Pre-Christmas Family Holidays in Mayrhofen: Rediscover Peace and Quiet at the Advent Festival in the Forest

We purposefully travelled ahead of the crowds, avoiding the Christmas rush of holidaymakers to the Alps. Instead, we took our holiday to Mayrhofen in the Ziller Valley during advent. In doing so, we dodged the tacky, jingle bells, consumer-driven madness of Christmas and, in its place, discovered true peace and contemplation, as well as the magical story of the Christ Child.

Family at the Mayrhofner Advent

©Gerhard Berger

Created by Gast Autor

Lara is still talking about the Christ Child. Constantly! The white spirit with the glittering star, who appeared on a wooden sleigh in the midst of the romantic and idyllic forest festival in Mayrhofen, and captured the imagination of our curious five-year-old. She had never come across the Christ Child before – just the fat, jolly man in red named Santa Claus. We have to smile when Lara tries to convince her one-year-old brother, Steffen, that the Christ Child also lives in forests of the Ziller Valley during the summer. So, this Christmas, we decided not to buy loads of bleating, half-animated dolls for our daughter, or flashing spaceship cars for Steffan. Instead, the week before Christmas Eve, we enjoyed a holiday in Mayrhofen. The journey by train was great fun – and almost too short!


After leaving Berlin, we arrived in Munich just 4 hours later. And it wasn’t just the speed of the train which amazed us (300km/h or, to quote Lara, “lightning speed!”), the atmosphere in the family carriage was also fantastic. Our two children quickly made friends with the other kids, swapped places and set up a play corner. They were so busy that they only discovered the wide choice of films offered in the Maxdome Entertainment Centre on the ICE train just before we arrived in Munich. After changing trains, the journey continued to Jenbach, and from there, with the Ziller Valley railway, directly to the winter sports paradise of Mayrhofen-Hippach in the Ziller Valley. 

The Christkind at the Forest area in Mayrhofen
©Gerhard Berger
First snow in the life on leisure mount Ahorn
©Dominic Ebenbichler
Shopping with Mama at Mayrhofner Advent
©Gerhard Berger

The Calm before the Storm

Just outside the windows of our holiday apartment, the cable cars climbed steadily up the Penken. The view simply couldn’t have been better. Lara and Steffen gazed into the distance. We hadn’t even thought about skiing, as the meadows in the valley were only lightly dusted with snow. Mayrhofen was still waiting for the first big snowfall of the winter. However, we soon discovered proper snow when we took the eight-minute journey in the spacious cable car up the “Leisure Mount” Ahorn. We let our kids play, throw snowballs and slide around, before enjoying the amazing panoramic views from the mountain restaurant. We breathed in the crisp fresh air as we walked around the plateau, with plenty of huts to stop at. During our holiday we enjoyed a couple of refreshing, sunny, short winter walks on the Ahorn and in the peaceful Zillergrund valley. The evenings at the Advent Festival in the forest were especially fun. In Mayrhofen, advent isn’t celebrated in the town centre, but rather a few minutes’ walk away in the middle of the woods. Small, wooden huts form a semi-circle around the wooded glade. Craftsmen display their carvings, metalwork and artistic iron castings. I watched in fascination as someone embroidered beautiful decorations onto a traditional dress. Lara and her brother couldn’t be tempted away from the petting zoo. They were especially taken with the young sheep and goats, pulling dry hay out of the stall. With a mag of warm winter punch in our hands, we made several circuits of the advent festival – and have all the time in the world to enjoy making conversation. And the riddles: the Zillertal dialect is puzzling even to us German speakers. Can anyone explain what “Trischiebl” or “hoangarten” mean?!

Sport for the little ones

We booked a skiing taster session for our daughter at the base station of the Horberg cable car. Luckily, you can rent all of the necessary equipment nearby. However, she wasn’t completely convinced by this popular sport. We’ll just have to try again next winter! On the bright side, both kids loved tobogganing.  On large, compact wooden toboggans we raced down the run from the Gerlos cable car to the valley – and, thanks to the cable car, getting to the start of the run was also quick and easy. We even managed to do three runs in one afternoon. Each time we slid a little faster, and our kids screamed a little louder with excitement. They could also burn off some energy at Mayrhofen’s wet ‘n’ wild leisure pool. Very colourful and open daily, the slide was a real hit and swimming became a regular activity during our holiday. We have ice-skating back home. However, here, in the open air, skating around the rink is really relaxing. There’s no loud music, just good conversation at the edge of the rink and, afterwards, another winter punch at the Mayrhofen Advent. 


The icing on the cake of our winter holiday was the amazing snow that fell on the second-to-last day of our holiday. Thick flakes fell never-endingly from the sky. Soon we were rolling in half a metre of fresh powder, with our hostess explaining to us how to make “snow angels”. 


We boarded the train home relaxed, revived and with plenty of stories to tell. This time we had ample time to enjoy the children’s films in the Maxdome Entertainment Centre. And, a glass of beer in the on-board restaurant. 

Downhill with toboggans
©Dominic Ebenbichler
Walking through the illuminated Mainstreet of Mayrhofen
©Beckna Photo
Family holiday at the forest area in Mayrhofen
©Gerhard Berger

Facts about a pre-Christmas family holiday in Mayrhofen-Hippach:


In almost no time at all from Berlin to Mayrhofen. Leave in the morning and be sipping a winter punch at the advent market in Mayrhofen in the afternoon. For example, from December you can travel from Berlin to Munich in just 4 hours, from there to Jenbach, and then with the Ziller Valley railway to Mayrhofen – sightseeing included! 

With the railway’s discount ticket, parents can travel by train from as little as €39.90 and children up to 15 years old can be included on their parent’s ticket free of charge. A “BahnCard 50” ticket is a little more expensive, but more flexible. A second class ticket from Berlin to Jenbach costs €77.70.

If you have lots of luggage, you can make use of the railway’s luggage service and have your suitcases delivered directly to your accommodation. 


Getting around:

Train passengers arrive with the Ziller Valley railway on the outskirts of Mayrhofen. From there, you can get to your accommodation either by walking, taking the free ski bus, a hotel shuttle bus or taxi. During the winter season, the ski busses run non-stop during the day, taking holidaymakers to the cable car stations and nearby towns. That means you can enjoy free transport in and around Mayrhofen day in and day out during your holiday. 

Holiday region:

Mayrhofen-Hippach lies at the centre of the Ziller Valley, in the middle of an extensive ski area. During the off-peak season, the resort is peaceful and relaxed. The highlight in December is the atmospheric and traditional Mayrhofen Advent Festival in the forest– held every weekend in December until Christmas Eve.  Artisans, traditional music, a local Christmas market and roaring open fires create a magical advent ambience. 


For those who want to ski, there are lots of hire shops around the resort offering top quality ski equipment. There are also several ski schools for the children and even childcare for really little ones. 

Accommodation: Family deals and a wide choice of holiday apartments mean that a holiday before the 25th December can be really good value. The hotels, B&Bs and guesthouses also provide a very comfortable base from which to enjoy a relaxing and atmospheric family holiday in the Ziller Valley.