Germany: Christmas Markets Itinerary

christmasmarkets

I’ve always wanted to see the famous Weihnachtsmarkt in Germany so I decided to take a two-week, freezing cold solo trip through Germany to get into the Christmas spirit!

Day 1, 2 and 3: Berlin

I flew into Berlin and found my way to my Airbnb just steps away from Alexanderplatz. This was the perfect location to explore the city with my first Weihnachtsmarkt directly across the street and public transport right at my doorstep.

I spent my first two days in Germany wandering the city, seeing the major sites and spending my evenings at the Christmas Markets drinking waaaaaaaaaaay too much Glühwein.

Berlin Highlights:

  • Glühwein
  • Curry Wurst
  • Brandenburg Gate
  • Checkpoint Charlie
  • East Side Gallery
  • Holocaust Memorial
  • Potsdamer Platz
  • Nightlife
  • Public Transportation Info

Day 4: Day trip to Potsdam

I woke up early and went to the HBF to hop on the RE to Potsdam. A short 20 min ride and I was in the beautiful city of Potsdam. I immediately took a local bus to Sanssouci Palace and Park where I spent the majority of my day exploring the palace and grounds. Unfortunately, since it was winter, the grounds were quite bare and it was freezing, but it was still lovely and quite worth the trip.

Once my fingers were numb from the cold, I went back to town to indulge in a hot bowl of soup and large cup of cocoa before hopping back on the train to Berlin for the night.

Day 5: Dresden

A quick 2 hour ride on the Eurocity train had me in Dresden before noon. After checking in at my Airbnb, I set off to explore the city. The city does have public transport, but it is a small city so I decided to do the whole day by foot. Most of the major attractions are in one area of town so it is easy to spend the day in the center of the city, but one day here was definitely enough.

The markets here were so beautiful. Nothing compared to Berlin size wise, but still lovely. I had to restrain myself from purchasing all of the amazing handmade items for sale, but I did splurge and eat all of the goodies in sight! I definitely fell into a deep sugar comma sleep that evening.

Dresden Highlights: 

  • Church of Our Lady
  • Bruhls Terrace
  • Zwinger Palace
  • Pfund’s Dairy
  • Semper Opera
  • Procession of Princes
  • Royal Palace
  • Neumarkt
  • Pillnitz Castle

Day 6: Berlin

I took an early train the next morning back to Berlin so I could catch an evening flight to Munich. The trip from Berlin to Munich can also be done by train, but the price was relatively the same to fly so I decided to take the quicker option.

Day 7, 8 and 9: Munich

Munich was by far one my favorite stops on this trip. The architecture, the Christmas Markets and the beer had me hooked! Daytime was spent sightseeing and beer drinking while evenings were spent at the Weihnachtsmarkt drinking Glühwein and eating Kartoffelpuffer.

Munich Highlights:

  • Nyphemburg Palace
  • Residenz
  • English Garden
  • Neus Rathaus
  • Linderhof Palace
  • Schleissheim Palace
  • Pastries! Surprisingly, Munich had some of the best pastries Ive ever eaten! Stop by a bakery.

Day 10: Füssen

I took a RE train to Kaufbeuren where I quickly transferred to a RB train to Füssen (roughly 2 hours). Once in Füssen, there was a shuttle bus waiting to take passengers from the train up to the castle. This was a short trip, but definitely too long to walk. Once in Hohenschwangau, I bought my tickets to both the Hohenschwangau Castle and Neuschwanstein Castle and wandered the small town until my reservation.

My first trip was a short, beautiful walk up to Hohenschwangau Castle. This was a much shorter tour than Neuschwanstein, but still interesting and beautiful in its own right.

My next stop was the famous Neuschwanstein Castle. I decided to walk to the top which was quite a hike. It’s all uphill and took about 40 minutes. There were also horse-drawn carriages and shuttle that you could pay to take to the top of the hill if you are unable to walk that distance.

I walked up early to snap some photos and take in the view before I started the 30 minute tour. The castle was truly incredible and beyond beautiful, the story was amazing, and I was so glad I made the trip to see this iconic castle with my own eyes.

