For Christmas markets near Amsterdam, there are a few usual suspects: Cologne, Aachen, Osnabruck and Muenster, all within 2-3 hours from here by train or car. There’s also Valkenburg in the south of the Netherlands, as well as Maastricht in Belgium.
So I had never heard of Monschau until our German Airbnb host mentioned it. Going with a local’s advice is always a smart thing to do when traveling, so after our visit to the Aachen market, we thought… why not?
It turned out to be a great spur-of-the-moment decision! The 45-minute drive from Aachen was like driving through a winter wonderland (check out Monday’s post for lovely snow photos). And Monschau itself, a small town nestled deep in the North Eifel hills, is absolutely charming.
Beautifully preserved half-timbered houses (like those in Limburg aan der Lahn) line the banks of the Rur river, which runs through the town.
Monschau’s Christmas market is distributed throughout the winding streets of the Old Town, with a small indoor market for those who want to get in out of the cold. Most of the town’s shops and cafes stay open through the weekend (rare for Europe!), so there’s more than just a few market stalls to explore.
The whole town seems to have been taken over by Christmas, creating a wonderfully festive atmosphere that can make anyone feel cozy even in the cold. (A little bit of fur and snuggling helps, too.)
There are plenty of fun finds and delicious treats to be had.
But for me, the Monschau Christmas market is not as much about eating, shopping or drinking. Where the magic lies is strolling through this incredibly picturesque town, occasionally looking up at snow-laden rooftops, white-tipped trees, even a castle on a hill, and allowing yourself to be delighted by all the charming details along the way.
I’d say the only drawback is that you need a car to get here, but it’s well worth it for a fairytale Christmas unlike anything the bigger, more train-friendly cities (such as Cologne or Aachen) can offer. I think this is my favorite Weihnachtsmarkt experience so far: intimate, picturesque and right out of a Christmas storybook. I’m already looking forward to next year.
A small travel tip: Leave your car parked by the Gymnasium, or high school; then take the Park & Ride bus service to the market in the Old Town down in the valley. Remember to drive slowly as you approach Monschau, so you can spot the Park & Ride signs!