The first two weeks of December, are notorious for being the slowest two weeks of the year in the travel business. This time period is the aftermath of the Thanksgiving holiday and becomes the buying season, leading up to Christmas. You can almost travel anywhere and name your price.
It is this time of the year that I go to Europe to enjoy Europe’s magnificent Christmas markets. This year we began by visiting the five Christmas Markets in Munich Germany. Without a doubt, I visited the two best Christmas markets in Munich.
The Christmas market in downtown Munich, on the Marienplatz, was huge and radiates through-out the city via Munich’s finger streets, and is a beautiful and outstanding traditional Christmas market.
We felt the best Christmas market in Munich was actually not a Christmas market at all, but a “Winter Festival” market, that is located on the Oktoberfest grounds, just outside of the downtown area. This winter festival called Tollwood, was massive and is made up of traditional Christmas shops, along with many restaurants, bars, and rock shows in tents. This festival is open till 1am each night and is packed with mostly young adults, and really does rock.
Munich can be reached non-stop from JFK airport via Lufthansa or you can fly Delta or Lufthansa from JFK airport to Frankfurt and then take a fast-regional train 3 hours from Munich. This gives you the advantage of being closer to city attractions as soon as you arrive rather than taking transportation from the airport.
I stayed at the Sheraton Four Points hotel, that is walking distance to the OktoberfestGrounds, and only 1 stop from the main train station in Munich and 3 stops from the Marienplatz.
No trip to Munich Is compete without a visit to the famous Hofbrauhaus. Yes, it is flooded with tourists, but it is fun, the food is great, and the beer is forever flowing.
I also traveled the 65 miles, via regional train (1 hour and 15 minutes) to Salzburg, Austria for its main downtown Christmas market. This market was beautiful and the city is always gorgeous. The Christmas market was fine, but not comparable to Munich’s.
We ended the trip in Frankfurt and for the second time, visited the under-rated and very beautiful, small and virtually unknown city of Mainz. Mainz is 30 minutes from Frankfurt via train and can be toured in a day. The Mainz Christmas market is small, but charming in its own way.
I have traveled to many other Christmas markets and have found the Christmas market in Brussels to be fantastic and huge and the market in Nuremburg advertised as the largest in Europe to be one of the best.
Christmas markets have always been a favorite of all of us who travel to these markets. The cities normally have superior shopping and great restaurants and any time of the year, are a pleasure to visit.
Editors Note: For experienced travelers, like Jonathan Katz, going by train is a great way to visit a variety of cities in the same country, and they are usually savvy enough to figure out how to plan their travels while in-country. However, the new visitor needs to understand their itinerary, times of travel and the exact location of train-stations before they board the airplane. This information is available on the websites of most rail carriers in Europe.