For us at Travel with Grace and Style a River Cruise Advisor, Christmas remains our favorite time of the year for traveling in Europe. Offering an equal mix of Old World charm and holiday cheer, eight days of holiday markets on the Rhine river, traveling throughout France and Germany, will keep the spirits merry. Covering the Netherlands, Germany, France, and Switzerland, the itinerary offers fairytale castles and historic vineyards alongside Christmas markets.
Christmas river cruising was once offered along just a few European rivers; today, almost all the leading river cruising lines offer trips spanning the Danube, Main, Rhine, and beyond. Over the last 20 years, the oldest European holiday markets have expanded greatly throughout Europe, and have in recent years become increasingly popular with river cruise lines, who generally offer festive cruises on the Danube, Main, and Rhine rivers. While the oldest Christmas markets in Europe might look like regular sailings on the Danube and Rhine, guests say that it has a completely different feel, considering they combine traditional day tours with visits to the Christmas markets at night, in late afternoon.
Usually held outside, the Christmas markets can offer incredible varieties of crafts and native products, and -- maybe best of all -- tasty, locally-made Christmas specialties. Of course, being able to experience some of the biggest cities in Europe in their snowy glory is yet another reason to embark on a river cruise around Christmas markets, though there is certainly no guarantee you will get any snow. Taking a river cruise during the holidays means that you will experience time-honored traditions, such as European Christmas markets
River cruises that sail along the Danube, Rhine, and Elbe rivers around the holidays bring you directly to several of the most iconic Christmas markets in the world. Holiday Market River Cruises usually start sailing at the end of November, with trips running through Thanksgiving, and through Christmas and New Years. Christmas and New Years Eve cruises are still very popular, often selling out far in advance.
One of the best ways to see multiple festive markets on one trip is on a cruise. If you want to get the full holiday market experience at every port of call, be sure that your sailing falls within a four-Sunday period leading up to Christmas (or within one week of it). While festive river cruises are offered up to Jan. 1, European ones usually open on Nov. 25 and remain open until Dec. 23 or 24. As a result, as well as the limited schedule time for holiday cruises, river cruises are filled quickly.
Now Winter Cruises are becoming very popular because river cruisers want to experience many European Christmas markets, most of which are located close to one of Europe's main rivers or tributaries. Most major luxury river cruise companies, Viking, AmaWaterways, Emerald Waterways, and Uniworld, bring curious visitors to the heart of many European Christmas markets, in order to experience the excitement of the arrival of Christmas with an experience in a European Christmas Market. U.S.-based river cruise company American Queen Steamboat Company has worked with port cities of Nottoway, Louisiana, and Greenville, Mississippi, in developing holiday markets throughout the Southern United States, where passengers can enjoy traditional levee-side musical performances and traditional Cajun/Creole holiday traditions.
You can skate at the Christmas World market in the city hall, watch the folks over glasses of mulligan gluhwein at the foot of St. Stephens Cathedral, or peruse beautiful, handmade items in a booth outside the Belvedere Palace. Save some space for fantastic excursions, including a guided tour of the Melk baroque abbey, the opportunity to explore the Thurn und Taxis palace and its private Christmas market in Regensburg, and a festive dinner and performance by the children's choir in Vienna's Pallavicini Palais. While on the Rhine, holiday experiences aboard the ship include sipping gluhwein (German mull wine), tree-trimming parties, and a lesson in the Strasbourg tradition of storytelling.
Held annually from late November to Dec. 31, Strasbourg's markets provide classic Christmas charm, featuring skating, carol singing and a shimmering, 100-foot-tall Christmas tree. The large Christmas tree is located at Place Kleber Market, which is widely considered the symbol of Strasbourg during the Christmas season. The eye is delighted by dazzling decorations and lights, and by the sounds of the carolers singing and church bells filling the air.
Start getting into the Christmas spirit as you join crew members and your fellow passengers to decorate a riverboat Christmas tree. If you are sailing on the Elbe in early December, you may want to time your trip so that you are there on St. Nicholas Day, which is celebrated almost two weeks before Christmas, on Dec. 5, when the man himself walks through town, accompanied by angels and a devil. If you are sailing on Christmas Eve, expect to find some holiday cookies in your stateroom.
For cultural nerds, there is no better time to really embrace the local's culture than during the holidays. Immerse yourself in Europe's winter wonderland. Whether it is the Danube, Rhine, or the Canals of History, or a land-based exclusive experience, you are going to have the time of your life with the best river cruise Christmas tour for you -- holiday-lovers, family-friendly holidaymakers, or experienced travelers will all enjoy a river cruise for a European Christmas experience.
Everyone should experience a European Christmas River Cruise once. Has it been on your bucket list? Reach out and we would love to help you plan your own European Christmas Experience River Cruising. So you too can sip Gluhwine gliding past castles as you soak up the holiday season on your own luxury river cruise.
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