River Cruise Christmas Markets

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Image River Cruise Christmas Markets

River cruising is a relaxing, intimate way to explore the world.

With less time sailing and more time on land, you can experience countries in ways you’ve never imagined. They allow you to explore the quaint towns and historic cities they visit by providing easy on-and-off access to the ship. During the holiday season, these river cruises offer a unique, festive experience that’s sure to put you in the holiday spirit!

River cruises set sail on the Danube, Rhine, and Elbe rivers during the holiday season, bringing you right to multiple of the world’s most iconic Christmas markets. Every market has its history, and you’ll find many locally made unique items you can’t find anywhere else.

Traditional holiday Christmas markets have marked the beginning of the advent season since the 13th century. Over time, these Christmas markets have evolved into popular festive celebrations with brightly decorated towns, giant Christmas trees, and a lively atmosphere.

Here are just some of the magical Christmas markets you can visit while on a holiday river cruise!


Germany has some of the most popular Christmas markets on river cruise routes, for a good reason! Dating back as far as the late Middle Ages, Christmas markets are said to have originated in Germany- surrounding those who visit in magical, rich history.

Located on the Danube River, Nuremberg is home to one of the country's largest and most famous markets, set in the center of old town. This market is where you go for a natural Bavarian feel! Featuring more than 180 stalls donning red and white roofs, you’ll find seemingly endless amounts of quality ornaments and characteristic decorations from Germany. All of this is made more festive with a cup of hot glühwein—spiced or mulled wine popular in the markets with collectible mugs.

Nuremberg Christmas Market

Known for its magical Christmas lights and beautifully decorated stalls, Cologne is located beside the Rhine River and offers seven Christmas markets. Separated into smaller markets throughout the city, the markets have their own unique personality with themes that go perfectly with the holiday season, such as the market of angels or Nicholas’ Village.

Located on the Elbe River, Berlin has about 80 Christmas markets. The main markets are in the Mitte district, located in the City Center. The most famous market is the WeihnachtsZauber Gendarmenmarkt, with a beautiful location framed by German and French churches and a concert hall.

You can find many hand-carved wooden crafts in Germany, such as nativity scenes and nutcrackers.


Located on the Rhine River in the Alsace region of France, Strasbourg is home to the country’s oldest and largest Christmas market.

It has eleven Christmas markets with over 300 stalls, with many of the markets spaced only blocks away, so you can easily walk from one to another during your visit. The Great Christmas Tree is in Place Kléber market, with many considering it the symbol of Strasbourg at Christmas.

With lots of shopping opportunities, traditional celebrations, decorations, and delicious food that’s a unique mixture of French and German influences, the cultural history and Holiday spirit are rich here!

In the Alsace region of France, you can find many figurines, ornaments, and other crafts that don storks- a centuries-old symbol of the area.


Vienna Christmas Market

The capital of Austria, Vienna, is located on the Danube River and is said to be home to the most romantic Christmas markets.

With over 20 official advent markets, these markets are set with beautiful backdrops, such as the Belvedere Palace, City Hall, or Theresien Square. The Salzburg market is a unique market that overlooks the city, located at the foot of the Hohensalzburg fortress.

You can ice-skate at the Christmas World Market at City Hall, people-watch with a glass of mulled glühwein at the foot of St. Stephen’s Cathedral, or browse the beautiful, handcrafted items at the stalls in front of Belvedere Palace.

In Austria, you can expect to find glass ornaments and snow globes, beeswax candles, pottery, and wooden carvings.


Spanning two sides of the Danube River, Budapest is the only Hungarian city where holiday river cruises stop. Many people consider it home to Europe’s most beautiful Christmas markets! It has become a popular holiday destination with the rise of river cruises.

Vörösmarty Square Christmas Market

Running from early November until January 1st, the market in Vörösmarty Square runs longer than others - most Christmas markets only run until December 23rd or 24th. Here you can find free daily concerts that feature a wide array of music, mouthwatering food, and a mix of modern crafts and traditional wares.

Local performers perform a variety of shows in Vörösmarty Square, from dancing to showing the skills of Hungarian herders. At the smaller market at St. Stephen’s Basilica, you can witness a 3D projection displayed on the side of the church every 30 minutes!

In Budapest, you can find beaded bracelets, embroidered ornaments and gloves, and sheepskin hats.

Tips for Holiday River Cruising

Here are some things to remember when planning your Holiday River cruise!

Book Sooner Rather than Later

River cruises are smaller, more intimate ships with a smaller capacity than others. As a result of this, along with the limited time frame of the holiday cruise schedule, these cruises fill up quickly. Holiday river cruises for 2022 are no exception, especially with the turbulence of the last few years! To ensure you get onboard, book as soon as possible.

Get Prepared for Shopping

Christmas markets aren’t just for getting into the holiday spirit and eating the mouthwatering food available - although that’s a good reason to visit! Every Christmas market you visit will have unique items you won’t find anywhere else, so you don’t want to miss out on the shopping.

Dress Appropriately

The weather in Europe is understandably cold during this time of year, and the weather fluctuates regularly. Be prepared to experience windy, snowy, and rainy conditions along with below-freezing temperatures. Waterproof boots are essential, and you should dress in layers. (You can always warm up with a mulled wine too!)


An extra bag- You may think you can shove everything you bought from the markets into your suitcase, which might end up being the case! However, bring an extra bag to ensure you can get everything back home when your vacation ends!

Cash-Many vendors don’t accept cards, so you want to be sure to have some money on you! Pro-tip: exchange your currency at a European bank or ATM; the airport exchange kiosks can have higher exchange rates than average!

Contact TravelPerks today to speak to our team of experts about booking your holiday getaway!

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