In December 2018, I was lucky to go on a trip to Germany, where we walked through picturesque city centers filled with all of the sights, sounds and smells of Christmas. It was a beautiful trip, and I would love to share the magic of a European Christmas with you, if you haven't gotten to experience that for yourself.
First we drove around the countryside and went to Rothenburg ob der Tauber and Fuessen, then we went on a boat trip down the Rhine, stopping at every Christmas market along the way. We stopped in Cologne, Koblenz, Mainz, Heidelberg and finally Strassbourg.
At every Christmas market, my toddler got to ride on carousels that were sometimes 100's of years old.
The old-world Christmas is so different than what we have in America, there is this charm and ambiance, and wonderful smells of food everywhere. There are beautiful historic houses, churches and castles, all set against the backdrop of the Rhine.
One of the best things about our trip was all of the delicious food and drinks that we got to have. At every Christmas market, they sell beer or hot spiced wine in special cups. You put a deposit on the cups, and you can either give them back when you leave, or take it with you for a souvenir. The wine was my favorite, and is made from red wine mixed with a blend of spices.
As you walk around the Christmas markets, everything smells like Cinnamon. There are all different booths that sell Bratwursts, turkey legs, schnitzel, roasted nuts, cookies, and all different other types of pastries. In Heidelberg, I got crepes filled with Nutella, and not going to lie, it was the most delicious thing I have ever eaten.
They sell heart-shaped cookies with names on them, and you are supposed to buy the cookie with the name of the person that you love. The cookies come on a ribbon, and you wear them around your neck.
The restaurants have delicious foods too! When we were in Rothenburg, we got schnitzel that was as big as a plate. Breakfast is a wonderful mix of rolls and pastries, all different types of cheese, fruit and sliced meat.
There is also a wonderful selection of beers, and unlike in the United States the beer is served at room temperature in Germany.
In addition to the stalls in the Christmas market, there are shops along the streets as you walk down the cobblestone streets in. In Rothenburg, we went to a shop that had room upon room of beautiful Christmas decorations.
Many of the downtown areas also have large shopping malls, and you can shop designer brands as well as unique handmade gifts. The old and new blend together effortlessly, allowing you to find a mix of new and traditional gifts for sale.
You can find traditional German gifts like beer steins, music boxes with wooden figurines, candles, teas and much more.
Germany has more castles than any other European country or anywhere in the world for that matter. The "youngest" castle is around 100 years old, and some others are a thousand years or more. Some still bombed from WWII where only some walls and foundations remain. Not to worry there are still plenty left!
Many of the German castles are turned into museums today, and you can go for a tour of them to learn the history. We went on a tour of Schloss Neuschwanstein, one of the castles of King Ludwig II. It was on the top of a large hill, and we rode in a horse-drawn carriage to the top.
Inside, we got to listen to lessons about the history of the castle, the King and the way he lived. We also got to see the original décor and suits of armor from different periods of history. It truly was a unique experience, especially for me, since I have always been fascinated with castles.
On the boat, going up and down the Rhine, we were able to see other castles as we floated past as well. Some were beautifully lit and well maintained, others were in ruins. The contrast was magical, as we watched them passing by through the layers of fog.
In each city that we visited, the décor was unique and beautiful. There were Christmas trees in every town square, light displays, and on all the shops up and down the street. It gave everything we saw a special, holiday feel.
In Heidelberg, there was an ice-skating rink too, where people could stop to skate taking a break from their shopping or sight seeing.
Everything we saw was beautiful and festive, sometimes blanketed in a light snowfall as well. It was so special to see the holiday traditions alive and well after hundreds of years in these old European cities. Each city was different, but all of them were truly magical.
We wandered slowly down cobbled streets, past shops, houses and food stalls, just taking in the wonder of it all.
For my toddler, the highlight of each Christmas market was the carousels that she got to ride on. Most of them were over 50 years old, and they shimmered and glistened with lights, and played music as they spun around and around.
The carousel in downtown Frankfurt was two stories, and she got to ride a horse on the top floor as she whirled around above the heads of the shoppers.
Some of the Christmas markets in the bigger cities had more than one carousel, at different ends of the packed streets, so that children would have some entertainment wherever they went. This was a charming part of our adventure, and gave our daughter something to look forward to everywhere that we went.
Beautiful, Scenic Views
In addition to the beautiful Christmas markets, and historic buildings we were also to see scenic landscapes throughout the German countryside as we drove from place to place.
At the base of the alps, in Fuessen, we were able to stay in a lodge near this beautiful lake, close to the German-Austrian border. Germany has a rich natural beauty, and there are many picturesque views throughout the country.
It is also beautiful how in the mornings, everything is covered in a blanket of fog, which gives the early hours of the day a sense of quiet tranquility. You can watch the sunrise through the fog, casting it's first lights over the river, and it makes you catch your breath.
It was a pleasure to be able to spend the holiday season in Germany, visiting different parts of the country to learn the history, and drink in the beauty of all the Christmas markets along the Rhine, as well as the natural beauty of the countryside. Our trip was a unique and memorable experience in a country that seems to effortlessly preserve its history, even as new shops and houses spring up around the town centers.
If you are able to visit Germany at the holidays, I would highly recommend it! This is such a great experience for people of all ages, from kids to seniors. There is truly so much to appreciate about your trip from history and culture, to shopping, food and fun for the kids.
Let me know what you think in the comments, and if you have ever been to the Christmas markets in Germany yourself, and what you liked best there.