European Christmas Markets-December 2019

This adventure we decided to use the flight benefits we have and attempt to fly standby.  After looking at our options we decided to fly non-stop to London and then begin our Christmas Market tour from there.  As luck would have it we flew non-stop to London in Business Class, what a great way to start the trip.  We decided that since we were going to try and fly standby we would only bring carry-on’s and a backpack which involved some creative packing for an eleven day adventure in the cold. Arriving in London early in the morning, we had booked a hotel close to the airport. The Moxy Hotel, a Marriott property.  The hotel was cheap but still very nice and did the job.  We dropped off our luggage and took the train into the city.  We spent the day wondering the Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park, it was a very commercialized Christmas Market. We then made our way to the Hard Rock to buy our t-shirts that we collect and then made our way to Coach & Horses a cute little pub for some fish and chips.  After eating we took the train back to our hotel hoping for a good nights sleep.  Day 2 we had booked a different Marriott Hotel near Heathrow as we had an early flight out to Frankfurt on Saturday morning.  The Marriott Heathrow was fantastic and they even had a room ready for us at 10:00 am.  We dropped our luggage in the room and grabbed a quick bite in the lounge and headed back to town by train.  Today we visited Chinatown and had lunch at 4 Seasons China Restaurant, not too bad.  The weather outside was frightful, no snow just rain, but still fun.  We stopped in Waxy’s Little Sister Pub to get out of the rain for a beer.  When the rain let up we made our way to the Underbelly Christmas Market along with the London Bridge Market, again very commercialized.  We finished the day with a spin on the London Eye, we had bought our tickets ahead of time on line, which made it real nice to skip the long line in the rain.  Arriving back at the hotel we heard that Lufthansa might be striking which could effect our flight to Frankfurt in the morning.  We arrived to the airport early in case we had to make other arrangements to get to Frankfurt.  Turns out no strike and they asked if we would like to take the earlier flight.  Upon arriving in Frankfurt we decided to take Uber to the hotel rather then figure out the train, that worked out real well.  In Frankfurt we stayed at the Pure Hotel, again a Marriott property, which was conveniently located near the main train station.  We were staying two nights here.  We checked in and dropped our luggage once again and headed out for our search of the Christmas Markets. Still raining and a bit of a hike, but we found them.  The markets were very festive, and of course we had to have a bratwurst for lunch.  We wondered the markets sipping mulled wine to keep warm.  After wondering the markets all day we stopped in at Braustul Restaurant for dinner.  I had a delicious pork dish with duchess potatoes, very tasty.  The lights and decorations were so beautiful and so magical, we just loved strolling around. We stopped at the Anglo Irish Pub on the way back to the hotel for a night cap.  We decided once back at the hotel to make a plan to see what Frankfurt had to offer.  We checked Viator and everything they offered was out of town, you had to leave Frankfurt if you wanted to see anything.  We thought that was odd and decided to do a Hop On/Hop Off tour the next morning.  Well now we know why Viator doesn’t offer anything in town, actually a very boring tour.  After the tour we found our way to Waxy’s Irish Pub (must be the big sister to the pub in London) for some nachos and a Kilkenny.  We decided to make one more lap around the market and stopped and tried Rabmbrotmet Raclettekase (spice bread with melted raclette cheese to you and me), very tasty.  We washed it down with a little more mulled wine.  Walking back to the hotel we passed by O’Reillys Irish Pub which had quite a crowd in it, so we stopped in and watched the Ireland Celtics take on the Scotland team in soccer and waited for the rain to slow up.  Day 5 of our trip was by train to Cologne Germany, we stayed at the Marriott Cologne, right near the Cathedral and very close to all the Christmas Markets, it was a perfect location.  The Christmas Markets in Cologne we very un-commercialized and the booths all different as compared to London and Frankfurt.  The only gifts we purchased were here in Cologne, beautiful handmade copper tea lights, made in a small family workshop in South of Germany.  Copperlight; josla.licht@gmail.com.  We dined on Currywurst and mulled wine. Day 6 we traveled by train for a day trip to Aachen Germany as we heard it was in the top ten of Christmas Markets.  It was a nice day, finally no rain, the market again was very festive.  We dined on a baked potato with mushrooms and onions with a garlic cream sauce, delicious and another batch of currywurst and fries, and of course more mulled wine. Peeked in all the booths, wishing we had brought a bigger suitcase.  Late in the afternoon we returned to Cologne, once again by train  We took one last walk through the markets before calling it a day.  Day 7 we were off to Strasbourg France by train, it was another short train ride.  While on the train we found out that our train we had scheduled to Paris had been cancelled due to the transportation strike and riots around France.  By this time we had decided maybe to skip Paris due to everything that was going on there, so the cancelled train just confirmed our decision.  We arrived in Strasbourg to police guarding the train station, more security than usual, I guess we were lucky to get anywhere in France.  We walked from the station again in the rain to our hotel we stayed at before the Regent Petite France, in the heart of old town or Petite Venice they call it.  