Jane and I love visiting the German Christmas markets. We do it almost every December. We missed 2020 for obvious reasons. You can do it by river cruising. You can extend your stay on the front or back end of your trip. You can just fly over for a long weekend like we do.
This is our approach: We fly into Frankfurt, rent a car, stay four nights and fly back home. Here are some of the many reasons we’ve been doing it for decades:
- German cars. We rent from Sixt. The weekend rates are very reasonable. You will likely get a BMW, Audi or Mercedes. Why? Because these are domestic cars in Germany. You get to drive a really cool car, one you might consider buying back home.
- German Autobahns. They are well maintained. It’s been said there that the “advisory” limit is 130 KPH or 81 mph. You will get passed very, very often because there doesn’t seem to be an official speed limit. Roads are pretty empty on Sunday mornings. Think about it.
- Other countries are nearby. In the US, we think of visiting another country as a “big deal.” In the Frankfurt area of Germany, you are close to France, Belgium, Luxembourg and even Switzerland. You can drive to a totally different country where they accept the same currency!
- Christmas markets are block parties. Almost every German town has a Christmas market in December. In many cases they run daily, from our Thanksgiving to Christmas. It’s the Advent season. It feels like everyone turns out every night for an open air party as they walk from booth to booth eating great food that’s paid for with pocket change. Families are out together. Everyone seems to be smiling and laughing.
- The hub and spoke system. We usually stay near Frankfurt in Wiesbaden or Mainz. We are near major highways. This allows us to drive to places like Heidelberg, Baden Baden, Mannheim, Cologne and Nuremberg. They all have great Christmas markets.
- The great circle system. In other years we set a route that took us away from Frankfurt to three major cities, then back to Frankfurt the last night. You see different places and try different regional foods.
- It’s difficult to get drunk. Glugwein is a spiced punch mixed with red wine. It’s heated almost to boiling. It warms you up, yet the alcohol has largely burned off. This makes me feel better regarding drinking and driving.
- Europeans are different from Americans. The Germans will serve you an 8” sausage on a 6” Kaiser roll. That makes sense. They will also sell you a 12” sausage on the same sized roll. It sticks out a few inches on both sides. In the US we would have designed a specific bun for each sized roll.
- English is really a universal language. On every trip we encounter one person who doesn’t speak English. In Germany, it seems to be a universal language.
- You can do and see crazy things. I will always remember the guy WEARING a gas grill, with a tank on his back. He was selling sausages. We decided to drive to Luxembourg, get off at the first exit, stop in the first town and have Sunday lunch at the first restaurant we found. We still go there thirty years later.
The German Christmas markets are an unmissable experience.
Cover Photo (all photos by Bryce Sanderson):
Editor’s Notes: You can visit Christmas Markets while cruising. The Christmas Markets are extremely popular. See cruises that visit Christmas Markets here.