My annual Christmas trip to Germany is a bit of a thing now. Since going home for the festive season usually involves a bus and overground train to the other side of London, I’ve created a new tradition that gives me a chance to have a break from reality. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become less precious about things being exactly the same each year. I’m up for spending the big day in warmer climes, with different relatives or donating my time in future.
It’s funny, I was devastated when my youngest aunt moved to the Hessen region over twenty years ago but now subsequent visits have opened my eyes to a beautiful and varied country. I’ve only recently started visiting during Advent and it definitely helps this slightly jaded Londoner to feel a little more festive (especially with a toddler cousin in the mix). Winter Wonderland prices, eat your heart out. The Christmas markets here aren’t overcrowded but a natural place for socialising and eating things like deep fried potato cakes.
I know the festivities are almost over, but I thought I’d share a few day trips you can make if you’re flying into Frankfurt or staying in the area. One thing to note about the Christmas markets is that they often finish earlier (around the 22nd-23rd), so don’t expect a Glühwein fest if you’re heading there for NYE.
Day Trips You Can Do If You End Up In Frankfurt
It’s not completely far-fetched that you may end up in Frankfurt at some point. This hub is set to be the financial capital after Brexit (boooo) and there’s probably going to be a lot of attention on the surrounding areas. Fortunately my Aunt is a bit of an expert (albeit with heavy use of sat nav even in her neighbourhood) and she’s helped me compile this list of things to do and see.
Wiesbaden – Ah Wiesbaden! This is the place where I spent many a Summer holiday trying to practice my A Level German and discovering the joys of Vapiano, but there’s so much more to this old spa town. Firstly the neoclassical architecture around Wallufer Strasse is pretty breathtaking and well preserved and I’d recommend heading towards Adolfsallee for the best photowalk opportunities.
If chilling, maxing and relaxing is your thing, then make like the Romans and have a dip at a bath house (Kaiser-Friedrich-Therme is pretty authentic). During Summer, it’s nice to feel at one with nature and take the funicular up into the forest for tree climbing or hiking. In terms of food, Harput is the place to go for a Turkish feast, Martino Kitchen for brunch and Haus Tannenburg does the best Schnitzel around. The Christmas market is also huge and split into three parts.
Biebrich – We didn’t see much in this area down the road from Wiesbaden, since our main reason was to visit the gorgeous Baroque palace located by the Rhein river. Next time, I’m taking a sparkling wine cellar tour at Henkell Trocken. Does anyone else like to bring back a local bottle as a souvenir? These come in at around £5 a pop and I have a little stash ready for NYE.
Idstein – Why didn’t my Aunt tell me about this gem less than 15 minutes away from her house? Ever since she moved out of Wiesbaden, I’ve noticed that a lot of the surrounding towns tend to have the ‘Fachwerkhäuser’ style of timber framing, with every shade from the brightest red to the darkest grey. It’s impossible not to get snap-happy here and it seems even more magical at Christmas (note that the markets tend to be a one-off at the start of December). Just beware of the occasional photobomber who may disapprove of your actions….
Limburg – If you need another guaranteed Christmas market fix, then Limburg is perfect. This town has a mixture of quaint architecture, random independent shops (there’s one dedicated to lavender) and a grand Romanesque cathedral at the top of the hill. Head to Café Kosmol for your strudel fix afterwards, outside there’s usually a stall selling the traditional biscuits that bring good luck for the year ahead.
I hope you all had an amazing Christmas and I’ll have a reflective round-up very soon!