Germany/Austria/Switzerland at Christmas

Aug 16th, 2015, 07:15 PM
  #1  
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Germany/Austria/Switzerland at Christmas

Hello all-

We've decided to spend Christmas with friends in Germany this year. We will arrive in Munich on 12/18 at 7:30 am and would like to see some of the countries listed above. My thoughts are after spending a day or 2 in Munich, I'd love to see the Christmas market and Hofburg Castle in Vienna, do a Sound of Music Tour in Salzburg then head towards Lucerne, Bern or Basel, Switzerland. Eventually we would head towards Stuttgart (where my friend lives) and back to Munich for our departing flight on 12/28.

This is just a rough guide of things we'd like to do and see. I realize it is busy and we might need to eliminate something. There are 2 things I am most curious about. We need to find a place to spend Christmas. Many hotels are booked already. I'd like to be at some sort of resort and people have mentioned Jungfrau and Lower Bavaria as nice options. Where we choose to spend Christmas will affect our itinerary. Any thoughts on possible locations for a festive Christmas away from home that will be able to accomodate 9 people? Next, with the winter weather possibilities, would you consider renting a car to do the trip or rely on eurorail and public transportation?

Thanks for your guidance!
Heather
hworth1976 is offline  
Aug 16th, 2015, 09:08 PM
  #2  
 
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The weeks leading up to Christmas, from Advent to Christmas Eve in Vienna are magical. The markets are lively and the city twinkles with lights. All of that pretty much grinds to a halt around midday or so on Christmas Eve, when the Viennese retreat to their homes for Christmas Day preparations and tourists take to hotels for dinner reservations. Christmas Day and St. Stephan's Day (26 December) are very quiet here.

For planning, there are quite a few Christmas markets in Vienna. The Christmas market I'll presume you're talking about is the Weiner Christkindlmarkt at Rathaus. It is the largest market in Vienna, and also the brightest, most crowded and commercial, and least authentic. If you attend it at night, though, you'll be hard pressed not to feel at least some holiday spirit.

(Just for clarification, Homburg is a palace and not a castle.)

Happy planning!
fourfortravel is offline  
Aug 16th, 2015, 09:17 PM
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Hi hworth1976,

I strongly recommend you look into an open-jaw flight, so you can fly into Munich and out of Zürich -- save time & money backtracking You can find open-jaw flights at your airline's "multiple destination" tab or the "other option" tab, and they are usually no more expensive than a regular round-trip. Even if you have to pay some kind of change fee for the tickets, it might still be worth it.

Then, you could fly into Munich and see Bavaria, then see your friends at Stuttgart, then go onward to Switzerland.

Oh, I always recommend using public transportation -- you aren't isolated inside a private bubble so you get closer to the native culture; it's a lot more fun to sit back and enjoy the scenery than trying to navigate through it; it'll add a new and European flavor to your trip; driving and parking in cities is a pain in the neck; and finally, it's more green (easy and fun way to reduce your carbon footprint).

Have fun as you plan!

s
swandav2000 is online now  
Aug 17th, 2015, 07:25 PM
  #4  
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Thank you both! I was just online looking at eurorail passes before checking the forum responses! I think the trains seem easy but I've never done it before. In the US we just drive everywhere!

I did already buy the plane tickets so I'll look into a change fee. Thank you for the tip. I've been doing more research about Austria today and now I'm dying to see Innsbruck and Salzburg and maybe leave Vienna for another trip because of the distance away from where we need to go. Is this a mistake?

My husband really wants to do some cross country skiing. This was my reason for looking into Switzerland. Is it too far to consider a 3-4 day base in Grinderwald with a day trip to Lucerne or Bern? Or is it possible to do this in Austria at Christmas time?

Any idea on a resort or home for a group of 9 to spend Christmas at?

Thanks for any help with the many questions!
Heather

So many options and ideas now! I'm very interested in peoples thoughts.
hworth1976 is offline  
Aug 17th, 2015, 10:01 PM
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Hi again,

Yup, I know how we Americans are about our cars. I gave up my car when I moved to Germany, and it was a great decision. That's why I think using the trains would add an extra layer of unique adventure to your trip and make it more memorable.

A train pass may not be the most economical option. Once you have your itinerary nailed down, you can buy point-point tickets, and the advance-sale tickets are always at a big discount, like 29€ or 39€ per person. If your travel is within a region, you can benefit from the German rail's "Lander Ticket" that works like a pass for up to 5 people travelling. You can find this information at the German rail site

www.bahn.com

You can get the fares of the Swiss tickets at the Swiss rail site

www.sbb.ch

I'm not certain that there will be cross-country skiing at Christmas, as that's pretty early for having that much snow (thanks to Global Climate Change). You'll need to look at the elevation of your destination, whether in Switzerland or in Austria. Yes, Grindelwald has some cross-country trails.

http://grindelwald.ch/en/Holidays/WI...Country_Skiing

I'm not sure if you'll know in advance if there is enough snow for cross-country; you may only know for sure a few days or a week before you leave the US. You could discuss this in emails with the tourist offices in the towns you're considering or in emails with the hotels you're considering.

