While it’s true there’s no place like home for the holidays, there’s no reason why you can’t start your holidays at one or more of the fabulous Christmas markets held all over Europe. This year when you gather for the holidays, start thinking about making some new holiday memories starting with a fabulous getaway that includes some stops at Christmas markets. Your travel advisors at GetAway can plan your trip including some stops for shopping and enjoying some new holiday experiences.
Markets got their start in Vienna
Christmas markets are street markets designed to celebrate the holiday during the four weeks of Advent leading up to and sometimes, depending on which country you are in, past Christmas into January. They are thought to have originated in Vienna, but were made popular in Germany.
Vienna, Austria, City Centre Christmas Market
The first Christmas market supposedly was in 1296 in December when Emperor Albrecht I of Austria granted shopkeepers a one-to-two day market so the townspeople could stock up before the winter. Christmas markets are held in town squares and the little, decorated wooden stalls offer arts and crafts items, candles, toys, Christmas decorations and figurines as well as food and drinks. Some town halls transform into giant Advent calendars with different windows lighted each night.
Nutcrackers in Rudesheim Germany Christmas Market
Now, virtually every country including Germany, Denmark, France, Austria, Portugal, Spain and England have Christmas markets. So your GetAway advisor can plan plenty of sightseeing in a country and have your trip end with a fantastic Christmas market experience. You can fill that second empty suitcase you brought with your holiday gifts, and, of course, a couple of items for yourself!
Festive sights, sounds and food
The most famous Christmas market is in Vienna, which actually has a dozen or more markets located throughout the city. The largest market is in Rathausplatz, in the square facing Vienna City Hall. Markets in Vienna are, well, grand — like the residents strive to match the fabulous, grand architecture of the city. There’s lots of light displays and Rathausplatz has an ice skating rink. And, just a note, when markets are described as having stalls with items, we are taking upwards of 200 stalls.
Christmas Market Mainz, Germany
Markets, no matter what city in what country, serve a variation of gluhwein. Gluhwein is hot mulled wine spiced with cloves, anise, cinnamon and citrus fruits. Red wine is the most prevalent, but you can find it done with white wine. There is usually a version of apple cider if you want a non-alcoholic beverage and, of course, hot cocoa. Gluhwein, where ever you are, is served in a mug which you put a deposit on. You can return for a refill, or keep the mug for the price of the small deposit. They make great keepsake souvenirs.
Make sure to go to the markets hungry. In France, where you should wait until dusk to go shopping because the twinkling lights are magical, you can get oysters, champagne, caviar, poutine and freshly grilled meat.
Bavaria is a region in southern Germany bordered by Austria and the Czech Republic. The Danube River winds through the center and it’s home to a lot of endearing old world customs, but it has a culture that is all its own. From beer halls to architecture, the culture of Germany intertwines with Bavarian culture.
But Bavaria is like a fairy land. It has high mountains, serene lakes as big as oceans, castle ruins, enchanting castles that are still standing, charming medieval towns, quaint villages, tasty cuisine and beverages and the epic Passion Play that takes an entire town to produce.
If you want to experience the charm of Bavaria, including the Romantic Road and the Passion Play, GetAway Travel has a group trip scheduled. Give us a call today to reserve a spot or two.
Is the Romantic Road — romantic?
Why, yes, the Romantic Road IS romantic. Honestly, it is the most popular tourist destination in Germany, but GetAway Travel travel advisors will help you navigate your way to the trip you want with enough of the touristy spots to be interesting, but some other great spots, too.
Germany came up with the name and the destination in the 1950s when it was felt a little encouragement and positivity about the area was needed. It’s the scenic route from the River Main to the Alps and it really has everything.
Three walled cities
Dinkelsbühl Nördlingen and Rothenburg ob der Tauber are the three walled cities left in Bavaria and they happen to be on the Romantic Road route.
