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  #1  
Old December 17th, 2012, 09:40 PM
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Default Which Christmas Market?

Hi, we're doing a land trip next year and would like to take in a couple of Christmas Markets. I originally thought of going to Cologne and Strasbourg but now Vienna is entering the picture....do you have two favourites where there's enough to see in the town for a few days and then hit the markets at night?

Thanks
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  #2  
Old December 19th, 2012, 12:09 AM
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Vienna has several Christmas Markets and are probably my least favorite, tho the one at the Schonenbrunn Palace is lovely.

Nuremburg is huge and wonderful but on the weekend it is so crowded that you can hardly move. They have a whole block of a childrens Christmas Market with rides, special indoor areas when kids can write & mail letters to St. Nick, do crafts, etc.

I really love Budapest, tho I've met people who do not favor it. I like the atmosphere, the food (rooster testicle stew available for the brave) and a different selection of goods to buy.

Ravensberg & Passau were nice.

Standouts for me were Prague and Salzberg.

All that said, a lot depends upon the day of the week, the crowds, the weather and the vendors.

They are a very special experience that I was fortunate to enjoy twice. All were lovely, but I just prefered Budapest, Prague & Salzberg, but would return to all the others in a heartbeat. ENJOY!
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Old December 19th, 2012, 10:06 AM
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We did the Rhine for our Christmas market cruise... and my suggestions would be Cologne and Strasbourg.

Cologne has a number of markets (there were 7 the year we were there) and they had a little train that travelled between them to assist with the logistics of visiting them all. They also have the Chocolate Museum - with a fun gift shop that is open to the public (ie: don't have to tour the museum to visit the gift shop...)

Strasbourg has a great market... but they also decorate all the fronts of their buildings in the main area of the town. So fun to see... They also have a Villeroy and Boch store just down the street from the market with some unique and reasonably priced (at least, reasonable for Villeroy and Boch) Christmas ornaments and serving pieces. And - the market stalls are spread throughout the Old Town area at well.

So - my suggestion would be to stick with your original plan --> lots to see in both places.

Fran
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Old December 19th, 2012, 10:21 AM
Rxgrad98 Rxgrad98 is offline
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Hi Cruise Junky,

We were on the 11/25 sailing of the Viking Sun doing the Basel to Amsterdam sailing on the Rhine. The markets were just starting to open on our trip. Of the ones that were open, Cologne was the best, IMO. It was the largest and had the best variety of the markets. But, at night it was so crowded you could barely move, although we were there on a Friday night. The market at the Cathedral was beautiful at night with the huge Christmas tree lit up and the Cathedral in the background; looked just like the pictures in the cruise brochures.

I liked Heidelberg's market too and found the prices to be very reasonable, although it was small. Strasbourg's market was nice, but a little smaller than I expected. The variety there was decent and the town was decorated nicely. Basel's market was nice, but absolutely packed (we were there on a Sat and Sun, so could have been less so on a weekday). Koblenz's wasn't worth the effort and Rudesheim hadn't opened yet, which was a big disappointment.

I wasn't disappointed in the markets, but they weren't exactly what I expected. I expected less food stalls and more stalls sailing handmade crafts from the local region. We saw tons of wallets, scarves, and other items that I would suspect were mass produced and not necessarily locally. I limited my purchases to what I felt were local craftsmen products. I would love to go back and visit the smaller towns/villages and explore their markets and atmosphere at Christmas on an independent land trip.

I think you have the right idea in doing a land trip. I loved our cruise and would do it again in heartbeat, but one of the joys I found of the markets is being there at night to see the lights, which we couldn't always do on the cruise. I'm sure other members will be able to fill you in on the markets along the Main and Danube. Good luck in deciding.

Tim
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Old December 19th, 2012, 11:29 AM
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We've visited he markets in cologne and Dusseldorf. We enjoyed Cologne best. 7 markets and a fantastic atmosphere.
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  #6  
Old December 19th, 2012, 10:20 PM
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I feel about Christmas markets the way some travelers feel about Caribbean beaches; there's no such thing as a BAD one! Having said that, I'm with Franski on Strasbourg. It's a standout market and city (and I've been both in winter and summer). Great town.

Loved Cologne's chocolate museum (as I've said on this forum many times!).

My colleague Jamey just got off a Rhine River cruise on Viking and did a slideshow on the experience -- it's here: http://www.cruisecritic.com/articles.cfm?ID=1471.

