A Guide to Monschau Christmas Market by Driving Dad

Monschau-hero

Conquering Europe by car, Driving Dad Matt Hyotte tells us why Monschau Christmas market is one of the best in Europe.

Driving Dad Matt Hyotte is no stranger to taking a European road trip. Since moving to the UK over 10 years ago, he’s loaded up his car and has explored the best of Europe, with his wife and 3 boys in tow. He recently wrote his guide to the Champagne region (featuring a tree top Champagne bar), but now the weather is getting colder he’s letting us in on the know about one of the best hidden gem Christmas markets.

When the temperature drops, the leaves start to change colour and the chunky sweaters come out of the back of the closet, it’s clear Autumn has arrived. And for us, Autumn’s arrival means planning our annual road trip to one of Europe’s Christmas Markets.

The Christmas season just isn’t complete without a weekend of steaming mugs of gluwein and hot chocolate, crispy potato pancakes and roasted chestnuts. A quick internet search will pull up lists of the largest and most popular Christmas Market destinations in Europe, however many of these cities are too far for a weekend drive. And whilst the atmosphere of a city Christmas Market is undeniably festive, the small-town Christmas Markets can feel more authentic than their larger counterparts.

After a hike to Monschau castle, although I use the word hike very loosely…
After a hike to Monschau castle, although I use the word hike very loosely… Credit: Driving Dad

For those looking for one of the more off-the-beaten-track Christmas Market experiences within a manageable drive from Calais, look no further than a magical town in the little known Eifel region of Germany.

Monschau

Where in Germany: Aachen
Drive from Calais:840km / 3h 57m

Just under four hours from Calais and just over the Belgian border into Germany (seven minutes over to be exact) lies the village of Monschau. If you were to try to design the perfect set for a Christmas Market, it would be difficult to create a better backdrop than here. The half-timbered, slate-roofed houses that make up the medieval town centre are nestled in a shallow valley which is overlooked by an imposing 13th century castle.

'Not exactly 11 pipers piping, but some pretty serious horn blowing.
Not exactly 11 pipers piping, but some pretty serious horn blowing. Credit: Driving Dad

Monschau's pedestrianised old town is small and one can walk the cobblestone streets from end to end in about 12 minutes, even with children in tow. The river Rur winds its way through town, flowing under the delightful bridges that connect the different parts of the old town and ensuring the sound of rushing water is never out of earshot. If you're lucky there will be a dusting or more of snow to complete the perfect wintery scene.

The Monschau Christmas Markets have the traditional craft and food huts clustered throughout the town that one expects in Germany. However, in addition to the ubiquitous bratwurst, currywurst, mulled wine, lebkuchen and kasespatzle, a few gastronomic treasures set Monschau apart.

I could stock up on wine and food and stay here all winter!
I could stock up on wine and food and stay here all winter! Credit: Driving Dad

First, Monschau is home to the Senfmuhle Monschau (Monschau Mustard Mill) which has been producing mustard since the late 19th century. They have a shop right in Monschau’s old town where you can sample and buy over 15 types of mustard (highly recommended is the fig mustard and beer mustard), or you can tour the mill itself, which is located on the edge of town.

Second, Felsenkeller is Monschau’s 19th century brewery that has been converted into a museum. The small museum is worth a tour and whilst the beer (Monschau Zwickelbier) is now brewed off site, you can still taste a litre or two of it at the brewery’s restaurant.

Finally, the one hut not to miss at Monschau’s Christmas Markets is the homemade schnapps hut. Choose from over 20 flavours of schnapps, all made in Monschau, which you can drink on site or buy in a bottle to take home. Guaranteed to warm you up on the coldest December nights.

Before you set off, check out when the Monschau Christmas Market is open here.

For the kids

For the past few years we have packed up the car and headed to Germany.
For the past few years we have packed up the car and headed to Germany. Credit: Driving Dad

A great midday activity for the kids is a hike up to the Burg Monschau, Monschau’s 13th century castle. While this is not a particularly strenuous or long hike, it’s important to wear appropriate footwear as the paths can be slippery in winter. Though the castle is not open to the public, the sweeping views of the Monschau are well worth the climb, particularly at dusk, when the street lights illuminate the historic buildings.

Belgian beer side trip

Given the proximity to Belgium, a quick stop en route to Monschau is perfectly justified. And a mandatory side trip for Belgian beer lovers is the Kerkom Brewery in Sint Truiden.

A short 10 minute detour off the E40 motorway, the Kerkom Brewery has been brewing beer since 1878. They currently brew about 10 different beers, some of which are seasonal. If you’ve timed your December visit right, the aptly named Winterkoninkske (Winter King) beer, their dark winter ale, will be available.

Half the fun is getting there!
Half the fun is getting there! Credit: Driving Dad

But at 8.3% alcohol, make sure you aren’t the one driving the final hour to Monschau. Conveniently attached to the brewery is a country pub, complete with a pot-bellied wood burning stove (to ward off any chills the beer cannot) which serves hearty Flemish specialties that pair well with their beers.

Are you ready to live the Christmas spirit in Monschau? Be inspired by Driving Dad and book your tickets with us in advance to take advantage of the best prices.