After the tour, I wandered around a little longer, ate dinner in town and took the bus back to Füssen where I enjoyed some music at a tiny Christmas market before getting some rest at my local Airbnb.

Füssen Highlights:

  • If you know when you will be visiting, go online and reserve your tickets in advance as tours are sold out quickly.

Day 11 and 12: Nuremberg

I took a 3.5 hour train ride from Füssen to Nuremberg and immediately went to nap at my Airbnb. That evening, I went to explore the Christmas market and drink more Glühwein. All of the markets had been very crowded, but this one in particular was extremely packed and hard to move around. Despite the crowds, I was still able to leave the market with a beautiful hand crafted Nutcracker to take home!

The next day, I explored the city which can easily be done in a day and took a tour of the underground Rock Cut Cellars. The cellars are great as long as you aren’t claustrophobic! The ceilings are quite low in most parts and you go quite a few floors underground. If you’re prone to anxiety attacks, this is not the place for you! The stories of the cellars though are very interesting and worth the tour if you have time!

Nuremberg Highlights:

  • Kaiserburg
  • Rock Cut Cellars and Dungeons
  • Tanner’s Lane
  • Haubtmarkt

Day 13: Munich

An hour ICE train ride had me back in Munich for my last day in Germany. I enjoyed a few more delicious German beers before I headed to the airport feeling ready for the Christmas season!

Trip Highlights:

  • It was EXTREMELY cold, check the weather and prepare to dress appropriately as you will be walking outside a lot at the markets.
  • Public transportation is amazing, no need to rent a car unless you really want to.
  • Train tickets from city to city are slightly cheaper if you buy online in advance.
  • Each city has their own public transportation system. Make sure you buy the appropriate tickets for each system you plan to use.
  • I found Airbnb to be  much less expensive than hotels and in really great locations. If you’re new to Airbnb, get a free travel credit here!
  • Bring an extra bag to pack all the lovely hand crafted items you will buy at the markets!

Hiking Trolltunga Norway

The Mission: Finish off Norway’s “Big 3” by backpacking Trolltunga

The Prep: 
Grab enough food for 2 days and check the weather to ensure you have appropriate gear.

The Gear:
See Camping Essentials

For this particular hike, sturdy waterproof boots were essential. The weather also changed quite a bit so I packed layers including waterproof gear and the waterproof cover for my pack (which I definitely ended up using). And don’t forget the camera!

The Execution:

We arrived at Trolltunga and hit the trail at around 3:00pm. We planned to take about 6 hours to reach the summit and have plenty of time to spare to pitch our tent before nightfall. We carefully arranged our packs and hit the trail.

The first mile of the hike is the most intense, it starts up a steep incline of steps that were built by Sherpas from Nepal.  It had rained heavily the day before and the trail was a slick, muddy mess. I made use of the rope to steady my balance and took a few breaks to catch my breath. Once we conquered the most grueling part of the trail, we were hot and sweaty as we strolled through an open valley under the bright sun. We stopped and filled our water at the flowing stream and continued on.

We crossed a few wooden planks that were placed to keep us from sinking into the mud before we were met with another steep, rocky incline. This time there were no steps, but a rocky trail. This portion was also steep, but nothing like the first mile we had encountered. We took our time, took in the view and then climbed up a not quite as steep rock face towards a plateau.

We were relieved to have another “rest” period of mostly flat terrain. The trail continued on, we stopped for lunch, paused for photos, breathed the fresh air and pushed on. There were a few additional climbs, but again, nothing quite that steep or long making the final push of the hike easier as we neared the troll’s tongue.

The hike out to Trolltunga ended up taking us about 6 hours as we had predicted. We arrived at Trolltunga just before sunset and had the area almost all to ourselves. Words cannot describe the beauty, it was more incredible than we could have ever imagined. We took tons of photos and sat out on the Troll’s tongue before we found a spot with a view to pitch our tent.

In the morning, the area was filled with tourists and fellow campers taking in the view. We were happy that we had the time to enjoy the place to ourselves the night before. We spent an hour or so hiking around the area, up to a glacier and checking out the emergency cabin up on the hill before heading back down.

