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Find Me a Bauble – Christmas Markets Fun in Germany and Austria

Christmas Pyramid at Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church and Christmas Market, Berlin
Written by Kirstie

Find Me a Bauble
Christmas Markets Fun in Germany and Austria

Traditional Christmas Markets are springing up everywhere lately as city centres rush to entice people in with the smell of glühwein and the twinkling of beautifully lit stalls. But imported festive markets can’t touch the original Christmas Markets in Germany and Austria for atmosphere and invention. To experience an authentic Christmas Market take yourself off to Europe where tradition, landscape and imagination combine to turn a city street into a winter wonderland. Wyndham Hotel Group sent us to explore four cities in Germany and Austria with its relaunched Rewards Scheme, and in this advertising feature we profile what makes the Christmas Markets  in Berlin, Leipzig, Munich and Salzburg sparkle…

Father Christmas Plays Piano at Leipzig Christmas Market Finnish Tent

Father Christmas plays the piano in Leipzig Christmas Market Finnish Tent

Christmas Markets – Much more than just glühwein

Christmas markets in Germany and Austria have one thing in common; glühwein. You can’t walk far without being tempted by this warming spiced wine, (in Austrian markets it is sometimes called punch) especially if the weather is cold. On our visit the clear blue skies made for frozen fingers and we stopped to warm them up on a mulled wine on numerous occasions. Children are catered for too with kinder glühwein which mysteriously seemed to taste the same as the adult version.

But look beyond the glühwein stalls and you’ll find a world of difference between one market and another. Some markets are dynamic tourist destinations in themselves, spreading out for miles with giant advent calendars, windmill pyramids, ice skating rinks, and Ferris wheels whirring and gliding around. Others are sweet and aromatic, settled in little pockets of the city, made for seeking out and sharing. We visit some of the Berlin, Leipzig, Munich and Salzburg Christmas Markets and here’s our verdict on their charms.

Paper houses at the Leipzig Christmas Market

Paper houses at the Leipzig Christmas Market- part of a glittering array of crafts for sale

Berlin Christmas Market – An Action Adventure

Where are they?

Berlin is the Hollywood of German Christmas Markets. Its productions are prolific, big budget and ambitious. They’re also impossible to see in one visit as there are over sixty in the city. We spend six hours on our feet and barely touch on three as they are so impressive and spread out. Our first is Berliner Weihnachtsmarkt, next to the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. This City West market is famous for its splendid Christmas tree with 8000 baubles, and the light installations are breathtaking. But the surrounding churches also catch my eye, especially the Gedächtniskirche which resembles a giant blue mosaic in the night sky. This spectacle of light is nothing however, compared to the markets closer to the city centre. We visit the market at Alexanderplatz complete with the biggest Christmas pyramid in Europe, and the nearby WiehnachtZauber Gendarmenmarkt which is set in front of a trio of Berlin landmarks that vie for attention with an almighty Ferris wheel.

What do we do?

From tobogganing down a snowy slope (at Potsdamer Platz Winterwelt) to ice skating around the statue of Neptune, you can keep moving pretty much all the time in the Berlin markets. But we take it a bit more leisurely, walking between two of the city centre markets and buying snacks to eat on the way. I enjoy warming my hands on the chestnut fire pit at Alexanderplatz and on glühwein sipped while sitting on fairground swing seats in a little bar at Berliner Weihnachtsmarkt.

What do we eat?

Hannah buys a huge Bavarian Schneeballen (snowball cake) with her pocket money. She chooses pink for a girl so she doesn’t have to share with her brothers. And tempted as we are by the reisenboulette meatballs and the chorizo and pfeffer sausage, you can’t get more Berlin than currywurst. Accompanied with a chocolate covered pretzel.

What do we buy?

At the Faszination Weihnachten Christmas shop we find a bauble of the Berlin bear. He’s even more blingy than the statues! Watch our video to see what happens when Hannah sends Cameron to find her perfect bauble in a journey spanning four top European Christmas markets.

Where do we stay?

Our base is in City West at the Wyndham Berlin Excelsior Hotel, with an atmospheric bar and log fire to come home to at the end of the night, about five minutes walk from Kaiser Wilhelm Church and the underground.

What’s our Top Tip?

Buy a group day ticket for just over 17 Euros and travel between the markets on the train, underground or bus. It’s a chance to warm up and saves your feet for walking between markets and stalls.

Berlin Christmas Pyramid and Carousal at Alexanderplatz

Berlin Christmas Pyramid and Carousel at Alexanderplatz

Leipzig Christmas Market – A Journey of the Imagination

Where is it?

