I get it, you've been dreading this time of year and now that it's quickly approaching, you're starting to feel the blues. You're also feeling discouraged about traveling during Winter due to the low temps and slippery roads. All you can think of is staying inside and bumming it out because it's too cold to do just about anything during this time. Staying inside is just not what the locals want to do, even if the weather seems too intimidating to explore outside.
There's roughly 13 weeks in the Winter season (referring to Winter in the Northern Hemisphere, December 21 - March 20) and if you're a full time employee or full time student, weekends or your off days are the only times you can explore around here (unless it's Sunday in Bavaria). Think of each idea on this listicle as a weekend adventure until Spring time rolls around!
1. Attend the Best Christmas Markets
If you're not here for the Christmas Markets then what exactly are you here for? For me, the Christmas markets are a mild and chill version of what a Fruehlingsfest (Spring fest) or Volksfest (peoples' fest) would be like - kids playing and going on rides, everyone is eating delicious foods at different stalls, and instead of drinking several liters of fest beer, you drink lots of Gluehwein (mulled wine)! And if you're not into Gluehwein, there is something for everyone from Kinderpunsch (Non-alcoholic warm punch) to Heisser Bier (hot beer).
Another exciting part of these Christmas markets are the collectible mugs in which each market has a different style and design. You would typically go up to a drink stall and order your drink of choice but you will pay a Pfand, or deposit, upfront before getting your drink. From what I have seen, some places will charge about 2-4 Euro for the mug but if you decide you don't want to keep it, you can always return the mugs and get your deposit back, or say "Zurueck, bitte".
If you're in the Southern region of Germany, you've more than likely heard of the Der Krampus who is half goat and half demon and seems to be the counterpart of St. Nicholas during Christmas time. Instead of passing out gifts and candies to good children, Krampus instead "whips" and uses chains to punish children who have been naughty. Whatever you believe in, Krampus fire shows and parades are definitely something you'll want to experience. From the shows I've been to, none of the children are actually whipped nor are they hurt. Just some playful gestures such as removing hats or getting really close to scare people.
2. Take up Skiing or Snowboarding
If you haven't tried skiing or snowboarding, it can be intimidating on your first attempt here in Germany, especially because you'll see kids sometimes as young as 3 years old hitting the slopes as if they had came straight out the womb with skiis on! I would definitely recommend first trying out some lessons if you haven't had experience in this kind of sport. Lessons are offered at almost all locations that offer outdoor or even indoor skiing and snowboarding. You can even check with your local Outdoor Recreation office to see what skiing and snowboarding lessons are offered.
3. Go Sliding While Snow Tubing and Sledding
Not up for the challenge in skiing and snowboarding? Snow tubing or sledding will probably be the next best thing. Head over to the highest point in Germany at Zugspitze where you can rent a sled and helmet for 13 Euros a day. For some, Garmisch could be a long way out for sledding but there is surely enough spots closer to you that will offer sledding and snow tubing. Less than an hour away from Grafenwoehr, you'll be able to do skiing, snowboarding, cross country, snow tubing, sledding, and more at Oschenkopf.
4. Go Castle and Palace Hunting
Another reason to be here in Germany is to hunt for all of those amazing fairy-tale like castles you see circulating all over Facebook and Instagram! One of the most scenic drives in Germany is the Burgenstrasse which is the Castle road starting in Mannheim and ends in Prague, Czech Republic (ok, we are cheating on Germany a bit here). The stops along this drive feature about 70 castles and palaces and you can utilize the map here to start your journey. If I'm being quite frank though, some of my favorite palaces and castles are not listed in the Burgenstrasse. While you're here in Germany, be sure not to miss Burg Eltz, Burg Hohenzollern, Schloss Lichtenstein, Schweriner Schloss, Schloss Drachenburg, Schloss Linderhof, and of course, the Disney inspired fairy-tale castle, Schloss Nueschwanstein!
5. Buy a Regional Train Ticket and Go! Anywhere!
Traveling around Germany during Winter isn't always fun if you're driving on slick roads. Luckily for those of us here in Germany, this country has some of the best public transportation it can offer. I for one enjoy hopping on a train without the worry of taking the wrong exit, getting lost, or ending up in a stau for an hour when I want to be somewhere at a certain time. With proper planning, utilizing the train system can be quite easy and much safer than driving.
