Saturday, February 25th, 2017

Christmas in Bavaria in 25 Photos

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Kate in Passau Christmas in Bavaria

This year I achieved a long-held travel dream: visiting Christmas markets in Germany. It’s crazy that I haven’t done this until now!

I remember visiting my first German Christmas market, albeit in another country — it was during my semester in Florence in 2004. The market was set up a two-minute walk from my apartment on Piazza Santa Croce. I was flabbergasted that a market this wonderful would set up. My eight roommates and I went for sausages for dinner; we bought chocolate-covered fruit on a stick; we bought crafts for gifts. I pretended to be as excited about chocolate-covered bananas as they were. (Still not a fan of banana and chocolate together today.) Strangely, I don’t think we ever consumed gluhwein.

And I continued to visit markets elsewhere — the UK’s largest market in Birmingham; all the markets in Paris. But Germany remained elusive until this year. I knew I wanted to come to Germany for Christmas and soon I got the opportunity to come to Bavaria and do some content creation work for the German National Tourism Board.

Bavaria is a large southeastern region of Germany that includes Munich. This is a very traditional and beautiful part of Germany with gingerbread-like small towns, beer gardens, lederhosen, dirndls, cuckoo clocks and Oktoberfest. However, Bavaria is like Texas in that what many people think are German stereotypes are actually Bavarian stereotypes.

(Case in point: A friend texted me “Conan’s in Bavaria too!” while I was there. “No, he’s in Berlin and doing Bavarian things,” I told him. “That’s like traveling to New York and learning how to rope cattle.”)

So, how was it? I absolutely loved it. It was such a relaxed and chilled out trip. Though I was working the whole time, most of the trip was built around browsing markets, eating delicious food and drinking gluhwein (German mulled wine). It was also a reminder that Christmas doesn’t have to be as kid-oriented as it is in America — in Europe, these markets are for the adults!

I won’t be publishing a full guide to planning a Bavarian Christmas market trip just yet — it’s not practical to do that a few days before Christmas. I’m saving that guide for next September or so, when you guys are actually planning Christmas trips. But for now, enjoy a taste of this beautiful region of Germany at its most festive time of year.

Family Christmas in Bavaria

I started off exploring the markets at Marienplatz in Munich. I love how they brought families together!

Lebkuchen

Lebkuchen (gingerbread)! Don’t make an amateur error and eat these ones, however — they are mainly for giving and receiving as gifts.

Christmas in Bavaria

Handmade ornaments can be found wherever you go. I love how it looks like the snowman is clapping for him!

Gluhwein Man Christmas in Bavaria

This gluhwein-serving man has discovered the secret to happiness: find what you love and do it for the rest of your life. For him, it’s serving various Christmas beverages to foreigners at the market.

Nuremberg Christmas in Bavaria

If there’s any city in Bavaria you must visit during Christmas, it’s Nuremberg (Nürnberg), the grandaddy of all Christmas markets. It’s the oldest, the largest, and the wares are all handcrafted.

Fig People Christmas in Bavaria

These fig people were surprisingly omnipresent throughout Bavaria.

Nuremberg Christmas in Bavaria

There are winding streets in Nuremberg that are decked out like they’re from a past century.

Nuremberg Mother and Child Christmas in Bavaria

I love this shot of a mother and daughter!

Nuremberg Christmas in Bavaria

My favorite shot is of Nuremberg at night…

Nuremberg Christmas in Bavaria

And it’s just as beautiful by day as well!

Bamberg Christmas in Bavaria

Bamberg is a lovely town 30 minutes from Nuremberg. This is the most famous vantage point in the city!

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Heidelbeer gluhwein and käsespätzle — blueberry mulled wine and cheesy noodles topped with fried onions.

Christmas in Bavaria

I wouldn’t be able to sleep with these in my room.

Nuremberg from Above Christmas in Bavaria

You can see how big the Nuremberg Christmas market is here! I happened to love it, but lots of locals told me they preferred smaller, less congested markets.

Regensburg Christmas in Bavaria

Regensburg was my next stop. This small city felt very Italian to me, and not just because it was full of espresso bars!

Regensburg Christmas in Bavaria

Regensburg is on the Danube, making it a popular stop on river cruises.

Romantic Market Regensburg Christmas in Bavaria

Regensburg also had the only market where I had to pay to get in — the Romantic Market, which cost 6.50 EUR ($7). It was absolutely lovely inside, but I’m not sure I’d pay for any other market!

Passau Christmas in Bavaria

Next up was Passau, another city on the Danube. It definitely won for the quirkiest and most interesting history!

Plague Door Passau Christmas in Bavaria

This is a plague door dating back to 1693. Back in the day, people with the plague were quarantined behind doors like these and fed through the slits in the window. (Amusingly, a handwritten sign in the window reads “NO PLAGUE HOUSE!”)

