Why travelling for Christmas was the best decision I ever made
Last Christmas we found ourselves “alone” for the holidays. This being our second Christmas in a new country, and our closest family members living 300miles away, we decided to take the plunge and travel for Christmas.
Now I feel I need to share that this decision was something that kept me up and night. How could we incorporate Christmas into travel with kids? How would Santa know where we were? What would we do for our Christmas dinner? Indecision left me a little like a deer in the headlights, and I am sure my husband would have gladly run me over with the car if he had to listen to another pros and cons discussion about this topic!
Lucky for me, Google adwords clearly saw my indecision in my constant internet searches as an opportunity, and one day this photo of a picture perfect snow-topped Austrian chalet appeared in my sidebar and I was smitten. A few clicks later, and it was goodbye rainy England – hello snowy Germany and Austria! The plan was to spend 2 days at the German Christmas markets, before heading to Salzburg and then into the Austrian Alps for a few days in the snow.
Over the next few blog posts, I will share with you some of the highlights from what is undoubtedly our family’s best holiday so far
We only really had a day and half in Munich, as it pretty much closes down from midday on Christmas Eve. But this was more than enough time for what we had planned.
There are 20 Christmas markets located throughout the city, all specialising in something different. From authentic nativity scene ornaments at Kripperlmarkt, to a medieval market with gospel singing at Wittelsbacher, to a gay pink Christmas market at Stephansplatz. We chose the Christkindlmarkt at Marienplatz as we wanted to combine it with some of the other local sights. It was a lovely way to while away a few hours browsing the stalls selling handmade tree ornaments and nutcrackers, and sampling the local delights. An absolute must is to taste the lebkuchen (gingerbread) and marzipankartoffeln (german marzipan candy potatoes). These will forever be etched on your heart as the taste of Christmas!
Munich Glockenspiel and Marienplatz
One of Munich’s most famous tourist attractions, the Glockenspiel is a chiming clock that depicts the scenes of a royal wedding, a jousting competition and a ritualistic dance, all to the tune of 43 bells. Located on the tower on the New Town Hall in Marienplatz, it chimes at 11 am and midday everyday, and 5pm (March – October). The show lasts about 15 minutes and is quite mesmerising to watch. Although I think this was enjoyed more by the parents than the kids.
To escape the cold, we visited Galeria Kaufhof Munchen. A large department store just off Marienplatz, with 8 floors of retail heaven! A good place for a toilet pit stop with the kids. But fair warning, if you venture into the toy department, you will not come out empty handed. We were also lucky enough to meet German Santa in the store, who gave the girls oranges and walnuts (much to their confusion).
We also visited Marienplatz that evening to experience it all lit up. The 3000 candle Christmas tree is an incredible site! We sipped mulled wine and listened to a Christmas songs sung by a choir on the balcony of the New town hall. The perfect end to our Christmas market day
Ice skating on Christmas Eve
This was definitely the highlight of the Munich leg of the trip for me! If you are looking for a way to immerse yourself completely into Christmas, head to Karlsplatz, a large square in central Munich, with a pop-up ice-skating rink, complete with Christmas carols playing in the background and the smell of gluhwein in the air. There is a viewing deck above the rink if you would prefer a more relaxing morning, and its great place to escape the cold with a hot chocolate. The perfect activity for all ages and abilities, and I definitely appreciated the Polar bear skating pals for the little ones (and not so little ones in my case).
Karlsplatz square (also known as Stachus) is also the start of the main shopping street. Everything in Munich closes by 2pm, so if you’re looking for any last minute gifts make sure you leave some time to browse. We used this quiet time in Munich to head back to the hotel for some R&R before heading out for our Christmas Eve dinner.
Restaurants you must visit while in Munich
On our first night in Munich we headed out to Augustine Keller. It’s a huge (seats 5000 people) family friendly beer hall style restaurant, with fabulous German décor, and an ambience to match. They serve both traditional Bavarian and international dishes at very reasonable prices. Its loud, friendly and will definably get you into the Bavarian spirit!
Although it’s big, you will still need to book ahead of time for peak seasons. We booked online using bookatable.com.
Another one not to miss out on is Wirtshaus Zum Strubinger. We visited this cosy restaurant for Christmas Eve dinner. Very intimate setting with dark wood décor, and booth style seating. My husband and I shared the meat feast platter, which was delicious. It’s a little on the pricey side, but well worth it for the great food and ambience on Christmas Eve. We booked through opentable.com, which I would definitely recommend using at this busy time of year
How we “moved” Christmas to Germany
Even with 4 large suitcases between the 5 of us, space is always a premium on a Winter holiday with bulky snowboots and jackets. So we limited the presents that we took with to a gift for each sister to give each other, and a gift to each of the girls from our lovely neighbour. That was more than enough to open on Christmas morning. We posted a letter to Santa explaining that we were away, so could he leave presents at home and we would open them when we got back.
We bought an Elf on the Shelf from Galeria Kaufhof, and this German elf got up to all sorts of shenanigans in our hotel room at night
On Christmas morning, we skyped the grandparents (back in South Africa) and they joined in the fun of opening presents. It was a lovely way to still have those special family moments, even though we were thousands of miles apart
So that was our first Christmas spent travelling, and I am certain it won’t be the last! Germany took the Christmas spirit to epic levels, and did not disappoint for a moment. Follow me on social media to see how the rest of our Christmas holiday trip went…
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