Discover the Christmas spirit by exploring the European Christmas markets. Mulled wine is flowing freely, children are playing joyfully and everyone is greeted with genuine festive spirit. Having originated in Germany during the Middle Ages, the Christmas markets promise a wonderfully heart-warming yuletide experience.
Each market throughout Europe has its own authentic local flavour - and a tailored cruise is the perfect way to enjoy the festivities of this special time of year.
Best Places to See Christmas Markets
Germany is home to the oldest Christmas markets - the most popular would have to be Nuremberg and is dubbed with the title of the 'Christmas City.' On the other hand, Cologne lies on the magnificent Rhine River and boasts six dedicated Christmas markets; four of which are located outside the iconic Cathedral. Berlin, Munich and Frankfurt also host beautiful markets.
In Austria, Vienna's City Hall towers over the 700 year old Christkindlmärkte, with stalls and festivities spilling out into the surrounding streets. Salzburg attracts many eager visitors to the Christmas market at the foot of the city's Cathedral.
If Santa isn't in Lapland, he's surely at the Valkenburg Christmas market, located in a cave under this city in The Netherlands. This giant grotto is a labyrinth of stalls, with candlelight and carols adding to the atmosphere. Bratislava, Slovakia also entertains with food and locally made gifts.
When To Go
European Christmas markets generally begin from mid-November until the big day. The stalls trade throughout the day but it's the night time when the markets really come to life.
Who Goes There?
Christmas markets river cruises generally focus on the Rhine, Danube, Moselle and Maine Rivers. The cruise lines that arrange dedicated market cruises include Viking River Cruises, APT, Avalon Waterways, Swan Hellenic, Tauck and Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection. Cunard, Silversea and P&O are among the ocean going cruise lines which offer Christmas market shore excursions.