Leipziger Weihnachtsmarkt is one of the most historic in Germany. It began in 1458 and the main part is set in the Old Market Square in the city centre. It is huge with 250 stalls extending out along the high street.

What do we do?

We start in the Fairytale Forest where the trees talk to us but we don’t understand. Maybe it’s because they are magic or maybe it’s because we don’t speak German. We admire the real Christmas tree (which doesn’t talk back) and then head off to the Finnish Market where Santa himself is on the keyboards, happily broadcasting himself to the world on Facebook Live. After a quick scoot round the SudTiroler Dorf Market we head off down the high street to the Medieval Market where everyone from stall holders to street cleaners is dressed in period gear. One of the most entertaining things about the German Christmas market is the wooden stalls themselves – huge, elaborate and themed – anything from trains to gingerbread cottages. At the Medieval Market we wander from castle to castle via the odd tavern.

What do we eat?

While Stuart and the younger kids ride the Ferris wheel, Matthew and I sneak in a cheeky bag of hot pastries, liberally sprinkled with icing sugar. In the Finnish market we watch the chefs flame cooking whole salmon next to an open fire and transporting them to Flammlachs stall to pair with bread.

What do we buy?

Our favourite stall is dotted with paper lanterns folded into houses with the windows lit up. But this market is best known for its woodcraft made from trees in the hills around Saxony. At the Erzgebirge woodcraft stall we buy a decoration carved elaborately from a single piece of wood.

Where do we stay?

We stay in the Ramada Leipzig City Centre, a short walk from the market. The hotel is at the top of a high rise building and if you ask for a corner room you get an amazing view of the city skyline. Set your time lapse app on your phone and capture the sunset. They also do a great family sized packed lunch if you are travelling over lunchtime.

What’s our top tip?

If you are thinking your glühwein is expensive then probably no one has told you you’ve paid for the souvenir glass. If you don’t want to keep it ask for your deposit back.

Leipzig Christmas Market

Leipzig Christmas Market from the Ferris Wheel. The Fairytale Forest aptly surrounds the Christmas tree

Munich Christmas Market – A Beacon in the Night

Where do we go?

The most famous of the Munich Christmas Markets is in the Marienplatz. It’s a glitterful giant and a beacon of light and cheer on a dark night. It’s also jam packed with shoppers so be prepared to elbow your way through. From the beautifully lit Rathaus building, to the incredible tree in front, to the department stores opposite with Steiff Bear Christmas window displays, it’s almost too much to take in. But we give it our best shot! There are lots of markets in the city and lots of choice of food, decorations and handicrafts. We pop into the LGBT community’s pink market and find it to be truly a pink experience. If you go early in the evening you can catch free cabaret with some of the Munich stars of the scene.

What do we do?

We watch the Alpine carol singers high on the balcony of the Rathaus. We wander, we eat and we wander some more. At one point Santa wanders with us pushing a bicycle. We are all heading to the Kripperlmarkt, or manger market that specialises in nativity accessories. It is pocket Nazareth. A small district of teeny tiny things – like every variety of baby Jesus you’d ever find on a market stall.

What do we eat?

It’s all about the food. Too much to list but bratwurst (hot dog) and lebkuchen (gingerbread) may have been involved…

What do we buy?

The Munich Christmas markets are known for their delicate glass wares and we spent a long time looking at intricate designs before investing in a little glass bell for our tree.

Where do we stay?

We stay in a budget hotel in City West. The compact Super 8 Munich City West comes as something of a surprise. It has its own brightly coloured coffee shop and staff will cook you up a pizza when you come in from your market and serve it with a German beer in a glass so big it’s pretty much a vase. Public transport is nearby so it’s easy to take a short train ride to the markets in the centre of the city.

What’s our top tip?

If you have little ones with a doll’s houses, furnish it from the manger market. You can find everything from pots and pans to milk churns to sweeping brushes and lanterns. (Mary and Joseph were multi taskers it seems.)

Bauble in the Munich Christmas Market

Glass bauble in the Munich Christmas Market

Salzburg Christmas Market – Prettier than an Angel

Where do we go?

