Europe Christmas Market Vacation

Check out my family’s jam-packed European Christmas Market vacation itinerary! We flew from Charlotte, North Carolina to Munich on December 17th and flew back home from Prague on January 2nd. Once we arrived in Europe, we used only public transportation (busses, trains, trams) and our feet, except for the Sound of Music tour and the Danube boat cruise. I highly suggest taking a train between cities, even overnight trains! Trains in Europe are safe, reliable, and the tickets are easy to book.

How I Planned this Epic Vacation

Transportation and Accommodation

We booked plane tickets in October, using as many airline points as we could and paid for the rest. For our family of 5, this was not cheap! I couldn’t find an AirBnb near the historical part of Munich (our first stop) so I booked two hotel rooms outside the main train station. I read reviews that said the neighborhood was safe and the hotel was nice; both were true.

After the Munich hotel, we stayed in AirBnb rentals for the rest of our trip. Oftentimes, the rental was cheaper than paying for two hotel rooms. I booked all of our accommodations in November. We stayed in the historical district in each city, or just outside of it. I wanted to be able to walk or take a quick bus trip to all of the sights. In every city we were just a few minutes walk from at least one Christmas market. In Prague, one was right outside our front door! If I were to do this trip again, I would make sure a grocery store was within a block or two of our rental. The grocery store in Salzburg was a bus ride away, which was a bit inconvenient.

Traveling with Kids

My kids were aged 10, 12, and 13 on this trip. I was surprised by how much they did NOT complain. As long as I kept them fed and we did some shopping along the way (a lot of shopping in those Christmas markets), they were happy. Alongside all the touristy things I made them do, I made sure they had time to ice skate, make their own chocolate bars, go on some scavenger hunts, and ride some roller coasters. We also sat down most nights and talked about what we would be doing the next day. I always considered their input, but honestly they were fine with letting me come up with our game plan each day.

Planning Ahead

As far as deciding what sights to see in each city, I started with my Facebook travel groups. Once I decided on the five cities we were going to visit, I turned to Pinterest for ideas. Then I purchased four ebooks for my Kindle: Rick Steve’s Pocket Munich & Salzburg, Rick Steve’s Vienna, Salzburg, and Tirol, Rick Steve’s Budapest, and Rick Steve’s Prague. If you’re unfamiliar with Rick Steves, he has travel guidebooks for a ton of international destinations. He does an especially good job covering Europe. I like him over Fodor’s and Lonely Planet because his picks are budget-friendly and many are off the beaten path.

I also consistently used two free Apps:

  • Visit a City Visit a City is another great source to decide on what sights to see. You can search for a city and filter by how many days you have. It will tell you which sights to see, sort them together by proximity and even give you a timeline of your day. I didn’t really follow their suggested plan, but it helped me decide on sights we just HAD to see. I also used it to help me decide where we should stay in the city. I used the maps to cross-reference the AirBnb locations.
  • TripIt When you sign up with TripIt, login with an email address to which you get your travel confirmations sent. A few times each day, TripIt will scrub that email address looking for plane ticket reservations and AirBnb receipts, etc. It then puts all the reservation numbers, start times, locations into the app for you. The app then shows it to you in a timeline format. This is a great help for complex trips. I accidentally booked our Sound of Music tour one day early. I wouldn’t have realized my mistake until the last minute had I not looked at the timeline (I had booked the tour for our Munich to Salzburg travel day).

Booking Tours

I booked our Sound of Music tour ahead of time. This was the only tour I wanted to be sure we took. All the other tours, concerts I booked a day or two ahead of time. I used Viator to book our tours. I tried going through some of the local websites, but not all of them had English as an option.

It truly was the trip of a lifetime. Christmas in Europe was magical.

