Very few destinations in the world celebrate Christmas quite like Europe. Particularly in the Germanic countries, you’re hit with a remarkable celebratory feeling and colourful hues at every turn; spirits lift and your surroundings are transformed, all geared for the festive season. For travellers chasing the ultimate in yuletide spirit, Trafalgar’s Christmas Markets of Austria, Germany and Switzerland is the perfect package.
Sugar and spice
The trip begins in the heart of Vienna. Our Local Specialist Jakob, who knows Vienna like the back of his hand, breaks down any language barriers for us, chatting to friendly locals as we pass them by. He leads the way as we marvel at the sights of the Austrian capital, from its Parliament House and City Hall to the grand State Opera House and Hofburg Palace, once the home of the Habsburgs, one of the most powerful royal houses in Europe – by mid-afternoon, wafts of juicy bratwurst cooking and glühwein (mulled wine) brewing start drifting through the laneways. From there, we visit the enchanting Christkindlmarkt and feast on delicious gingerbread, wandering past wooden stalls piled high with handcrafted toys, seasonal gifts and tasty treats. One of the highlights of this trip is checking out the Swarovski crystal Christmas tree, which was donated to the city by the Swarovski family. To see that first hand is remarkable, as is our visit to Neuschwanstein Castle in Innsbruck, which inspired the famous Disneyland castle.
Best of the wurst
The scale of the markets grow as we hit Germany, and the Christmas Market in the Bavarian capital of Munich is one of the most spectacular. The traffic almost comes to a standstill to make way for the carollers and families passing through. No one seems it mind. It is, after all, the most wonderful time of the year. Munich is as lively as it is beautiful and you quickly forget about the cold thanks to warming conversations among what has now become a great group of friends. Bush also helps, making sure we’re always stocked and satisfied with local kransky, beer and strudels. With the free time we have to discover the market, we are encapsulated by a field of twinkling lights and gourmet delicacies. The biggest challenge is what stall to pick first and this is where Jakob’s tips are great as you can’t peak too soon and make the error of overeating! On first impression, you may think it’s just a little market but then you turn a corner and the grandeur hits you. It’s incredible.
Let it snow
As we continue to Switzerland, we are enthralled by the blue skies and falling snowflakes. As the fairytale winter wonderland beckons, we embrace the yuletide cheer in true Swiss style with visit to Lucerne’s markets at Franziskanerplatz. In the heart of the city’s Old Town, this is definitely one of my favourite stops on the trip. The yearly event features about 70 quaint wooden stalls selling almost imagine – the traditional wooden toys and nativity scenes have a particularly strong festive romance about them. Stock up on beautiful decorations and Christmas cards to impress your Australian friends and family back home or perhaps you’d prefer to stock up on confectionary, nuts, cakes and wines.
Twinkling lights, comforting fare and visitors filled to the brim with festive joy – there are numerous similarities between Europe’s Christmas markets. But the passion invested in representing and celebrating local culture and tradition – Vienna’s renowned craftsmanship, Munich’s local brew, Lucerne’s swirling carousel, for example – isn’t lost on visitors. Buildings transform into live advent calendars with decorations streaming up and down the sides of walls and trees. It is impossible to not be caught up in the magic of a white Christmas. Sure, it’s hard to beat an Australian summer, but this is an experience I’d be willing to relive again and again.
Trafalgar Christmas Markets of Austria, Germany and Switzerland
Join Trafalgar’s Christmas Market guided holiday and save. The seven-night guided holiday is now $1803 per person, a saving of $146. See the magical sights of Vienna, Mozart’s birthplace in Salzburg, Munich’s Marienplatz, the Golden Roof in Innsbruck, and the Lion Monument and Chapel Bridge in Lucerne. Seven nights’ hotel accommodation, 11 meals, on-trip transport and a dedicated travel director are included. Visit Trafalgar.com for more trips for Autumn, Winter and Spring from just $138 per day.