Munich has a number of markets, all different, and if you're planning a Danube cruise, try to find time to spend a few days in this magical city (it's not on a river cruise river but is a good airport to fly in and out of).

I was just in Regensburg (second visit, first in summer, this one in winter) and it's a marvelous, marvelous city. Not a lot of chain stores, but very prosperous. It has markets that are fun enough -- you have to try the 14-foot long frankfurters and gluhwein, but for stuff to buy, head to the Thurn-und-Taxis castle for the best and most memorable stuff. You have to pay 5 euro or so to get in. Worth it, entirely.

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Quote:
Originally Posted by franski View Post
We did the Rhine for our Christmas market cruise... and my suggestions would be Cologne and Strasbourg.

Cologne has a number of markets (there were 7 the year we were there) and they had a little train that travelled between them to assist with the logistics of visiting them all. They also have the Chocolate Museum - with a fun gift shop that is open to the public (ie: don't have to tour the museum to visit the gift shop...)

Strasbourg has a great market... but they also decorate all the fronts of their buildings in the main area of the town. So fun to see... They also have a Villeroy and Boch store just down the street from the market with some unique and reasonably priced (at least, reasonable for Villeroy and Boch) Christmas ornaments and serving pieces. And - the market stalls are spread throughout the Old Town area at well.

So - my suggestion would be to stick with your original plan --> lots to see in both places.

Fran
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  #7  
Old December 19th, 2012, 10:25 PM
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Originally Posted by editor@cruisecritic View Post
I feel about Christmas markets the way some travelers feel about Caribbean beaches; there's no such thing as a BAD one! Having said that, I'm with Franski on Strasbourg. It's a standout market and city (and I've been both in winter and summer). Great town.

Loved Cologne's chocolate museum (as I've said on this forum many times!).

My colleague Jamey just got off a Rhine River cruise on Viking and did a slideshow on the experience -- it's here: http://www.cruisecritic.com/articles.cfm?ID=1471.

Munich has a number of markets, all different, and if you're planning a Danube cruise, try to find time to spend a few days in this magical city (it's not on a river cruise river but is a good airport to fly in and out of).

I was just in Regensburg (second visit, first in summer, this one in winter) and it's a marvelous, marvelous city. Not a lot of chain stores, but very prosperous. It has markets that are fun enough -- you have to try the 14-foot long frankfurters and gluhwein, but for stuff to buy, head to the Thurn-und-Taxis castle for the best and most memorable stuff. You have to pay 5 euro or so to get in. Worth it, entirely.

Carolyn

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A 14 foot hot dog? Holy smokes. I think I'm very drawn to Strasbourg so that's in. I'm torn between Cologne and Vienna. I posted this question on Tripadvisor as well and there's an overwhelming recommendation for Vienna
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Old December 19th, 2012, 10:28 PM
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Tim, you make a great point about the downside of the markets (crowds, selling the same stuff). We want to do, for next year, the definitive guide on what to look for in each market that's special.

One thing I noticed in Nuremberg, where we happened to be on the night the markets opened (both a good thing -- festive -- and bad -- massively crowded) is that markets are pretty much about being part of a crowd. A mostly local crowd. I think in the end that's part of the fun, that it's cold and frosty and everyone's out drinking wine and eating sausages and chocolate covered fruit and trying to stay warm. It's part of the experience and I'm not sure it can be avoided.

I wrote this somewhere the other day but I've actually found the best shopping not to be in the markets but in the shops located on streets leading to the markets. Did anyone else have this experience? What I bought in the markets was food and wine....

Last comment. Was in Frankfurt for an overnight before joining my ship in Nuremberg and had just flown in, and had no euros, and took a cab from my airport hotel to the city (you could use a credit card) thinking I'd find an ATM easily. In what is arguably Germany's financial capital, I wandered around downtown for about an hour and couldn't find any ATMs! Maybe I was unlucky. It was kind of depressing because I wanted to buy things well, food & drink at the market, wanted to feel a part of it and it wasn't to be. Ultimately, hungry, I found a great local restaurant (that indeed took credit cards) and had a blast. But not the experience I expected.

Which is perhaps what travel is all about?

Carolyn


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Originally Posted by Rxgrad98 View Post
Hi Cruise Junky,

We were on the 11/25 sailing of the Viking Sun doing the Basel to Amsterdam sailing on the Rhine. The markets were just starting to open on our trip. Of the ones that were open, Cologne was the best, IMO. It was the largest and had the best variety of the markets. But, at night it was so crowded you could barely move, although we were there on a Friday night. The market at the Cathedral was beautiful at night with the huge Christmas tree lit up and the Cathedral in the background; looked just like the pictures in the cruise brochures.