Rothenburg ob der Tauber
Dinkelsbühl made it through the Swedish invasion in 1632 and in 1826 King Ludwig I issued a proclamation preserving the city buildings, walls and towers. Since the late 1800s, artists from around Europe have made Dinkelsbühl their home and the city has many artist studios which makes for great shopping opportunities. It’s a lovely city with homes painted in bright pastel colors with window boxes crowded with a profusion of flowers.
Speaking of shopping, Rothenburg ob Der Tauber, which was the second largest city in Germany in the middle ages, has some spectacular Christmas shops including Käthe Wohlfahrt Christmas Village which also contains a German Christmas Museum.
Nördlingen is a circular walled city and the original theory was that it was built in a depression left by a volcano. And while that is interesting, the city is actually built in a depression from a meteor strike, which is even more interesting! When the meteor struck, it created something called suevite rock which contains glass and microscopic diamonds.The diamonds are built into the buildings and St. George’s Church contains more than 5,000 carats in diamonds.
The city has a crater museum where American astronauts underwent geological training before making their trips to the moon.
Palaces galore, including the Mad King’s creations
King Ludwig II was king for all of two years before he was deposed for his lavish and maniacal spending, imprisoned in one of his own castles and he drowned in a lake of waist high water one day later with the doctor who had ruled him insane. He had three castles in various stages of construction when he was deposed.
The most famous of Ludwig II’s castles is Neuschwanstein. Perched on a rocky ledge overlooking a grotto, it provided the inspiration for the castle in Cinderella. It, as well as his other castles, were actually not designed by architects, but by an opera set designer. Neuschwanstein was built with creature comforts including running water, an elevator, forced air heat and flushing toilets. The grand rooms were decorated in themes concentrating on heroic legends, operas and romantic literature.
Linderhoff Place, in Ettal, is the smallest of Ludwig II’s palaces and the only one that was completed. It is modeled after Versailles and the lavish interior has an abundance of elaborate carvings with lots of gold leaf. The Moroccan House is on the palace grounds as well as a man-made Venus grotto. The sculpted gardens are accented by the picturesque backdrop of the foothills of the Alps.
One of the other castles of note on the Romantic Road is Heidelberg Castle. Set about 300 feet above the city, it is actually several buildings which ring a courtyard. The buildings were each built at a different time so they are in different architectural styles. It offers fabulous views of the countryside and — the world’s largest wine barrel! In 1751 Prince Elector Karl Theodor decided local winemakers needed to pay wine as their tax so he had the barrel built. It holds 58,124 gallons and it has a dance floor on the top.
Moat at Heidelberg Castle
The Passion Play and more places of note
In 1634 the villagers of Oberammergau prayed they would be spared from a plague and promised if they were, every 10th year they would perform a grand production commemorating the death and resurrection of Christ. Postponed for the past two years, the play will be presented in 2022.
Presented in German, English text is provided and it runs for five hours. Yes, five hours, but you do get a meal break! Performed on an open air stage, it takes more than 2,000 performers, musicians and stage technicians to complete.
Garmisch-Partenkirchen are two towns that were joined in 1936. One of the area’s top winter sports destinations, Garmisch is modern and trendy while Partenkirchen to the east exudes Old World charm.
Ten minutes away is Eibsee where you can ride a cable car to the summit of Zugspitze, Germany’s highest peak. Take a break at the top, have a beer, and take in the panoramic view of the mountain peaks and four countries.
This is just a bit of what you can enjoy — there’s monasteries, churches with gorgeous paintings and frescoes (on the walls and ceilings), spaetzle, beer, sausage, schnitzel and lebkuchen which is a soft, chewy version of gingerbread with hazelnuts, candied fruit and lemon peel.
We have 2 exciting European Group GetAways scheduled for 2017. They may both be cruises, but they are completely different!