On days that I've felt spontaneous and didn't have a clue on what to do, I've purchased a regional train ticket and hopped around to different cities in Bavaria. Most states in Germany offer a regional ticket and each state varies on the cost and limitations which you can find here. In Bavaria alone, you can map out so many different places to check out by train such as Bamberg, Regensburg, Nuremberg, Ingolstadt, Wuerzbug, Bayreuth, Munich, Augsburg, and many more stops along the way!
Most states allow you to use this ticket for all local, suburban, and regional trains and it also includes most buses, trams, and underground rail. In Bavaria, you can purchase the Bayern Ticket for up to 5 people under one ticket starting at 25 Euros and each additional person is 6 Euros each. Once you print the ticket, you should put your name and any additional travelers on the ticket before departure. This ticket can be used from Monday - Friday from 0900-0300 of the next day and Saturday - Sunday, the ticket starts at midnight. A very helpful tool to use is the Bahn-App DB Navigator which you can download on your smartphone.
6. Go Snowshoeing
For all you hikers out there, this ones for you! Snowshoeing (Schneeschuhwandern) can be a great way to get up close and personal with nature during the Winter time. With snowshoeing, you can definitely go "off the beaten path" but most certainly start off with a guide first if you haven't tried it out yet. You can likely stop by your local MWR Outdoor Recreation to rent snowshoes or if you've got the concept down you can invest on buying the snowshoes themselves! A good resource to find snowshoe recommended trails in Bavaria and more information about how to rent snowshoes, check out this link at Bavaria.by.
7. Treat Yourself to a Spa Weekend
Have you heard of Baden-Baden? This town in the Black Forest is a spa paradise as it is dedicated to having exquisite thermal baths and wellness spas. Baden-Baden is the place to go to for a weekend consisting of spa treatments, thermal pools, and even to have a stroll around this art-nouveau town.
If just hearing the word "spa" doesn't excite you (maybe the guys reading this, if there are any, would be more interested in what I have to say next), then a beer spa most certainly will! If you've heard of the famous beer spas in Czech or in Austria, you may also be interested to know that there are a couple here in Germany as well. Check out Landhotel Kummerower Hof if you're near or heading North towards Berlin, it's about an hour and half East from there, just before the Polish border. If you're coming from the West side of Germany, you can check out what the Men's Spa Package is all about at Hotel Niederrhein!
8. Enjoy Indoor Activities
Go kart racing, high ropes course, and rock-climbing can all be done inside this Winter. Nuremberg offers both go kart racing at Kartbahn Formula and indoor rock-climbing at Climbing Factory which happen to be less than 10 minutes away from each other. Over in Berlin you can test out the high ropes course called BergWerk. All of which can be done on a gloomy and snowy day not worth exploring outside!
Flohmarkt or the Flea Markets seems to be all the craze here in Europe that some locals will consider this their weekend hobby. Although I haven't sold or purchased anything at the flohmarkt, I've seen some great antiques, gently warn clothing, and decent household items that could come at a great bargain. The best parts of the flohmarkt, and I speak for myself when I say this, are the food and drink stalls and sometimes even the street artists or live DJs!
Check out the Nachteulen Flohmarkt which is a flea market on a Friday night featuring 3 food trucks and music in Nuremberg. If you're wanting to bring the kids along, there's the Flohmarkt fuer Kinderkleider und Spielzeug in Munich or the Kinderflohmarkt which is Munich's biggest child flea market.
10. Attend a Brewery or a City Tour
Beneath the grounds of Nuremberg lies just as much history as the city does above floor level. The Historische Felsengaenge has a great way of showing and explaining the underground history which dates back to medieval times and during WWII. English tours for the historic rock-cut beer cellars are routinely conducted each weekend. Other super interesting tours are also offered here in German but come with audio guides in English. After speaking with an awesome tour guide, I was told that English speakers can request any tour in English as long as they have at least 3 people and reservations are requested in advance. This tour is not to be missed while in Nuremberg!
Bayreuth is the home of Maisel's Beer and Adventure which is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for having the world's most extensive beer museum! Tours in English are offered on request but if you can't make the tour, at the very least, head over to their restaurant called Liebesbier and you won't be disappointed. Over 100 craft beers available and 20 on tap! (hint: Citrilla is my absolute favorite, you'll see why).
Regensburg is next on the list for English beer tours in Bavaria to check out. The interesting point about this brewery tour is the beer diploma that is received as the tour is completed. Although small, Brauerei Kneitinger still uses state of the art equipment during their brewing process.
