Frost crawled over the windows, lights glinted in the trees, steam rose in fragrant vapour from cups of gluhwein. The darkness came at four each day, meaning dinner came early, and sundowners earlier still. Angels and stars, nativity scenes and spice pomanders filled the shelves. Candles under twirling silver decorations flickered in the winter breeze, and we caught snowflakes on our tongues.
Our first White Christmas ever was in Munich, and it’s drawing us back to Europe this year. If you’re heading there yourself, you might want to try the following:
Markets to visit
- Christkindlmarkt or Nicholas Market is the main one, on the Marienplatz in the heart of the city centre. Expect to find lanterns, figurines, beeswax candles and crafts, along with stacks of food (sausages, pretels and sweet treats) and of course, gluhwein. Saint Nicholas visits the Marienplatz market from 4-6pm weekdays, giving fruit to children. Visit the Town Hall for the “Heavenly Workshop”. Children between the ages of 6 and 12 can have fun with arts and crafts or baking Christmas cookies. Free.
- Kripperlmarkt, or the Manger Market, on Neuhauser Strasse. Very close to the main market, and choc-a-block with anything you may need to form your own Nativity scene.
- ‘Sternenplatzl’ market at Rindermarkt is the one for the foodies – fried sausages, all kinds of wurst in fact, and feuerzangebowle – fire-punch, which is actually on fire, rather than just burning your throat on the way down.
- The Tollwood Christmas Market is full of entertainment and great food – if you want to go home with christmas in your heart but not in your suitcase, this is where to go.
- There’s plenty more on offer, including a gay market (I’m told you don’t need to be gay to go though), an enchanted forest market and a Medieval market – great site for more information here.
Where to eat and drink
- Beerhouses. You can’t avoid them, and they really are quite a bit of fun. My pick is Augustiner (locals beer of choice apparently). They have both a restaurant in the thick of the market area serving huge plates of warming stodge and beer in glasses bigger than your head. The beer garden is just out of the centre of town, and at Christmastime really looks a treat. Play curling outside and drink by the fire, then head into the rowdy hall if it gets too cold. Cheap and good.
- Dallmayr has a bit for everyone – a delicatessen to make your mind boggle, then a cafe/bistro for those normal ones among us, and the restaurant for the platinum card holders.
- Bratwurstherzl is a homage to sausage, as you might imagine from the name. Homely, traditional and well priced.
- For a bit of class (and when you’ve had enough wurst to burst), try Les Deux for some French Japanese fusion.
- Faun is a little out of the centre, but in a great street for wandering. It’s got a bit of old-school Bavarian feel, but plenty of international dishes too. Well priced and worth the trip out of the immediate centre.
- The street. Trust me, you’ll never starve even if you don’t enter a restaurant. There’s so much food on offer throughout the market, you’ll be lucky to gain less than 5kg on a 500m walk. Personally, I enjoyed more than my share of liquid lunch, trying out the copious variety of warmed wine. I also found Kinderpunsch, the non-alcoholic version of gluhwein – perfect for the kids (or adults at 11am)
Where to stay
- Two star, super location – Hotel Am Market right in the thick of Marienplatz, quaint and simple with rooms around $150US per night. Used to be a fish market, but is now one of Munich’s favourite budget hotels
- Three star and modern – Eurostars Grand Central is a short tram ride from the central markets (very close to the pink one), and convenient to the Augustiner Beer Garden. Modern and working like an oiled machine, from $200 per night
- Four star and traditional – Platzl Hotel, just around the corner from Hobfrahaus is gorgeously bavarian with a touch of lush. It has a great pub/restaurant onsite, and a turkish steam bath. from $300 per night
- Five star with everything – it might cost you north of $450 for a night, but Bayerischer Hof gives you the lot – restaurants, plushness out the whazoo, location, service, they even have a theatre for goodness sakes.