GERMANY: Munich

When I was researching where to go to see the best Christmas markets in Germany, Munich seemed to receive a lot of accolades. I’m sure you really can’t go wrong but I am very glad I chose to spend three days and three nights here. Munich was wonderful!

After barely experiencing Vienna due to my flu recovery, Munich had so much to offer that I quickly forgot and just embraced this beautiful city! I managed to really make up for what I missed in Vienna and was able to take in some wonderful Christmas markets! What a fun city.

Where to stay
I stayed near Hauptbahnhof, the main train station, which wasn’t a super pretty area but it was exceptionally convenient! It felt like everywhere I wanted to go either within walking distance or just 2-3 subway stops away. Add in the direct line to the airport and it was a great location.

I found great value for my money at a hotel here just around the corner from the station. A friend had suggested a few other possible areas such as Lehel (right by the central park) or the Glockenbachviertel which she described as a fun, hip neighborhood.

Underground entrance at Karlsplatz

Transportation
Since I stayed right by the main train station, getting here was an easy journey (4 hours in a very comfy train) from Vienna and a short walk to my hotel from the station. I tend to walk a lot when I explore new cities, and it was only 10 minutes’ walk to Karlsplatz and another 5 to Marienplatz, the Town Hall. If you do need to take the subway you’d be smart to get a 24 or 48 hour ticket else you’ll just be purchasing a ticket for each trip you take. The machines are super easy to use and they take foreign credit cards.

I did not use any taxi/ubers in Munich so I can’t speak to the ease of hailing or booking these.

From Hauptbahnhof, I was also able to depart on the bus tour I booked to Neuschwanstein Castle with Radius Tours (more on that later).

Delicious schmalznudel at Cafe Frischhut

As I said my primary reason for visiting Munich was to explore all the wonders of the German Christmas markets. Here’s how I did!

Christkindlmarkt at Marienplatz

I am going to start with the biggest and the most impressive market in Munich: Christkindlmarkt. Set at the base of the stunning, gothic beauty that is The Neue Rathaus (New Town Hall), this market is a HUB. It’s by far the busiest of any market I went to in Munich but my goodness go. Go during the day, go at night.. I actually teared up the first time I walked here not long after I arrived in Munich. I then came through here about 4-5 times and I could not get enough.

My first afternoon in Munich was a stunner!

I walked here via Karlsplatz which is another large square full of Christmas booths and the main city market overflows from Marienplatz along a pedestrian shopping area that has more booths selling everything from gluhwein (mulled wine) and chestnuts to Christmas trees and beer steins.

Shopping wise, you will find so many gems here and I bought a lot of my Christmas presents at the many booths on offer (I read there are around 140!). I got the cutest candle holders with scenes from Munich painted on them, so many amazing ornaments and delicious sweets. I could have bought 10x as many items as I did as everything was so fun and festive. I did not go inside the New Town Hall but I imagine the views up there over the bustling market were wonderful.

Karlsplatz

As I mentioned, I walked through Karlsplatz Stachus to get to Marienplatz and this is another handy subway station with a larger shopping area underground with lots of eating options (I had delicious Chinese jianbing here). There is a giant ice skating rink, a large beer/gluhwein garden with patios and then as you head toward Marienplatz you start to see Christmas booths.

Food and beverage stalls at Karlsplatz

Just a short walk from the New Town Hall you will find the Winter Magic at ViktualienmarktThis is a permanent outdoor market which featured so many yummy food shops and stalls. I didn’t find this superbly amazing compared to other markets but there was a steady stream of people here buying plenty of delicious food and Christmas items.

The Medieval Christmas Fair

Once my friend joined me from London, we made our way toward Odeonplatz to see The Medieval Christmas Fair which my tour guide from the trip to the castle suggested. Take the subway to Odeonsplatz and you will have a few markets nearby, including this unique one.

I absolutely loved this market! It was so adorable and every stall was so unique. The stallholders were all dressed in medieval attire and the food was served in clay bowls; the gluhwein served in clay goblets. Between the festive music and handmade stalls this was a gem of a market. I bought a beautiful scarf here which I cherish.

I highly recommend the wonderful potato noodle dish called schupfnudeln, which on a chilly December day really hit the spot.

Beautiful stall at the medieval market

Christmas Village at the Munich Residenz

Christmas Village at the Munich Residenz

Also nearby Odeonplatz was the Christmas Village at the Munich Residenz which was beautiful. This was a small market and we walked here after having brunch not far from New Town Hall. This market is set in the Emperor’s Court of the Munich Residenz and it was just a lovely little market. I had my final gluhwein and it was a perfect end to my Christmas market tour. I mean, who doesn’t love a little market set in a courtyard of a royal palace?