Good luck with your search!

s
swandav2000 is online now  
Aug 18th, 2015, 07:50 AM
  #6  
 
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If you have decided to ride trains between your destinations you might want to consider lining them up in a linear manner, Vienna, Salzburg, Munich, Stuttgart, Zurich.
AisleSeat is offline  
Aug 18th, 2015, 12:48 PM
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And for sure take some day trips to small towns near the larger towns that you base in. they can be beautiful during the holiday season.
JulieVikmanis is offline  
Aug 18th, 2015, 01:49 PM
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Cars for just large cities are useless - take the train - especially in winter when autoroutes and roads can become icy - one Christmas in Munich it was very icy and cold - not normal but could happen - even trains can be seriously delayed by a little snow but more dependable and worry free.

www.bahn.de/en has all the fares and yes those 29-39 euro discounted tickets which sold in limited numbers must be booked in stone (non-changeable; hefty refund fee) weeks in advance - if you want full flexibility to hop virtually any train anytime then look at the German RailPass (Twin if two traveling together at cheaper p.p.) as with three long full fare tickets it may indeed be cheeaper and you just show up at the station and hop any of zillions of trains. But the fares are all there - for railpasses costs and a wealth of info on German trains check www.budgeteuropetravel.com; www.ricksteves.com and www.seat61.com - great info latter one on discounted tickets. German Railpasses are valid into Salzburg, Austria.
PalenQ is offline  
Aug 19th, 2015, 09:27 AM
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Where to spend Christmas?

It is quite a question. There are hotels in the countryside which have magical Christmas programs - but many of them have been fully booked for a year or so. (BTW, the main Christmas event in Germany and Austria would be the evening of Dec. 24.)

Try this group of 3/4 star hotels - they usually have good Christmas programs:

http://www.romantikhotels.com/en

In a big city (like Vienna) you will certainly find business hotels which are available on Christmas (and usually have very good rates). They will also offer Christmas dinners and other activities, but certainly not so romantic as the country hotels. But it is worth a try.

Use www.hrs.com to find a hotel that fits into your budget and then go to the hotel's website to find out what they offer at Christmas.

This is just an example:

The Imperial Hotel (5 stars) offers on Dec. 24 a champagne toast at 17:00, followed by a concert and afterwards a five-course dinner with wine pairings. On Dec. 25 and 26 they offer Christmas brunch from 11:30 to 15:00.

Other hotels offer similar programs.
traveller1959 is offline  
Aug 19th, 2015, 07:28 PM
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Thank you everyone! I appreciate your time. I've been busy researching! We've decided to spend Christmas in Grindelwald,Switzerland. I spoke with the lady who owns the hotel Gleschergarten today- she was amazing and I can't wait to experience Christmas there!!

Still having a hard time with my decision on trains vs rental car. I may have to make a separate post for this one. If it were just my husband and me, we'd take the train no doubt. Its the 3 young children traveling with us that give me pause!
hworth1976 is offline  
Aug 19th, 2015, 11:34 PM
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I'm sure you'll be happy with your destination choice, but the Engadine would be a better bet for some cross-country skiing opportunities. I've been there in December several times and there's usually been enough snow.

Extensive cross country skiing very close by (more than in the Grindelwald/Lauterbrunnen area) plus plenty of other activities for the family. http://www.engadin.stmoritz.ch/winte...in-the-valley/

Just in case you decide to consider the Engadine, this would be my number one rec: Hotelino Petit Chalet. http://www.petit-chalet.ch/en/concept.html or http://www.petit-chalet.ch/en/gallery.html

Comfortable and pretty aparthotel. You'd have a fireplace and a kitchen, which would be handy for a family. Kids under 6 stay free, I think.

Very well reviewed on TripAdivsor
http://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Rev...wiss_Alps.html

and a 9.4 rating on booking.com

We had planned a week-long XC stay there for early 2016, but it looks like I'll be working for two months in our Bavaria offices instead.
WeisserTee is offline  
Aug 20th, 2015, 07:33 PM
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Thank you WeisserTee! I will research this as well. We aren't big skiers yet it is more something my husband wanted to try out... I'd prefer snowshoeing with the kids as they are still little (10, 8 and 6)
hworth1976 is offline  
Aug 21st, 2015, 10:48 AM
  #13  
 
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Trains vs cars - winter roads can be slippery at higher elevations especially - and though you can drive to the outskirts of Grindelwald you must pay a lot to gargage your car there as cars can't go beyond - so days of car rental go unused - trains are fantastic and rides are not that long - and with the free Family Pass all kids traveling with at least one parent (not grandparent or aunt) travel free on all conveyances - this pass you can get at any train station in Switzerland free or if ordering a Swiss Pass get is free with it - parents do have to have a valid ticket for that transportation however I believe (well kids would be with a parent anyway) - investigate the Swiss Pass or Jungfraubahn Pass - former good if traveling around Switzerland - if just going to Jungfrau Region then the Jungfraubahn Pass may be better as it covers more things there than the Swiss Pass does.

For lots of great info on Swiss trains and passes and things like the Half-Fare Card check www.swisstravelsystem.com; www.budgeteuropetravel.com and www.ricksteves.com.

I have driven Swiss roads a few times in summertime and unless you take autoroutes (needing a one-time fee or vignette for using all of them) - the other roads can be tedious driving with lots of trucks, buses, cars, etc - autoroutes are fast but going at high speed you don't see much.

Swiss trains are fantastic and with the free Family Card cheap for a family - doing more than one area or a handful of trains look at the Swiss Pass or Half-Fare Card or Swiss Transfer Ticket.
PalenQ is offline  
Aug 25th, 2015, 07:12 PM
  #14  
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Thank you PalenQ! I will check those sites out. What would we do without forums???
hworth1976 is offline  

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