Christmas Markets in Europe

‘Christmas Markets in Europe’ is a wonderful pre-Christmas tour that travels through the heart of Germany, visiting the magical Christmas markets and soaking up the festive atmosphere that makes Germany such an exciting destination at this time of year. 

We begin in the French city of Strasbourg, one of the great historic cities of Europe, sitting right on the border with Germany, and blending both French and German influences. Crossing the border into Germany, we travel through the heart of the country visiting the wonderful fairy-tale cities of Heidelberg and Mainz where the medieval architecture and cobbled streets are adorned with festive illuminations and the lively Christmas Markets sell traditional decorations, gluhwein, sizzling sausages and spicy gingerbread. Continuing north we spend three nights in the great port city of Hamburg, before heading to the medieval jewel of Wernigerode, a delightful town nestled at the foot of the Harz Mountains. We then visit Germany’s largest city and capital, Berlin, whose richly-textured history is apparent on every street corner. This is an exciting 19-day journey to the glittering lights and spicy aromas of some of central Europe’s best Christmas Markets: it’s a Christmas cracker!

Tour Fitness Level: Active

Highlights

France

  • Three-night stay in Strasbourg
  • Explore Strasbourg’s Christmas Markets – the oldest and biggest in Europe
  • Enjoy a day trip to the delightful medieval town of Colmar

Germany

  • Two-night stay in the captivating city of Mainz
  • Explore some of Germany’s most exciting Christmas Markets
  • Visit Heidelberg – one of Europe’s most enchanting cities
  • Take a funicular ride up to Heidelberg castle
  • Enjoy the scenic drive along the Rhine Valley from Mainz to Cologne
  • Explore the narrow cobblestone alleys and quirky architecture of Cologne
  • Three-night stays in Hamburg , Wernigerode and Berlin
  • Visit the amazing Miniatur Wunderland – the world’s largest model railway
  • Ride through snowy landscapes on the famous Mt Brocken steam railway
  • See the last remnants of the Berlin Wall and Checkpoint Charlie
  • Visit the Charlottenburg Palace

Inclusions

  • All flights between Australia and Europe/Europe and Australia (inc domestic from your preferred capital city)
  • All accommodation (twin-share)
  • All ticketable air taxes (may be subject to change)
  • All trains and internal transportation
  • All meals as specified
  • Travel Directors’ tour leader throughout
  • Expert local guides
  • All entrance fees in specified sightseeing
  • All tips and gratuities

Please note that whilst every effort will be made to adhere to the above pricing, currency fluctuations beyond our control can affect final costs. A booking form is to be completed by all passengers, and a non-refundable deposit of AUD $2,000 per person paid at the time of booking. All tours are based on a minimum group size of 10 people travelling.

Itinerary

28/11/2023 Australia – Dubai

Depart from your chosen Australian airport on the Emirates flight to Dubai. On arrival we connect with our flight to Frankfurt.

29/12/2022 Dubai – Frankfurt – Strasbourg (D)

Depart Dubai on Emirates EK 45, 08.40

Arrive Frankfurt 12.45

On arrival in Frankfurt we transfer to Strasbourg by coach, arriving at our hotel late afternoon

Hotel Maison Rouge

Strasbourg

30/11/2022 Strasbourg (BLD)

Strasbourg is the capital of the Alsace region of France and has been a cultural bridge between France and Germany for centuries. It is the seat of several European institutions including the European Court of Human Rights. Strasbourg’s historic city centre – the Grande Ile – was classified a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1988, the first time such an honour was placed on an entire city centre. This morning we explore the city with its amazing Gothic cathedral and crooked half-timbered houses, which conjure up images of a fairy-tale past. Later we visit Strasbourg’s wonderful Christmas market – one of the largest and oldest in Europe – where dozens of kilometres of Christmas lights and decorations light up the streets surrounding the Great Christmas Tree on Place Kleber. Around 300 stalls are spread out over 10 locations and offer a huge range of festive goods, including craftwork, food and drink and traditional Alsatian Christmas decorations.

01/12/2022 Strasbourg – Colmar – Strasbourg (BLD)

The delightful medieval town of Colmar is located less than an hour’s drive from Strasbourg, and this morning we set out to explore this jewel in the crown of the Alsace region. Characterised by beautiful half-timbered houses in shades of pink, blue, lemon and apricot, Colmar is a maze of pretty cobblestone streets running next to narrow canals. The town centre is almost entirely pedestrianised, and here we see a stunning display of Christmas illuminations, with every heritage building and monument adorned with decorations and twinkling lights. After soaking up the ambience of the historic Old Town, we return to Strasbourg.

