December 2016, we took a Christmas Markets trip over the school holidays. DH had wanted to do this for years and because the kids were out of school on December 15, we had enough time before Christmas to make this trip possible.
Christmas Markets are an annual tradition in Europe, street markets that celebrate the season of Advent and generally run for the 4 weeks up to Christmas Day. They originated in Germany, but are now popular throughout Europe. We wanted to experience a couple different markets, so we visited Dresden, Germany (Dresden’s Striezelmarkt was first held in 1434), Prague, Czech Republic, and Vienna, Austria.
Here is our 10 day Christmas Markets itinerary:
December 18 (in transit)
Depart house at 1:30pm, after stockings in the morning. Quick checkin, Lufthansa airplane loads and departs on time. Good seats, although the seats themselves not too comfortable. Service very efficient and German.
December 19 (Dresden, Germany)
Arrive early afternoon in Dresden. Information desk helped us with tickets to town, S2 Bahn then switch at Mitte for a tram to Altmarkt. Get off and make the wrong turn, so took the long way to the hotel, but still only a 10 minute walk, through a few Christmas markets. Check in at Swissotel Dresden am Schloss was easy, rooms were great, adjoining with enough beds and bathrooms for all (ask about special family rate). After checkin, went to explore markets. Ended up with early dinner at Paulaner’s im Taschenbergpalais (reservations booked through website) of sausages and German food in fun gastropub, wish we had brought our cards. Early night, since we were exhausted.
December 20 (Dresden, Germany)
Up early for a walk to the train station to purchase tickets for Prague. Wandered through several more Christmas markets on way back to hotel. Breakfast was amazing! Butter machine and honeycomb. Special Christmas walking tour of Dresden with Carola of DresdenWalks. Enjoyed the market tips, especially where to purchase the stars with lights seen all over town. Dinner at restaurant in Frauenkirche Platz. And then back to the Striezelmarkt for a night photo (tip: third floor of the department store has a great view!).
December 21 (Dresden, Germany)
Visit to the Dresden Hygiene Museum, which was very entertaining and chock-full of information. Did the free audio tour, highly recommended. In our pre-dinner walk, discovered flaming gluhwein. Dinner at same place as last night, remembered our deck of cards. On the way back to hotel, purchased wooden Christmas ornament and Dresdener stollen for later in trip. And another round of flaming gluhwein as a night-cap.
December 22 (Dresden, Germany -> Prague, Czech Republic)
Leisurely check out at 12noon, after long breakfast. Train at 1pm to Prague. Arrival in Prague and purchase train tickets for Vienna. Found out Prague is not on euro, so we had to get new money! Took the tram to AirBnB apartment to meet the host Daniel. We’re very confused by the numbering system for the apartment, but eventually managed to locate our home for the next few days. Apartment is nice, three bedrooms and very well located for access to the Old Town and Charles Bridge. A little afternoon exploring, then a stop at Tesco for breakfast foods, followed by dinner at Pasta Fresca (reservations made online, easy). Very tasty!
December 23 (Prague, Czech Republic)
Free Royal Walk walking tour with Pistis of Discover Prague Tours after breakfast in apartment. Free walking tour very entertaining, learned lots about Czech politics as well as history. Very cold, though. Shopping after lunch, including Koh-i-Noor Hardtmuth for beautiful pencils. Relaxed in apartment in afternoon before dinner at RED Pif, a wine bar. Great dinner, although we were the only ones in the restaurant for a long time. Should have picked up a bottle of wine for Christmas Eve, RED Pif has a great selection of wines to-go!
December 24 (Prague, Czech Republic)
Up early to shop for dinner. Stopped at Bakeshop Praha for salads, kebabs, soups and cookies for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Back to apartment for lunch before Alternative Prague Tour and art walk around Prague, to see graffiti art, learn about the influence of politics in art scene. Took the tram to the 7th district for more touring, saw an old meat market being converted to artist space and theater space. Dinner in tonight, because of holiday, with lots of cards. This is where we wished we had a bottle of wine from RED Pif.
December 25 (Prague, Czech Republic)
Slept in! 10:30am! Quick walk to see the David Cerny babies with barcodes and Letna park. Back to apartment for Christmas brunch (shakshuka and eggs/sausages, stollen from Dresden), then off to join Palace Tour with Discover Prague Tours in the afternoon. Really cold and rainy, especially at top of palace. Dinner at Lokal Dlouhaaa, with beer and cards. Finished off the day with more cookies from Bakeshop for dessert (3 visits this trip). Merry Christmas!
December 26 (Prague, Czech Republic -> Vienna, Austria)
Our AirBnB host provided car to train station at 9:45am for 10:52am train to Vienna. Not as easy boarding as our first train from Dresden, since lots of folks did not have seat reservations and all seemed to be getting on our car. However, we found our nice quad seat with table. Arrived in Vienna and took tram to hotel, Austria Classic Hotel Wien. Seemed out of the center of things, but turned out to be very convenient because of proximity to transportation hub. We booked a Family Room which would have been better for a family with young children. If booking the same, confirm that the sofa beds are sufficient for your family.
This was the last evening that the main Rathausplatz Christmas Market was open, so we made a beeline over to explore. Beautiful Christmas lights throughout the park as well as the Rathaus (City Hall). The market itself was not as interesting as Dresden, but we enjoyed walking around and seeing the lights. We consulted Yelp and found Brezlgwolb, an Austrian Gastropub, for dinner.
December 27 (Vienna, Austria)
Before our afternoon walking tour, we stopped for treats at AIDA Cake Shop, where we had typical Austrian pastries and coffee. 2pm Free Walking Tour of Vienna with Good Vienna Tours (freezing cold!). We met at Albrechtsbrunnen at proscribed time. Originally we had registered for the 10am tour, but the kids enjoyed sleeping in (and running) so we decided to try for the 2pm tour. It was packed! Basically the highlights of the Innerstadt, and then we took another circular train tour of the area on our own. While on the tour, we found out about Figlmueller, the home of Schnitzel, and I stopped in to make a reservation for the following evening. I think my name got us the reservation! Dinner that night was Gasthaus Hansy, across the street from our hotel.
December 28 (Vienna, Austria)
Visit to Vienna Museum Quarter, specifically MuMok, a museum of contemporary art. The kids played ping pong as part of an exhibition. A little retail therapy (shopping) and then dinner at Figlmuller where our tuxedoed server brought us plate-sized schnitzel and large servings of spaetzle. Also a couple glasses of Austrian wine. Great last dinner.
December 29 (Vienna, Austria -> home)
Depart for the airport and our trip home. We splurged for the lounge for the kids (36Euros) and enjoyed a relaxing snack before our delayed flight back to the states.
Note: I included links for the lodging, attractions and restaurants we enjoyed. We were not compensated for including these links. Also, your mileage may vary, so take these as recommendations and evaluate each for your specific circumstances. That said, happy to answer any additional questions you have about this family adventure!