A cruise during December can be delightful, especially when it calls on the Christmas markets that sparkle along some of Europe’s major rivers. Many of these street markets have operated for hundreds of years; originally, people visited to stock up on food and other essentials for winter. Now the markets have a more festive focus, brimming with music, decorations, and delicious food and drink.
Most cruise lines that sail the rivers of Europe offer Christmas market
cruises, including AmaWaterways, Avalon Waterways, Uniworld River Cruises, Viking
River Cruises, and more. To pick one, consider itineraries that visit one of the
following ports or others known for their Christmas markets.
Nuremberg, Germany, has one of the most admired Christmas markets in Europe.
It’s filled with the mouthwatering scents of gingerbread, almond cookies,
mulled wine, and the city’s famous bratwurst. It’s also known for authenticity;
the market features locally made handicrafts, like zwetschgenmännle (plum
people), ornaments made from dried plums, figs, and walnuts. The market occupies
the Hauptmarket, the city’s main square, which is lined with historic
Strasbourg, France, has a popular Christmas market on the city’s Grand Île,
a UNESCO World Heritage site that includes the Gothic-style Strasbourg
Cathedral. This market takes pride in its Great Christmas Tree, which is
usually at least 100 feet tall. Try Alsatian specialties like mannele, a
brioche-style dough shaped to represent St. Nicholas; bredele, butter
cookies spiced and cut into holiday shapes; and several varieties of vin
chaud (hot mulled wine).
Budapest, Hungary, has its main Christmas market in Vörösmarty Square in
the heart of the city. It’s fun to browse for handmade ornaments and wooden
toys, but you should also sample Hungarian treats like paprika sausages; chimney
cake, a sweet pastry baked on a rotating spit; and krampapuli, made by lighting
a rum-soaked loaf of sugar and letting the resulting caramel drip into mulled
Prague, Czechia, celebrates Yuletide with Christmas markets located around
the city, including historic Old Town Square and Wencelas Square. You’ll find
an array of ceramics, jewelry, embroidered lace, candles, and other keepsakes. When
you get hungry, look for stalls selling different varieties of knedlíky
(Czech dumplings); rybí polévka, a traditional fish soup; and grog, a
hot drink made of rum, sugar, and lemon.
Most Christmas market cruises sail during the four weeks before
Christmas. Their popularity means you should make reservations well in advance;
talk with Anita, your professional travel advisor.
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