All aboard for the Christmas market

All aboard for the Christmas market

by Karen Bradbury
Stripes Europe

For all the joy they bring, a visit to a Christmas market can come with a certain amount of hassle. The stress of having to drive in an unfamiliar city and squeeze an oversize vehicle into a space more fit for a Mini can quickly turn a grin into a grimace. Add to the equation the intricacies of visiting a market during the time of a pandemic and all the attendant measures designed to keep visitors safe and healthy, and you just might be tempted to sit out the festivities this year.

Those in robust health who are prepared to overcome an obstacle or two might wish to steer clear of Germany’s largest Christmas markets this year in favor of those hosted by mid-sized cities and towns. But even these events can fill up quickly, tangling up the narrow streets and straining parking lots to the limit. A possible solution is to travel extra early in the day, or better yet, leave the car home entirely.

With most sizeable German towns interconnected by at least semi-decent rail service, visiting a Christmas market by means of riding the rails need not be as intimidating as it first might sound. And if you have children who have yet to experience a train journey, the ride to and from the market might prove to be one of the highlights of the day.

For many friends and families traveling together, a “Gruppentageskarte,” a day ticket, valid for unlimited travel to and from your destination and allowing for multiple stops at the places in between, will be your least expensive option.

Below is a small selection of Christmas markets accessible by means of a maximum 1.5-hour train journey from several cities and towns close to U.S. military bases in Germany. Be sure to check the COVID-19 regulations currently in place for your destination prior to travel and travel armed with all the proper documentation.

Baumholder: From Baumholder station, travel to Ottweiler for its Christmas market Nov. 26 – 28 or to St. Wendel for its Christmas market, open Dec. 4 – 12.  The journey requires one change of station in Idar-Oberstein.

Garmisch-Partenkirchen: Take the train to Farchant for its small Christmas market on Nov. 28 or to Mittenwald for its Christmas market Dec. 16 – 19.

Grafenwoehr: Travel from Freihung to the Regensburg Christmas market (Nov. 22 – Dec. 23) by regional train, with a change of station in Weiden; en route home, stop at the Christmas market in Schloss Guteneck (Nov. 25 – 28; Dec. 2 – 5; Dec. 9 – 12 and Dec. 16 – 19; admission charged), traveling from Nabburg station via shuttle bus. In Regensburg, another recommended market to visit is the Thurn und Taxis Christmas market (Nov. 19 – Dec. 23; admission charged).

Landstuhl: Take the train to Homburg for its Nikolausmarkt Nov. 25 – Dec. 6 Or ride to Neustadt an der Weinstrasse for its Christmas market (Nov. 22 – Dec. 22); carry on the Christmas market in Landau (Nov. 25 – Dec. 21) Or to the Advent market in Bad Dürkheim (Nov. 26 – Dec. 19).

Kaiserslautern: Take the regional train to Bad Kreuznach for its Christmas market Nov. 22 – Dec. 22; en route, stop at the Bad Munster am Stein-Ebernburg Christmas market in the Kurpark, held on Advent weekends only between Nov. 17 and Dec. 19.

Stuttgart: Take the train to Göppingen for its Advent market (Nov. 25 – Dec. 22); en route there or back, stop in Esslingen am Neckar for its Christmas market (Nov. 23 – Dec. 22).

Wiesbaden: Take the train to Geisenheim and then bus number 183 to the Schloss Johannisberg winery for its Christmas market on Nov. 27 – 28 OR travel to Eberbach monastery, then on to Eltville, both of which hold their markets on Dec. 4 – 5.

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