Christmas Markets of Germany, Switzerland & Austria14 days / Special Event Tours
About This Experience
Ring in the Christmas season in the festive markets of Germany, Switzerland and Austria, perusing stall-upon-stall of handmade crafts in search of gifts for everyone on your list. You’ll begin your journey in Heidelberg, before trundling through the snow-covered Alps to the lakeside resort of Lucerne and the winter wonderland of Innsbruck. After paying a visit to the Bavarian capital of Munich for more shopping and beer-drinking, you’ll end in Austria, where Salzburg and Vienna come fully decked in seasonal cheer.
Your Tour Includes
Round-trip airfare & transfers
12 nights in handpicked hotels
Breakfast daily, 6 three-course dinners with beer or wine
Multilingual Tour Director
Private deluxe motor coach
Select entrance fees
Why You'll Love It
Vienna’s merry Christmas carnival atmosphere
Gluhwein—the traditional winter warmer
Unique, handmade clothes, crafts & toys
Fairytale castles in Heidelberg & Neuschwanstein
Whimsical Glockenspiel, highlight of Marienplatz
Stunning mountain scenery at every turn
Overnight Flight1 night
Heidelberg Region2 nights - hotel info
Let yourself be romanced by Renaissance Heidelberg
Breakfast (in flight), Dinner
A Go Ahead representative greets you at the airport in Frankfurt after you clear customs and then assists you with the transfer to your hotel in the Heidelberg region. The rest of the day is free to relax. Meet your fellow travelers at an included dinner this evening.
Wander the historic halls of Germany’s oldest university
Optional Excursion - Castle & Gardens of Schweztingen
This morning, enjoy a guided tour of Heidelberg. You’ll visit the city’s rose-colored hilltop castle, the grounds of the oldest university in Germany and Heidelberg’s elegant market square. This afternoon is free at leisure. You may wish to join an optional tour of Schwetzingen Castle and its 172 acres of gardens, which combine French formal and English landscape gardening styles.
Castle & Gardens of Schweztingen $39* pp
Travel to Schwetzingen Castle and its internationally acclaimed gardens. A castle guide will lead you through the greenery. Spanning 178 acres, the spacious and ornate gardens welcome hundreds of thousands of visitors each year, and feature a unique combination of French and English landscaping styles. As you embark on your guided exploration of the castle, be sure to take in the sights of the exquisitely maintained compound. Before leaving, enjoy some free time for souvenir shopping. Please note: The castle gardens are closed from October 14 through March 25.
Lucerne2 nights - hotel info
Traverse the mysterious Black Forest to arrive in lakeside Lucerne
Journey to the thundering Rhine Falls and through the Black Forest, the darkly mysterious setting for many of the Grimm brothers’ fairy tales. Cross later into Switzerland to arrive in Lucerne. Dinner is included this evening.
Cross the ancient Kapellbrücke and ascend soaring Mount Pilatus
Optional Excursion - Mount Pilatus
A professional local guide acquaints you with this Alpine town. Stroll down narrow streets and across the Kapellbrücke, a covered bridge whose history dates back to medieval days. The murals lining its walls are nearly identical to those painted in the 14th century. Be on the lookout for the colorful hand-painted façades along the cobbled streets of the Old Town. You’ll also view the captivating Löwendenkmal (Lion Monument), a sandstone statue commemorating Swiss Guards slain in the 1792. This afternoon, join an optional excursion up nearby Mount Pilatus via cable car for gorgeous views of the surrounding Alps.
Mount Pilatus $99* pp
This scenic excursion begins with a cruise on Lake Lucerne. After docking, ascend 7,000-foot Mount Pilatus on the world’s steepest cogwheel railway. Legend holds that the mountain was named for Pontius Pilate, blown here by the devil after the Crucifixion. From the peak, the views of the Alps are stunning; on a clear day, you can see for 200 miles. Toward the end of your trip, you’ll return to the base of the mountain via gondola. Please note: The cruise and cogwheel railway only run from mid-May through October. During the winter months, this excursion includes the cable car ride only. If the cogwheel railway is unavailable, you'll enjoy lunch on the mountain.