Passau Fire Christmas in Bavaria

Passau is defined by fire and water. A fire in 1662 burned the entire town to the ground — and yet they rebuilt. Today, at the confluence of two rivers, they’re vulnerable to flooding. The second-highest flood of all time took place in 2013.

“The insurance down by the river must be expensive,” I told my guide, Martina. “Oh, no — they can’t get insurance at all,” she replied. How crazy is that? Even people living on an active volcano in Hawaii can get insurance, albeit extremely expensive insurance!

Candles Christmas in Bavaria

If you’ve ever traveled with me through a Catholic country, you know that I stop and light a candle whenever there’s an opportunity to do so.

Passau Christmas in Bavaria

I love the look of Passau markets against the bright blue sky!

Little Red Riding Hood Christmas in Bavaria

Little Red Riding Hood was on display in Munich.

Statue of Liberty Christmas in Bavaria

I was very surprised to see Lady Liberty in Munich. (And how much do you love the bokeh on that shot?)

Pink Market Christmas in Bavaria

Also in Munich is the Pink Market — the largest LGBT market in the region.

Sexy Mermen Ornaments Christmas in Bavaria

Finally Pink Market definitely had some unique handicrafts for sale — including sexy merman ornaments! How awesome are these?

Essential Info: I flew in and out of Munich and traveled by train throughout Bavaria. My tickets were  purchased a la carte, but you might save money with a Eurail (non-EU resident) or Interrail (EU resident) pass or the German Rail Pass, which is strictly for Germany. I recommend pricing out your legs and comparing the total cost. Don’t forget day trips! Germany is one of the best countries to use rail passes because you almost never have to pay additional reservation fees for the fast trains, unlike France, Italy, and Spain. Plus, if you’re over 26, you’re automatically in first class.

For a Christmas market trip or a trip where you’re doing lots of day trips, I find it best to stay in a hotel within a short walk of the train station (especially in small towns) because it will make your life a million times easier.

In Munich I stayed at the Hotel Präsident, a good, central three-star close to the main train station and in walking distance of a lot of Munich attractions. Rates from 192 EUR ($199). I also stayed at the Westin Grand Munich Hotel, an excellent five-star business hotel, but it’s not in the center of town; it’s well connected by U-bahn though. Rates from 438 EUR ($454).

In Nuremberg I stayed at the Congress Hotel Mercure Nürnberg, which I do not recommend because it’s isolated and far from everything (11-minute walk to U-bahn or 14 EUR ($14.50) taxi to the train station), and one night the front desk gave my key out to a stranger who barged into my room. (Always double-lock your door!!!) The manager was good about making things right, but I wouldn’t stay there again because of the location. Rates from 94 EUR ($97).

In Regensburg I stayed at the Hotel Central Regensburg City Centre, which was spacious, comfortable, close to the train station and a short walk from the old town. Rates from 84 EUR ($87).

In Passau I stayed at the IBB Hotel Passau City Centre, a good mid-range hotel, which was right across from the train station and a short walk from the old town. Rates from 75 EUR ($78).

Don’t visit Germany without travel insurance. I use and recommend World Nomads. I had to visit the hospital after hitting my head and sustaining a concussion. The ER I visited in Munich, Klinikum der Universität München, charges non-EU insurance-holding residents 300 EUR ($311), but because I use World Nomads, I’m getting that money refunded!

I visited Bavaria on a content creation assignment for the German National Tourist Board. All opinions, as always, are my own.

Have you been to Christmas markets in Europe? Share away!

Comments

24 Responses to “Christmas in Bavaria in 25 Photos”
  1. Dominique says:

    I love Christmas markets! I keep visiting the ones in the Ruhr, but honestly, I would love to visit the ones in Bavaria much more! Maybe next year!

  2. I love the Christmassy atmosphere in the markets and in the city! I’ve only been to the sorry ones here in Hong Kong. Really wish I could travel to Europe in the winter just to experience the festivity!

  3. Love this! I visited the Christmas markets in Stuttgart, Schwabisch Gmund, and Esslingen this year – but I’d love to see Nurembourg and more of Bavaria!

  4. Rachel says:

    So pretty! I’ve only been to the market in Munich but can’t wait to explore more in the future!

  5. Julia says:

    Love these pictures!! Christmas markets are my favourite part of the season here, they make you so excited for Christmas, as opposed to North America with malls packed with stressed-out shoppers and terrible Christmas music on repeat.

    Ahh and I can’t believe I didn’t know about the Pink Market when I was in Munich a few weeks ago! Must have been amazing. In Hamburg, there’s an erotic Christmas market that I’ve been wanting to check out; apparently there are handcrafted wooden dildos hahaha.