First up is the Wines of Western Europewhich includes Bordeaux (France), Basque (Spain) and Portugal. Our group will be sailing aboard the luxurious Azamara Journey. Azamara Club Cruises is at the crossroads of where luxury and destination immersive cruising meet. This ship only holds 694 passengers and has a wonderful mix of amenities. She’s a perfect-sized vessel: small enough that it’s never too far from one place to another, yet large enough to provide variety on long itineraries. On our trip we will experience late evening and overnight port stays. The Journey was completely refurbished in 2016 – it received new spa suites in the fully renovated Sanctum spa with updated decor in marble, light wood and a cream palate. Every suite and stateroom has new beds with the same decor scheme, and the restaurants also received a modern upgrade.
Our 12 Night GetAway begins in Southampton England on September 4 and ends in Lisbon Portugal on September 16. Along the way you will experience the worlds foremost wine region in Bordeaux, spend a day at the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao, wash Tapas down with Rioja wine, and sip port in the Douro Valley – and so much more. You can find more details at our website. We hope you can join us.
If you’re tired of commercialism taking over the holidays, you will be very pleased with the traditions and romance of real Christmas markets where the gifts are not mass-produced but craftwork of real quality. Our group will begin in Budapest and sail along the Danube while visiting Hungary, Slovakia, Austria and Germany. Every stop along the way will feature special Christmas Market excursions. You can find more details on the itinerary at our website.
Every Uniworld ship is as unique as it’s itinerary and the SS Maria Theresa is no exception. It’s opulent 18th century décor is a floating homage to one of the Habsburg empires most beloved ruler. The food, drink and service on Uniworld are absolutely outstanding – and everything is included! Call now as there are limited time promotions where even the air is included!
We recently returned from an unforgettable cruise along the Rhine River to visit Christmas Markets in Germany, France and Switzerland. Our journey was even more memorable as we travelled with a group of close friends.
River cruising provides an up close and personal experience. The ships typically dock in the heart of town allowing easy and convenient access to the local sights and sounds. This is especially convenient for a Christmas Market Cruise. During the advent season, towns throughout Europe host wonderfully decorated markets for crafts, drink and food! Hop off the ship to go shopping all day and then back on in time for cocktail hour and a gourmet dinner before you set off for your next stop.
Advent has been ushered in since the late middle ages via traditional Christmas markets. Depending on where you are in Europe a Christmas market is also known as Christkindlmarkt, Marché de Noël, Christkindlesmarkt, and Weihnachtsmarkt. Christkindlesmarkt literally translates as “Christ child market”.
Generally held in town squares, the markets sell food, drink and seasonal crafts from open-air stalls accompanied by traditional singing and dancing. Popular attractions include a Nativity scene, nutcrackers, toasted almonds, traditional gingerbread cookies and hot mulled wine to help stave off the cold winter air. Many handmade items including toys, decorations and ornaments are found in the Market. Check out this photo – It’s truly a magical experience!
One of the most visited Christmas Markets is found in Cologne, Germany which in fact has 7 markets in total of which the 4 biggest are located near the amazing Cathedral. The Christmas Market at the Cologne Cathedral is the most impressive one in, due to the huge backdrop of the imposing Cathedral. Beneath the Cathedral and the largest Christmas tree in the Rhineland, you can find well over 160 festively designed wooden pavilions. Here you can watch artisans at work, enjoy original “Christmas Mulled Wine” out of festively decorated Christmas mugs or you can choose from an unlimited choice of sweets and local delicacies. The Alter Markt takes place in front of the old town hall only 200 meters from the cathedral. Shadowed by beautiful narrow-gabled houses and half-timbered stalls, this market conveys a very romantic and idyllic feel. The Neumarkt is Cologne’s oldest Christmas market located near St. Aspoteln’s (Basilica of the Holy Apostles) church. This market glows in splendor with charmingly designed chalets and a unique “stars at night” theme. The Christmas Market on the Rudolfplatz takes you to a world of brother’s Grimm fairy tales. Large fairy tale figures and festive illuminations provide a special eye-catcher, set against the historic backdrop of one of Cologne’s 3 standing medieval gate houses.