I liked Heidelberg's market too and found the prices to be very reasonable, although it was small. Strasbourg's market was nice, but a little smaller than I expected. The variety there was decent and the town was decorated nicely. Basel's market was nice, but absolutely packed (we were there on a Sat and Sun, so could have been less so on a weekday). Koblenz's wasn't worth the effort and Rudesheim hadn't opened yet, which was a big disappointment.

I wasn't disappointed in the markets, but they weren't exactly what I expected. I expected less food stalls and more stalls sailing handmade crafts from the local region. We saw tons of wallets, scarves, and other items that I would suspect were mass produced and not necessarily locally. I limited my purchases to what I felt were local craftsmen products. I would love to go back and visit the smaller towns/villages and explore their markets and atmosphere at Christmas on an independent land trip.

I think you have the right idea in doing a land trip. I loved our cruise and would do it again in heartbeat, but one of the joys I found of the markets is being there at night to see the lights, which we couldn't always do on the cruise. I'm sure other members will be able to fill you in on the markets along the Main and Danube. Good luck in deciding.

Tim
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  #9  
Old December 20th, 2012, 12:39 AM
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Originally Posted by editor@cruisecritic View Post

I wrote this somewhere the other day but I've actually found the best shopping not to be in the markets but in the shops located on streets leading to the markets. Did anyone else have this experience? What I bought in the markets was food and wine....

Carolyn
I totally understand... One of my "treasures" was found in a stall in Strasbourg --> it was a carved wooden Santa made in Russia... and the stall was a "satellite" (for lack of a better word...) of a shop around the corner that sold Russian handicrafts.

I also picked up a number of ornaments when we cruised the Danube in October... mostly wooden ornaments in various villages along the way.... I felt sure that the ornaments in the Christmas markets would be "better" - but didn't find that when we actually did the markets.

Loved the markets - but don't have a burning desire to do another one. I would like to, however, re-cruise the Rhine when the weather is warmer!! Lots of things I feel we missed out on travelling in December.

Fran
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Old December 20th, 2012, 01:08 AM
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Can you guys believe I just won my flight to Paris for this trip. I entered an Air Canada Dream Trips contest and was one of the winners! Yippee!!
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Old December 20th, 2012, 03:50 PM
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Can you guys believe I just won my flight to Paris for this trip. I entered an Air Canada Dream Trips contest and was one of the winners! Yippee!!

Congrats!!

What a great Christmas present.

Fran
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Old December 20th, 2012, 08:35 PM
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Congrats!!

What a great Christmas present.

Fran
That's what I thought
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Old December 23rd, 2012, 11:30 PM
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We have done a September Rhine cruise and just got back from a Budapest to Passau river cruise. Highlights of my Rhine cruise were the stops in Alsace, Colmar and Strasbourg as well as heidelberg so I would imagine Christmas marketing would be great at these stops. However, you do need to check when the christmas markets open at all the ports before booking. I did that easily online. Having said that....our Danube cruise was fabulous. Favourite markets were Schonbrunn in Vienna although the market at the city hall was not great...Salzburg was amazing and highly recommend. Actually Uniworld docked in Linz so when we came back from Salzburg we still had 2 hours to walk 5 minutes to its market which was nice. Krems was a nice stop as that town is so walkable there were a bunch of stores we went into for bargains in chocolate(Spar), Passau our last stop was amazing and we had more than a half day to easily walk around . It was great. Our first market, Budapest was also interesting and very nice..lots of unique things. Our stop in Krems included a trip to an abbey in which was a lovely gift shop worth purchasing at. Let me know if you have any more questions...
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Old January 1st, 2013, 02:33 PM
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This thread is fabulous and exactly what I was looking for!!!

We are thinking of a Viking Christmas Market cruise next year. DH would like to take a Rhine River cruise and I was wondering if we could combine the two - reading this thread it sounds like a possibility! We did a two-day land trip through the Kolbenz part of the Rhine area and just loved it! Have been to twice (leaving on big ship cruises) and love that city - but never been there in December!!

Questions ~ those of you who have taken a Christmas Market cruise:
*do you also have time to see others sites in the area?
*do the ships still have their regular excursions?
*how cold is it really? (I know this can vary from year to year but your experience)
*how did you find room to bring home gifts?? I can hardly manage it without packing sweaters, etc for cold weather!!!

