Mountains, Christmas Lights – Germany in Winter is Magical!
Have you ever thought of traveling to Germany during the winter? You should. Hands down, it’s the most magical season in this central European country. Forests and mountains are covered in pure, white snow, but the temperature isn’t too cold. You can easily spend the day skiing, hiking, snowshoeing or sledding in the many outdoor parks and recreation areas, but that’s not all. From November to the end of December, every city, town, hamlet is blinged out with Christmas lights, a life-sized creche scene, and little wooden stalls ready to sell you everything from a hot mulled wine to locally made handicrafts. Germany knows how to do a Christmas market and there are hundreds to choose from.
We asked some professional travel bloggers where their favorite place in Germany to spend winter is, and they all sound wonderful. Which one do you want to go to?
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By Megan at MeganStarr.com
It would be remiss for anyone to discount Garmisch-Partenkirchen as one of the best winter destinations in Germany. The Bavarian nature capital is home to so many incredible sights, including the launchpad and cable car that will take you to Germany’s tallest peak, Zugspitze, which proudly hugs the German border with Austria at 2,962m (9,718 ft) tall. For a town with such a minuscule population, Garmisch sure does offer a lot for the winter traveler. Some of the other popular sites in Garmisch (aside from the incredible skiing and snowboarding opportunities there) are the Partnach Gorge, Lake Eibsee, and the Linderhof Palace. The best thing about Garmisch during winter is that it totally exudes that Bavarian Alps flair that everyone seeks when they come to this region of Germany. It just does not disappoint!
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By Kristy at Tassie Devil Abroad
Situated on the Moselle River midway between Trier, Cologne and Frankfurt; Cochem is a beautiful destination at any time but especially lovely during the winter. The winding streets of the medieval town are filled with Germany’s eponymous half-timbered houses; made particularly magical with a dusting of snow and the added Christmas decorations. A small Christmas market also appears in the lead-up to Christmas, complete with a cute little festive train to ride through the town! There’s nothing lovelier than exploring the shops and stalls for gifts and then heading into a local restaurant for a cozy meal by a roaring fire. Don’t forget to visit the stunning castle on top of the hill while you are Cochem, the guided tour is definitely worth it, or you can simply look out at the views over the town and river from the entrance for free. There is also a chairlift that will take you up to a looking-point on a hill opposite the castle for more stunning views.
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By Kaylie of Happiness Travels Here
Sitting on the banks of the Elbe river, Dresden is best known for its dramatic reconstruction after being badly damaged during World War II. While it’s rise from the ashes is still palpable, the city now stands in its former baroque glory. In Winter the city really comes to life with festive Christmas markets and hot wine-fueled ice-skating. The main market on the large old town square is said to be the oldest Christmas market in Germany. Built from the ground up each year the market resembles more of a village than a temporary festival. There are a number of other Christmas markets spread throughout the city. My favourite is the Medieval Market which is held in the Stallhoff, the courtyard used for jousting tournaments. Stallholders dress in traditional outfits and food here is cooked over open fires. Gluhwein is served alongside honey mead and hot sweet whisky brews. Try your hand at archery or cast off your modesty and grab some friends to soak in the wooden barrel hot-tubs!
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By Bec at Wyld Family Travel
Munich is not all about beer and beer halls. You can wander the city and go to an amazing museum to stay warm, you can go to the Munich Residenz and see the most lavish decorations in a Palace, you can walk the city and watch the sun go down lighting Kings Square with a glow like nothing else. You can watch families ice skate out in front of Nymphenburg Palace or have a snow ball fight out the back in the gardens and then you can still pop into a beer hall for a beer! For me Munich, Germany is perfect in any season, but when we visited it in the winter I was amazed at its extra beauty. Munich covered in snow was a sight I will never forget and one that has to be one of my favourite memories. It was not busy when we visited but we found so much to do around the city. It is an easy city to walk and if it is too cold you can hop on a bus or train and get to wherever you are going quickly. It is during this time that you can admire the city without as many people in it and you can enjoy the sites too, sometimes feeling like you are the only ones there.
By Lyn and Steve of A Hole In My Shoe
Not only is Heidelberg one of Germanys most beautiful cities, it is also the most romantic. There is no better time to enjoy the beauty and romance than winter. Heidelberg is a pretty city, nestled at a scenic spot on the Neckar River, between two mountains. It is very romantic, roaming along its colourful cobbled alleyways, or along the rivers’ edge, looking across to the pastel red roofed buildings. Unlike much of Germany that was bombed during WWII, Heidelberg retains most of its late Medieval and early Renaissance architecture adding to the romantic charm.
