One of the best times of year in Germany, if not the best, is Christmas market time.

This year, for the first time, we did a week-long Christmas market trip to celebrate the season.

The trip actually started in Salzburg, Austria after we made the six-hour drive there from our home in Germany.

1-P1290636

We had been to the market there once before, back in 2009, before we moved to Germany.

At the time it was the second market we’d ever been to (the first was Friedrichshafen, Germany) so we didn’t have much to compare it with.

Now, having been to markets in over 30 towns and cities in 5 countries, I can say emphatically that there is nothing like a Christmas market in Germany.

Salzburg has a nice market on the surface, taking place in a beautiful section of the city surrounding the cathedral.

The decorations were festive and there was periodic entertainment including musical performances, ringing church bells and caroling.

1-P1290631

However, it seemed like the stalls all had commercially mass-produced items for sale, and they were very expensive.

Even the hot alcoholic drinks seemed sub-par, which was quite a disappointment.

1-P1290602

They did come in nice keepsake mugs, though – we managed to add 9 different ones to our collection on this trip alone!

Before leaving the market we stepped inside the cathedral for a look around.

1-P1290616

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was baptized in the cathedral, which was completed in 1628.

The interior is quite stunning and worth a visit if you’re in the area.

Our first stop the next day was the town of Oberndorf, Austria, about a 30-minute drive from where we were staying in Salzburg.

1-P1290657

Oberndorf is home to the Silent Night Memorial Chapel.

It stands on the site of the former St. Nikolaus Church, where on Christmas Eve in 1818, the Christmas song Silent Night was performed for the first time ever.

When we first arrived at the chapel, there was a wedding going on (what a great place to get married!) and crowds of people waiting to get in.

1-P1290654

After finally getting inside the tiny chapel, we were greeted by a group of tourists singing Silent Night in its original language, German.

Of course there was a little Christmas market going on near the chapel as well.

1-P1290661

We added another mug to the collection, purchased a few things in the gift shop and headed to our next destination.

We ended up crossing this bridge on our way there.

1-P1290679

It crosses the Salzach river and connects Oberndorf, Austria with Laufen, Germany.

1-P1290682

There you can see the river with Germany on the left-hand side and Austria on the right-hand side.

The border is actually in the middle of the river

The bridge, which opened in 1903, is 60% in Germany and 40% in Austria.

We parked the car to walk over it and take some photos, and then continued on our way to the Untersbergbhan.

1-P1290692

It’s a cable car that whisks you up to the Untersberg mountain.

In 9 minutes and 10 seconds, you go from an altitude of 456 meters (1,496 feet) to an altitude of 1,776 meters (5,826 feet).

The price is a little steep at 22 Euro per adult round-trip, but the views are worth it.

1-P1290707

You can even buy a ticket for your dog at only 7.50 Euro round-trip.

1-P1290726

This was the only place we saw real snow all week, and as you can imagine it was quite cold at that altitude.

1-P1290714

After stomping around in the snow and cold for a while we rode the cable car back down and drove over to Mondsee, Austria about 30 minutes away.

1-P1290752

The yellow St. Michael’s Basilica is where the wedding scene in the movie The Sound of Music was filmed.

1-P1290756-001

By the way, Austrians and Germans do not get why Americans and Brits love that movie so much.

That does not, however, stop them from trying to make a buck off those of us who do love it.

1-P1290784

Before having dinner in town, we walked down to the Mondsee or Moon Lake.

1-P1290817

The sun was just starting to set and it was absolutely magnificent with the mountains reflected on the surface of the lake.

Naturally there was a Christmas market outside the basilica and we enjoyed a mug of Glühwein there while listening to the live band performing Christmas carols.

1-P1290830

And yes, of course that mug became part of the collection as well.

Our last stop of the day was the Hellbrunn Palace to check out their Christmas market.

1-P1290835

I wish we’d gotten there earlier because it turned out to be the best market of the trip so far, and easily one of my favorites overall.

1-P1290838

There were lots of individual artists there selling their goods and the grounds were superbly decorated.

1-P1290852

The next day, we were on our way to spend two nights in Regensburg, Germany when we passed a sign for Burghausen, the world’s longest castle.

Who could pass up an opportunity like that?

Certainly not us, so we made an unplanned stop there.

Dating from the 13th century, the castle complex is over a kilometer long.

1-P1290898

It’s only as wide as what you see there, though.

It turns out the castle is not actually the world’s longest, but is Europe’s longest and one of the longest in the world.

We still had a nice time strolling the length of the complex and back.