Any help will be greatly appreciated and prehaps be the idea to "push us over the edge" and into booking!!!!

Thanks Much!
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Old January 1st, 2013, 04:05 PM
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The Rhine cruise with Uniworld was a bit different than their usual itinerary, as it starts in Cologne instead of Amsterdam. The boat was docked right beside the chocolate museum - so an easy walk there, and not bad to get to the main square. We had an extra full day there (after the day of embarkation) so a reasonable amount of time. If you arrive early enough in the morning, this will allow almost 2 days in Cologne (the reason we started there, and cruised towards Basel...)

The Christmas market cruises allow for extra time at the markets, but still have their regular excursions. Some things are not available (ie: the cable car ride in Koblenz) - but other things are added... such as a stop in Mainz. Depending on the time of your stop, the markets may not be open. They were just opening up in Koblenz when we were there (as our tour was early in the morning) so really didn't see the markets there. However, we docked in Rudesheim before dinner, and if you didn't want to do the Rudesheimer Schloss dinner, you could wander around the markets until they closed. Our included excursion (the Music "Kabinet" museum) was the next morning, so we had extra time there the next day, as we didn't leave until noon.

We had a brutally cold trip - but just packed in layers. We found the dining much more relaxed, so didn't worry about anything "dressy" for dinner. I packed lots of tissue and bubble wrap to bring presents home, and gave away anything we didn't use. If you buy anything large (ie: a cuckoo clock) you can have it shipped.

As far as things such as Gluhwine mugs - we just put clothing such as socks in them and packed them in the suitcases - no tragedies in that area. I packed anything really "precious" in my carry on. I brought home a beautiful wooden pyramid - and just made sure it was the 1st thing in my carry on (sort of a duffle bag) and then worked around that.

Does that help??

Fran
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Old January 1st, 2013, 04:46 PM
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Fran ~ thanks SO much for your quick reply!!! Certainly helps!! Like the tip of bring bubble wrap! Last cruise I saved some from something - can't rememver what - and my DH though I was crazy until we were packing wine bottle to come home! Then I turned into the smart one!!!

Thanks for info on excursions - I can understand some things would be different because of the weather but just wondered about excursions since Viking doesn't have specific info for their Christmas Market trips - at least not for the Rhine River.

Now for another question - did you bring boots??? I don't think I'd like to wear them on the plane - I usually wear my skechers, my heavest shoes but 6-7 hours in boots??????

Thanks much - Peg
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Old January 1st, 2013, 06:40 PM
LzzyCrzr LzzyCrzr is offline
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Default Vienna - Christmas Atmosphere

While I agree that the stalls themselves at the main market in Vienna (in front of the town hall) are not the most authentic, the atmosphere in Vienna just screams holidays. It is by far my favorite city when visiting during the holidays. Their chandelier night time decorations are amazing and you can't miss the Schonnbrun Palace is a must see. I would recommend taking a look at some of the smaller Christmas markets in Vienna as they are much more artisan.

I haven't been to Strasburg or Cologne at Christmas time but I imagine, based on my experiences with them in the spring time, that they would be amazing and I am currently planning a Rhine Christmas Markets cruise in hopes of getting to experience their markets as well.
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Old January 1st, 2013, 07:06 PM
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Originally Posted by FotoPeg View Post
This thread is fabulous and exactly what I was looking for!!!

Questions ~ those of you who have taken a Christmas Market cruise:
*do you also have time to see others sites in the area?
*do the ships still have their regular excursions?
*how cold is it really? (I know this can vary from year to year but your experience)
*how did you find room to bring home gifts?? I can hardly manage it without packing sweaters, etc for cold weather!!!

Thanks Much!
The great thing about the christmas markets are that they are usually surrounding the major sites of a city. And with the river cruises the excursions are often a walking tour of the city where you can see all the sites. I haven't found the need to spend my whole day at the Christmas markets so its easy to get everything in in the allotted time you have. I think of them as an enhancement to the trip an additional site to see. A lot of the fun is seeing how the towns decorate for the holidays including those major attractions.

It can get cold but we have usually gone the first week of December and its in the 30s most of the time - we did have one 18F day on each trip. The worst issue we ran into was you can sometimes run into ice as you are getting off the ship - but never saw anyone land on their tush. Both times I did bring a pair of good tread shoes and had no problems. We had 2 carry on bags we folded into our luggage - with so many ornaments I did not want to pack any into my luggage - everything got home in one piece and there were a significant amount of glass and old world ornaments. Also many shops will ship it home - which makes it easier if its a little bigger.

