Christmas in Germany is spectacular. There’s nothing like exploring a new city while taking in all the local holiday traditions. Our quick 6-day trip was full of hot mulled wine, good food, and poignant history.
Our 6 day Itinerary In Germany
- December 23 flew out from Chicago!
- December 24-25 Munich
- Original Hofbrauhaus, Marienplatz, Frauenkirche, Karlsplatz pedestrian walk
- December 26-27 Füssen in Bavaria
- Dachau former concentration camp, Andechs Monastery, King Ludwig’s castles (Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau), the Wieskirche, Ettal Monastery,
- December 28 Salzburg, Austria
- Mozart’s birthplace, Hohensalzburg fortress, Salzberkwerk salt mines, Berchtesgaden and the Nazi Documentation Center
- December 29 back to Munich
- Viktualienmarkt, Dallmayr Deli, more mulled wine
- December 30 – back home to Chicago
How I Like To Travel
I never check a bag. I curate everything I need so that it will fit in a small carry on. A big bag slows me down (both in the sense of having to check the bag, customs, and schlepping it from town to town) and is totally unnecessary. European towns, especially the quaint little old ones, don’t have elevators and escalators, so I need to be realistic.
On the downside, you see me wearing the same boring outfit in every photo. That kind of bothers me, especially since I am such a fashion girl. That’s why I picked out these cute boots, which were both stylish and comfortable. But I’m not going to Europe to wear a different pair of shoes every day, I want to see and learn things.
Munich is especially quiet on Christmas. Our hotel proprietor (which only had 4 rooms) quickly met us to check in then disappeared. Unfortunately, we got into the city just as they were closing the Christmas market. We were still able to walk down the Karlzplatz and enjoy the lights while we searched for restaurants that were open to serve us.
Luckily the churches were still open to tourists, as well as the Hofbrauhaus! We met some really nice people from all over the world (the Philippines, Kenya, Belgium, and South Korea!) at our Hofbrauhaus table.
On our last night we got to go to the large outdoor Viktualienmarkt and walked around the fancy Dallmayr grocery store with our jaws on the floor. Oh, and we bought some chocolate.
Dachau Former Concentration Camp
The gate reads “work will set you free”. This particular site was not easy to visit, but it is especially important to remember the atrocities committed by the nazis so that they never occur again. The camp also contains powerful monuments and memorials to remember the lives that were so needlessly lost.
While the Dachau camp was mostly destroyed after it was liberated, there are still many original buildings, as well as reconstructions based on photographs. We saw inside a reconstructed barrack, the original admittance center, the bunker with small prison cells, and the crematoriums. We left feeling extremely lucky to be alive, but also quite sad that anti-semitism is still such a strong sentiment. History is extremely important, even those events that we would prefer to forget.
If you ever plan to go I recommend renting the English audio guide and allow yourself 2 hours to tour the entire grounds. If you’re interested in hearing more about it, please email me and I’d be happy to give you more information.
Bavaria: Fussen and Schwangau
We decided to make our Bavarian home base in Füssen. It is a small town with lots of medieval remnants, including the Hohes Schloss castle. We liked that it was a quick 8 minute drive to the Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau castles. Both castles were incredibly cool; I wish I was allowed to take photos inside!
If you ever want to go to the castles, definitely reserve tickets in advance on their website. That way you get the time entry that you want. If you don’t do that, ask your hotel for a reservation voucher which will allow you to skip the line. And definitely arrive 30-60 minutes before the ticket center opens! Even in the winter, the queue was super long.
Oberammergau is another small town that is known for their painted houses. Each house portrays a different scene, whether biblical or fairytale. I know there is a Hansel and Gretel house but we didn’t get to see that one. Oberammergau is known for putting on their “passion play” every 10 years!
After stopping at the Wieskirche (the best representation of over the top Rococo art in my opinion) and the Ettal Monastery (where the monks brew their own beer), we ended our Füssen trip at a large beer hall while it dumped alpine snow outside.
Due to the insane amounts of snow, it took us about 4 hours to drive to Salzburg when it should have taken 2. But the drive was pretty. We stayed in the old town where cars are not allowed, so we parked outside of the city and schlepped our bags to the center of town. By this time we were SO sick of weiners and schnitzel so we found an asian restaurant serving pho! Such a godsend.
Since we are dorks, we downloaded an audioguide tour of the city, where we got to see historic monuments, fountains, and churches. I thought it was really special to see the organ where Mozart used to play. Mozart’s birthplace was pretty cool, too. We ended the night by taking the funicular up to the Hohensalzburg fortress for a classical music concert.