Our room wasn’t ready so we grabbed our umbrella and headed out.  Strasbourg was also on the top ten of Christmas Markets.  Every street was decorated and markets around every corner, each one prettier then the last.  We were in the mood for French Onion soup and googled best restaurants for soup.  As luck would have it, it named L’Oignon, which was located right next to our hotel.  We shook of the umbrella and went inside.  It was a small place but had room.  We ordered our soup, unfortunately it was very disappointing, I have to say I make better it better, oh well it warmed us up.  We decided to go back to the hotel and figure out what our new plan was going to be since we were unable to get to Paris.  Our next stop was going to be Colmar so we had to decide what to do from there.  With trains being uncertain, we found most trains cancelled with not to many options to get out of France, we decided to just figure it out once we got to Colmar. So, back out in the rain we went, still hoping for snow, but no such luck.  The night sky and the rain made the Christmas lights that much brighter and the reflections in the street just beautiful.  But we were cold and hungry so we stopped in Kelly’s Sibin Irish Pub, the bartender and manager were so nice, we stayed for dinner and a few beers.  Day 8 we had reserved a car for the day from Europcar to drive from Strasbourg to Colmar so we could stop at our favorite little villages along the way.  Our first stop was a new village, that we hadn’t been too called Obernai, oh so cute, another fairytale village all decorated for Christmas.  It had a few smaller markets in the center of town.  We will definitely be back to this village.  Next stop was Riquewihr, another one of our favorites, which was very busy with Christmas shoppers.  We stopped and had lunch at a little cafe we had found while staying here in April, and had a much better bowl of French onion soup.  After lunch we made our way to Kaysersberg.  It was also very decorated for Christmas but the market was only open on the weekends.  We then continued on to Colmar, returned our rental car and made our way by Uber to our wonderful Airbnb we had booked called “The Old Balcony” in the historical city center.  There our magnificent hostess Catherine meet us and showed us our home for the next two days.  What a fabulous flat with all the amenities anyone would need and in a perfect location with a nice balcony, hence the name “Old Balcony”.  Catherine was so helpful from the time I booked the flat until our last minute in Colmar. She recommended fabulous places to eat and had all kinds of brochures on Colmar.  Still raining we again headed out, Christmas Markets and decorations around every corner, so beautiful.  After wandering for several hours we thought we better make a plan on how to exit France, since by this time most if not all trains were being cancelled.  We decided we needed to get out of France if we wanted to get anywhere.  We checked into renting a car again to get us to Basel Switzerland about 60 miles away, well that wasn’t going to happen they knew they had you and were charging $2000 for one way travel…um no thank you.  We decided we could travel by Flixbus from Colmar to Basel and that was perfect only $16 for both.  We then booked a flight on British Airways to fly Basel to London in the afternoon, and would then fly standby from London to Phoenix the day after that, perfect the plan was made, back out to the Christmas markets.  The next morning we had a wonderful breakfast at a restaurant Catherine suggested and spent the day wandering the markets and made a test run to walk where the Flixbus stop was so we knew where we were going in the morning and how long it took to get there.  We then stopped in at the restaurant La Cour des Anges for dinner before returning to the flat to prepare for our departure the next morning.  As we were checking emails, my husband said they just cancelled our Flixbus, oh shoot, now what we had a flight out of Basel and no way to get there.  I contacted Catherine to see if she had any ideas to help us.  We found one train that was still scheduled to go to Basel in the morning and booked it.  Catherine contacted us and said she could maybe line up a taxi for us and we informed her we made the train reservation.  After pondering a while we decided the train might cancel then we are stuck, taxis were in high demand due to the strike and all the people in town for the Christmas Markets.  We contacted Catherine back and asked if she could possibly make us a reservation for the taxi in the morning.  After a short time she contacted us back and said it was all taken care of the taxi would be there at 10:30 am, perfect.  Catherine was a god sense to us, we slept a little better knowing we had a sure thing in the morning.  We had cancelled our hotels in Paris which we booked with points and booked a new hotel near Heathrow.  In the morning it was still raining and we were a little anxious hoping the taxi would arrive on time with no more added issues.  Just like Catherine said the taxi driver was there right on time and off to Basel we went to catch our plane.  This time we stayed at the Hilton London Heathrow near the airport.  We got up early and headed over to the airport, got all checked in and were ready to tackle the standby travel again.  Luck was on our side again, we got Business class home, what a great was to top off the trip.  If Christmas Markets aren’t on your Bucket list and you love Christmas as much as we do, think about adding it to your list.  Here is our top ten Bucket List Christmas Markets that we have been to.  Check it out!

 

Bucket List Top 10 Christmas Markets

  1. Zagreb Croatia
  2. Vienna Austria
  3. Budapest Hungary
  4. Strasbourg France
  5. Cologne Germany
  6. Colmar France
  7. Brussels Belgium
  8. Aachen Germany
  9. Manchester England
  10. Frankfurt Germany

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