Ulm is just 40 minutes outside of Stuttgart via train using the Baden–Württemberg ticket. The main Christmas market is in walking distance from the banhof surrounding the main church, Ulmer Münster. This huge Gothic church stood through the WWII bombings that destroyed most of Ulm, and today has the tallest spire in the world at over 161 meters high. The church is now surrounded by a modern museum, a main shopping street and apartment buildings. Inside the church it was dimly lit and freezing cold. The stained glass windows are a mix of old and new stories. The ones that stood out the most were the modern commissioned windows dedicated to the history of the Jewish people of the town.
To Do: The Christmas market itself was nice for a day trip. They have live glass ornament blowing demonstrations in the square which are also for sale and not that expensive at about 10 euros each. Our favorite part of town to walk through was the old fisherman’s quarter where the leaning house (Schiefes Haus), which is now a hotel is located. It was built in the 14th century and leans over the waterway from age although it has been renovated inside. The Rathaus (Town Hall) is covered in paintings which were updated in the 1900’s since the originals had deteriorated from weather. We made it to the market square at the end of the day so it was already dark but we will be back to when its warmer to see more of the town and explore in daylight.
The Beer: There are a couple of breweries in Ulm. We stopped at Barfüßer located off the church square heading towards the fisherman’s quarter. Beer and food were decent there, nothing wow but a good stop before walking around the rest of the day.
An hour or so from Stuttgart via train (also using the Baden–Württemberg ticket) through Karlsruhe is Baden-Baden, a spa town of the Black Forest area. From the train station you need to take a bus to the city center where the tall Gothic church is located, the Augsburg stop.
We actually passed the stop this first trip because the market location is spelled the same as the park (just off by 2 letters at the end so we thought it was the same, we were wrong). On the bus however we met a fabulous Australian woman traveling by herself who we shared a Gluhwein and apple strudel with when we finally got to the market. The bus ticket checker was nice enough to offer us a ride back down to the center. He was just getting off his shift and noticed we were lost. He used to work at the tourism office during school and his wife was actually from Florida so his English was perfect. He was a technical engineer, checking bus tickets as a side job.
To Do: The tourism office is located in the old Drinking Hall (Trinkhalle Kaiserallee) covered in paintings on the outer walls. The inside is nothing special though which is unexpected since the outside is so detailed.
The Christmas market connects from the tourist office to the Gothic church and main square. The food market is very international, we actually ate Greek for lunch there for a change. The vendors are repeats of many other markets in the region but it’s still fun to see how they set everything up differently with lights, an ice ring and lots of chocolate and different local baked goods.
From the market you can see the Old and New Castles (Schloss). The old castle is not reachable by bus and is quite a hike from town so we will need to take a full day for that on the next visit. The New Castle however is just a few blocks from the center, above the original Roman Baths located underground below Friedrichsbad (a huge spa). The bath exhibit of course is seasonal so was closed during the Christmas market but you can reach part of the ruins from the street which are behind a glass wall on the way to the New Castle stairs. The New Castle interior was also closed for construction but the exterior paths were open. Hiking up the stairs gave us a great view of the city. Next trip we will have to have a spa day there too. The city center has tons of restaurants and upscale shopping from the church to the Faberge Egg Museum. A good weekend trip.
There are no breweries in Baden-Baden proper, the closest is 20 min on the train or driving. There is a Lowenbrau, a locals spot, off the square which was great for a beer stop as well as Amadeus restaurant which does have a house made beer but it was just OK. The best thing to have was at the market, local made plum brandy served hot with whipped cream. Perfect. Strong.