1-P1290905

It was a fairly warm day with gorgeous blue skies and we had fabulous views over the town below.

After arriving in Regensburg and checking into the hotel, we headed over to the Christmas market at the St. Emmeram Castle, which has been occupied by the Thurn and Taxis noble family since 1748.

1-P1290943

The market was along the lines of the one we’d gone to at Schloss Hellbrunn in Austria.

There was an entrance fee to visit the market but I’d happily pay it again as it was that good.

1-P1290941

The next morning we started the day off with a nice breakfast at Caffé Rinaldi, a place we found on Trip Advisor and that lived up to its good reviews.

Even though this was our third time in Regensburg, we visited the cathedral again because it is so spectacular, particularly its stained glass windows.

1-P1290971

Construction on the cathedral was started in 1273 and wasn’t finished until almost 600 years later.

There are several Christmas markets spread around Regensburg and we made our way to all of them over the course of the day.

This guy saw me taking photos and called me over so he could pose for me.

1-P1300002

Some men just can’t help showing off their wieners but that one was particularly impressive at over 19 inches (1/2 meter) long .

Of course we had some more Glühwein and picked up a couple more mugs.

1-P1300027

The last market of the day was across the Danube River from the old town.

1-P1300048

That’s the view towards old town and the cathedral just as dusk was falling.

To end the evening, we stopped into the Spital Brewery that was conveniently located at the last market we visited.

As a switch from Glühwein, I had one of their chocolate stouts and it was pretty yummy.

Leaving Regensburg the next day to head to Leipzig, Germany we stopped in the town of Seiffen, Germany.

Seiffen is known for making wooden toys and all kinds of wooden Christmas decorations including smoking dolls, candle arches, nutcrackers and Christmas pyramids.

1-P1300094

In that photo you can see both candle arches and smoking dolls.

We did our part to support the local economy and came home with not only yet another Glühwein mug, but several decorations for ourselves and gifts for others.

1-P1300098

(That’s Sean – aka Mr. Tipples – with my cousin Mary and her husband Charlie, who were on the trip with us.)

Because you’re basically buying directly from the manufacturer in Seiffen, prices are significantly lower than they are at the Christmas markets.

We finally tore ourselves away from shopping to continue on to Leipzig.

After checking into the hotel, we walked over to the Christmas markets.

1-P1300112

Here’s one of the stalls with a larger-than-life Christmas pyramid on top of it, which is one of the wooden crafts I mentioned above.

1-P1300101

For home-use pyramids you use real candles, whose heat cause the propeller on top to spin.

That in turn causes the other moving parts to spin.

As you can see, the stand is also selling a drink called Feuerzangenbowle.

Before moving to Germany I couldn’t pronounce that at all, and now I can order it like a pro (or so I like to think).

Feuerzangenbowle is a twist on mulled wine, where a sugar cube is soaked in rum and then set on fire to drip into the wine.

1-P1300246

The shape of that mug is particularly helpful as it keeps your nose warm while drinking.

1-P1300247

The next day, we took in some of the sights in Leipzig.

We had been there once before, but only for an overnighter, so I was happy to be able to see a bit more of the city.

1-P1300176

Leipzig was previously voted Germany’s most liveable city and it is currently Germany’s fastest-growing city.

It was first documented in the year 1015, making it 1,000 years old this year.

It’s the perfect mix of old and new, it’s affordable, it’s a university town and it’s filled with shops, bars and restaurants.

1-P1300185

It also has an excellent public transportation with buses, trains and an extensive tram system.

I could spend days just looking at building exteriors there.

1-P1300140-001

We did venture inside the main train station and actually ended up spending a couple of hours there.

It’s a huge building and according to Wikipedia it is the “world’s largest railway station measured by floor area”.

1-P1300166

I have no trouble believing that, and it’s clearly big enough to fit a carousel into the main entryway.

There is a shopping mall in the station as well and I believe it’s the biggest one I’ve been to in Germany.

Like Regensburg, Leipzig had a few Christmas markets spread out throughout the city.

1-P1300104

After a bite to eat, we walked over to check out a couple of them.

1-P1300214

There was even a small Finnish Christmas market.

1-P1300236

The next day it was time for Mary and Charlie to head to the Munich airport for their flight back to London.

We drove the 4 hours back home and I was unpacking and doing laundry by mid-afternoon.

Our 5th annual Christmas market trip was a rousing success and we are looking forward to the 2016 trip!

Which Christmas markets did you visit this year?

 

About the author: Trish

 

Website: http://travelsandtipples.com