If you love festive markets and want to experience some of the best in the world, consider booking a rail tour to see the German Christmas markets.
Germany is home to a plethora of destinations that set up some wonderful markets every winter, with the aim of creating a pleasurable experience for visitors looking to buy some unique gifts and truly get into the festive spirit.
Rail tours can be a great way to see these markets – you could board the Eurostar from London, change trains where necessary and spend your holiday visiting different markets and taking in a host of attractions.
Just imagine drinking in the views of snow-covered Europe on a leisurely train ride across the continent before stepping out to soak up the unique atmosphere of a festive market – there’s surely no better way to spend a Christmas break.
So what are the main destinations for Christmas market tours? You can choose from many different towns, cities and regions, including Bavaria, the Rhine Valley, Cologne, Bonn and the Moselle Valley.
The state of Bavaria is the largest in Germany and has plenty to offer holidaymakers in the winter. It is home to one of the most famous Christmas markets in the world, the Christkindlmarkt in Nuremberg.
Some 180 wooden stalls make up the market, with vendors selling wares ranging from handmade gifts to the local spicy gingerbread, fruit loaves and mulled wine.
Nuremberg is packed with a host of historical attractions, so make sure you take the time to visit the Germanische Nationalmuseum, the Hangman’s Bridge, Our Lady’s Church and the Imperial Castle, among others.
Your rail tour may also incorporate a stop in Rothenburg ob der Tauber. This medieval town has its own Reiterlesmarkt Christmas market, as does nearby Regensburg.
Regensburg is home to three markets and a medieval centre that is on the Unesco World Heritage list, adding yet more potential sights to your holiday itinerary.
Meanwhile, the Rhine Valley is a superb picturesque destination that harbours several towns with Christmas markets.
Rudesheim is a must-visit for its unique Christmas Market of Nations, which attempts to represent 12 different countries through its 120 stalls. The town also has a number of other interesting attractions, such as a host of chocolate and wine stores and the Toy and Railway Museum.
Another Rhine Valley town, Koblenz, similarly offers the chance to shop at its festive market and take in sights like the Electoral Palace and numerous eye-catching churches, while the Hunsruckbahn Railway from Boppard to Emmelshausen is Germany’s steepest standard gauge railway – take a ride along the track for some unforgettable views of the region.
If you want to be able to visit multiple Christmas markets in one spot, Cologne is the place to go. The city has six to choose from – imagine browsing for gifts at the unusual floating market on the MS Wappenvon Koln ship, or sampling local goodies at the medieval market at the Chocolate Museum.
Other highlights of a trip to Cologne include the chance to see sights such as the 13th century Cologne Cathedral – which is the city’s second highest structure – along with the Museum Ludwig and the Old Town area with its picturesque buildings.
Elsewhere, Bonn is another popular stop on rail tours to the German Christmas markets. The university city sees its market squares fill up with 170 stalls in total during the festive period.
You can also visit attractions such as Beethoven’s birthplace and the Museum Mile, on which you will find establishments such as the Bonn Art Museum, the Art and Exhibition Hall of the Federal Republic of Germany, the German Museum Bonn and the Haus der Geschichte, which delves into the country’s modern history.
If you choose the Moselle Valley as your rail tour destination, you will be able to visit numerous historic towns packed with stalls and sights galore. Head to Cochem and you can take in the striking Reichsburg Castle, which is around 1,000 years old.