We stayed in Europe this Christmas for a little trip through Switzerland and Austria. This was our first Christmas just the two (three with Lola :D) of us and it was amazing! We started in Munich, where we live, and took a train to Switzerland. After a few days in Switzerland, we spent Christmas Eve at the original chapel outside of Salzburg where Silent Night was sang for the first time. This Christmas was the 200th anniversary, and it was probably one of my favorite things we have done during our time here! The service was amazing and afterwards the Christmas markets in the square stayed open for a few hours of raclette, sausages, gluhwein, and schnapps.
We took Lola with us on this entire trip and it couldn’t have been any easier! She could go literally everywhere with us and we saw lots of other dogs in the hotels and restaurants. She also loves riding the train and usually falls asleep on my lap right away. We had all of her paperwork with us since we were traveling between three countries but no one ever asked to see it. We were worried that all of the snow might hurt her paws, so she rocked her dog booties on this trip. The first time we put them on was hilarious, she didn’t know how to walk in them! But after that first time she really doesn’t mind them at all.
Here’s a look at the itinerary we followed for some of the best of what Europe has to offer at Christmas time:
This is where we live so I am definitely biased, but I think that Munich has some of the best Christmas markets. Some of my favorite Christmas market in Munich are the one in the Residenz courtyard, the medieval Christmas market, and the Chinese Tower Christmas market in the English Garden. I do love the main ones in Marienplatz and Karlsplatz but they just get so crowded.
We spent time in Zurich, Lucerne and St. Mortiz in Switzerland.
Zurich: We loved the Zurich Christmas markets! They definitely had a different feel than the ones in Germany or France. We really liked their setup; they were much more enjoyable because the stands weren’t in rows. The stands surround the squares, and the squares had places for people to stand or sit to eat. The Zurich Christmas markets also had more covered places to sit and eat. Their main train station even had a really nice Christmas market! As soon as you get off the train, you can see the Zurich Christkindlmarkt. The absolute highlight of the Christkindlimarkt is a 50-ft-tall Christmas tree decorated with thousands of sparkling Swarovski crystals.
Travel info: Munich to Zurich train, 4 hours
Lucerne: Lucerne has been at the top of my bucket list destinations for a few years now. The hotel we stayed at in Lucerne is definitely one of my faves we have ever stayed at. We stayed at Hotel Chateau Guetsch and could not have had a better experience! The hotel itself is so charming and has incredible views. Hotel Chateau Guetsch is high above the city and the views of the city below and the mountains behind are breathtaking. We were there just a few days before Christmas and the hotel was decked out with Christmas decor. The breakfast was probably one of the best hotel breakfasts I’ve had and the views from the dining room were beautiful. Book here and get $25 off 😀
Lucerne is such a gorgeous city. It’s right on Lake Lucerne and it’s surrounded by the Alps. The city itself is very walkable and easy to get around. We were there a few days before Christmas and the city was covered with Christmas decorations and markets. Our favorite thing we did in Lucerne was get fondue at the Winterwald at Zunfthausrestaurant Pfistern. Zunfthausrestaurant Pfistern is a traditional Swiss restaurant right on the river. During the Christmas season they turn their outdoor seating area into the “Winterwald.” It’s super festive and covered with Christmas decorations and lots of twinkling Christmas lights. We ordered cheese fondue with sides of bread and potatoes…and Glühwein of course! They had lots of space heaters and blankets.
Travel info: Zurich to Lucerne train, 45 minutes
St. Mortiz: I totally fell in love with St. Moritz! It’s definitely in my top five destinations we have been to in Europe.St. Moritz is one of the most popular skiing destinations and the Winter Olympic Games have actually been held there twice. The Upper Engadin lake district is actually the world’s only destination to have both UNESCO and Olympic Games credentials. The town center has a lot of high end shopping, cafes, and restaurants. There was SO much snow in St. Mortiz while we were there and it felt perfect for the Christmas season. St. Mortiz is also home to the Devil’s Place bar, which has the largest selection of whiskey in the world. As one of the “Leading Bars of the Wold” this bar has 2,500 different kinds of whisky, which is the largest selection in the world. Patrick loves whiskey so we spent an evening there and had a great time!
Travel Info: We rented a car and drove to St. Mortiz, drive time from Zurich to St. Mortiz is 2 hours and 30 minutes. The most spectacular way to reach St. Moritz is by taking the Glacier Express which travels along a UNESCO World Heritage railway line. The Glacier Express is an express train connecting railway stations of the two major mountain resorts of Zermatt and St. Moritz. Riding the Glacier Express is on my bucket list but we just couldn’t make it work logistically with this trip because we had other destinations we really wanted to see.
Salzburg: We spent Christmas Eve at the original chapel outside of Salzburg where Silent Night was sang for the first time. This Christmas was the 200th anniversary, and it was probably one of my favorite things we have done during our time living in Europe! The service was amazing and afterwards the Christmas markets in the square stayed open for a few hours of raclette, sausages, gluhwein, and schnapps. We stayed outside of Salzburg at the Sheraton Fuschlsee, which we loved so much. Book using this link and get $25 off. They had an amazing breakfast on Christmas Day. Lola really loved this hotel room because it was two stories! So much room for her to run around and play. The Sheraton Fuschlsee is located on a beautiful lake, where they actually filmed parts of the Sounds of Music. After breakfast on Christmas morning, we went on a short hike around the lake.
Travel time: Train from Salzburg to Oberndorf, 30 minutes. There are tours that will take you from Salzburg to Oberndorf but honestly it was so easy to get there. It’s just a quick 30 minute train ride from the main station in Salzburg.
Vienna: We specifically went to Vienna after Christmas because Vienna is one of the only cities in Europe that keeps their Christmas markets open through New Years. Wow, their Christmas markets exceeded my expectations! The Vienna Christmas market decorations were somewhere in between Munich and Strasbourg. And the food was SO good. We had the best Käsekrainer the first night and actually went back to the same exact stall two more times. Käsekrainer is a large sausage filled with small chunks of cheese. At the Vienna Christmas market they served it grilled, which melts the cheese. We got coffee and cake one afternoon at the famous Cafe Sacher, a little overpriced but definitely a great experience while in Vienna. There is a lot to see in Vienna so we did a walking tour. It was pretty cold, but we dressed in layers and warmed up with plenty of Glühwein : ) We stayed at the Hilton Vienna with some points from work travel. The Hilton was in the perfect location for exploring all of the Christmas markets.
Travel info: Salzburg to Vienna train, 2 hours and 45 minutes.
Hallstatt: We only did a day trip here, and that is really all you need. Hallstatt is so charming. It has a reputation for being overcrowded during the summer, so we went in the winter. Honestly, it was still pretty crowded for such a small town! There are signs all over in multiple languages that say “Quiet, please! People actually live here!”
Travel info: Hallstatt to Munich, 3 hours
Garmisch: We ended 2018 with some skiing in Garmisch which is only a few hours away from Munich. Garmisch has hosted the Winter Olympics and is a popular place for a skiing holiday.
Travel info: Munich to Garmisch train, 1 hour and 30 minutes.