Prepare to be pampered and amazed on our special 7 day trip cruising along the legendary Rhine through Germany, France and Switzerland. Explore charming towns and discover treasures in some of Europe’s finest traditional Christmas markets. You’ll revel in the brilliant holiday decorations and in tasting the many treats and spiced wines of the season. This is truly the way to celebrate Christmas! Discover the roots of our Christmas traditions as you explore some of Europe’s most charming towns. Browse for unique ornaments in Basel’s Christmas Market. Sip vin chaud as you stroll to Place Kléber to behold the enormous, brilliantly lighted tree that Strasbourg offers modern celebrants. Find unexpected treasures in the red-roofed stalls clustered around Cologne’s magnificent cathedral.
Rich culture and history, amazing cuisine and diverse heritage are all packed into this amazing destination. Europe has some of the greatest intellectual and artistic developments the world has ever known. The landscape is dense with museums, cathedrals, monuments and palaces. Irresistible and intriguing, Europe continues to call us to visit. to experience the rich culture, history, and warm friendly people.
There are so many places to go – where do you begin? From the oldest monument in Europe (Stonehenge) to the most amazing museums: Louvre in Paris, Uffizi in Florence, Guggenheim in Blibao, and the list goes on and on. From the rolling Tuscan countryside wine regions in Italy to the mecca of beer – Hofbrauhaus in Munich. From the pristine beaches at Normandy where the allies initiated the liberation of Europe in World War II to the defensive fortification of Hadrian’s Wall built in the 1st century AD.
There are so many places to go and so many ways to see Europe that the best place to begin is right here with us. We can help plan the perfect trip that is right for you.
Are you looking for a girls getaway to the Caribbean? How about a wine club tour of France, Italy or New Zealand? Would your church group like to experience the footsteps of St. Paul in Turkey and Greece? What about taking a group of your friends to Napa to celebrate a milestone birthday? How about a family reunion on an Alaskan cruise? Ski club trip to Vail? Scrapbooking club River Cruise in Austria? Choral group trip to Christmas markets in Germany? Foodies group at Walt Disney World food and wine festival? Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.
The possibilities are endless. We can help with generating ideas, the detailed planning, the marketing and of course getting everyone in your group to where they need to go. While we work with the group leaders to help craft the whole experience, we also make sure that we meet the needs of individual travellers within the group as well.
Have an idea for a group GetAway? We need to talk – (262) 538-2140
One of our premier suppliers is hosting a 10 day Bavarian Brewery and Oktoberfest Tour, September 17-27, 2014. We think it is an amazing and unique opportunity to see some of the best that Germany has to offer along with a group of fellow beer enthusiasts. For this post, we will just cover the very beginning of the tour in Bamberg.
Historic brewpub in Bamberg, Germany
The first night of the tour is in the town of Bamberg, one of the best preserved medieval cities in Bavaria. There are 9 breweries in Bamberg, with the specialty brew of the area being Rauchbier, a very distinctive brew with a smoke flavor imparted by drying the malted barley over an open flame. Before modern kilns became common, most malt was dried over an open flame and most beers features some smokiness. Today, Bamberg is one of very few locations where the old-school smoking takes place. Most rauchbiers are medium-to-full-bodied lagers with pronounced smoke & malt character, light bitterness, and minimal hop flavor. The best known Rauchbier is brewed by Schlenkerla, which operates in a historic brewpub in town. The building itself dates back to 1405. After a walking tour of the old town, Schlenkerla is where our tours welcome dinner is held.
The following day, we stay in Bamberg and have tours and tastings at 2 more breweries. The rest of this day is at leisure, where you may choose to visit the Franconian Brewery-Museum, with its Benedictine brewhouse dating from 1122. One especially noteworthy place in Bamberg is the Altes Rathaus (old townhall), which is perched in the middle of a bridge above the Regnitz River and is a must-see.
You can find all the details of the full tour along with a registration from at our web page here. Ein Prosit!
Words cannot adequately describe this magical little world which is the top tourist attraction in Hamburg, Germany. It’s really so much more than just a model railway exhibit. Welcome to Miniatur Wunderland.