Christmastime in Bavaria, Germany
Christmas Market Tour 2018
Bavaria, Germany is truly a dream come true for me since it has been a place on my bucket list for a while now. Back when my dad was in college, he traveled to Central Europe and I always remember how he described Germany to me. Between fairytale towns, enchanting castles, beautiful nature as well as great food and beer, there is so much to fall in love with in Germany!
During summer 2018, I had the opportunity to visit Alsace, France where I got lost in the small provincial towns near the German border. Because there was a lot of German influence in Alsace that I fell in love with, I knew I had to make it over the border at some point. After seeing gorgeous photos of Southern Germany and the beautiful Alps, I immediately arranged plans to get to Bavaria for the holiday season.
Not only do I adore the fairytale feeling of being in Europe, I also LOVE Christmastime, so you could imagine how excited I was to embark on a Christmas market tour. My European Christmas adventures started in Munich, Germany. From there, I explored Neuschwanstein Castle in rural Bavaria; Salzburg and Hallstatt in the Austrian Alps; Budapest, Hungary; Bratislava, Slovakia and then ended in Vienna, Austria. In this blog post, discover the best things to do during two days in Munich, Bavaria, Germany around the Christmas season.
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Bavaria (Bayern), Germany
Not only did the beautiful city of Munich, the magical Christmas markets and the enchanting Neuschwanstein Castle make me feel like I was living a real life fairytale, so did the hotel I stayed in. Even though I explored the city’s Christmas markets my first day and did a private tour of Neuschwanstein Castle the second day, I spent both nights in Munich. During that time, I would like to thank Hotel Laimer Hof for making me feel like a princess. Not only is Hotel Laimer Hof one of the best boutique hotels in Munich, according to Culture Trip and various other sources, it is absolutely gorgeous!
Hotel Laimer Hof is a family-run boutique hotel that is situated in one of the finest areas of the city. When I first arrived in Munich, I met with the hotel staff that was super sweet and accommodating to me. Not only did they offer an amazing German breakfast and some cozy lattes, they also provided me with some wonderful adventure ideas to ensure my stay in the Bavarian region was one to remember!
Traveling to and Around Munich:
I will admit that traveling to Munich, Germany around the holidays is pretty pricey. Even though I try my hardest to not book a flight with a layover when I travel to Europe, I had no choice if I wanted to get the best for my buck. Since I was arriving in Munich and leaving from Vienna, I had to book one-way flights to and from Europe. Thankfully, I was able to get great deals using Skyscanner! From Newark to Munich with a short layover in Lisbon, I was able to grab a one-way flight for less than $200 without taxes! On my way home, I got a flight out of Vienna to Newark with a short layover in Düsseldorf for less than $300 with taxes included. So to sum it up, I was pretty content with the prices I paid for my flights to the Christmas markets in regards to the time of year. (Make sure to also check out Expedia for great deals!)
During my time in Munich, I traveled around via the MVV Munich tramway. The staff at Hotel Laimer Hof definitely helped me navigate the tram during my first day because I was a little confused in the beginning. Thankfully, it was pretty easy to figure out after my first trip. One major piece of advice to help save money when you travel is by figuring out your prospective city’s public transit system since using taxis, Uber and Lyft could be costly and add up! Most cities are pretty easy to navigate and there will always be people willing to help you out.
When I was ready to leave Munich to head to my next destination, I took the tramway to the Munich Hauptbahnhof, which is the major train station. From Munich, you could take day trips to other cities in the area or easily travel to other destinations in Europe. I got all of my train tickets in advance at a super affordable price via GoEuro.
Things to do in Munich during Christmastime:
Christmas Markets (also known as Christkindlmarkt in German):
Advent season in Europe are the days between late November leading up to Christmas Day. If you are planning to visit the European Christmas markets, it is highly recommended that you travel between that time period. One thing to note is that Europe’s “holiday” season ends the day after Christmas Day, whereas here in the United States, it ends the day after New Year’s Day. Unfortunately, if you are waiting for Christmas break of the school year to travel to the Christmas markets, you will be out of luck.
