The ultimate christmas market roadtrip through Europe
Last week I went on possibly the dreamiest Christmas trip of all time.
It was just simply magical, true even before we were blessed with a blanket of snow.
Watch our roadtrip in the Mazda CX-3 come to live in my YouTube video here…
Last week I took my mum and surprised her with a roadtrip that took us from the UK, through 4 world famous christmas destinations in Europe. We experienced both the traditional markets and cuisines of Germany and France and got to spend some real quality time together.
If you’re looking for a reason to be festive and the month of December isn’t enough, get yourself an adventure partner and head out on this itinerary.
I never thought I could love anywhere as much as I do London at christmas but it’s pretty hard to not fall head over heels when faced with fairy lit walkways, rows and rows of alpine huts and the consistent aromas of Gluhwein filling your nose.
Gluhwein = mulled wine and it’s everywhere.
Yup reason enough to get planning.
Once you’ve got yourself an adventure partner it’s time to make your first decision and kick off your roadtrip.
Choose between either…
- Hiring a car in London and taking the Euro Tunnel across to France (book here from just £30)
- Hopping on the Eurostar to Lille and hiring a car when you get there.
Top tips for your roadtrip:
- Check for road taxes required when hiring your car (i.e. tell the hire company where you’re going and they will be clued up enough to inform you)
- Make sure you have breakdown cover! With wintery conditions testing the durability of your car, you don’t want to be taking any risks!
- Carry a payment card / euros for toll roads. Some were card only – be prepared!
- Take an Incar charger
- Grab yourself a sat nav / make sure you have mobile data for google maps
- Request car parking spaces / parking info from hotels in advance. This will save time as stress when you get there and maximize explore time!
First destination – Lille, France
Driving distance from London – 281 miles
Known for the young, vibrant and dynamic crowds this little french metropolis draws it, Lille hosts architecture right back from the 17th century as well as, over December, the largest and oldest Christmas market in northern france.
Not to mention there’s also a huge ferris wheel and an 18 meter high christmas tree marking the central square.
Upon arrival in Lille, we were ready for lunch and so admired the square from a quaint little fresh restaurant as we took our first sip of red and tucked into some salmon and moules!
Second destination – Strasbourg, France
Driving distance from Lille – 525 km
Second up, merely meters from German turf, we drove to and rested up in the ‘Capital of Christmas’ – Strasbourg for the night. Strasbourg stands at the crossroads of two cultures and so its festive offerings embody the best traditions from both France and Germany.
We based ourselves at BOMA Hotel in Strasbourg, a perfect centrally located hotel which allowed us to explore by foot with ease. The hotel had a few car parking spaces available on request so make sure you mention this when booking!
We started our Strasbourg explorations in the old town which is centered around a gorgeous waterway, lined with an abundance of christmas huts selling handmade crafts and treats. Twinkly lights are draped between the trees and the cobbled walkways are filled with both festive tunes and musicians, adding unrivaled magic. You won’t walk far without stumbling across the traditional and romantic sounds of the accordion.
With ice rinks, giant christmas trees, a gorgeous Cathedral (featured in Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows) and numerous selections of Christmas Market to uncover – it’s not hard to see why this is the capital of christmas.
Third destination – The Black Forest
Driving distance from Strasbourg – 71.9 km
Third up was a big highlight for me and serves to add a little diversity (and green) to your Christmas market roadtrip roadtrip.
Running a length of around 160km by 50km, The Black Forest is Germany’s largest nature park and hosts a spectacular terrain of hills, lakes and dense woodland. Home of the famous ‘Black Forest Gateau’ and location in which Hansel and Gretel stumble across the wicked witch – a scenic drive through here is a must on your roadtrip. Particularly beautiful when the snow falls…
To explore The Black Forest, we set the sat nav to the town Baiersbronn where we had a hot chocolate in a little wooden cafe and were served by waitresses in Lederhosen. So cool!
We only had time for lunch here in the forest but if time allows, i’d suggest staying overnight and exploring get the likes of Lake Titisee and perhaps some off road forest drives for those who dare to adventure!
Fourth destination – Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber
Driving distance from The Black Forest – 235km
I honestly can’t even begin to tell you how freaking magical this place was. Everywhere on this roadtrip was gorgeous in its own right but Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber (there are lots of Rothenburgs so you have to distinguish it by its full name) is somewhere i’ll definitely be going out of my way to return to!
Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber hosts one of the best preserved medieval towns in Europe. The old Bavarian imperial city’ magic transpires the moment you drive through the arch in through the castle wall.
Each shop, I swear, has at least one christmas tree dressed up outside, making it seriously impossible to not get a festive snap in whichever direction you point your camera.
It’s no wonder Rothenburgs charm was used for scenes in both Chitty chitty bang bang and Harry Potter (Deathly Hallows).
We spent a whole morning in this fairy tale, making our way through the freshly falling snow (stopping at every market stall along the way) and being serenaded by the sound of the live orchestra playing in the main square. That’s exactly what christmas dreams are made of!
Top tip: Taking a free stroll along the elevate walkways within the castle wall gives you the perfect perspective over the town so i’d highly suggest doing that. The imperfect roofing and alternate pastel colored buildings will have you feel as if you’re in a real life fairytale.
Top tip: Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber sits on the stretch of 350km which makes up the ‘Romantic Road’. If you’re looking to extend your roadtrip and add in some other destinations – I highly recommend checking out the ‘Romantic Road’.
Fifth and final destination – Munich
Driving distance from Rothenburg – 254 km
The last stop on our roadtrip was the German capital of Munich where we drunk our way through the last of the Gluhwein on offer and enjoyed the thriving atmosphere that winds it’s way through all of the markets on offers.
Markets to check out in Munich include:
- Kaiserhof of the Residenz
- Medieval Christmas Market
- Pink Christmas, the LGBT Christmas Market
- Haidhausen Market
- Fairytale Bazaar in the Viehhof
- Tollwood – the winter festival
(I have a separate Munich Christmas Market guide coming soon).
From here you can either drop your car off and take a flight from Munich straight back to London, or you can drive back to Calais (it’s a long drive but you could extend your trip with some additional stopovers).
I hope i’ve helped you plan / inspired you to head out on a Christmas Market roadtrip, it was truly the best way to get in the spirit and would be the perfect winter getaway with a strong dose of romance!
Other posts you may like if you’re thinking of planning a European adventure:
- My weekend guide to Brighton
- 3 cities in 3 days – Bruges, Brussels and Ghent
- An epic 4-day Cornwall road-trip
- Living the Val D’isere ski dream
- The Yacht Week uncovered
- A guide to planning your Dalmatian Coast road-trip, Croatia
- 10 ways to save money for travel
- 10 reasons I love hostels over hotels
- A guide to the Yorkshire Three Peaks challenge
Need to book accommodation? Here’s £30 off your first AirBnb booking – my budget travel godsend!
Have you been to any European Christmas Markets?
Which ones? Would you recommend?
Thank YOU guys for reading <3
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