Christmas is a magical time of year anywhere… But there are a few places where Christmas is downright extraordinary. The Christmas markets of Austria, Germany and Switzerland are some of the most enchanting places in the world, filled with carols, fir trees, twinkling lights, mulled wine, festive food, local crafts, and old-world traditions. So what’s the best way to see it all? Trafalgar’s best-selling Christmas tour – Christmas Markets of Austria, Germany and Switzerland. This spectacular 8-day trip takes you to the mesmerising Christmas markets of Europe, set against the backdrop of stunning medieval cities and the snowy Alps. If you’re wondering what not to miss on this tour, look no further. We talked to Travel Director Rob Early about all the very best things to see at the Christmas Markets of Austria, Germany and Switzerland. Here’s what he had to say…
Indulge in a Bratwurst and Glühwein at the Vienna Christkindlmarkt
The first thing you need to do when you get to the Christkindlmarkt (the biggest of the twelve Christmas markets in Vienna) is to grab yourself a Bratwurst (sausage) and a Glühwein (mulled wine). If it‘s a particularly cold night, you might want to give your mulled wine a bit of a kick. Ask for ‘mit Schuss’ and you’ll get gin, vodka, brandy or any other spirit added… Perfect for when temperatures fall below zero.
Seek out the hidden gems of the Christmas markets in Vienna
I prefer paths less travelled, so my favourite Christmas Markets to see in Vienna are the Spittelberg, Freyung and Michaelerplatz… A stone’s throw from the main Christkindlmarkt. These are the smaller markets frequented by locals and you can buy some great gifts here to take home as well as try the various seasonal foods on offer.
Dive into the delicacies of Salzburg
What can I say about Salzburg? This city at Christmas is like a picture-perfect postcard. It’s the city of Mozart and The Sound of Music combined. After enjoying a Jägertee (Hunter‘s Tea) or a hot Fruit Punch with roasted chestnuts, check out the beautifully decorated Gasse or Alleyways that connect the Main Street Getreidegasse with the Market Square. Ride the funicular to the imposing fortress to savour the view over this festive wonderland. Buy some Mozart Kugeln (chocolate balls) from Fürst Confectioners and they will gift wrap them for you… The perfect gifts for the folks back home.
Get some Herzlebkuchen at the Marienplatz in Munich
In Munich, everyone heads to the main market at Marienplatz – as they should. The backdrop of Gothic splendour from the New Town Hall makes it a spectacular first stop and it’s one of the best things to see at the Christmas markets. It’s also the best place for Herzlebkuchen (gingerbread hearts) with various messages and greetings piped in icing sugar on their centres. Next, head for the Residenz (Imperial Palace) Christmas Market where stalls line the courtyards of this corner Royal Dwelling.
Experience the fun of the Mittelachter Markt
Don‘t forget to go to my favourite market in Munich – the Mittelachter Markt or Middle Ages Market. All the stall holders are dressed in medieval costumes from the period and the food is the best here. Try the grilled smoked salmon and Flammkuchen (Alsatian pizza without a tomato base, topped with cream cheese and bacon pieces).
This is also the best place to try the Feuerazangenbowle. Let me explain this piece of sheer drama… Feuerzangenbowle is a traditional German alcoholic Christmas drink where a rum-soaked sugarloaf is set on fire and drips into mulled wine. The name literally translates as fire-tongs punch. Not only does it taste great, but it’s one of the most spectacular things to see at the Christmas markets. Be careful how you go afterwards!
Explore the food halls at Dallmayr Delicatessen
My absolute must-do at Christmas in Munich is to go to the food halls at Dallmayr Delicatessen. This store has been going since 1700 and it embodies the joys of stepping back in time, with great food and excellent service. This is where every Münchner goes to buy small Christmas gifts and special treats for the festive period. It’s like travelling into another world and the aroma of all those Christmas goodies will assault your senses in the best possible way.
Step into a fairytale at the Christmas Markets of Innsbruck
Innsbruck is one of my favourite cities to be in at Christmas. The theme of Innsbruck‘s Christmas Markets is Märchen (fairytales). The buildings in the old town are decorated with all the characters from the best-loved children‘s classics; Cinderella, Rapunzel, Red Riding Hood, Snow White and so on. Utterly delightful.
Innsbruck is also home to the most thrilling, yet terrifying, Krampus Run. This tradition is one of the best things to see at the Christmas markets, with people dressing in scary costumes and charging through the streets, bringing raucous fun to the town.
Between the festivities, be sure to check out the decorations at the Flagship Swarovski store where the company is based. It‘ll blow your mind.
Taste the best Kaiserschmarrn in Innsbruck
You‘ll find the best Kaiserschmarrn in Innsbruck. This is a warm and cosy Austrian dessert with thick, fluffy pancakes that are shredded and served with an apricot or plum compote. Yum!
Enjoy the festive Swiss food in Lucerne
Switzerland is magic at any time of year, but at Christmas, it‘s extra special. Food-wise, try the Grittibänz. It’s a lightly sweetened brioche dough shaped like a man, often referred to as the Swiss cousin of the Gingerbread man. Also, try traditional Swiss Rösti with apple sauce.
Admire the spectacular views from Mount Pilatus
For me, Switzerland is all about the mountains and the countryside. Sometimes you may not get to experience snow on your Christmas Markets trip, but we can almost guarantee it if you take a cable car up to Mount Pilatus. You’ll score incredible views and an almost certain covering of the white stuff at the top.
Afterwards, experience our Swiss Carriage Ride and Farm Visit to the charming Alpine village of Engelberg. It will be the icing on the cake of your Christmas trip to some of the most festive locations in the world.
I can’t wait to have you join me on my next Christmas Markets of Austria, Germany and Switzerland tour. Frohe Weihnachten!
What are your favourite things to see at our Christmas Markets tours in Europe? Let us know in the comments below!