Innsbruck1 night - hotel info
Take a jaunt through tiny Liechtenstein and explore age-old Innsbruck
Leaving Lucerne, travel into Liechtenstein, a tiny Alpine principality dating back to the Holy Roman Empire. Pass the royal family’s hilltop castle, still in use as a royal residence, as you visit Liechtenstein’s capital, Vaduz. Next, travel to Austria, arriving later in the day in Innsbruck. The site of two winter Olympics and capital of the Austrian Tyrol, Innsbruck is a mix of centuries-old royal splendor and modern allure. On a guided tour, you’ll see the famed Golden Roof and the Triumphbogen, a triumphal arch built during by the Habsburg Empress Maria Theresa to commemorate a royal marriage. Dinner is included tonight.
Munich2 nights - hotel info
Cross the Bavarian mountains to discover the castle of Mad King Ludwig
Departing Innsbruck this morning, return to Germany. You’ll journey through the mountains of Bavaria to Neuschwanstein, the fairytale retreat of “Mad” King Ludwig. As you tour the castle, you’ll see many examples of the young king’s eclectic tastes. Within its chambers are a stalactite grotto, artifacts of all kinds and murals depicting Ludwig’s favorite scenes from Wagnerian operas. Arrive in Munich in time for an included dinner.
Munich brings palaces, festive markets and amazing beer to the table
Optional Excursion - Dachau
This morning, a local guide introduces you to the landmarks of Munich. Follow the stately Ludwigstraße to the district of Schwabing, a favorite of students and artists, and on to the Olympic complex. You’ll also step inside Nymphenburg Palace, the summer home of the dukes, prince-electors and kings of Bavaria. Later, your Tour Director will introduce you to perhaps Munich’s most festive tradition, its Christmas Markets. Let the infectious spirit of the season envelop you as you explore the stalls for treasures to take home. This afternoon, consider joining an optional excursion to the former concentration camp of Dachau, now a memorial museum.
Dachau $25* pp
Once a typical German town, Dachau served as the first Nazi concentration camp during World War II. Visit this somber site, which has since been transformed into a Holocaust memorial museum that serves as a testament to the strength of the human spirit. An audio guide will provide the narrative for your viewing of Dachau's poignant exhibits, which are echoed by the memorials to the victims that adorn the grounds.
Salzburg2 nights - hotel info
Sing along to the Sound of Music in Salzburg
Leaving Munich this morning, cross the border into Austria and continue to the charming city of Salzburg. An included sightseeing tour introduces you to the city. Later, stop in Getreidegaße for a tour of the Mozart House and a walk through the Mirabell Gardens. Dinner is included this evening.
Go Christmas shopping on old-fashioned Getreidegasse
Optional Excursion - Mozart Concert & Dinner
Discover more of Salzburg on your own today. This evening, enjoy our optional Mozart Concert & Dinner excursion.
Must be booked 20 days before departure
Mozart Concert & Dinner $119* pp
Step inside the 1,200-year-old St. Peter Stiftskeller, the oldest restaurant in Europe located within St. Peter's Abbey, for an evening of fine dining and Mozart. Mozart composed over 600 works in his short life, and tonight, you'll hear his masterpieces as you sample local delicacies. Let the music carry you late into the night. Please note: This excursion requires advanced reservations and payment at least 20 days prior to departure.
Vienna3 nights - hotel info
Glimpse the Melk monastery and continue to Vienna—capital of Christmas
Transfer to Vienna today, stopping en route in Melk, where you’ll enjoy a guided tour of the town’s Baroque abbey. Then continue your drive through the Austrian countryside to Vienna, the city of the waltz and enjoy an included dinner with your group. After hotel check-in, your Tour Director will introduce you to Vienna’s Christmas Markets. The afternoon is free to explore Vienna at leisure. Dinner is included this evening.
Get a taste of delightful, delicious Vienna at its Christkindlmärktes
Optional Excursion - Traditional Viennese Heurigen Evening
A local guide introduces you to Vienna this morning. Highlights include the Opera House, the majestic monuments of the Ringstraße and the Hofburg, the Habsburgs’ winter palace. Then travel to Schönbrunn Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site famous for its intricately designed gardens. Your afternoon is free for a stroll through the Stadtpark or a horse-drawn carriage ride to St. Stephen’s Cathedral. This evening, opt to attend our Traditional Viennese Heurigen Evening. At this optional evening event, you’ll take a ride on the Prater Ferris Wheel and dine at a local restaurant where you’ll enjoy wine made by the people serving dinner.