Have you heard of liquid bacon yet? If you haven't and are curious on how well this mysterious and unusual taste must be, then Bamberg is the spot to be. I'll warn you, it's not actually liquid bacon but instead it has the aromas and characteristics of what liquid bacon would be like in a form of beer. This beer is called rauchbier (smoked beer) and Schlenkerla is famous for their smoked beer. You can learn more about the Bamberg Brewery Trail and Bamberg's smoked beers here.
The Greisbraeu brewery located in Murnau can be easily reached from the Garmisch-Partenkirchen area if you plan to spend some time in the Alps. They do beer tastings, brewery tours, and beer workshops where you'll earn your beer connoisseur certificate! Books tours and learn more information about this Bavarian brewery here.
One last brewery I want to mention before I turn this post into "Breweries of Bavaria" is Kuchlbauer's World of Beer in Abendsberg. The unique factor about this brewery that stands out upon arrival is the Kuchlbauer Tower which symbolizes all of the elements of beer and its art in brewing. This creative tower symbolizes the Bavarian beer and its breweries.
11. Go to a Concert
How awesome would it be to see your favorite band play live in the nearest city to you? You may have seen your favorite band or artist perform while you were back home so to see them play in a totally different part of the world would be pretty amazing. Just two hours from Grafenwoehr, you can head over to Munich at the Olymipia stadium where some of my favorite artists' have played and most likely some of your favorites, too!
12. Check out Libraries, Museums, and Memorials
On a cold and rainy or snowy day, sometimes, the last place you want to be is outside at a market or spending too much energy in Winter sports. Therefore, you can stay warm and dry by checking out some of the many indoor museums and libraries all over Germany! In Waldsassen, you can learn more about the Cistercian monastery and check out the beautiful library during their guided tour. The tour is in German but the guide offers a very good translation of the history and important points in this library. For a list of museums to check out, Germany.Travel shares a drop down menu on their site of all the museums sorted from A-Z and by category here.
13. Start Planning for Spring, Summer, and Fall Trips
Okay, this is the one idea on this list that I can offer which allows you to be snuggled up on your couch with a cup of hot chocolate, if you wish. Planning my travel trips is probably my favorite part of traveling (aside from eating new foods in different countries)! I could spend hours, days, and nights fantasizing the trips I could take while I am here in Europe. I usually start researching one location and there I go, down the rabbit hole into a list (more like a series) of events, castles, islands, and unique AirBnB's to check out all over this continent.
To start my planning, I created an Excel spreadsheet with the possible trips I would have coming up with data such as the location, the mode of transportation, the cost of the transportation, accommodation, and other expense along with some notes for me to remember about the trip. I frequently save my receipts to log into the spreadsheet how much the trip costs and how to budget the following trips. I'm more than willing to share this spreadsheet with you upon request and you can make it as basic or as fancy as you would like.
One feature that I frequently utilize but I don't see most people use so often is Facebook and Instagram. On Facebook, you can search whatever it is that you're interested in and you can search the events tab, even down to the location or date that you're interested in and Facebook will most likely give you what you're looking for. For example, if you type in Christmas Market or Christkidelmarkt, you'll find popular or unique Christmas markets in your area or some that maybe even your friends are interested in. If you click "Interested" or "Going", it will be added to your Facebook Events and you'll be reminded of when the event is coming up. What's best about this feature is how informative the event tab is because most times, the event will have the time, date, exact location, a website link, photos, or a discussion where you can ask questions or tag your friends to remind them to go. This alleviates the time spent researching on Google about where to park or how much admission will be. Instagram now allows you to follow hashtags which will show up on your news feed. You can follow a hashtag as simple as #GermanCastles and will have a great visual of the best castles in Germany.
Other helpful tools I've used to find cheap flights and cheap accommodations are the "anywhere" features (as I like to call it) on Skyscanner.com and AirBnB.com. Both sites present the option of typing in the word "everywhere" or "anywhere" and you can filter the price range you're looking for on AirBnB or sort from the cheapest flights to everywhere on Skyscanner. These tools have helped me immensely and I probably couldn't have traveled around Europe as cheap as I have without those tools.
Please Share with your Travel Buddies
I hope this article can help you find more exciting things to do during this upcoming Winter season. Get out there and see what Germany has to offer all year long!