As you prepare to gather with family and friends this holiday season, consider your favorite Christmas traditions. Many of these traditions and holiday hallmarks are actually rooted in German culture, including gingerbread houses, Advent calendars and decorating Christmas trees. These popular traditions are also at the heart of Europe’s Christmas Markets – seasonal festivals devoted to the celebration of Christmas. Now, thanks to the growing popularity and accessibility of river cruises, everyone can experience the magic of a European Christmas Market by taking a special holiday river cruise.
But just WHAT are Christmas Markets?
Christmas Markets, sometimes simply referred to as “Holiday Markets”, are elaborate celebrations of Christmas full of handmade crafts, twinkling lights, hot food and plenty of holiday cheer. They originated in Germany, and many would argue that this is the only place to experience an authentic Christmas Market, but they have since grown in popularity and now pop up throughout Europe. They typically start in the final week of November and run through Christmas Eve.
Since Christmas Markets run through December, this is a great chance to see classic European cities under a tranquil blanket of snow. The entire atmosphere of a city changes around the Christmas season, and this is one of the best times to explore artists’ workshops, try seasonal cuisine and hear local choirs sing Christmas carols. You could also pick up a unique hand-made gift to mark the occasion, grab a glass of warm mulled wine and check out the bakers and candy makers creating special treats in each city.
The river cruise lines also get in on the festivities by decking out their river ships in holiday decorations and building a unique holiday cruise experience. You’ll find nutcracker dolls, gingerbread houses, wreaths and more. Plus, guests can enjoy special holiday meals made with fresh locally-sourced ingredients. Many holiday river cruises will even feature onboard lectures where you can learn more about Europe’s Christmas and New Year’s traditions. All of this culminates in unbeatable destination immersion, one of the hallmarks of river cruising, and that includes bringing the Christmas Market experience to life on board.
It’s also important to note that you’ll learn about more than just Christmas on one of these holiday cruises. You can still explore the fascinating history of Europe while visiting palaces, castles, theaters, museums and other storied landmarks. In general, Christmas Markets river cruises give you the same chance to see many of the sites that make these cities such popular year-round destinations.
Speaking of destinations, WHERE are the Christmas Markets?
Christmas Markets appear all along the rivers that run through Europe, with some of the most famous popping up in Germany. For example, you could visit Bamberg, Frankfurt, Miltenberg and Wertheim along the Main River, or Basel, Cologne, Koblenz and Speyer along the Rhine. Holiday river cruises along the Danube River might stop in Passau, Vienna and Budapest.
There are various Christmas Markets itineraries available, and each offers something unique for this special time of year. You could experience a peaceful Nativity Walk in Bamberg, or enjoy the cheerful carolers of Cologne. Search for that perfect gift among the finest Hungarian craftsmen in Budapest, home to an elaborate manger display with live animals, or dazzle your taste buds on the “Taste of Christmas” culinary tour in Old Town Vienna.
Each joyful town is completely new when decorated for the holidays with green wreaths and twinkling lights. Even if you’ve traveled along similar itineraries or visited these European cities before, the Christmas Market experience is completely unique, and not to be missed.
WHO offers Christmas Market cruises?
All three of our preferred river cruise lines – Avalon Waterways, Uniworld and Viking River Cruises – help you celebrate the winter holiday season with special itineraries to Europe’s Christmas Markets. While 2014 Christmas Markets cruises are nearly sold out (call 1-800-377-9383 today to check on current availability), now is the perfect time to start planning for 2015!
As you share this special time of year with loved ones, perhaps setting up elaborate Christmas decorations or attending holiday parties, consider how much you really know about your own traditions. In 2015, why not dedicate your winter vacation to discovering your holiday heritage by celebrating these traditions in an authentic Christmas Market in Europe? And since the holidays are best shared with family, take advantage of your upcoming family time to discuss group plans for 2015. Whether you’re traveling alone or with generations of extended family, The Cruise Web’s river cruise specialists will find the perfect Holiday Market itinerary to make your next Christmas one for the ages.
Because holiday river cruises are limited to a short period of time, they sell out quickly. Don’t miss out on this amazing experience – call The Cruise Web today at 1-800-377-9383.
What is your favorite part of the winter holiday season? Do you have any special holiday traditions?
The Cruise Web, Inc.