Tag Archives: Christmas markets

Vacation Photos, Part 4: Esslingen Favorite German Town…Ever!

A view of Esslingen and the Church of St. Dionysius on the Neckar River

This is Esslingen. It’s beautiful, isn’t it? I would even say that this might be the most beautiful little town I’ve ever visited. Bruges in Belgium is still in the running. It charmed me the same way Esslingen did. Just look at this place:

An Esslingen landmark - the balancing man on Schelztor Tower

One of the few towns not bombed in WWII, it's still intact and gorgeous

Esslingen is the definition of charming

The medieval town wall and towers are still standing

The hills surrounding Esslingen are covered in vineyards

This is a great example of Esslingen's half-timbered fachework buildings

A closer look at the ironwork balancing man

Town Hall overlooks the square and Christmas Market

That smoke in the upper right corner is from the bonfires lit around the Christmas market. Esslingen is home to the most beautiful medieval Christmas Market, and they take full advantage of the medieval theme. Bonfires line the market streets, vendors wear medieval period clothing, and there are activities for the kids in the style of ancient times. This place is magical, especially at night. But I’m not going to blather on and on about why this was my favorite Christmas Market. I’ll just show you the pictures. Then you’ll understand.

Everything about this market is vivid and colorful and alive

One sweet booth - gingerbread and candy for sale

A Knight to Remember - a vendor sells children's costumes

Miniature versions of Esslingen are available to take home

If the market doesn't enchant you, the town will

The Church of St. Dionysius towers over the market

I just can't get enough of this half-timbered fachework style

I love German pyramids, and this one takes the big prize

A medieval ferris wheel - children just can't get enough

Oh, if only these were easier to pack!

An old-fashioned game of chance I like to call Mouse House

Pick the same house as the mouse, and you'll win a prize

This spicy lamb gyro was a revelation; it was awesome!

A medieval fire dancer twirls flaming balls as musicians play

Even the Garlic Lady's booth is a work of art

Peeking in the window of the Gingerbread House workshop

Luminaries and candles are a Christmas market tradition

Booth-top gnomes watch over the Esslingen market

There were so many beautiful ornaments for sale

I fell in love with these paper star luminaries - so beautiful

Handcrafted German nutcrackers - now we're talking!

I could just sit and stare at this beautiful little town all day long

Thank you, Esslingen. Your medieval Christmas Market captivated me.

Your rich history and stunning architecture delighted me

And your fairytale village thoroughly enchanted me. The End.

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Vacation Photos, Part 3: Germany Basecamp Stuttgart, Ludwigsburg

A view of Stuttgart from our hotel window

When we decided to visit Germany for the Christmas Markets, we were surprised to see how many cities we had to choose from. With some internet research, we discovered that there are many great cities to choose from – Munich, Cologne, Hamburg, Nuremberg. They all have excellent Christmas Markets. In the end, we chose Stuttgart for several reasons:

1. It’s in southwestern Germany near the Black Forrest (oooo & ahhhh)
2. It has one of the largest traditional Christmas Markets in all of Germany
3. The baroque Christmas Market in Ludwigsburg was 20 mins away by train
4. The medieval Christmas Market in Esslingen was 15 mins away by train
5. As you can see, we could visit 3 Christmas Markets from one location
6. Stuttgart was an easy one-hour hop by plane from Amsterdam
7. I would have gone anywhere TCP chose, if they had Christmas Markets

We chose the Hotel am Schlossgarten in Stuttgart as our base camp. What a great choice! We got a park view room that was the epitome of old world European charm. We had a king bedroom with a sitting area, great windows overlooking the park and hillside (including the opera house and museums), a bathroom with a towel warmer (great for drying our handwashed skivvies) and a chandelier. You heard me! I said a chandelier! It looked like a crystal and gold chrysanthemum. The hotel’s location couldn’t have been more perfect.

Hotel am Schlossgarten - Park View King Bedroom

The sitting area of our park view deluxe king room

It's an ornament...it's a chrysanthemum...no, it's our sitting room chandelier!

The hotel is located on the Koningstrasse (a major shopping street) and directly across from the main train station (for easy access to anywhere we wanted to go by subway or train). It was also only a few short blocks to the Christmas market on the plaza across from the palace. We were able to walk to everything we wanted to see, as well as some great shopping and our favorite German brew house, the Calwer Ech Brau, where we enjoyed some fabulous local Swabian cuisine and some fine hand-crafted beers. PS – we’re now in love with spaetzle. Big time. Google it. You should eat this every chance you get. It’s simple, buttery, and oh so very delicious! Here are a few shots from around Stuttgart:

Konigstrasse - Great location & excellent shopping in Stuttgart

Hauptbahnhof Train Station right across from the Hotel am Schlossgarten

Stuttgart's modern Kunstmuseum on the Schlossplatz

Market Hall's fabulous indoor market - I could live here!

