (Vienna-Munich-Vienna) for DH and I to attend our daughter's XC tournament in mid-October. The ÖBB (Austrian railways) quote was €156/$205(total), so we'll be driving and most likely stopping for dinner on the return at a favorite restaurant in St. Gilgen. We could play the two train game (Vienna to Salzburg on WestBahn, and Salzburg to Munich on ÖBB) for less, but that isn't worth our time. Granted, as well, we also have a personal vehicle, but I mention this example to suggest considering what you would like to see and do between Munich and Vienna, and how best to make that happen.

By New Year's, of course, the holiday markets in Vienna will be over. Along the main tourist streets in the InnerStadt you will find stalls offering the whole range of New Year's good luck tokens, and perhaps a few food stalls, but nothing on the order of the Christmasmarkts. Also want to mention that the Vienna Philharmonic New Year's concert is broadcast on the big screen on 1 January in front of the Rathaus (City Hall).
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Aug 27th, 2014, 06:54 AM
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Hi again,

Well, naturally I'm a bit partial to Garmisch, lol! But yes, I do think it's a great hub for this area.

There are convenient and frequent busses to Ettal, Oberammergau, and Lindau (all in the same general vicinity), good links to Füssen/Hohenschwangau, to Mittenwald/Seefled/Innsbruck, etc.

In addition, in town you can explore the pretty residential backstreets of town (around Husarenweg/Kleinfeldstrasse in Garmisch and Sonnenbergstrasse/Brunnenhäuslweg in Partenkirchen), see the beautiful fields next to the St. Martinstrasse, and walk the river path next to the Loisach. You can also walk from Garmisch to Grainau, or from Grainau to the Eibsee, or walk around the Eibsee; you can walk the Kramerplateauweg or the Philosophenweg. You can also ascend the Zugspitze and the Alpspitze.

fourfortravel, I also have to disagree with you! In Bavaria, 3 persons can travel all day on the Bavaria Ticket for 31 Euro (for all three, not per person), and that will cover you also to/from Salzburg. And, again, you can very easily get off the beaten path with trains and busses; you can either stop enroute and get off at a forgotten little town (Oberau is one of my favorites, or Grainau, etc), or you can make a special excursion to a small village. It's easy and convenient. Put your stuff in a luggage locker and explore for the day. Then hop on another train, and off you go!

s
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Aug 27th, 2014, 06:05 PM
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Hmmm, well I understand swandav's comments in favor of using public transportation and appreciate her viewpoint as a local resident, but I'll stick by my recommendation of a car in the countryside assuming you're okay about driving.

Since you'll be splitting your time between a few areas, I think you want to use that time well. In the countryside and smaller towns, a car gives you more flexibility to travel on your own schedule and to make spontaneous stops. So we like having a car for that reason.

That said, if you just want to spend a day in the Bavarian Alps or do a day trip into the Salzkammergut, it's not practical to rent a car for a day. Take the bus or train and visit what's possible given the schedules, or take a tour to the castles from Munich or to the Salzkammergut from Salzburg.

We've stayed in Garmisch for a week two times, though both times in the summer. I love the location in the mountains. Even though it's a good-sized town, you still have a sense of being in the countryside.

Kathy
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Aug 27th, 2014, 09:38 PM
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Thank you Kathy and swandav for your valuable input. I will certainly be taking both positions into account as I continue the planning process. I think it's great that both options are available and doable!
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Aug 28th, 2014, 07:48 PM
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the ice caves at Dachstein will be closed between October 27 2014 and May 2015.

You don't say where you are traveling from, but if you are coming from the USA or Canada, you will undoubtedly have a night flight and will arrive in Europe during the morning hours. You will have sufficient time to take the train to Salzburg. The train from Munich to Salzburg runs frequently and is under 2 hours.

St Wolfgang is about 40 minutes from Salzburg, maybe a bit more depending on traffic, weather, etc.

You should check the dates for the Advent fair in St Wolfgang and the Christmas markets in St Gilgen. There are traffic free areas in the towns, but there are parking lots within walking distance.

As it will be December, remember you will have fewer hours of daylight. If you think you would rather spend a night or two around Lake Wolfgang, rather than make a trip back to Salzburg, make your hotel reservation early on.

If you decide to spend all of your time between Salzburg, Lake Wolfgang and Vienna, see if you can get a flight to Salzburg via Frankfurt,or Munich and the train, with a return from Vienna, rather than backtracking.
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Sep 5th, 2014, 01:11 PM
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We will be spending New Year in Vienna also, so I am tagging along on several of travellingmom3's posts.
Regarding the Vienna Christmas Market in front of Schönbrunn Palace that is converted to the New Year Market (http://www.wien.info/en/shopping-win...istmas-markets), are the two basically the same thing, or is the New Year market much reduced?
One note about the Bavaria Ticket that swandav2000 mentioned. It is only valid after 09:00 for Monday-Friday (but all day on weekends). We were in Munich-Salzburg in April of last year and took an early morning train to Salzburg, and had to buy individual tickets because the group ticket did not cover it.
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Sep 7th, 2014, 08:44 AM
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New Year's markets are different from Christmas markets, at least in Vienna. The offerings at the New Year's "markets" (and that is a generous term) are essentially a million different kinds of small tokens all thought to bring good luck in the New Year (tiny pigs, chimney sweeps, ladybugs, four-leaf clovers, you name it!) Perhaps the New Year's market at Schönbrunn is new?
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