By Sabrina Sucato
If you are dreaming about a European winter getaway, there is no better place than Munich. This German hotspot is the epitome of all things seasonal. Unlike Berlin, its hip sister city, Munich embodies old world charm. Come the end of November, the locale transforms into a holiday wonderland that puts the North Pole to shame. Calling it magical would be an understatement.
Whether tasty confections, artisan shopping, or local traditions lure you to the city, you will have no difficulty finding memorable activities to fill your itinerary. The hard part will be narrowing down your list of what to do.
For the sustainable traveler, Munich is very approachable. The city is divided into four zones, so take this into account as you select your lodging. For an entirely walkable weekend that minimizes your carbon footprint, your best bet is to stay somewhere in the heart of the city, in or near the centermost zone. That way you will be close to many of the historic sites and holiday attractions.
So throw on your warmest coat and a cozy scarf and hit the sidewalks! Don’t let the chill stop you from reveling in all the charming activities the city has to offer.
Christmas Market Magic
Munich is Europe’s unofficial Christmas market capital. In addition to classic holiday markets with traditional stands and shops, there are also more unique options like the Middle Age Market and Pink Christmas, the LGBTQ-friendly holiday market. Of course, if you only have time to visit one, look no further than the Christkindlmarkt at Marienplatz. The city’s main winter shopping hub includes a massive Christmas tree and dozens of stands and stalls selling everything imaginable. From handcrafted ornaments and one-of-a-kind gifts to mulled wine and homemade gingerbread, this area has it all. If you stick around St. Mary’s Square in the evening, you can catch a performance of advent music at Town Hall.
After shopping the wares at Marienplatz to your heart’s content, wander over to the Nativity Market. Located adjacent to the Marienplatz market, the Nativity Market is less so a market than a holiday art display. The picturesque courtyard where it is held is filled on all sides with detailed seasonal scenes from traditional folklore. Many of the exhibits move or have sounds, so it is a fun spot for children as well.
When thirst strikes, walk a few minutes down the main shopping streets to Rindermarkt, a small-scale version of Marienplatz with a warm, nostalgic atmosphere. First things first, order a steaming mug of gluhwein, or mulled wine. The iconic holiday beverage is a must-try if you’re visiting Germany during the holidays. Not only will the drink warm your soul, but the reusable holiday cups will help you keep trash levels down. In fact, many of the food stalls at the holiday markets require you to pay a plate deposit in advance to ensure that you will return your plate or mug at the end of your meal. Alternatively, you could always pay the deposit and keep your gluhwein cup as a souvenir. Many of the mugs have a festive design, making them the perfect memento for your travels.
As for food, look no further than Viktualienmarkt, Munich’s massive open-air food market that is located just a few steps away from Rindermarkt. This culinary treasure trove offers everything from hot soups and fresh produce to just-baked pastries and classic German beers. Pick and choose your meal from the variety of treats available to get a true taste of Munich’s cuisine. By doing this, you will also support local food production and contribute to the regional economy. It’s a satisfying solution to your hunger on all counts.
To conclude your weekend in Munich, stop by the Middle Age Market near Odeonsplatz. This throwback to the past is a fun destination for all. Depending on when you stop by, you can expect to see anything from an on-stage performance to a St. Nicholas sighting. You may even spot a costumed Krampus, Germany’s mythical holiday creature who punishes naughty children. While this market is a slightly longer walk from the main Christmas shopping center, the walk there is the perfect way to tour through Munich and take in the city’s magnificent architecture.
All in all, Munich is the ideal retreat for the environmentally minded traveler during the winter season. Once you take the train into the city from the Munich Airport, you can rely on your own two legs to transport you wherever you need to go. The majority of the festive shops are located in the central most zone, as are a number of historic sites. There are so many ways to fill your weekend in Munich that you’ll be planning a trip back to the picturesque German hotspot before you can even say auf wiedersehen!
Sabrina is a 20-something freelance writer based in the scenic Hudson Valley, NY. She has lived in both Bologna and Milan, Italy, and is now hopelessly addicted to gelato. When she's not writing or dreaming of Italy, she can be found drinking copious amounts of coffee and testing out new dessert recipes.