Munich’s (also known as München in German) Christmas market is one of the oldest in the world and definitely one of the most beautiful! In Munich, you will find classic wooden stands that hold eye-catching ornaments, handmade trinkets, Christmas village houses, jewelry and so much more! Not only could you find the perfect Christmas decor for your home, you could also savor unlimited glühwein, which is a hot spiced wine, as well as other German staples such as sausage, pretzels, gingerbread cookies, strudel, chocolates and so much more!
Munich’s main Christkindlmarkt can be found in the main square of the city called Marienplatz. Since this market is located in the heart of the city, it is definitely the most crowded compared to others. I honestly had no idea that Munich’s Christmas market would be that crowded, but I also had to consider the fact that I visited it on a Saturday as well. Since I was solo during my time in Munich, I had a difficult time trying to get some photos of myself and it was too crowded to set up my tripod, so I asked some friendly and reliable locals who also had professional cameras to take some shots and they did a great job! (Don’t ever be afraid to ask people for help with something. Just ensure to use your best judgement on who you ask.)
One of my favorite parts of this market was the spectacular view of Neues Rathaus. This timeless town hall hosts the city government including the council, offices of the mayors and even administration. It definitely makes for the perfect backdrop to this market and the gorgeous Christmas tree is an epic addition.
Residenz Christmas Village (Weihnachtsdorf im Kaiserhof der Residenz):
As the former royal palace of the Wittelsbach monarchs of Bavaria, the Residenz is the largest city palace in Germany and offers architecture to admire.
Located in one of the courtyards of Residenz is a Christmas village with a wonderful selection of different vendors. What I really loved about this mini market is that there was a live choir performing to add to the magic.
Situated right off of Marienplatz is a lovely walkway with some beautiful Christmas markets along with festive decorations. Some of my favorites were the stars hanging from the trees as well as the stringed lights!
Old Town Munich:
Throughout the Old Town of Munich there are so many wooden stands where you could grab some Christmas goodies. There are also plenty of places where you could gather around with friends and enjoy glühwein and beer. In addition, you cannot miss out on visiting one of Munich’s biergartens. One of the best places to experience Munich’s beer scene is at Hofbräuhaus, which is the largest biergarten in the world. In fact, it is at Hofbräuhaus where the famous Oktoberfest event takes place in late September/early October every year. During the Advent season, all of the biergartens are festively decorated!
In addition to having fun, the Bavarian architecture in Munich is definitely something to admire. Even though there are many parts of the city that are modern due to the aftermath of World War II, there are still so many wonderful Baroque Catholic churches and historical buildings to admire. I loved the Theatine Church in the city the most!
Food in Munich:
Typical German food mainly consists of sausage, schnitzel, späetzle, dumplings, roasted meats and vegetables. In regards to drinks, beer is the number one choice in Bavaria. Germans also appreciate a good glass of wine as well!
During my time in Munich, I savored the delicious food at Hotel Laimer Hof. They also recommended an authentic local spot in walking distance to the hotel called Wirtshaus Kurgarten. At this authentic German restaurant, I enjoyed a delicious spätzle dish with fried onions and a light gravy. It was absolutely delicious!
In addition, some other great food recommendations are Steinheil 16, Pepe Nero, L’Osteria, Dallmayr Delicatessen, Ratskeller and Vinaiolo. As you can see in that selection, there is also a wide selection of Italian eateries in Munich. That is because Bavaria is in close proximity to Northern Italy, making it a destination with a lot of Italian influence.
Day Trip to Neuschwanstein Castle:
On my second day in Germany, I booked a private tour through TripAdvisor to Neuschwanstein Castle. The reason why I booked a tour is because there is no easy way to get to this part of Bavaria unless you rent a car, which I did not. There is also no major train station around. I have been admiring this enchanting castle online for quite a few years at this point, so it was definitely a dream come true for me to see it in person for the first time!
