The ultimate Christmas market road trip through Europe
Last week I went on possibly the dreamiest Christmas market road trip of all time.
It was just simply magical, true even before we were blessed with a blanket of snow.
Last week I took my mum and surprised her with a road trip that took us from the UK, through 5 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 Christmas market road trip 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 Glühwein filling your nose.
Glühwein is mulled wine and it’s everywhere. 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 road trip.
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.
Here’s the ultimate Christmas market road trip itinerary…
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 metres tall 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 wine and tucked into some salmon and mussels!
Second destination – Strasbourg, France
- Driving distance from Lille: 326 miles
Second up, merely metres 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 on 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 exploring 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 markets to uncover, it’s not hard to see why this is the ‘capital of Christmas’.
Third destination – The Black Forest
- Driving distance from Strasbourg: 45 miles
Third up was a big highlight for me and serves to add a little diversity (and green) to your Christmas market road trip.
Running an area of around 160km x 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 the location in which Hansel and Gretel stumble across the wicked witch, a scenic drive through here is a must on your road trip. It’s 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: 146 miles
I honestly can’t even begin to tell you how freaking magical this place was. Everywhere on this road trip 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 Rothenburg’s 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!
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 fairy tale.
Fifth (and final) destination – Munich
- Driving distance from Rothenburg: 158 miles
The last stop on our road trip was the German city of Munich, where we drank our way through the last of the Glühwein on offer and enjoyed the thriving atmosphere that winds its way through all of the markets.
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
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, over 600 miles) but you could extend your trip with some additional stopovers.
I hope I’ve helped you plan or inspired you to head out on a Christmas market road trip.
It was truly the best way to get in the spirit and would be the perfect winter getaway with a strong dose of romance!
Watch our Christmas market road trip in the Mazda CX-3 come to life in my YouTube video here…
Have you been on a Christmas road trip?
Where did you go? I’d love to know!
Love as always and happy adventuring,
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