02/12/2022 Strasbourg – Heidelberg – Mainz (BLD)

After breakfast we board our coach for the 90-minute drive to Heidelberg, one of Europe’s most enchanting cities. Surrounded by forest, Heidelberg has been the inspiration of poets and artists for centuries, among them Goethe, Turner, and the American literary great Mark Twain. Located on the banks of the beautiful Neckar River, the atmospheric Old Town is overlooked by an evocative half-ruined hilltop castle, one of the most important Renaissance structures north of the Alps. On arrival in Heidelberg we begin a full exploration of this romantic city. After lunch we take the funicular railway to Heidelberg Castle and late afternoon we re-board our coach for the one hour drive to Mainz, situated at the confluence of the Rhine and Main Rivers.

Hyatt Regency

Mainz

03/12/2022 Mainz (BLD)

For more than a thousand years the city’s skyline has been dominated by one building – Mainz Cathedral. Towering majestically in its central location, it is one of the most important churches in Germany. This morning we begin our city tour of Mainz, visiting the cathedral and the remarkable Gutenberg Museum – one of the oldest museums of printing in the world, and home of the first printed bible. After lunch we visit St Stephen’s Church – famous for its brilliant blue stained glass windows by the artist Marc Chagall. Later there is free time to explore the historical Christmas Market with its 100 lovingly decorated and illuminated stands.

04/12/2022 Mainz – Cologne (BLD)

Today we travel on one of the most scenic drives in Germany. Hugging the Rhine Valley, we head north via Koblenz to the beautiful city of Cologne, a journey of around two hours. En route we pass many beautiful and historic castles as well as the remarkable Loreley Rock, a 132m high slate cliff towering above the narrowest point of the Rhine. Arriving in Cologne, we begin a city tour starting with the Old Town and the Cathedral. We then move to the historical Town Hall before strolling through the narrow, cobble-stoned alleys that mirror an illustrious past. Germany’s fourth-largest city was founded by the Romans in 38 BC and today it offers the visitor endless attractions from Roman history, medieval churches and quirky avant-garde architecture. There are several Christmas Markets in Cologne and they are all subtly different, but they all offer that special Christmas magic with local specialities as well as the usual gluhwein, bratwurst, hot chestnuts and gingerbread.

Cologne Marriott Hotel

Cologne

05/12/2022 Cologne – Hamburg (BLD)

After breakfast we make the short walk to the railway station for our journey north to Hamburg.

Depart Cologne, 09.09

Arrive Hamburg 13.14

Hamburg’s enormous success story began as a founding member of the Hanseatic League, a medieval alliance of northern European cities that once dominated the shipping trade in the North and Baltic Seas. To this day, the city is known as ‘the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg’, reflecting both its association with the league and its status as an independent city-state. People from the city often call it ‘the gateway to the world’, and indeed this impressive port has for centuries welcomed merchants, traders, sailors and heads of state to its dazzling array of attractions. Early afternoon we arrive in Hamburg and begin a city tour including Alster Lakes, St Michaelis Church and City Hall.

Hilton Reichshof Curio Hotel

Hamburg

06/12/2022 Hamburg (BLD)

Historically shipping has always been Hamburg’s major industry and today the inner city harbour, on the Elbe River, is the third-biggest port in Europe. Vast profits from shipping have enriched the city, from the magnificent neo-Renaissance town hall, to the Elbchaussee – a long, leafy stretch of road lined with huge mansions perched on the Elbe. Today we set out to explore this great port city with its maritime architecture, vibrant neighbourhoods, and unique harbour cafes. In the afternoon we visit Miniatur Wunderland, the world’s largest model railway which boasts more than 12,000 meters of track and 890 trains. Built on a truly massive scale, it covers 1,150 square meters and has areas dedicated to the USA, Scandinavia, and Germany, as well as an airport with planes that actually take off! Containing more than 200,000 tiny and unique human figures, Wunderland is illuminated by more than 300,000 lights.

