With the late days of summer still hanging around, you may not be overly concerned with the winter holiday season just yet – however, you’ll want to start planning soon as this season’s Christmas market river cruises are likely to fill up quickly.  

River cruising through Europe during the holiday season is a wonderful way for both families and couples to enjoy time together. Traditionally held from late November until Christmas Eve, Europe’s Christmas markets are some of the most well-known in the world and can be found throughout nearly the entire continent and beyond – from France to Austria, and from Sweden to Hungary. The markets are individually unique and each reflects a region’s character in a jovial atmosphere often highlighted by twinkling lights and live musicians playing and singing Christmas carols in the country’s own language.

A European Christmas market river cruise is perfect for anyone wanting to celebrate the holiday. The Christmas season produces some of the loveliest artistic and culinary selection of the year, and retail Christmas markets offer a great variety of seasonal delicacies and traditional entertainment too. Tented artisan stalls and stores in nearly every city center or town square remain open well into the evening, offering items not generally found anywhere else in the world. From wooden toys and glass ornaments, to nutcrackers and woolen goods, the markets offer a wide array of gifts and treasures. As well, a delectable variety of seasonal treats such as Glühwein (hot, mulled wine), cider, roasted chestnuts, grilled sausages, candied fruits, baked apples, and much more are waiting to be savored.

On a Christmas market cruise you’ll also have the chance to hear some of the finest music ensembles, savor delicious dining, and explore historic towns as you cruise from one town or village to another. Christmas markets are often established near a city’s principal church, and cruise passengers may have the opportunity to attend services as part of their itinerary. The waterways typically utilized on these cruises include the Rhine, Moselle, and Danube rivers, and packages can vary from simple day cruises to all-inclusive, seven-night vacations. Areas of France, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Slovakia, Holland, and Belgium are emphasized on many itineraries. There are also river cruise itineraries that specifically highlight the Bavarian markets. During a river cruise ships stop at small ports along the way so cruises can disembark at each market. River cruise ship accommodations are typically more spacious than those found on ocean cruise ships. As well, meals on river cruise ships are often more casual, with no formal dress or set seating required.

Nuremburg, Passau, Vienna, Amsterdam, Cologne, Mainz, Frankfurt, Prague, Budapest, and many smaller cities in between, are popular stops on many itineraries as all are fully decked out in the Christmas spirit. The legendary Christmas markets are at the peak in Germany, with over 2,500 sprinkled about the country. The German markets alone draw upward of 160 million visitors to the country’s beautiful cities and small towns.

To make the most of your river cruise, be sure to book early with your local travel professional as these cruises can quickly fill due to limited space. A travel advisor can help you choose the itinerary and ship that best fits the river cruise journey you’re looking for, so you can focus on celebrating the holiday season and filling up your family’s Christmas stockings with fun, thoughtful, and timeless gifts.

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