On our way back to Munich, we toured the nazi documentation center in Berchtesgaden. It was very informative but also pretty hard to visit. After, the Salzberwerk salt mine tour really lifted our spirits! We changed into sexy burlap jumpsuits and zipped into the mountain to see how they have mined salt for hundreds of years.
My Thoughts on Germany
I loved it. Everyone we met was friendly, and I like how the Germans are very smart, educated, and organized. They give good directions, make things easy for tourists, and are very hospitable! I don’t mean to generalize, but that’s just my experience. There were plenty of locals at the places we visited, and we had no problem striking up conversation to learn a thing or two.
The German language is also kind of funny, especially for my 12 year old sense of humor. Everything is “fahrt” this and “fahrt” that. Apparently it means “trip” or “journey” so the word makes its way into a lot of german words, my favorite of which is Ausfahrt, which is literally everywhere and means “exit”.
I highly recommend this trip. Six days is all you need to have a fabulous time! Have you been to Germany? Did you go to any of the same places we did?
I have been to Germany briefly for like 1 day and I loved it. It was such a clean country too. Thank you for such a thorough post on your amazing Winter trip and girl you still look super stylish even with just a few clothes. How did you do it?
Hello from Munich. I very much liked your post.
If you want to enjoy a Christmas market until after Christmas you might want to go to Speyer next time. Speyer is a lovely place and on top it is one of the traditional medieval Jewish places together with Mainz and Worms. We are not Jewish but I went to see the medieval Mikve with my daughter to make her understand some history.
I so highly recommend it because I was a student at Heidelberg University and I just loved the Rhineland-Palatinate region.
Thank you for the tips! I am really excited to back.
Wow, what a beautiful country and it sounds like you had a great time! Yay! I have never been and would like to go one of these days. I can relate to you about not wanting to check bags. I have been to Europe several years ago and my hubby and I took one backpack each! While I didn’t enjoy wearing the same things, I have to admit it made our vacation so much easier. Welcome back and hope you are having a super 2018!
Maureen | http://www.littlemisscasual.com
I’m with you – wearing the same things over and over is kind of boring. But it is so freeing to travel with less!
This is such a lovely post and it’s always great looking through photos and seeing the buildings and culture too. Lovely – hope you had a great time and look forward to seeing more posts!
Wishing you a wonderful 2018!
Thank you so much, Layla!
Daniel Birnbaum says
I have been — and to all the same places! Happy 30th! It was a great trip!
Michelle Orsi says
Looks like an amazing trip! These photos are great
It looks like such a memorable trip. I love the pictures of that church you went to. The paintings are beautiful! How amazing to have been there during Christmas!
Dorian Rahamim says
I would be so happy to go on a romantic Alpinfahrt one day 😀 I love the ornate architectural style those are my kinds of buildings
Ezra Rahamim says
I appreciated combining pleasure with European Jewish history. It puts it all in the right perspective, especially during Christmas. Well done!
Susan Rahamim says
What a great adventure! All the details and photos make me feel like I was there! What a fun Journey! What’s the sexy Burlap Jumpuit all about?
What a great trip! My husband has been to Germany several times for work but I’d love to go and explore more. I hear it is amazing during the holidays! I try to get everything into a carry on too. It doesn’t always work but I have good intentions lol. I’m glad you had a nice trip! Happy New Year! Sierra~Beautifully Candid
I LOVED following this trip on Instagram! I am so incredibly jealous but it looked like a blast!
Can’t believe you missed all the Sound of Music spots in Salzburg! When I was there it was a full on blizzard with over two feet of snow.
I loved following your stories while you were there!! How amazing and spectacular that you got to experience so much in so little time!!!
What a trip!!! That is so awesome, sounds like you had some amazing experiences. Can’t wait to go there myself sometime 🙂
Bojana Krienke says
A friend that I mentored at work and you went to Germany over the Xmas holidays and now I am totally psyched to go. I love touring and learning about new places and though we haven’t had opportunities to travel like I hope to, most of our vacations are kid based which is great too, but I know our time will come for that as well. I like the idea of a 6 day vacation like this because I think I would be able to leave my kids with little guilt to be honest. First, I commend you for immersing yourself in the culture. I totally agree that history is critical for all generations to learn about especially right now when the world seems to be forgetting how devastating wars and hatred can be. Second, how cute is it that you stayed in a town that doesn’t allow cars?!? Awesome!!! Thanks for sharing your adventure and pictures. This is going on my bucket list.