A Market Hall food stall - mouth-watering goodies for sale

Warm bread & fresh veggies - Market Hall rocked my world

What's a vacation without a chocolate shop? I mean, really.

The New Palace and Schlossplatz (Square) from the gazebo

Every year, beginning the week of Thanksgiving, Stuttgart hosts one of the largest traditional Christmas markets in Germany. The market covers an area from the lovely Konigsbau building on the schlossplatz through the Old Palace, across City Hall and Market Square and down to the beautiful Stifts Church and Schiller Square. It’s a beautiful stroll along old cobblestone streets in the lovely, historic center of town. Every twist and turn brings another cluster of booths selling a variety of food, beverages, and holiday gifts and decorations. The market opens by 11am each day, but it’s especially lovely at night. Take a look:

A choir creates a magical moment in the Old Palace

Christmas Market stalls in Stuttgart, Germany

Ornaments for sale at the Christmas Market

A typical cobblestone lane lined with vendor booths

The booths are beautifully decorated - each one is unique

Saurkraut with dumplings and sausage - outstanding!

So many pretty things to choose from at the Christmas Markets

From Stuttgart, we took a lovely 20 minute train ride out to Ludwigsburg, where they host a Baroque Christmas Market. You know what they say…if it ain’t baroque, don’t fix it! Sorry. It’s also a great place to see the baroque palace of Duke Eberhard Ludwig from the 1700’s, including the main residential palace, and several others. The town’s main square with its pretty town hall is the site of the Christmas Market. While it’s not as large as Stuttgart’s, it is unique and lovely and totally worth a visit. I just realized I’m saying ‘lovely’ way too often, but it’s true. Everything about these towns and Christmas Markets was lovely. See for yourself:

Ludwigsburg's Residential Palace

The angels with lighted wings are a Ludwigsburg trademark

Carved wood items are a tradition at the German markets

Gluhwein - it's hot, spicy mulled wine & warms you quickly

Colorful gingerbread cookies - another Christmas Market tradition

Handcrafted items include scarves & paper star luminaries

Honey and beeswax items for sale

A closer look at the hand carved ornaments for sale

I've never seen a cuter chocolate-covered pear!

Market booths are a feast for the eyes - so beautiful

Ludwigsburg's town hall and market - a perfect day trip

I’ve saved my favorite Christmas Market for last, so stay tuned! Next up – the medieval Christmas Market in the jaw-dropping town of Esslingen, Germany.

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And now, a word from our sponsors…

Rick Steves, Burt Wolf & Joseph Rosendo - the best travel show hosts on PBS

Okay, I lied. These guys did NOT sponsor our vacation in any way, but they did influence it. Heavily. So it’s their fault. Really and truly, I blame them. If it weren’t for these three guys, I would never have known about the German Christmas Markets. I could have lived my life in ignorant bliss, but they wouldn’t let me. They had to put it out there on television and taunt/haunt me with it.

For starters, The Complete Package and I do not have cable. I know it’s barbaric, but we don’t support being voluntarily robbed of $80+ a month for 1,600 channels of crap. Sorry for the language, but that’s how we feel about it. Instead, we enjoy the “basic 10” channels, and are lovers of all things PBS. That’s how all of this got started, and that’s why I’m calling out these three guys for planting a seed in my head that I just couldn’t shake. For example, if I say “brownies” you’re going to spend the rest of the day craving brownies. It’s the same principle. Ooooo…brownies. Ahhhh…Christmas markets.

These three gentlemen produced three separate shows about German Christmas Markets, and my obsession was born. And that’s where my beloved, The Complete Package, stepped in. Since he had to go to The Netherlands for a week on business, he invited me to tag along. And since the German Christmas Markets were only an hour away by plane, he said we might as well take another week to hop on over there and check them out. Wow, honey. I love you so much right now! And so that’s exactly what we did. After our week in The Hague and our weekend in Amsterdam, we jumped a flight to Stuttgart and started a week-long adventure I call “ChristmasMarketPalooza.” See, kids? Sometimes dreams really do come true. You just have to keep believing. And watching PBS. Especially Rick, Burt and Joseph. Thank you guys. Really, I mean it. This trip never would have happened without you and your travel shows.

So stay tuned, readers. Next up is Germany, and you won’t want to miss this!

German Christmas Markets - my travel dream come true!

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