Our hike back to the car was a bit quicker than our hike up and took us about 4 and a half hours. Luckily the sunshine had dried a bit of the mud and the trail was not quite as slick, making our descent a little less stressful.

The Highlights:

  • Level of difficulty: Strenuous
  • Water and toilets at the trail head
  • Pay to park
  • We filled up our water in the streams along the hike and had no health issues
  • Plenty of camping area at the top
  • There is an emergency cabin near the Troll’s Tongue if needed
  • Sturdy, waterproof boots were a must for this hike!
  • The weather changed multiple times; we had hot sunshine, cold rain and gusty winds. Prepare for everything!

 

Hiking Kjeragbolten Norway

Kjerabolten

The Mission: Conquer my fears and step out onto “The Boulder”!

The Prep: There was no potable water available at the trail head so we filled up prior to arriving at the hike. We also packed a lunch to eat at the summit.

The Gear:  Please see Anatomy of a Day Hike

The Execution:

We arrived at Kjeragbolten around 7am and the parking lot was already beginning to fill with fellow hikers. We paid the parking fee, prepared our packs and began our day of hiking.

The initial ascent was rather steep, but there were chains bolted into the rocks for assistance in climbing. After a bit of tough uphill hiking, we stopped for a breath and a view in a nice flat valley.

After the flat valley, we were met with another climb. Luckily, this one was shorter and not quite as steep as the initial ascent. We continued on through the downs and ups, including a nice fairly level stretch near the summit. We continued to follow the red “T” trail blazes and eventually made our way to “the boulder”.

The walk out onto the boulder was much less terrifying than we had imagined. There is an easy way to walk right out onto the rock, but the scary part is definitely looking down! We took our photos and enjoyed our lunch before exploring more of the area. We spent quite a bit of time enjoying the views from the top with stunning sheer cliffs and deep blue water below.

The hike down was quite intense with wind gusts up to 40mph. At some points I could barely move because of the wind resistance. We were relieved when we finally made it to the bottom and had some reprieve from the weather as we warmed up in our car.

The Highlights:

  • Level of difficulty: Strenuous
  • Pay to park
  • Bathrooms at trailhead but NO POTABLE WATER
  • Cafe available at trailhead
  • Area at the top of the mountain is mostly rocky and exposed, not great area for camping
  • Gloves were essential for warmth and holding onto cold chains while climbing
  • A wind breaker was necessary this day as it was incredibly windy. It helped keep off the chill and keep us dry in the light rain.

 

Hiking Preikestolen Norway

The Mission: Complete our first hike in Norway and the first of the “Big 3”

The Prep: 
Filled up our camelbaks at the trail head and packed a lunch for the top!

The Gear:
See Anatomy of a Day Hike

The Execution:

When we arrived at Preikestolen, the parking lot was packed with tour buses and hikers. Since this is the easiest of the “Big 3” hikes, we anticipated this trail being more crowded than the others so we decided to start later in the day, around 4pm when the crowds were starting to thin out. Luckily, since it was summer, the sunset wasn’t until 9:30pm so we had plenty of daylight.

The trail was rocky and had a few tough climbs, but overall a moderate hike. The entire hike to the summit was filled with amazing views and we stopped along the way to take photos and relax. Right before the final ascent, there was a nice, relatively flat stretch where we stopped to look at a waterfall in the distance and enjoy some lunch.

After lunch, we continued our climb to the summit. When we arrived at Preikestolen, we could not believe the sheer drop off of the cliffs below us. We carefully inched our way towards the edge and looked down into the fjord below us. The drop was so steep and so sheer, I immediately backed away to catch my breath.

We walked out onto Pulpit Rock and took some photos before continuing up the small trail behind us. A brief walk led us past some campers setting up for the night and then to an overlook where we could see down onto Pulpit Rock with a bird’s eye view. We spent quite a bit of time exploring the area and hiking around before heading back down the trail to our car. All in all, the hike back down to the car only took us a little over an hour.

The Highlights:

  • Restrooms and water available at trail head
  • Pay to park
  • The most crowded hike of the “Big 3”
  • Plenty of camping and picnic areas at the summit