Taking a river cruise along the grand rivers of Europe you will enjoy spectacular landscapes, stepped vineyards, medieval castles, gothic cathedrals and cobblestone streets while becoming immersed in the history and cultures of cities and towns dotted with UNESCO World Heritage Sites whose histories date back to Roman times.

For the four weeks of Advent leading up to Christmas, the same cities and town squares are transformed into festive neighborhoods of wooden stalls as throwing your senses into overdrive with the lights, sounds and aromas of Christmas and the hustle and bustle of local revelers mingling with starry-eyed visitors delighting in the holiday spirit and cheer.

The European Christmas markets date back to the Late Middle Ages in German-speaking countries.  In today’s Christmas markets you will find unique, locally made gifts, soaps, ornaments and toys.  Keep warm sipping on some hot mulled Gluhwein, satiate your appetite with fresh local cheeses, bratwurst and goulash and satisfy your sweet tooth with gingerbread, chocolate, pastries, cookies, donuts, Sacher tortes and chimney cake.  For me, the Christmas markets took me back to the joyful days of Christmas past before the days of the harried rush and stress of “mall shopping” to get the best deal on the year’s newest electronic gadgets.

Your Christmas market cruise begins the moment you step onto your river boat splendidly decorated for the holiday season.  Depending on your choice of river cruise line and itinerary, you will visit some of the largest Christmas markets in some of the most amazing cities and towns along the Danube in Budapest, Vienna, Salzburg, Regensburg and Nuremberg and along the Rhine in Alsace, Strasbourg, Baden-Baden, Heidelberg, Rudesheim and Cologne.  Although not as large as those along the Danube and Rhine, there are also Christmas market cruises along the Seine River in France.

Many of the Christmas markets close down on December 24 to allow vendors to be home with families for Christmas but you can still enjoy an after-Christmas market holiday European river cruise on special Christmas and New Year’s holiday sailings.  You may think it would be too cold for a river cruise during the winter months, but European winters tend to be a little milder than many parts of the US.   Hats and gloves may be useful accessories to pack, but you can leave your long underwear at home.  

When considering a European Christmas market or holiday cruise, it’s important to remember that with fewer ships cruising during the winter holiday season, space is limited and preferred cabins book up fast.  Start planning your Christmas market cruise a year in advance to get the best “deals” on your preferred ship, date and itinerary. 

Wishing you all a joyful and peaceful holiday season!


An experienced travel professional and having traveled to many destinations around the world by land and by sea, Theresa’s love for river cruising began after her first river cruise on the Seine River. After several years as a travel agency owner and consultant and having had the opportunity to work as reservations agent for a major river-cruise line, Enchanted Waterways was founded to focus on the growing global river cruise market to provide expert knowledge and experience to guide her clients to the perfect river cruise based on individual needs, preferences, budgets and expectations.