Traditional Viennese Heurigen Evening $99* pp
After a brief drive, your first stop is Vienna's Prater Ferris Wheel. Take a breezy ride to the top, which offers a one-of-a-kind view of the city. Next, continue to the picturesque village of Grinzing. At a local restaurant, you'll indulge in a festive night of music, food and entertainment. Dinner will feature dishes typical of traditional Austrian Heurigens, or wine taverns. During your meal, you'll have the chance to try some of the tavern's own locally made wine—the perfect addition to your cozy Old-World setting.
Cruise up the Danube to explore the atmospheric Old Town in Bratislava
Optional Excursion - Bratislava
Enjoy today at leisure. You might wish to take a stroll through Vienna’s pedestrian zone, stopping at the Hotel Sacher for a taste of its world-famous Sachertorte, or view the elegant Lipizzaner horses in the Spanish Riding School. Alternatively, join an optional excursion to Bratislava for a guided tour of the Slovakian capital.
Bratislava $95* pp
Walk through Bratislava’s Old Town on a guided tour of the Slovakian capital. Stroll along cobblestone streets in the shadow of Brastislavsky Hrad, the hilltop 18th-century castle overlooking the Old Town. Then, tour the famous Hall of Mirrors inside the pink Primates’ Palace, where Napoleon and the Austrian emperor signed the Peace of Pressburg of 1805. Lunch is included. Please note: Depending on the day of the week, you may visit St. Martin's Cathedral instead of the palace.
Extend Your Stay
Add a Budapest City Stay $349*
Truly a tale of two cities, Budapest is a merger between Buda and Pest, two towns separated by the river Danube. Now known as the Pearl of the Danube, Budapest is a peaceful yet progressive metropolis, offering plenty of shopping, as well as specialty Hungarian foods and wines.
Budapest2 nights - hotel info
Explore the city’s highs and lows, from Castle Hill to Heroes Square
Parliament, Matthias Church
Transfer to Budapest and check in to your hotel. A local guide shows off the major landmarks of both Buda and Pest. Trace the stormy history of this fiercely independent nation on your stop at Heroes Square. Tour the lavishly decorated interior of the Parliament building, modeled on London’s Houses of Parliament. Then cross the Danube and arrive in Buda, where you will ascend imposing Castle Hill. The castle has witnessed several invasions, the most recent having occurred during World War II. After taking in the breathtaking views from Fisherman’s Bastion, visit the medieval Matthias Church, once the site of Hapsburg coronations.
Take a walk behind the Iron Curtain
Optional Excursion - Budapest: A Walk Behind the Iron Curtain
During your free day in Budapest, continue your personal exploration of the city. You might choose to browse through the shops on Budapest’s sophisticated pedestrian shopping streets, take a short journey outside of the city to the Vadaskert (Game Park) or tour the Jewish Museum. You may also opt to explore Budapest’s communist legacy on a Walk Behind the Iron Curtain.
Budapest: A Walk Behind the Iron Curtain $69* pp
Discover the turbulent, tragic and heroic history of the communist period in Budapest on today’s excursion. Your guided sightseeing tour passes the Parliament building, which was the starting place of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution and still shows signs of damage from the Soviet invasion. Visit the nearby statue of Imre Nagy, Hungary’s Prime Minister during the revolution, who is an enduring symbol of freedom. Liberty Square is just a stroll away, home to the U.S. Embassy, a statue of Ronald Reagan and the only remaining monument to Communist troops. From St. Stephen’s Basilica, take the historical Metro Line 1 up the iconic Andrassy Ave. Stop for an included coffee and piece of cake amidst the the Neo-Renaissance splendor of Book Café, the regular meeting place of the intelligentsia during the Soviet occupation. End the day at the House of Terror, where you will take a guided tour through this chilling museum and moving monument to the victims of communism and fascism in Hungary.
Passport & Visa
This itinerary includes the following countries: Austria, Switzerland, Germany, the principality of Liechtenstein (on transfer), and Hungary (on extension). In order to enter these countries, U.S. and Canadian citizens need a valid passport. The expiration date must extend at least six months beyond the date of your return home. No visa is required for U.S. or Canadian citizens. If you are not a U.S. or Canadian citizen, you must contact each country’s consulate for your specific entry requirements.
There are no major health risks associated with traveling on this tour. Be aware of high-altitude conditions in the region. The elevation of Mount Pilatus is 7,000 feet. Be sure to check with your health care provider for the latest updates and overseas travel requirements.