Day 1 – Arrive in Munich, Germany @ 7am

Ice Skating at the Karlsplatz, Munich a few hours after getting off the plan; a great way to keep jet lag from setting in.
  • Check in to Aloft outside the main train station
  • Ice skating at the Karlsplatz
  •  Visit Marienplatz Christmas Market: Check out the Glockenspiel at the New Town Hall
  • Visit the Pink (LGBTQ+) Christmas Market in the Glockenbachviertel neighborhood

Day 2 – Munich

  • Back to Marienplatz Christmas Market
  • Start Rick Steve’s Audio Europe Self-Guided Walking Tour for Munich
  • Climb the tower of St. Peter’s Church
  • Explore Inside of St. Peter’s Church
  • Visit Viktualienmarkt (eat ALLLL the food)
  • Visit Christmas Market at Munich Residence
  • Visit Medieval Christmas Market at Wittelsbacherplatz
  • Hofbrauhaus Brewery for dinner

Day 3 – Train to Salzburg, Austria (1.5 hours)

  • Check in to AirBnb
  • Walk over the Mozart Bridge
  • Visit Christmas Market at the Cathedral and Residenz square

Day 4 – Salzburg

Christmas Market at the Residence Square, Salzburg
  • Sound of Music Tour (1/2 day tour with Panorama Tours)
  • Ice skating at Mozartplatz square
  • Krampus and Perchten Parade at the Residenz square

Day 5 – Salzburg

  • Tour Hohensalzburg Fortress (ride the funicular up and back down)
  • Start Rick Steve’s Audio Europe tour for Salzburg
  • Visit Salzburg Cathedral
  • Café Tomaselli for hot chocolate!

Day 6 – Train to Vienna, Austria (2.5 hours)

  • Check in to AirBnb
  • Check out Anker Clock
  • Christmas Market at St. Stephen’s Cathedral

Day 7 – Vienna

Outside the Hofburg Palace – it’s huge! Be sure to allow some time for this visit.

Day 8 – Vienna

  • Start Rick Steve’s Audio Europe Vienna City Walk OR Vienna’s Ringstrasse Tram tour
  • Visit Kunsthistorisches Museum
  • Attend Classical Music Concert at the Schonbrunn Palace

Day 9 – Vienna

  • Start the Medieval Vienna Scavenger Hunt (Questo App)
  • Visit Café Central for coffee and breakfast or lunch
  • Go Ice skating at the Rathausplatz square
  • Visit the Rathausplatz Christmas Market
  • Revisit the Stephensplatz Christmas Market

Day 10 – Train to Budapest, Hungary (2.5 hours)

  • Check in to AirBnb
  • Guided tour with local tour guide (Claudia); found at With Locals website
    • Toured Jewish Quarter
    • Walk through first Ruin Bar
    • Visited Opera House

Day 11 – Budapest

Matthias Church at Sunset
  • Hour-long boat tour of the Danube River sights
  • Great Market Hall for lunch
  • Visit Fisherman’s Bastion (climb the stairs!)
  • Check out Matthias Church
  • Christmas Market at Fisherman’s Bastion
  • Walk across at least one of the bridges (Chain, Liberty, Elisabeth)

Day 12 – Budapest

  • Take a tour of Parliament (these tours fill up quickly; be sure to book a at least a week in advance. Visitors are not allowed in the building unless part of a tour. You must bring your passport or national ID to enter)
  • Visit Light Art Museum
  • See Shoes on the Danube Bank Memorial
  • Visit Buda Castle (climb the stairs or take the funicular)

Day 13 – Train to Prague, Czech Republic (7.5 hours)

  • Check in to AirBnb
  • Visit Wenceslas Square Christmas Market

Day 14 – Prague

St. Vitus Cathedral within the Prague Castle walls
  • Prague Castle (pay for the audiotour and tickets to get into the cathedral and other castle buildings (keep this ticket to get into the Charles Bridge museum, too)
  • St. Vitus Cathedral
  • Lunch along the Vltava River
  • Begin the Prague Old Town Scavenger Hunt (Questo app)
  • Check out the Franz Kafka Kinetic Statue
  • Be there for the ringing of the hour at the Prague Astronomical Clock 
  • Visit the Old Town Square Christmas Market

Day 15 – Prague          

  • Visit the Powder Tower
  • Walk across the Charles Bridge
  • Climb the Charles Bridge Tower to take pictures from the top
  • Visit the Charles Bridge Museum (use the self-guided audio tour ticket from your trip to the Prague castle)
  • Visit the Museum of Fantastic Illusions

Day 16 – Fly Home


If you have two extra days, from Salzburg I would add a day trip to Hallstatt. And from Munich, I would add a day trip to Neuschwanstein Castle.

Pictures from our European Christmas Markets Winter Vacation

European Christmas Market Vacation Itinerary for Families

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.