The whole area near Odeonplatz is worth a stroll. From the stunning, giant yellow Theatinerkirche (Theatine Church) to the giant Feldherrnhalle (Field Marshal’s hall) which features several arches and large lions (why not eh?). The whole area has an Italian vibe and it’s stunning.

Feldherrnhalle (Field Marshal’s hall)

From Odeonplatz, walk toward the English Garden to see a very unique site: river surfing! My lovely Munich-based friend took us here on our final morning and it was surreal standing by the Eisbach River watching a good dozen or more people surfing on a very chilly Sunday morning.

Christmas Market at the Chinese Tower

It’s hard to rate the markets I visited in Munich, but goodness me the
Christmas Market at the Chinese Tower probably tops my list.

Gorgeous stalls with the Chinese Tower in the backdrop

I can’t even remember what made me want to travel to Europe to see Christmas markets. I must have read about them and decided that sounded like a great way to experience a few new cities.  I love traveling during the cooler parts of the year, but I honestly don’t know what I expected at the markets other than festive crowds milling about shopping, socializing, eating and drinking.

Each market had its own unique vibe, but by far my best experience in Munich was Christmas Market at the Chinese Tower. Set in the English Garden, this market was spacious and family-friendly and it had white horse-drawn carriages, Father Christmas, live music and plenty of tables for sitting down and taking it all in. It was festive, fairly quiet, and so spacious and romantic.

The stalls had quite different items for sale and the quality was really high. I bought some great Christmas gifts here and there were some unique hot beverage options too including a tasty blood orange punch drink. I could have spent hours here – it was the type of market atmosphere I had hoped for and was a perfect end to my final night of my week of European Christmas markets.

Neuschwanstein Castle

One reason I decided to visit Munich was the ability to take in some great options for day trips to other attractions nearby. I had looked into visiting Christmas markets in Regensburg and Nuremberg, as well as a trip to the gorgeous Neuschwanstein Castle. All seemed like great options for a day out from Munich.

In the end, I decided to go see the castle and it was…..good. Unfortunately the front of the castle was under construction so I didn’t get to see the castle in its full glory. And it’s not a surprise that an amazing attraction like this is BUSY. All the photos of Neuschwanstein Castle are stunning and it looks straight out a fairy tale.

I booked a day trip with Radius Tours, which left from the main train station. It was great to see other parts on Munich while on the bus, and then magic happened as the clouds parted and we got great views of the Swiss Alps! Bucket list!

Driving alongside the Swiss Alps

We did get lucky with the forecast, which was dire (rain all day). We were able to see the castle as we neared it from the highway and in general the rain wasn’t too disruptive.

So here’s how it works on the tour:
The guides (our group was split in two) go sort out our tickets as you get a specific entry time for the castle and they are allowed inside every 5 minutes. Once they organized the tickets, our group was led up the path to the castle. The only options are to walk or pay money to ride up in a horse-drawn carriage (which looked packed and dreadful on a rainy day plus there was a long queue). The walk was maybe 45 minutes and we stopped often so our awesome guide could share more tales about King Ludwig. The storytelling along the way was really great fun and set the mood for us before we saw the inside of the castle for ourselves.

Extensive renovations were going on to the front of the castle

At the top, there were several areas for photos before we got to the entry area. It was CROWDED and as it was cold most people tried to go inside a very small waiting area. Once we scanned our tickets to the castle and were allowed in, we weren’t allowed to take photos and everyone was given an audio tour. I detest audio tours and was content just to walk around and look at everything. We had a staff member basically lead us from one room to the next and she did not utter a word – so strange. The castle tour itself is about 45 minutes and like most castles everything inside was grand and ornate and stunning.

Once the tour was over, you could buy food or a snack in a cafe (bring cash) or spend money in the shop. The walk down went pretty quickly and then it was time to warm up with some hot chocolate and board the bus back to Munich.

The lovely village of Hohenschwangau with the castle overhead

I enjoyed the tour, especially because it got me out of Munich and I loved being able to see more of the German countryside. The total duration of this tour was 8-9 hours. Keep in mind that the walk up to the castle is quite steep, and inside the tour you will walk up many, many steps.

Final thoughts
I can’t wait to go back to Germany to see Berlin, and maybe tennis in Stuttgart, and to eat more. While in Munich I still hadn’t fully recovered from being ill so I still didn’t have much of an appetite. I did manage a few meals and snacks but nothing like I would have hoped to eat.

I found it very easy to navigate in Munich, and per usual I had a local SIM card so I could use Google Maps. I had done a lot of research so I had plenty of places saved in my phone and Trip Advisor so it was easy to make choices for where to eat or drink or walk around.

A few more photos from Munich – you were a stunner!

Categories Europe

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