07/12/2022 Hamburg (BLD)

This morning we visit Hamburg’s impressive International Maritime Museum. Housed in a massive red-bricked heritage building, the museum has many fascinating exhibits dealing with more than 3,000 years of humankind’s connection to water, including many old artefacts, models, and artwork. Another marine-themed attraction is the Rickmer Rickmers, a three-masted tall ship built in 1896 that now serves as a museum. In the afternoon we stroll through the impressive Christmas markets where we see a wealth of enticing foodstuffs, knick-knacks and Christmas paraphernalia. The main market – Winterwald in Hamburg – is based on the concept of creating a winter forest in the city centre.

08/12/2022 Hamburg – Wernigerode (BLD)

Today we head for the beautiful old town of Wernigerode. We change trains at Hanover and Goslar, with an afternoon arrival in Wernigerode.

Depart Hamburg 10.01

Arrive Wernigerode 13.41

On arrival in Wernigerode, our luggage is transferred to the hotel, while we begin a walking tour of this delightful town.

HKK Hotel Wernigerode

Wernigerode

09/12/2022 Wernigerode (BLD)

Wernigerode is a charming German town on the northern slopes of the Harz Mountains. It is close to the old East German border and many of the buildings in the magnificent old town date back to medieval times. Today we spend a few hours riding the steam train to the summit of Mt Brocken. In Soviet times, the USSR’s main ‘listening station’ to the West was on Mt Brocken itself and today it is a museum, accessed by the same train line built by the Russians. It’s a magnificent trip through the forest on a wonderful railway that, in addition to carrying tourists, is part of a 150-km network providing a vital link between neighbouring towns. Wernigerode is a relatively small town so it has only one Christmas market, located in the picturesque town square. The square is illuminated by thousands of twinkling lights and a huge Christmas tree stands outside the Rathaus (Town Hall). Local craftspeople and artists display their wares, alongside stalls selling all the usual German Christmas fare. This market is smaller and more ‘folksy’ than most of the markets in the big cities and this adds considerably to its charm.

10/12/2022 Wernigerode (BLD)

After breakfast we visit Wernigerode Castle which stands majestically overlooking the town. The Castle was originally a medieval fort offering a stronghold for the German emperors of the middle ages during their hunting excursions in the Harz Mountains. The castle was rebuilt into a Renaissance fortress in the 16th century. In the late 17th century, after the devastation of the thirty year war, Count Ernest of Stolberg-Wernigerode began reconstructing the castle remains in the baroque style as a romantic castle residence for himself. The castle we see today is an impressive and captivating architectural smorgasbord.

11/12/2022 Wernigerode – Berlin (BLD)

After breakfast we leave Wernigerode arriving in Berlin in the early afternoon.

Depart Wernigerode 09.42

Arrive Berlin 12.49

On arrival in Berlin we transfer to our hotel. We then begin a short walking tour for a ‘taster’ of the city.

Melia Hotel

Berlin

12/12/2022 Berlin (BLD)

Berlin is a city shaped by remarkable texts of history, where every corner is a mirror of its tumultuous past. From the revolution in the east, to the Reichstag and devastation of WWII, to the division of the city by the wall, Berlin’s psyche is compelling. Today we enjoy a full-day tour of East Berlin, where we walk along the last remnants of the Berlin Wall, and visit the famous Checkpoint Charlie. We continue our tour by coach taking in the Brandenburg Gate, Holocaust Memorial and Hitler’s bunker. We also enter the Reichstag building, and looking out from the building’s glass dome we get a bird’s eye view of the great and vibrant city of Berlin spread out before us.

13/12/2022 Berlin (BLD)

Today we enjoy a full-day tour of West Berlin, beginning with a visit to the magnificent Charlottenburg Palace which is located close to the city centre. The beautiful palace hosts fine collections of china and paintings and is situated in the middle of a picturesque palace garden right next to the river Spree. In the afternoon we stroll through the Gendarmenmarkt, a stunning square in the centre, located close to Friedrichstrasse, which is Berlin’s main shopping street. In the evening we enjoy a farewell dinner at a local restaurant.

14/12/2022 Berlin – Frankfurt – Dubai

Early this morning we transfer to the airport for our homeward journey.

Depart Berlin Lufthansa LH 175, 07.45

Arrive Frankfurt 08.55

Depart Frankfurt Emirates EK  044, 09.40

Arrive Dubai 19.00

On arrival in Dubai connect with the flight to your chosen Australian capital city.

15/12/2022 Arrive Australia

We arrive home in Australia today.