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I’ve been looking forward to it all year and now can hardly believe that, in exactly ONE MONTH, I will be tasting mulled wine and roasted chestnuts again in Germany while enjoying the joyful strain of Christmas carollers and delighting in the snowflakes as they land softly on my cheeks.
This was one of the 52 inspirational travel quotes I shared recently.
So, why am I going back to the German Christmas markets by rail again? Let me show you a day by day photo diary of my trip there last time, and perhaps this may inspire you to hop on a plane too this Christmas season. You can even follow the sample itinerary laid out for you below.
Day 1 – Berlin
I was living in the UK at that time, so I took an early Easyjet flight and landed roughly late morning/early afternoon at Schoenefeld Airport, then took the train to the city centre. First order of business – straight to the market at nearby (to the hotel I had booked) Alexanderplatz. I wandered around some of the tourist sights, like the Berlin Dom.
Day 2 – Day trip to Potsdam
Approximately 24km southwest and easily accessible from Berlin is Potsdam, where you will find a collection of grand palaces situated within walking distance of each other at Sanssouci Park. Sans souci means “without worry”, and it is easy to see how one could be utterly at peace in such tranquil and beautiful surroundings. The most famous of all the palaces is the brilliantly hued Sanssouci Palace.
But all of the palaces are worth seeing at least from the outside. Being winter, only a few of the palaces will be open. I recommend planning to spend the whole day there, buy a multi ticket and visit as many of the open palaces as possible, leaving time to stroll around the ones that are closed. Below is the New Palace.
Day 3 – Walking tour of Berlin
Anyone recognise this hotel?
I am ashamed to say, though I highly recommend the very comprehensive and informative Berlin Walks walking tours, the only thing I remember from the walk is that this hotel is famous for being the location of the Michael Jackson baby dangling incident. I don’t think I’m the only one though – the entire tour group was looking pretty bored as the guide recited a roll call of the rich, the famous and the royal who have stayed at the Hotel Adlon, but the moment “Michael Jackson baby dangling” was mentioned, all the cameras came out in a frenzy of clicks.
After the walking tour, we took it easy and revisited some of the tourist sights that we had been shown, as well as wandering through some of the Christmas markets. After all, that’s what we were there for!
Day 4 – Train from Berlin to Nuremberg
Relaxing day on the train by day and and an evening visit to the Christmas market. The main one is by the Church of Our Lady.
Day 5 – Visit Kaiserburg Complex
The Imperial Castle of Nuremberg is perched on a hill and is delightfully medieval. The best part is the climb up the Sinwell Tower, which in High German means “extremely round”. Put in the effort and you’ll be rewarded with these stunning views of Nuremberg.
Day 6 – Train from Nuremberg to Munich
Day 7 – Day trip to Neuschwanstein Castle
I have already described my day visiting the fairytale castle that inspired the Disney palace. Here is a photo to remind you of the magic.
Day 8 – Train from Munich to Baden-Baden
Baden-Baden is a spa town in the Black Forest region. I will always remember my night time soak at the Caracalla Therme. The indoor pool is directly connected to the one outdoors, meaning you can easily swim outside and enjoy the warmth of the water as snowflakes float gently onto your face. Truly one of the most magical experiences of my life!
Day 9 – Merkurberg
Relaxing day wandering around Baden-Baden. If you’re feeling adventurous, take the bus to nearby Mt Merkur. You’ll pass rolling scenery like this along the way.
Once you get there, there are ticket vending machines for the funicular ride up the mountain. We were amused that, after selecting the English language, the instructions were given in English but the choices remained German. We took a punt and went for the “Flieg aug u ab” option, guessing that meant “up and down”.
Day 10 – Train from Baden-Baden to Heidelberg
We spent the first day here exploring the town centre and visiting the university and student prison, which frankly are missable and I don’t have good photos of them.
Day 11 – Heidelberg Castle
Whilst Neuschwanstein is fairytale beautiful, Heidelberg Castle is partly a ruins with a more hauntingly beautiful appeal. It is perched on a hill, but can be reached by funicular if you don’t fancy the walk up. Personally, I quite enjoy walking along narrow twisted cobblestone streets like this one. Don’t forget to look back at the views of the town centre every so often.
Day 12 – Train from Heidelberg to Cologne
Our first day in Cologne, we visited the Chocolate Museum, which sounds a lot more exciting than it really was. We still a managed to return to our hotel with quite a stash though!
Day 13 – Cologne Dom and market
Day 14 – Christmas Day!
We decided to just chill on Christmas Day. Which turned out to be a mistake. Everything was shut. There was nothing to do. We were bored and ended up missing our families. We should have just scheduled a train travel day. At least we had chocolate!
Day 15 – Train from Cologne to Luxembourg
OK, so it wasn’t just the German Christmas markets we visited.
Day 16 – Explore Luxembourg
Day 17 – Train from Luxembourg to Brussels, Belgium
Aah Brussels, home to chocolates, beer, frittes (chips covered in mayo), and this little guy aptly named Mannekin Pis. Be warned – he really is little, which was somewhat disappointing to me.
Day 18 – Day trip to Ghent
Day 19 – Day trip to Brugges
Day 20 – Visit Mini Europe, New Year’s Eve
Here’s a photo, but you can read more about Mini Europe here.
I’ve heard that New Year’s Eve is quite the celebration in Brussels, but let me tell you – those people who have something like 50 different words for “snow” aren’t wrong! While the snow in Germany was soft and powdery, we found it to be icy and cutting in Brussels. Defeated, we ended up spending NYE in our hotel room watching “The Wizard of Oz” in German (“Nein, Toto is mein hund!”) followed by countdowns and fireworks over Sydney Harbour Bridge and Tower Bridge in London. Strangely enough (or maybe not, as we were living in England at the time) both of those made us homesick. Aah, the vagaries of travel.
Day 21 – Plane from Brussels back to London
Aah, (temporary) home, sweet (temporary) home.
Have you embarked on a similar trip around Germany? What other destinations and sights would you recommend adding to the itinerary?
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