Sparkling Christmas lights and the heady smell of spices in the air will greet you as you wander happily through this year’s European Christmas Markets. Become a part of history and explore charming towns and villages holding their age-old festivals during the Advent, Christmas and New Year seasons – it’s a chance to join in the spirit and celebrations of a White Christmas.
Discover all the excitement of the season, taste the smoky German bratwurst roasted on a fire, catch a snowflake on your tongue and find that Christmas gem to take home with you. As you journey in luxury along the rivers of Germany, Austria and beyond, each town and city will have its own unique Christmas Market to display centuries old traditions and handmade crafts perfect for a special gift for yourself or others.
Here are our 10 top picks for Christmas Markets – we think you should visit at least two or three while you are on your European Christmas Market River Cruise Adventure. They have been listed as if you were cruising from Amsterdam to Budapest – one of our most popular river cruise journeys. If you are cruising from Budapest to Amsterdam, simply read them in reverse!
Amsterdam, Netherlands – Funky Xmas Market
If you start your river cruise of the Rhine, Main and Danube in Amsterdam, make sure to have a few pre-cruise days to explore this wonderful city where traditional Christmas markets meets funky contemporary. For a unique shopping experience, we highly recommend Funky Xmas at Westergasfabrie. Don’t let the name fool you because this winter wonderland overflows with Christmas cheer and will sweep you off your feet. The works of local artists, designers and creatives are highlighted as you wander through stalls and stores of cheerful handmade decorations, seasonal crafts and goods, and of course, the aromas of delicious food.
Many European River Cruises begin in Amsterdam including APT, Evergreen and Avalon allowing you to experience the holiday season.
Cologne, Germany – Cologne Cathedral Christmas Market
An imposing yet lovely structure of the Cologne Cathedral paints the backdrop for this Christmas market. This 157-meter tall iconic landmark towers over the markets and the largest Christmas tree in the Rhineland. Find this memorable landmark and you’ll know you’re in the right place for some holiday festivities and shopping. With over 160 merry wooden pavilions as shops, you’ll be spoilt for choice with over 160 pavilions showcasing regional wares, live entertainment and plenty of festive food and drink to keep you warm. Our tip: Make sure you catch some of the live entertainment if you can to really feel the Yuletide atmosphere.
Munich, Germany – Munich Christmas Market
Located in the very heart of the Marienplatz city centre, this market offers thousands of Christmas wares, from gorgeous nativity figurines and Bavarian forest glassware, to bees wax candles and tasty homemade gingerbread. Right in the middle you’ll find an epic, 5-ton gigantic fir tree, decked out with more than 3,000 sparkling lights – what a sight to behold! Wander through the festive stalls and share in the heavenly atmosphere. Take a visit to the town hall to keep warm and enjoy an Alpine Christmas concert. Did you bring your children along? Kids from 6-12 can get crafty at the Heavenly Workshop, what a great way to get them involved!
Nuremberg, Germany – Christkindlesmarkt
For traditional roasted bratwurst and mugs of mulled wine, Nuremberg is quite hard to beat. Located in Hauptmarkt Square, this Christmas market just oozes medieval charm, gothic scenery and the romance of days gone by. Boasting over 200 wooden stalls embellished with red-and-white Christmas décor, it is considered one of the biggest, most festive in Germany. German gingerbread (Lebkuchen) sit alongside delicate glass baubles, wooden decorations, decorative Kris Kringles and the more traditional nativity scenes. Discover too Christmas gifts with international flair, from surrounding towns, Scottish kilts, Czech wine and angels from nearby German towns. In our opinion this lovely town has it all!
