16 Jan,2018 By jagabond
“Wave, Munich! All thy banners wave, and charge with all thy chivalry!” – Thomas Campbell
Not so much a ‘race’ as a self-imposed time limit. My long shopping list this year became an ornament theme, and I thought what better place to find ornaments than the Christmas markets in Bavaria? The trip also checked a box for me as I enter my last year living in Europe. Can I be a self-proclaimed Christmas market expert without visiting the Bavarian markets?
It was a challenging race, Germany made me give all I had, but in the end I was victorious. I’ve outlined my somewhat overdramatized adventure below.
I flew into Munich and immediately hopped a train for Nuremberg, site for one of the largest and oldest Christmas markets in Germany. It was also where the infamous war trials took place. Much history here I’m sure, but I was only visiting for the shopping! The Nuremberg cathedral towered over the giant Christmas market in the main square. Being opening night, I bumped many elbows traversing my way through.
Tip – If you’re spending a night, scout what you want to buy that evening, take mental notes, and return to make the purchases the next morning. Most Bavarian markets open at around 10 or 11, and those times are a lot less crowded.
One special note about Nuremberg, it’s great for toys. This is one of the toy capitals of Germany, and they even have a highly reviewed, 4-level toy museum. I saw things here that I never saw again at any Bavarian market. They also had a nice international market with booths from Romania, China, USA, Finland, etc. The Ukrainian booth had a robust selection of handmade dolls.
Verdict: Overall, this was a nice start to the shopping crusade. List is 24% done.
My next stop is not present on most travel lists, but I’ve heard Regensburg is a Christmas hot-spot with multiple markets. I loved the city…very walkable from the train station and manageable to see everything by foot in 24 hours.
Tip – If not dressed warmly, be mindful of taking breaks by ducking into cafes or bars during your market experience. Plan your shopping trip with some down time in mind, as rushing will just lead to hasty purchases.
Sausage is a serious thing here…it was everywhere! And did I mention the size? I saw meat here fit for a giant. Can you spot what I’m talking about in the picture below?
This seems to be a youthful town, with more nightlife than I expected. There was also an artsy Christmas market adjacent to the main one, with many local crafts for sale. There was also some interesting music that I’m not sure qualifies as Christmassy.
Verdict: Smaller than Nuremberg, I still made some key purchases at the main Regensburg markets. List is 35% done.
That evening I went to the ‘Romantic Market’, excited about its potential. The setting was gorgeous, in the palace of Thurn and Taxis. It was vast, as you weaved in and out of the palace to find all the booths. They had a nice Christmas tree, and some great, live holiday caroling.
Unfortunately, this was all style, little substance. Although they had amazing apple gluhwein here, I didn’t end up purchasing anything besides a few cups of that. It reminded me of my time living in the Middle East and going to their ridiculously expensive malls. Always walking through and admiring, but never buying.
Verdict: Bring your significant other to the Romantic Market, ooh and ahh together about the loveliness of the surroundings, but don’t rely on it for quality merchandise. List is still 35% done.
I needed to make some major progress on my shopping list, and my last stop was Munich. This was my third time here, and I love this city. I saw a great opera here a few years back, enjoyed a stroll through the English Garden, and appreciate the overall comfort of this ‘easy’ metropolis. No time to get comfortable now, however, shopping was the priority.
After my whiff at the Romantic Market in Regensburg, I decided to mix things up. The gay district of Munich is home to the ‘pink’ Christmas Market. I figured I could celebrate LGBT living while perusing some suggestive ornaments.
It didn’t disappoint, though I wish I could’ve caught the drag holiday show later that evening. I ended up crossing quite a few things off my list, and I must say I’ve never seen a male mermaid before.
Verdict: This was a nice change of pace market, and I got over the half-way point in my shopping. List is 53% done.
The market at Marienplatz is the biggest one in Munich. I faced my shopping last stand here. As if God was listening, he ordered the snow to fall harder to make my quest more difficult. I saved the best for last, as this was the prettiest market I saw on my Bavaria trip.
I raced through the booths looking for ones that sold ornaments. This was a sprawling market, stretching out over what seemed like a mile or more. I stopped briefly to gain inspiration from the choir singing from above.
Tip – Carry some type of bag with you. Many of the booths don’t offer bags, and just wrap the ornaments up in loose paper.
I accomplished my goal, then was hell-bent on having dinner that didn’t involve Christmas market food. One can only eat so many sausages with sauerkraut, or drink so much gluhwein, until their stomach fights back. Alternatively, I found an Asian-fusion place called Anna’s where I had an amazing Thai soup and Dim-Sum.
I then went to celebrate my success at the Boilerman’s Bar, inside the ’25 Hours Hotel’. I must say, the Manhattan here is one of the best I’ve ever had.
There was one problem. As I started going through my list I realized I was one ornament short. What happened? Poor planning, lack of attention to detail, take your pick. The markets were closed by this point. I lamented my situation, realizing I left for home the next morning.
Verdict: The markets in downtown Munich nearly got me to my goal. List is 94% done.
What’s great about Germany is how much they love Christmas. So much so that they have a market at the Munich airport!
A flight delay allowed me a chance to finish my mission. One more ornament to go, and only thirty minutes before I needed to be through airport security. I was as picky as possible, but finally settled on one. The German word translates to ‘guardian angel’. Shopping is one-hundred percent done! This will be a merry Christmas after all.
Final Verdict: If you have a Christmas problem, then Munich and Bavaria as a whole have your solution! I close this blog with some great music I heard on the streets of Munich.