    P.S. For travelling around German states, one of the cheapest ways (since you don’t generally need a rail pass for high-speed trains within a state) is with the Länder-Tickets. They’re good for unlimited rides on regional trains within a state for one day, for up to 5 people (the price goes up only a few € per person you add on). Perfect for hitting up multiple Christmas markets in a day! So for Bavaria, you’d buy the Bayern-Ticket. There’s also one for regional trains for the whole country on weekends (Schönes-Wochenede-Ticket) or weekdays (Quer-durchs-Land-Ticket), though that can take forever!

  6. Brooke says:

    Kate, These pictures are lovely! This has been top of my list since I was in elementary school and my Omi told me about her childhood in Germany. We were actually going to go this year, but decided to save up money to buy an RV instead. I’ve still consumed a decent amount of Gluhwein at home though! 🙂 Thanks for sharing your awesome experience.

    Brooke

  7. I love Christmas markets and although I’ve been to some good ones in Belgium and Holland, the best ones are in Germany. I’ve only visited some of the markets in North Rhine-Westphalia though, but the ones in Bavaria look just as magical.

    When I think about what happened at the Berlin Christmas market on monday, it makes me so incredibly sad…

  8. These pictures are fabulous! I really like the one of the red candle holders and the server. These kinds of travel photos are my favorites-candids and street photos up close.

  9. Christy says:

    Great photos, Kate! Visiting christmas markets is not something I’ve ever had an interest in, but you actually make it look fun.

  10. Marvin says:

    I really never had any inclination to go to the Christmas Markets…until now. Beautiful pictures and a story that makes me want to book for next year. Thanks for the motivation!

  11. Thanks for such a lovely post Kate.

    I live in Berlin so we’re in mourning at the moment…. However, having said that, I absolutely recommend visiting the German Christmas Market anywhere you can find it. And especially in Germany itself! It’s such a wonderful concept for family and freinds, and the items on sale are not kitsch but lovingly and artistically made. And as for the glühwein or mulled wine. Well! There’s a special one called Feuerzangenbowle – it’s delicious, and an absolute killer! The first time I drank it, I literally fell to the floor!

    Highly recommended though!!!

    I’ve been to the Christmas Market in Birmingham, France, and the Czech Republic, and in Berlin, before the terrorist act that took place on Monday, I had already been to 9 different Christmas Markets in Berlin, and one of them ( my favourite), I actually went 4 times!

  12. Kate Newman says:

    I’ve never had a European Christmas but my gosh, after seeing these photos I think it’s a must!

  13. Anna Belkina says:

    I really picked up on the world “relaxed” in your trip description. My first ever European Chrismas Market was in Hyde Park in London and I had the worst anxiety attack. I could barely move through the crowds and couldnt hear my friends next to me! I have since experienced Christmas markets in Russia, Denmark and Germany (Berlin to be exact). The German ones were my favorite – not just the most reasonably priced, but more relaxed, less touristy and crowded.

    • You know, it depends where you go. Some markets were quiet, like in Bamberg and Regensburg and Passau. Munich and Nuremberg were much bigger and crazier. I think it’s a good idea to split your trip between both kinds of destinations.

  14. Stephanie says:

    It looks wonderful! I went to French Christmas Markets but not German ones, I hope one day I’ll go!

  15. Joe in DC says:

    Kate

    Excellent blog

    I have been reading much of your information with interest.

    I am a 61 year old, single guy, thinking of an extended solo world trek like you.

    Do you have any advice for older travelers? Where to stay etc? At my age I need private rooms and bath rooms, yet I am still cost conscious.

    Any input, ideas, recommendations are appreciated

    Joe

    • Joe, that’s exactly how I travel — I stay in private rooms with bathrooms. Travel to a cheaper country and you’ll often pay the same or less for a private room than a dorm in a western country.

  16. Marlos says:

    Hi Kate,

    I also love Christmas Markets in Germany. I know it in Dresden. After what happened in Berlin how is the mood of the people in those markets? I hope that they didn’t let that stop them to visit the markets.

    Happy Hollidays from Brazil

    • It’s very sad what happened in Berlin. I’m sure it was in the back of people’s minds when visiting markets, but I’m sure people also managed to visit them and enjoy themselves.

  17. I love the shot of the mother and daughter! I want to do Christmas in Germany or Norway

  18. Larry says:

    Spending a Christmas in Europe is a bucket list item of mine …. looked like you had an amazing time!

  19. Eva L says:

    Hi Kate!

    I LOVE this blog! Originally being from Germany, I agree with what you claimed about the Christmas Markets. Although the one in Nuremberg is absolutely beautiful, I also prefer ones in little towns that are a little less congested.

    Thank you for sharing!

    Eva

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