Christmas in Munich
With the heat of summer bearing down and temperatures reaching into the upper 90’s I find myself longing for some cooler weather. It has been far too warm to be inclined to do much more than hide in the house with the blinds closed and watch TV. Maybe it was seeing that Christmas movies were being shown on the Hallmark channel, or the giant “Christmas in July” mattress sale commercial but something has me reminiscing about our trip to Munich this past holiday. So I find myself pouring though pictures of the ausgezeichnet time we spent in Munich reliving the magical sights and sounds of the old world Christmas markets, and allowing my imagination to transport me back to winter and the 5,000 some miles of distance from where I sit.
I have always loved Christmas. The lights, the music, the food, and the unexplainable euphoria that seems to fill me makes it one of my favorite times of year, so when Lufthansa announced non-stop flights from Denver to Munich we began discussing the idea of going to Germany for the holidays.
It was about this time last year that we planned and booked our trip. There are a number of package deals offered for holiday excursions, but with the internet and a bit of research you can easily plan your own choosing your preferred travel dates, accommodations, and activities if you are so inclined. Christmas is very busy in Munich but this time of year you can still find good availability for flights and hotels. It is amazing but the planes and rooms really do sell out toward the end of August, and prices only tend to increase unless you stumble upon a last minute deal.
So if you are the kind of person like me who truly enjoys Christmas, and ever has the desire or opportunity to visit Munich for the holidays I would highly recommend it! The heart of the city comes alive with the sights and sounds of the season exploding with decorations and lights, fresh fir trees and boughs, and the streets flood with folks merrily strolling about absorbing the festive atmosphere. The city takes on a spirit very different than anything I have ever experienced here at home. It is so unlike our obsession with black Friday savings and shopping mall Santas. I find being outside in a crowd of people that are not in a panicked rush but are simply enjoying being a part of the magic so refreshing. I am sure Munich has its share of stores full of shoppers scrambling for i-somethings and toasters, but spending time in the markets and browsing the unique hand made goods is very special.
In the evening the markets take on a completely different vibe with thousands of colorful lights, shimmering ornaments, holiday music, and the aroma of mulled wine and wood fires filling the crisp air. People gather with family and friends to share laughter and cheer, a hot bevereage and some delicious street food as they wander by the amazing selections of interesting gifts.
While we were able to experience a number of the different markets in the time we had in Munich we did not see them all, I guess that will be a good reason to plan another trip.
Airport – Flughafen
Upon arrival in Munich we were greeted by a large Christmas market just steps outside of the terminal. Countless fresh cut fir trees surrounded an ice skating rink, and numerous booths selling interesting gifts from around the world were stocked full and ready for shopping. The market also included vendors selling tasty selections of food, world famous German beers, and of course Hot Spiced Wine. This market is open beginning November 17th and runs through December 30th.
Marienplatz is the central square of Munich dating back to 1158. The square is home to the cities town halls and features the world famous Rathaus Glockenspiel tower. Numerous shops and restaurants are also found in this area. One of the largest and busiest markets, the Christkindlmarkt opens each year from November 27th until Christmas filling the square and adjoining streets. There is also a hidden second mini-market located inside the courtyard of the Rathaus along with the Christkindl post office where you can get special stamps for your holiday cards and letters.
Sendlinger Tor is located in the southern part of the historic old town and is home to one of Munich three Gothic towers. Originally built around 1318 the tower was a guard post for the road to Italy. The twin towers that are standing today replaced the central tower in 1420 and served as an anchor for the city wall. Fortunately the towers and gates were only minimally damaged during the second world war and were restored in 1980. This market is much smaller and features a different assortment of handmade gifts than Marienplatz and is open the day after Thanksgiving until Christmas and features live performances.
Sternenplatzl at Rindermarkt
The Rindermarkt is one of the oldest streets in Munich connecting the Marienplatz in the north to the Sendlinger Tor. Originally the street was named for the cattle markets that took place along its route. Later the street was lined with homes built by noble Patricians however this area of Munich was heavily destroyed during the second world war. Since its reconstruction many traditional companies and shops have located along this street. The Sternenplatzl or ‘square of the stars’ market opens the day after Thanksgiving and runs through Christmas eve. This market was probably my favorite that we visited.
Pink Market at Stephansplatz
By no means your typical Christmas market, the ‘Pink Christmas’ is full of fun kitschy gifts and art. This glowing pink market is located in Glockenbachviertel a LGBTQ neighborhood and celebrates the diversity of the Munich people. Just a few blocks away from Sendlinger Tor, the pink market welcomes all people, neighbors and families, gay and straight to enjoy some cocktails and nightly performances, which include drag queens singing carols. Pink market runs from November 27th until Christmas.
There are many options for transportation in Munich. Taxis, car services, Uber, and public transportation are all readily available from the airport as well as throughout the city. On other trips we have taken the train from the airport to our hotel but decided for this Christmas trip we would treat ourselves and hire a car service. I would recommend MyDriver services, they make it easy to book reservations online and are priced competitively. The driver met us inside the terminal, was friendly, spoke excellent English, assisted with the luggage, and took us to our hotel in a beautiful Mercedes (naturally). They have a variety of options for cars including vans for up to 7 people. All services are set priced and prepaid making the experience hassle free and if you are traveling to other destinations in Europe they have services in most major cities.
Single and multiple day passes are available for public transportation and are very economical. Like many European cities, Munich has a great network of subways, surface trains and buses and it is very easy to navigate most places in the city using this system. The subways and trains are well signed, very clean, well lit, and keep to their schedules with trains departing every few minutes during peak hours.
As in any major metropolitan area there are many options for lodging. I am not going to begin to pretend to know the vast network of hotels in Munich rather just share our experiences. When we travel we enjoy staying at smaller boutique hotels. Rates of course are always a consideration and we prefer rooms that come with breakfast and that are also close to transportation.
We had very pleasant and comfortable stays with both of the following hotels, and both served an amazing European breakfast.
Central Hotel-Apart München Hotel – Josephsburgstraße 26, 81673 München, Germany
H+ Hotel Munich – Schillerstraße 28, 80336 München, Germany
Munich is famous for is beer so be sure to enjoy a liter or two. Das Schneider Bräuhaus has been brewing their beer since 1872 and has perfected the art of weisse. Altes Hackerhaus was born in 1738 and has been a family operation ever since. Both of these beer halls are part of history and serve amazing brews and food.
Located in the heart of the city, Sendlinger Tor is rich in history and S’Wirsthaus is a true taste of Munich with an amazing selection of sausages and German specialty dishes. In warm weather they feature a 180 seat biergarten.
If you are going to be in Munich on Christmas day you will need to make reservations for dining. The Christmas markets are all closed as well as most businesses. Restaurants that remain open are subject to special holiday hours and limited seating so you will want to call ahead.