The German markets are impressive but you can’t beat the Christkindl Market in Salzburg’s historical district for pretty. Set in front of the Cathedral and Fortress Hohensalzburg, Salzburg’s main market is an institution in this cultural city. The stalls seem more simple than their German counterparts (wooden huts rather than themed cabins) and when we visit it’s quieter than the German Markets with lots of space to wander. There are lots of little courtyard spaces also offering breakaway markets. Our favourite was the advent market with real sheep. There’s also a little market high up in the castle. Look out for Christmas angels in Salzburg. They are everywhere, from manning stalls to decorating the trees. Sometimes their wings even seem to grow on trees! However not everything is good as gold here. In early December the Krampus run through the streets. Watch our video on how these beastly mythical creatures are brought to life for the festive season…

What do we do?

Stuart and I escape from the kids for an unashamedly touristy lunch, a leisurely walk over Makartsteg Bridge packed with lovers locks, and a selfie at Mirabell Gardens where scenes from The Sound of Music were filmed. Later we all go together to the market. It’s our last one and a relaxed and atmospheric experience. As the markets close we consider ice skating as it’s such a beautiful setting but decide to head off to the Cafe Sacher for some famous Sachertorte.

What do we eat?

The food here is distinctly different from the German Markets. It’s all schnitzel and strudel. The colours have taken on the palette of the city with stalls studded with pale liquors and pastel pretzels. Sadly Hannah insists on a bucket of candy floss.

What do we buy?

We buy lights and candles for the mantelpiece and dolls for the tree. I cannot resist a hand painted egg with Julie Andrews portrayed dancing down a hill. “How many Julie Andrews do you have?” I ask the stallholder.

“Many, many, many,” she tells me in German, sweeping her hand around a huge stall covered in egg boxes.

Where do we stay?

We stay in the Wyndham Grand Salzburg – a spacious conference hotel near the station for a quick getaway to the next market. Our business suites are spacious with huge TV’s which pleases the children. And turndown service includes gingerbread treats for all. How appropriate on a Christmas markets shopping trip!

Our top tip?

Get there early. We find stall holders shutting up from an hour before the advertised end of 9pm. And bring a lot of Euros. You’re going to need them when you see what’s on offer.

Salzburg Christkindl Markt

Salzburg Christkindl Markt

Practical Information

Getting there

We travelled by train between four cities on our Christmas Markets trip which was easy and stress free. The kids loved the free wifi on some inter city services. You can find out more about booking Deutsche Bahn trains here.

Staying there

We stayed with Wyndham Hotel Group who have 8,000 hotels in 76 countries around the world. For this post we were trying out the Wyndham Rewards Programme. This recently relaunched loyalty scheme enables you to redeem rewards simply and easily without booking blackouts or complicated searches for what you can afford with your points.

Noah Brodsky, Senior Vice President, Worldwide Loyalty and Engagement at Wyndham Hotel Group explains the thinking behind the re-imagined scheme. “One of the things we heard over and over was that loyalty programmes have got really complicated. And its really hard to understand what you are earning and what you need to get. Our brands are accessible; they’ve got great distribution all over the world, and we wanted to make a loyalty programme that was equally accessible and really easy to understand but also provided incredible value to travellers who may not be the top one per cent of mega travellers. Travellers who aren’t staying at five hundred pound a night places but might be travelling on the road, might be staying at airports or maybe travelling with the family.”

On the Wyndham Rewards programme you can choose a free night in any of the group’s hotels and properties for 15,000 points, which you can earn by staying at any of the hotel groups brands including budget hotels like Days Inn. “We’ve made it so if there’s a room available you can book it, so it’s a great way for a family to travel. We see people on prime holidays staying in prime locations. If you want rooms in New York City on New Year’s Eve you can get them. There’s no surcharge or hidden pricing structure that goes into play. We want you to travel when you want.”

There’s plenty to choose from as Wyndham Hotel Group has nearly 8,000 hotels in 76 countries, with 16 brands ranging from luxury to economy. They have also recently added their sister company cottages.com onto the points redemption programme which has added an extra 10,000 properties in western Europe alone. Perfect for a Christmas Market visit.

And the really good news is that Wyndham Hotel Group is offering up to 30% off a stay with a special Winter Offer. Follow the link for more details.

Skating at the Christmas Market in Salzburg

Skating at the Christmas Market in Salzburg

Disclosure Note: This post is an advertising feature for Wyndham Rewards who sent us to Germany and Austria to experience the Christmas Markets. However all opinion, sending brothers to find baubles, drinking gluhwein, photography and video production was, as ever, our own.

About the author

Kirstie

Kirstie is the Editor of The Family Adventure Project. A professional writer and poet, she's the creative and journalistic force behind many of the stories and features published here. She's a co-founder and co-director of The Family Adventure Project and also works as the #poetinmotion producing and performing poetry for print, video and live performance.

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