The main attraction is the picturesque, historical Castle ruins which looks majestic sitting high above the old town. Ride the funicular up the steep hill for a magnificent view overlooking the Neckar River. From the Christmas markets below, the spectacular view looking up at the castle adds to the allure. When the crisp winter air bites there is nothing better than to head indoors for a warming Gluhwein at–where else–Café Romantic. Winter is a great time for exploring the 14th century University and walking along the footbridge along the Neckar River is like stepping into the pages of a picture book, gazing up at the spectacular castle set high on the mountain. Across the river take the Philosopher’s Walk and explore quaint gardens, the forest and the unforgettable views.
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By Karen at WanderlustingK
With its colorful Christmas markets and adorable architecture, Cologne is the perfect winter destination in Germany for Christmas market lovers. Cologne has over six Christmas markets that make Cologne one of the best German cities to visit in November/December. If you visit Cologne, it’s impossible to miss its iconic church (Kölner Dom) in the city center and the charming winding streets filled with picturesque, colorful houses. Wandering around Cologne in winter is made better with a warm gluhwein. Chocolate lovers will love the Chocolate Museum. Lastly, those lucky enough to attend Cologne’s carnival celebration in February will love the festive atmosphere in Cologne. Be sure to try the local beer, Kölsch, and possibly a boat ride down the scenic Rhine river. Cologne is perfect for couples looking for a romantic winter destination!
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By Clemens at Travellers Archive
Leipzig – the German winter wonderland paradise, where all dreams about mulled wine and cute little Christmas stalls come true. The city is located in Sachsen and can easily be reached within 2,5 hours from the German capital Berlin. Especially in winter Leipzig is a true gem. Then, the whole city transforms itself into a massive Christmas market, which connects all different courtyards and major squares. Wander along the cobblestoned alleys and soak in all the beauty that surrounds the buildings, which are true architectural highlights. Apart from that, Leipzig is full of history. Not only can you find beautiful historic churches, but also Auerbachs Keller, which is a restaurant located in a cellar. Originally opened in 1525, it got its fame through Johann Wolfgang Goethe and his Faust. You feel like a little nature? Go on a short daytrip to Zwenkauer See. If you are lucky, you can even go ice-skating here. If not, don’t worry, there will always be some mulled wine around to warm you up.
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By Rashmi & Chalukya of Go Beyond Bounds
Nuremberg is the second largest city in Germany with its old town popular for the half-timbered houses and the world-famous traditional Christmas Market which dates back to 1600s. Nuremberg is an easy day trip from Munich but it is worthwhile to spend a couple of days here. Nuremberg is home to some of the most gorgeous fountains, bridges and magnificent churches with breathtaking architecture and ornate interiors. We visited the city in November and it was still packed with tourists. The Hauptmarkt market square in the old town center is the venue for a huge market every day except Sunday and the same market brightens up with Nuremberg Christmas market with more than 200 stalls selling local handicrafts and products drawing millions of visitors every year. And when you are here do not miss the chance to taste some delicious Nuremberg sausages and pretzels. History buffs can also visit the Nazi Party Rally Grounds and Courthouse where the World War II trials were held.
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By Elaine and David at The Whole World is a Playground
The city of Aachen in northwest Germany is one of our favourite places to visit in Germany during the winter. Also known as the Spa of Kings, Aachen is a mecca for spa lovers and relaxation is the order of the day at Aachen’s most popular spa, the Carolus Thermen Bad. When the thermal baths have sorted all your aches and pains it’s time to explore the incredible Aachen Christmas market.
Each December, the entire centre of the old town of Aachen transforms into a truly magical Christmas market wonderland. The winding streets of the old town are jam packed with bustling crowds visiting stalls selling delicious food, holiday gifts and of course mulled wine!
Make sure to visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Aachen Cathedral, one of the most stunning churches we’ve visited in Europe. This incredible cathedral was the first UNESCO site granted in Germany and was used to crown German emperors for over 600 years.
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By Arzo at Arzo Travels
I hear some people wondering out loud why I think Bremen is a great winter destination in Germany. After all, it is flat – flat, flat, flat and there are no mountains in sight and so there is no chance to go skiing anywhere. The truth is that Bremen is pretty great to visit even in winter despite the lack of mountains.
The city has one of the best Christmas markets in Germany. All over the city center are stalls that sell mulled wine, snacks, and gifts, and Bremen feels very Christmas like with all the lights that make Bremen even prettier.
If you need a break from shopping and strolling around the Christmas market head to the Schlachte, a popular promenade with many restaurants and cafes lined up. There you’ll get to see even more beautiful winter decorations and stalls – making it one of the most beautiful spots to spend winter.
If you are lucky and it snows in Bremen you can have fun and have some snowball fights in one of the many parks close to the city center. If you prefer ice-skating you might get lucky and the river freezes so you can do outdoor ice-skating – if not, there is still the option to visit the indoor ice-skating hall in Bremen. Either way, these options make Bremen a pretty awesome place to visit in winter.
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One of Jim’s and my favorite places to go is Kreuzberg. In mid-winter there is no place better for a snowy winter wonderland walk; enjoy the scenery and then head back to the monastery where the beer and lunch is cheap and delicious.
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