Transportation / Walking on tour
Round-trip flights arrive in Frankfurt and depart from Vienna (or Budapest on the extension). Included transportation on your tour is by private motor coach. In your free time, you may wish to explore the main cities by public transportation. Munich’s transportation system (MVV) is topnotch, an all-inclusive combination of trams, buses, U-bahn (underground) and S-bahn (above ground). Purchase tickets from newspaper stands, vending machines or the drivers. Most of the major attractions lie within the inner-city blue zone. Vienna has one of Europe’s most efficient transportation systems. You can purchase tickets in singles or in bulk for S-bahn, U-bahn, tram and bus lines. The waiting time for trains and subways is usually no more than five to 10 minutes.
Clothing & Packing Tips
To ensure you’re comfortable while out exploring, we recommend packing lightweight, loose-fitting clothing that can be easily layered. For sightseeing, we suggest bringing a sturdy pair of walking shoes or sneakers, as well as a lightweight sports jacket or rainwear. If you’re planning a visit to a high-end restaurant or performance, you may also want to bring dressier attire. Also, please remember that it’s preferable to avoid showing bare legs or shoulders during visits to churches or other religious sites (entrance may be denied on this basis).
Airlines have varying weight restrictions on luggage. Some airlines may impose additional charges if you choose to check any baggage. Please contact your airline or refer to its website for detailed information regarding your airline’s checked baggage policies. Bear in mind that your luggage will probably weigh more on your return trip due to souvenir shopping. We allow only one suitcase per person. One carry-on bag is also permitted, provided that it does not exceed 45 inches (length + width + height). There may be times when you will have to handle your own bags, and you’ll find that lightweight luggage provides a distinct advantage. Make sure you label your baggage and carry valuables, medication and documents in your carry-on luggage.
In Austria, thick soups of paprika and onion, veal, beef and venison with cranberries are popular, as is the renowned Wiener Schnitzel. Fish-lovers will find wild trout, roast carp and crayfish. Desserts are perhaps the most memorable including: strudels made with all kinds of fruit and nuts, soufflés and elegant chocolate cakes such as the world-famous Sachertorte. Swiss food, influenced by surrounding countries, is varied and sophisticated. The most famous local dish is fondue, made from molten cheese, flavored with wine, garlic and liquor, into which pieces of skewered bread are dipped. Raclette is another delicious cooked cheese dish, served with roasted or boiled potatoes, air-dried beef and pickled onions. Sausages, breaded veal fillets and freshwater fish are also popular. Swiss dairy products are among the world’s finest, and full-cream milk is the essential ingredient for the exceptionally good chocolate produced here. German food is hearty and substantial. Among the specialties are dumpling stews and sauerkraut cabbage, tasty thick sausages and smoked cheeses, dark breads and chocolate cakes. Bavaria produces some of the world’s purest beers, while white German wines are exceptionally good.
The euro (in Austria and Germany) and the Swiss franc are the currencies you’ll be using on your tour. Better rates of exchange are usually available in your destination countries, although it’s worth ordering some currency from your local bank to use when you first arrive. We advise that you take credit cards, ATM/bank cards and traveler’s checks, which can be exchanged for cash at local banks, as needed. We suggest informing your bank and credit card company of your travel plans, so they don’t confuse your international purchases for fraudulent charges.
At the conclusion of your tour, it’s customary to offer your Tour Director and driver a gratuity. We recommend tipping in your tour country’s currency the equivalent of $3USD/CAD per day for your driver and $6USD/CAD to $9USD/CAD per day for your Tour Director. If applicable, we also recommend the equivalent of $1USD/CAD per local guide. Tips can only be paid in cash. Please keep current currency rates in mind when tipping.
Trip of a lifetime!
The chance to experience another country and their traditions was fantastic. The history of the buildings and the ancestery of each town and country had me in awe. The guide, Paula, was knowledgeable and so very thoughtful. Going to the Christmas markets was always fun and truly a unique experience. Many Christmas gifts were purchased. The snow that fell on the trip made it feel like I was in a snowglobe. Magical and beautifu!! Tha hotels, meals and our bus driver were all top notch.
Paula and Pauwel did an excellent job. The tour was great. Can think of nuthing I would change.
Had a fun time
The Christmas market tour of Germany, Switzerland and Austria was a nice tour; however, I am not a big shopper so there was too much shopping time for me. I would have much rather had more scheduled site seeing tours. The weather may have been a factor because many of the optional excursions were cancelled due to weather and/or participation. If you like cities and the shopping district this would be a good trip for you. Overall, the tour was very nice.