I honestly didn't bring any sweaters - I had long sleeve shirts with my heavy coat and scarf. I needed the heavy coat outside and I cant think of a time my long sleeve shirt wasn't enough inside. On the way over I packed my carry on with the big coat and boots and then wore them home - I agree not the most comfortable but worth it to save my ornaments.
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Celebrity - Alaska -May 31 2013

Past Cruises

RCL - UK & Norway - Aug 2003
Viking - Danube Christmas - Dec 2005
Holland America - Alaska - Aug 2006
Viking - Rhine - Jun 2007
Holland America - Alaska - Aug 2009
Viking - Danube Christmas - Dec 2009

Princess - UK - Jun 2011
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  #19  
Old January 2nd, 2013, 12:12 AM
franski franski is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FotoPeg View Post
Now for another question - did you bring boots??? I don't think I'd like to wear them on the plane - I usually wear my skechers, my heavest shoes but 6-7 hours in boots??????

Thanks much - Peg
Hi Peg - I did not bring boots, but many did. I have Keen hiking shoes - and this is what I wore, with thick socks. Having done this cruise, I might rethink that if I decided to go again.

I always wear tie-up shoes, and compression stockings for any flight over 5 hours - as I am a little paranoid about the risk of blood clots. So - I would most likely sacrifice valuable carry on space for boots. And, have no regrets about using up space in my DH's suitcase if required...

In Cologne, our guide told us it was the coldest December 1st in 100 years... I lost my hat and 1 set of mitts on the train (we flew into Frankfurt, and took the train to Cologne) - so had to go and buy new ones the next day. In Cologne, we ducked into the back streets quite a bit to escape the biting wind - and found some great shops. We found that the markets in front of the cathedrals could be extremely cold when the wind was blowing.

We had blowing rain in Basel, although it was warmer there than it had been at other stops....so quite a change in the weather. But - I would take cold and dry over wet any day....

Fran

Last edited by franski; January 2nd, 2013 at 12:14 AM.
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  #20  
Old January 2nd, 2013, 05:42 AM
caviargal caviargal is offline
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We have done several land trips to visit the markets and really enjoy that style of travel. Are you renting a car or using public transport?

One of our favorite itineraries is to fly in and out Munich. We head directly to Salzburg from Munich airport on arrival, then spend 4 nights there. Salzburg is lovely as a destination and has some very nice markets. It is also a perfect location for day trips. We love to visit St. Gilgen, St. Wolfgang, Bad Ischl, Berchtesgaden and each has a charming market and can easily be reached by public transport. There is also Zell am See, Innsbruck and more that be incorporated for a couple of nights or for a day trip, depending on your travel style.

Depending on how long the trip is, we then head to Munich and spend 4-5 nights, using it as base to explore Bavaria. You could also choose to spend a couple of nights in Bamberg, Wurzburg, Regensburg - all are charming and worth a visit. Nurembeg has a huge market but is mobbed on weekends so we visit during the week. Garmisch is a great place for either an overnight or a day trip and the Zugspitze is stunning on a clear day. We also enjoy a visit to Chiemsee-Prien for a small town market within an hour of Munich.

Another favorite itinerary is to fly into Berlin and spend 4-5 nights. It is a wonderful city - our favorite in Europe - and the markets there are plentiful and interesting and among our favorites. There is enough to do in Berlin to keep one busy for weeks and we have spent weeks there over the years and always plan another trip as soon as we come home. From there, a night or two in Dresden, then may we make our way to Munich, with another 2-3 night stop along the way, lots of good options. Or we take a cheap flight from Berlin to Salzburg and spend a few nights in Austria before heading to Munich to fly home.

Vienna is not our favorite city in Europe, for the markets or otherwise.

We visited Budapest and Prague for the markets this year and they were delightful! Prague is another favorite but weekends are a mob scene.

We spent one day in Cologne and did not care for the city or markets.

You can combine Germany and France by flying to Paris and out of Frankfurt and planning a route in between. It is under 4 hours by direct train from FRA airport to Paris, and then you could incorporate Strasbourg.

We love to visit Europe by land and have planned our own trips for many years. Book ahead for hotels and purchase train tickets 92 days prior for routes in Germany to maximize savings.
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Last edited by caviargal; January 2nd, 2013 at 05:46 AM.
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