Christmas in Germany! (or Austria)

I’ve got almost everyone sold on the idea of a Christmas in Germany (or Austria). Problem, however, is that i have no knowledge whatsoever would be the best places to go. I thought i’d ask here before going to the travel agent.

Here’s what i’d like to find:

-Vibrant Christmas markets
-Romanic German cities (not looking for ultra-modern)
-Skiing nearby (2+ driving hours) a plus
-Picturesque settings and countryside a plus
-Near to ancenstral town of origin (somewhere in Poland across from Berlin). Pretty low on totem pole of importance.
-Has to be feasible for English speakers.

I’d like to be on the Baltic coast to hop over to Scandinavia, but getting some skiing in would be great.

Any ideas where to start?

Bavaria is fantastic at Christmas. When the snow falls, everywhere looks like a Christmas card. The Baltic Coast is not so nice: there’s not much there and the weather is wet, windy as well as freezing.

I’d say: go to Munich. You can be in the amazing Garmich-Partenkirche about an hour away, and there’s plenty of skiing there. The, admitedly kitsch, fairytale Neuschwanstein castle is also nearby, and looks amazing, especially under snow.

There’s a bunch of nice places nearby, like Nuremberg and Bamberg, and Innsbruck and Austria are just across the border. It’s also probably the safest place in the world.

Every German city has a vibrant Christmas market, and you can get by without knowing German pretty much everywhere, although eastern Germany is more of a struggle than the west.

I’d definitely pick somewhere in Bavaria if you want to be in Germany for Christmas, without a doubt. Pick Munich if you want the big city life, with a central location where you can get to everything, but if you want small town medieval beauty go to Bamberg, which is a little gem.

Austria is great if you can pass for an Aryan. If you or someone in your group can’t, I’d say look to spend Xmas in Germany instead.

OK, I’m not an Austrian and therefore probably shouldn’t care, but where the hell did that come from?

Yes, please explain LoK.

There are more openly racist people in Austria then in other parts of Europe, and if you’re dark or olive-skinned, chances are higher in Austria that you’ll find some scary skinheads in white shoe laces shouting in your face for you and others of your obviously inferior race to go home.

Nurnberg is a really nice town. I second Tim’s recommendation that you go visit it at some point in your journey.

Hard to believe really. Isn’t it more likely you just weren’t lucky with the sample of people you met there? But I’d rather leave it at that, I don’t want to derail the thread any more.

It’s possible it could be random bad luck, but I’ve been to Austria quite a few times and seen a relatively large amount of (non-aggressive) racist behaviour towards people who are obviously not Austrian, e.g. black, at least outside of Vienna. Not sure about the skinhead stuff, as Austria is definitely a low-crime low-violence country.

There was an EU survey I read a while back which put Austria as third in the racism table, behind Belgium and France, which fits my view of these countries pretty well.

If you want the real ‘White Christmas’ deal - you know, snow etc. - you probably should avoid Berlin and the like. Hasn’t snowed in ages on or around Christmas here. I never was in Bavaria around that time, but I guess they’re more likely to get some snow.


Thanks for the advice! I’ve been looking into this, but unfortunately the family appears to prefer (on the whole) a guided tour. I myself am not partial to these kinds of travel experiences, but whatever.

It appears that barring myself finding some way to arrange it there will be a tour. So far, of the reputable tours, they appear to either go through Austria / Vienna via Munich-Innsbruck-Vienna, or through lower Germany from Munich, to Strausbourg, up to Nuremburg, and back to Munich. I still have hope that i might find some way to arrange a “base of operations” and be able to visit the neighboring scenes via rail.

BTW, according to my sister who visited Austria on her honeymoon, the Austrians can speak English, but simply refuse to amidst Americans, and she thought them somewhat rude and aloof. OTOH, she fell in love with Vienna.

Salzburg, Austria is a fantastic place to visit in the winter time. The Old Town is incredibly picturesque in the snow. The cemetery is an amazingly beautiful spot to visit. There are plenty of other touristy things to do around the town (Mozart’s birthplace is a popular one), but there’s enough going on behind the scenes to satisfy someone who wants to break from the standard tourist fare. For instance, the Sporer Spirits shop is a real gem.

Many tours will include Salzburg on their itineraries, but I thought I’d put a plug in for it just in case.

BTW, thanks especially to Tim for your excellent first-hand advice. If we end up going to Munich and the surrounding areas it will be, in large part, because of your recommendation.

Orsson; i think the Munich-Vienna tour stopped in Salzburg for a day. I’m really not keen on those tours that we have found, however, as we will actually fly out of Germany or Austria Christmas Day, which rather sucks.

Munich is awesome, I think you’ll enjoy it. I lived in Augsburg and Nuremberg in the late 70s and really preferred being in Bavaria. Nuremberg was kind of depressing actually, gray and overcast most of the time, though I was only there for 6 months. Augsburg was great though, a total 180 in scenery and mood. I got to go to Munich on a field trip in school and saw the touristy stuff, one of Ludwig’s castles, Herrenchiemsee, the Rathaus and the Glockenspiel, etc. We also got to ski in Austria, which was a blast.

Munich’s nice, but I think you’d prefer Vienna or Salzburg. The Allied bombers didn’t “gently touch” them so much. Munich was heavily bombed and a fair bit of it is post-war architecture.