Neuschwanstein Castle is the second castle I’ve visited in Europe. The first castle I ever saw was Alcázar de Segovia in Spain. Both of them will make you feel like you’re in a fairytale, but Neuschwanstein Castle was even more magical because it is situated in the German Alps.
I met my tour group in the Munich Hauptbahnhof and we took a private bus to the Bavarian town of Hohenschwangau, which was an hour and 45 minutes southwest of Munich, near the Austrian border. On our way to the castle, we passed adorable towns and the gorgeous mountainside. Eventually, we spotted a little castle on the mountain and right away recognized it as Neuschwanstein! It was absolutely beautiful from afar, so I couldn’t wait to see what it looked like up close.
When we first got to the town, we grabbed a quick lunch since the tour was going to take us a few hours. If you are visiting Neuschwanstein Castle on your own, I definitely recommend checking out one of the adorable restaurants located in Hohenschwangau. Since my group was in a hurry, there was a great sausage stand right outside of Hotel Alpenstuben. I got a bratwurst with some pomme frites (fries) and it was yummy!
After lunch, our tour started. The best part about the tour was our guide who was super enthusiastic and made a story out of the day. Prior to visiting the castle, I had the slightest clue on the history behind Neuschwanstein Castle. (I saved it for the actual tour.) A cool fact about this castle is that it was the inspiration behind the Walt Disney World Castle. I could totally see why!
Our first stop was to the Alpsee Lake, which was a peaceful body of water with faint views of the Austrian Alps from afar. After that, we went to a viewing point of where you could spot Hohenschwangau Castle. This castle dates back to the 12th century and was home to the knights of Schwangau. In the 19th century, Crown Prince Maximilian acquired the castle and rebuilt it as the castle it is today. After his death, his son Ludwig II designed the royal rooms. It is a stunning castle and definitely a cool site to see as well.
After learning the history behind Hohenschwangau Castle, we hiked an hour up the mountain (with a few stops in between) to the stunning Neuschwanstein Castle (there are also buses that will take you to Neuschwanstein Castle in case you cannot or do not want to do the hike). When we finally reached the castle, I was awestruck by how beautiful it was. I even went inside, but unfortunately wasn’t allowed to take any photographs. There is an expanse history behind Neuschwanstein Castle and it all has to do with King Ludwig II of Bavaria.
In 1866 Bavaria allied with Austria having lost a war against the expanding Prussia. Bavaria was forced to accept a “defensive and offensive alliance”, which removed the king’s right to dispose over his army in case of any future war. From then on, Ludwig II was no longer a sovereign ruler. It ended up being the biggest misfortune of his life. In 1867, he began planning his own kingdom in the form of castles and palaces.
Since Ludwig loved hiking and spending time in nature, he built his castle so that it would be perfectly situated in the mountains. A cool fact about Neuschwanstein Castle is that Ludwig made it to be one of the most modern castles in the world. (There is running water and central heating!) Ludwig lived comfortably and in solitude at Neuschwanstein Castle. On the contrary, the “poetic solitude” that he chose for himself was not compatible with his duties as a head of state. In 1886, the government declared Ludwig mentally insane, arrested him in the castle and then sent him to Berg Palace to be treated. The next day, he died mysteriously in a nearby lake with the psychiatrist who certified him as insane. It is unknown if a murder suicide happened.
I honestly was not expecting the history behind Neuschwanstein Castle to be that intense, but it definitely made the experience more interesting. After we left the castle, we walked over to Queen Mary’s Bridge where we could spot the best views of the castle. When we were finished taking photos we found a shortcut down to the bottom of the mountain.
Overall, I had an amazing day at Neuschwanstein Castle even though it rained and snowed on us. I highly recommend signing up for a private day tour if you are traveling to Munich or around Bavaria. It is 10 hours long and our awesome tour guide rewarded us with fresh Bavarian beer on our ride home. It was perfect!
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I hope you all enjoyed reading about my time in Munich and Bavaria, Germany and discovering the magical adventures you could partake in when you travel here during Christmastime. If you have any questions about my time in Germany during Advent season, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, contact me via social media or leave a comment below.
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