Vienna, Austria – Christmas Markets
There are numerous Christmas Markets from age-old Viennese festivities to the more fashion-forward contemporary market stalls. Think Christmas carols under giant illuminated trees, wandering musicians and live bands, gospel choirs, orchestras and soloists entertaining the passers by. Alpine versions of the nativity, fire dancers, performers, carousels and Santa’s workshops. This is the ultimate in Christmas festivities, including regional wooden toys and decorations, fine blown glass baubles and fancies, angels to trim the top of your tree, candles, arts and crafts and so much more. It’s about sharing a white Christmas combined with all the fun, food and festive atmosphere of Vienna, city of waltzes. Our tip: This one is not to be missed.
Budapest, Hungary – Vorosmarty Square
European river cruises often complete their journey in Budapest, although should you be cruising the Danube first, you will begin your magical river cruise in the beautiful city of Budapest. Arguably one of the best and biggest Christmas Market is located at the iconic Vorosmarty Square, where hundreds of booths sell classic Hungarian gifts such as folk-music instruments, decorative baskets, and even intricately designed ceramics. Grab a bite to eat while you are there and try out the traditional goulash, or a spicy paprkia-laden Hungarian sausage – all while drinking gluhwein around the square’s romantic tree. Make sure to try a piece of Kürtőskalács (Pronounced: Kurtos Kalacs) – a cake of yeasty batter dripped slowly over a spit, then rolled in cinnamon and sugar – it’s similar to a doughnut only yummier!
Discover Budapest’s main Christmas Market onboard river cruises with Scenic, Travelmarvel, Uniworld and Viking Cruises and more.
Got a few extra days to spare?
There are a couple of Christmas markets that deserve attention, and if you have a few spare days to extend you could visit:
Berlin, Germany – WeihnachtsZauber
Host to spectacular exhibits of handicraft, gastronomy, and festivity, is the Berlin WeihnachtsZauber near Gendarmenmarkt. You’ll fall in love with this atmospheric square lled by the charming festive stalls. Imagine shopping, surrounded by the beautiful and almost surreal architecture of the Konzerthaus and the Deutscher and Franzosischer domed towers. Shop for traditional and contemporary handmade gifts, artisan created crafts, Christmas foods and entertainment – all while you sip on some excellent mulled wine.
Stuttgart, Germany – Weihnachtsmarkt
Set against the breathtaking Old Palace, the Stuttgart Christmas Market is one of the oldest and most celebrated Christmas markets in Europe. 300 delightfully decorated stalls await as the wonderful aromas of smoky cinnamon and vanilla waft through the air. Experience nostalgic Christmas ambience, sparkling lights, tree decorations, toys, candles, sweet and savoury taste sensations, not to mention the colourful market stalls under gently falling snowflakes – such fun! Tip: If you have time, you could take a spin on the ice at the Palace Square’s Wintertraum rink.
Freiburg, Germany – Ravenna Gorge Christmas Market
Close to Freiburg in Germany, near Basel in northwest Switzerland, this Christmas market is the only market located in a gorge. A little off the beaten track, under a huge stone railway arch in the Black Forest, the romance and charm of the region with the very picturesque dark green trees contrasting against the pure white snow. It will all be well worth it when you have your fill of regional crafts, local food and drink, plus the must-have traditional Black Forest cuckoo clocks – perfect as a souvenir or gift for friends back home. It’s like being in a fairy tale – make sure you have enough phone battery for all of those selfies!
Leipzig, Germany – Leipzig Christmas Market
Since 1458, the Leipzig has had the reputation as one of the most beautiful Christmas Markets in Europe, as 250 bright and twinkling stalls create an atmosphere of festivity in the city’s historic square. Shop til you drop for all the traditional decorations, eat your fill of the specialities of the season including gingerbread, mulled wine, as well as enjoying model railway display and a fairy-tale forest for the kids. Christmas concerts will keep you in the spirit of the holiday as you shop for some traditional and seasonal crafts.
If you’re ready for a river cruise to fairy-tale Christmas markets and more, then call Cruise Megastore at 1300 657 948.
Did we miss your favourite European Christmas market? Tell us all about it firstname.lastname@example.org