As winter starts to cast its icy spell over the European continent, an endearing experience awaits those seeking the true essence of the holiday season – joyful Christmas markets. Picture yourself gliding along a glistening river, draped in a cozy scarf, as the charming towns and cities of Europe come alive in a symphony of twinkling lights, laughter, and the tantalizing aromas of seasonal delicacies. This timeless journey captures the essence of old-world traditions and offers a gateway to a winter wonderland unlike any other.
From the moment you step on board your luxurious river cruise ship, you’ll be transported into a realm of festive delights. As you meander along historic waterways, each bend in the river reveals a new destination brimming with fantastic regional foods, exceptional gifts, and loads of good cheer. Christmas markets are usually held from late November until Christmas Eve and can be found in nearly every corner of Europe, and beyond. 
Due to their popularity, Christmas market river cruises fill up quickly. To ensure you secure your spot on this extraordinary adventure, it’s advisable to plan and book in advance. Be sure to consult with an Affluent Traveler Collection travel advisor who can assist in selecting the itinerary that aligns with your preferences. Here are a few of our favorite Christmas markets to get you started…
Stortorgets Julmarknad
Stockholm, Sweden
The Christmas market in Stockholm’s historic district of Gamla Stan showcases Swedish traditions and provides a delightful experience for visitors. Known as Stortorgets Julmarknad, it is one of the most popular Christmas markets in Stockholm, captivating the hearts of all who wander its fascinating streets.
The market is nestled within Stortorget, the oldest square in Gamla Stan, where time seems to stand still. Every corner exudes a storybook charm, with colorful wooden shops that twinkle under the soft glow of countless lights and festive decorations. 
Sellers offer an impressive array of locally made goods, each bearing the mark of meticulous craftsmanship. From hand-knit woolens that wrap you in acozy embrace to glistening glassware that sparkles like winter frost, every item whispers tales of Swedish heritage.
Swedish delicacies take center stage, inviting you to savor this enduring tradition. Don’t miss out on sampling in the irresistible crunch of pepparkakor, those beloved gingersnaps that have delighted generations. Let your senses dance with joy as you bite into saffron buns, their golden hue and delicate fragrance creating a sensory masterpiece. And do try the lussekatter, saffron buns artfully shaped like an “S,” adding a playful touch to the holiday feast. To warm your soul, sip on glögg, Swedish mulled wine infused with aromatic spices, or warm up with a cup of hot chocolate topped with a generous dollop of whipped cream. 
Yet, the true allure of the Stockholm Christmas Market lies in the ethereal St. Lucia procession. As December 13th dawns upon Sweden, the air fills with anticipation. In this annual celebration, a young girl is chosen to embody the memory of St. Lucia. Clad in a resplendent white gown and crowned with a wreath of candles, she gracefully leads the procession. The dazzling sight of flickering flames illuminates the darkness, and the harmonious voices of those who accompany her fill the air. The magic of the moment transcends time and space, transporting you to a realm where legends come alive and dreams take flight. It is a vibrant spectacle that captures the essence of Swedish charm and weaves it seamlessly into the fabric of the market.
Vienna, Austria
The gorgeous capital of Austria, Vienna is famed for its captivating Christmas markets that bring the city to life with joyous cheer. As you wander through the streets adorned with twinkling lights and fragrant aromas, you’ll find yourself immersed in the atmosphere of the season. Among the numerous markets in Vienna, two stand out as must-visit destinations: the Christkindlmarkt in front of City Hall and the market at Schönbrunn Palace.
The Christkindlmarkt is one of Vienna’s most beloved Christmas markets. Stepping into this colorful scene, you’ll find yourself surrounded by hundreds of vendors offering a wide array of treats. The market is beloved for its selection of exquisite handicrafts and visitors will discover beautiful ornaments, skilled woodwork, hand-knitted woolens, and delicate glassware.
Mouthwatering treats are one of the many hallmarks of Vienna’s Christkindlmarkt and include many delectable goodies including delicately spiced gingerbread, locally made marzipan, and freshly roasted chestnuts. Of course no visit to a Viennese Christmas market would be complete without sampling the region’s renowned Glühwein, a warm and spiced mulled wine that’s certain to put you in a cheery mood. 
Another gem among Vienna’s Christmas markets is the market at Schönbrunn Palace. Set against the backdrop of the magnificent imperialpalace, the market exudes elegance and grandeur. As you enter the market, you’ll be greeted by a scene straight out of a fairytale. Rows of beautifully decorated shops line the cobblestone pathways, each one adorned with twinkling lights and decorative ornaments.
As you meander through the market you’ll discover a treasure trove of handcrafted goods and gourmet pleasures. From expertly designed ceramics to skillfully-woven textiles, artisans showcase their skills and artistry, allowing you to take home unique and memorable souvenirs goods that showcase the rich heritage and creativity of Vienna.
When you’re ready, satisfy your sweet tooth with some freshly baked pastries, including the region’s famous flaky strudel filled with apples and cinnamon. As you stroll through the market, the melodious sounds of holiday carols and the joyful laughter of visitors fill the air, creating an ambiance that is truly unforgettable. Take a moment to soak in the magic and immerse yourself in the festivities.
Christmas Fair on Vörösmarty Square
Budapest, Hungary
When winter descends upon Budapest, Vörösmarty Square comes alive like nowhere else with the Budapest Christmas Market. This beloved market transforms the heart of the city into a mesmerizing winter landscape, captivating both locals and visitors alike. With its delightful food, handicrafts, and a twinkling ice rink, the Budapest Christmas Market is a must-visit destination during the holiday season.
As you enter Vörösmarty Square, you’ll be greeted by a symphony of scents and sights that evoke the spirit of Christmas. The market’s food stalls offer a tantalizing array of Hungarian delicacies and festive treats. Dig in to warm chimney cakes, known as kürtoskalács, which are freshly baked and coated in sugar and cinnamon. Savor the delights of lángos, deep-fried dough topped with various toppings like garlic, cheese, or sour cream. And don’t forget to try the famous Hungarian sausages, grilled to perfection and served with a side of tangy sauerkraut.
Throughout the market, live performances of traditional Hungarian music and dance add to the festive atmosphere. Visitors are invited to linger and listen to the melodies of folk musicians and watch as dancers twirl in elaborate costumes, showcasing the rich cultural heritage of Hungary. 
As you wander through the market, you’ll discover a treasure trove of handcrafted goods and unique gifts. Local artisans showcase their talents with beautifully designed ceramics, delicate lacework, and timeless folk art. From hand-knitted scarves to magnificently painted ornaments, these one-of-a-kind handicrafts make for perfect souvenirs or thoughtful presents for loved ones.
One of the highlights of the Budapest Christmas Market is the grand ice rink. Lace up your skates and glide across the glistening ice as the surrounding lights and decorations create a stunning ambiance. Whether you’re a seasoned skater or a novice, the ice rink offers a joyful experience for all ages. It’s a wonderful opportunity to embrace the holiday spirit and create lasting memories with family and friends.

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