Austria & Germany : Traditional Christmas Markets
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Resting over the banks of the Danube River in northeastern Austria, Vienna, the country’s capital city, is famous for its classical music heritage and reflects an enticing blend of old and new. The historical centre is skyscraper-free and dotted with immaculate, charming little parks. It is also pedestrian friendly and extremely compact, which is convenient as this area contains the bulk of the city’s major tourist highlights. Chief among these are the famous Burgtheater and Opera House and an array of opulent baroque palaces lining the warren of narrow, medieval alleyways which wind their way around the magnificent St Stephen’s Cathedral. Add to this a slew of grand coffee houses and a rich history of classical music (residents included Mozart and Beethoven) and it becomes difficult to imagine a more livable city than the sophisticated metropolis of Vienna.
Set near the German border, the famous city of Salzburg is one of the best-preserved city centres in Europe. Its winding cobblestone streets offer a treasure trove of Medieval and Baroque buildings, palaces, concert halls, and monasteries - all set against a picturesque backdrop of the magnificent snow-capped Alps. Visit the house where Mozart was born, and enjoy a packed lineup of operas, concerts and ballets in breathtaking historic halls and venues. The internationally renowned Salzburg Festival, which takes place every summer, provides the ultimate way to enjoy this scene. Fans of the Sound of Music can retrace the characters’ steps backed by stunning scenes and vistas. Make sure to stroll along the beautiful Salzach River, climb up to the spectacular Hohensalzburg fortress, and try the famous, delicious beer brewed at the Augustiner Braustubl, a monastery-run brewery operating since 1621.
Resting on the banks of the Pegnitz river, the Bavarian city of Nuremberg is the epitome of a typical German city complete with half-timbered houses, imposing forts, stone towers and Gothic churches all contained within a medieval city wall and presided over by a magnificent imperial castle. Must see-visitor attractions include: the extensive Germanisches Nationalmuseum, housing a large collection of items relating to German culture from prehistoric times through to the present day; the Hauptmarkt (central square) where you will find the Schöner Brunnen, an exquisite gilded fountain with tiers of sculptured figures; and of course the remarkable imperial castle, the Kaiserburg. With all of its medieval charm and intriguing historical significance, Nuremberg has developed into one of Bavaria’s most popular destinations particularly over the Christmas season when the city explodes with festivity as it hosts one of the world’s most spectacular Christmas markets.
Munich conjures up images of busty Bavarian beer maids in “dirndis” serving up steins of beer and sausage to beer houses full of large drunken men in embroidered “lederhosen”. While Munich does indeed offer all of these cliches in abundance, it is also a city of bizarre contrasts and contradictions which are enthusiastically embraced by its residents who seem quite comfortable with the surprising combination of cosmopolitan consumerism and old-world charm. Munich is a modern, technological hub complete with state-of-the-art skyscrapers and 21st Century football stadiums. However, it is simultaneously a city that revels in its traditional customs, its old-fashioned gingerbread architecture and its boisterous beer house culture. With its wide pavements strewn with designer boutiques alongside quaint antique stores and contemporary eateries neighbouring traditional taverns, this Bavarian metropolis manages to combine a forward-looking, cosmopolitan character with a folksy, small-town atmosphere.