I always somehow knew that Munich would be my favourite German city. And I have been to quite a few, which I liked. I am sure that visiting this city during Christmas season had a big influence on my impression.
Despite the freezing temperatures and often dull and rainy weather in December, the famous Munich Christmas Markets, mainly the one in Marienplatz, are everything I have imagined. The moment you step in them, the smell of ginger, sugar and mulled wine draw you in. The beautiful combination of red and green colour decorations, little gingerbread house shaped stands and huts, surrounded by Christmas lighting, the elaborate Rathaus and the chorus singing from its balcony, Stachus, Fraunkirche, and Glockenspiel are out of a fairy tale book. Germans know how to do lead up to Christmas.
Beyond Marienplatz, Munich is also a wealthy city with beautiful architecture and stylish, high end avenues. A more modern Promenadenplatz is also worth a stopover. The museums, opera house and theatres are remnants of a glorified past and strong present. Though it is hard to forget that it is also the centre of the right wing extremism in the country.
The Instagram famous Neuschwanstein Castle, which is a little one hour drive out of city, has known to have inspired Disney in their movie creations of Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella. Even a more worthwhile visit in the Bavarian countryside is the village of Oberammergau. It is said that this village has also inspired Disney for many of its movies. It is not hard to see why. We stumbled upon unquestionably the most beautiful Christmas shop in the world. I am adamant. Germans know how to do lead up to Christmas best.
Bavaria is a large region and is filled with plenty of quaint villages and stunning nature. Here, I was certain that the design of gingerbread houses and the sugar cottage of the witch in Hansel and Gretel were certainly inspired by the houses in this region. Depending on the amount of time you have, it is certainly worth to have a good drive around Bavaria.
It is also quite close to Austria. It is only a couple of hours drive to the beautiful city of Salzburg, the city of Mozart. Even though it is quite small, in my opinion, Salzburg makes it easier to grasp Austrian culture. Altstadt (Old Town), Alter Markt, Residenzgalerie, Mirabelle Palace, Linzergasse and Gstattengasse are all beautiful parts of the town. It also has been an opportunity for us to remind ourselves with the soundtrack of the Sound of Music as we were trying to keep the children entertained in the car whilst educating them about the landscape and history. It turns out they were quite amused by the music. We must have listened to “Do-Re-Mi”, “My Favourite Things”, “The Lonely Goatherd” at least a hundred times during the trip. We even started to hear the songs in our dreams.
Salzburg is also a convenient centre for day trips to places like the world famous Hallstatt village and the mountain ski resorts such as Zell Am See, Kitzbuhel and Kaprun. They are all a little over 1 hour drive away from Salzburg. The roads are absolutely fantastic and safe even during heavy snow.
Hallstatt is incredibly crowded. There is no doubt that it is a beautiful village; however, the arrival of the mass tourism, somehow, takes away from the charm. I was personally more impressed by the other quieter villages around Salzburg, not necessarily because of the villages themselves but by the beauty and serenity of their lakes and mountains. Walchsee is one of them.
Zell Am See, the birthplace of the famous Austrian Queen Sisi, is a nice little town, with a beautiful lake and nice slopes. It is popular among Arab tourists. The town still carries an early 20th century feel.
Kitzbuhel, on the other hand, is a town of fairy tales. Firstly, the ski slopes are varied with plenty of fantastic options for children of all ages. The tiny town centre is filled with beautiful pastel coloured buildings. The smell of ginger, sugar and mulled wine floats in the air. Beautiful horse carriages are another magical attraction, even though I would never get on one myself.
All in all, Germany’s Bavarian region, Salzburg and its surroundings in Austria are fantastic destinations for the Christmas and New Year season. They are everything I dreamt they would be.