This is Christmas as it rarely exists in North America. Throughout much of Germany, Austria, France, Hungary, and other European countries, wooden stalls are erected in the town’s historic squares. Some towns have but one market; we fondly remember visiting tiny Breisach, Germany, with its market that consisted of perhaps a dozen stalls and held plenty of warm, friendly holiday spirit.
Big cities, on the other hand, can have more than one. Vienna is one of the most amazing in this regard, with nearly a dozen different markets in any given year – most of which are clustered around the famous Ringstrasse (ring road) that encircles the city’s historic core.
Markets vary wildly in terms of souvenirs. Some are hand-made; others are mass-produced. One thing that doesn’t vary, though, are the amazing local specialties you can indulge in, like hot mulled wine known as Gluhwein. This is frequently offered as either red or white wine (though red is far more common), and locals will quite often take it mit schuss – or with a shot of something else. We did that once, on one memorably cold day in Vienna. Let’s just say adding a shot of brandy to our mulled wine really hit the throttle on our day.
Food plays a huge part in these markets, and is authentic, local and regional. Don’t expect to get the same kind of food in every market. In Hungary, spicy sausages and goulash soups are the order of the day, while Germany is all about the bratwurst and warm soups like kartoffelsuppe, or potato soup. Often, this is served in an edible bread bowl. In Slovakia, we indulged in the most amazing shaved potato wedges we’ve ever had; while in Strasbourg, French and German-influence combined in a bowl of spätzle topped with heavy cream from Alsace.
The Christmas Markets river cruises are also an ideal time for families to cruise together. In fact, we’ve seen more multigenerational families on our various Christmas Markets sailings over the years than at almost any other time of the year. It’s also popular with couples in their thirties, forties and fifties looking to escape the frantic rush of the month of December in North America.
These sailings are also addicting. Many of the guests we’ve talked to have admitted that these sailings have become a new holiday tradition for them. We can relate: We try to get onto the rivers of Europe as much as we can during the holiday season to experience these festive Christmas Markets.
So which lines are offering Christmas Markets sailings this year? Here’s a rundown of some of the major lines. Note that we’re only including actual Christmas Markets sailings and not Christmas or New Year’s cruises which, although fun, often do not have the added benefit of the markets, which typically all shut down by December 24.
AmaWaterways offers two primary Christmas Markets itineraries this year: http://www.amawaterways.com/christmas-markets-on-the-danube-2016
Christmas Markets on The Danube River Cruises | AmaWaterways™
AmaWaterways™ offers Luxury 10 Days Christmas Markets on The Danube River Cruises, packages, riverboats and city tours in Germany Austria Hungary with highest ...
- Christmas Markets on the Danube: Budapest to Nuremberg
- Christmas Markets on the Rhine: Amsterdam to Basel
Avalon Waterways http://www.avalonwaterways.com/River-Cruises/Christmastime-Cruises/?utm_source=bing&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=glob34%20%7C%20avalon%20waterways%202017%20-%20brand&utm_term=avalon%20christmas%20market%20cruise&utm_content=brand%20-%20christmas%20(phrase%2Fexact)
Christmas River Cruises - Avalon Waterways®
Avalon Waterways® Christmas river cruises celebrate the festive season with cruises from Frankfurt to Basel, Prague to Vienna & more. See itineraries.Take in the Christmas Markets from one of Avalon’s Panorama Suites.
Avalon Waterways offers seven different Christmas Markets river cruises this year, ranging in length from five to 17 days. That’s the good news. Now for the bad news: All but two are completely sold out for 2016 (though Avalon will let you book right now for the 2017 Christmas Markets season).
The two itineraries with availability are the eight-day Christmas in the Heart of Germany itinerary (with suites open) that sails between Frankfurt and Nuremberg, with an overland extension to Prague. This sailing departs on December 6, 2016 aboard Avalon Artistry II.
The other 2016 itinerary with availability (as of right now) is the nine-day Christmastime on the Danube (Eastbound) voyage that operates as a cruisetour between Prague and Vienna. Category A, B, P staterooms are still available on this voyage, which departs aboard Avalon Impression on either November 27 or December 9, 2016.
Crystal River Cruises http://www.crystalcruises.com/voyage/details/christmas-markets-along-the-danube-8m24r
Crystal’s newly refurbished Crystal Mozart will sail three Christmas Markets sailings this December; 10-day voyages operating roundtrip from Vienna, Austria. Departing on November 22, December 2, or December 12, 2016, these voyages cruise from Vienna to Melk, Linz, Passau, Vilshofen, Passau, and Bratislava, with a day of scenic cruising on the Danube and an overnight call in Vienna prior to disembarkation.
Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection https://www.uniworld.com/en/river-cruise/europe/rhine/classic-christmas-markets/2016-nuremberg-to-frankfurt/
Classic Christmas Markets 2016 - Uniworld River Cruises
Europe’s famous Christmas markets have changed little over the past five centuries, and the childlike wonder they instill is yours to enjoy on this magical cruise ...
Cruise the Christmas Markets of Europe aboard Uniworld’s S.S. Maria Theresa. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Uniworld is offering six different Christmas Markets itineraries this year, including:
- Classic Christmas Markets: Nuremberg to Frankfurt
- Danube Holiday Markets: Budapest to Passau
- European Holiday Markets: Nuremberg to Vienna
- Rhine Holiday Markets: Basel to Cologne
Viking River Cruises: http://www.vikingrivercruises.com/holiday-cruises/2016/cruises/index.htmlHoliday Cruises in Europe - Viking River Cruises
Visit Christmas markets on European holiday cruises with Viking River Cruises. Shop for local items with a feast of tasty treats and handcrafted gifts.
Last but not least, Viking River Cruises easily offers the most Christmas Markets departure dates this year, thanks largely to its massive fleet of Viking Longships. In fact, the line offers an astonishing 19 different itineraries that operate during the Christmas Markets, clustered throughout France, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, and other countries. There are so many itineraries that it’s absolutely impossible to list them all here.
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