Best European Christmas Market River Cruise

Christmas river cruise Nuremburg

In this blog, I’ll explore the best European Christmas market river cruise itineraries and options. The holiday season in Europe is a magical time filled with festive markets, twinkling lights, and the aroma of mulled wine wafting through the air. For those seeking a unique and enchanting way to celebrate Christmas, European river cruises offer an unforgettable experience.

Finding the perfect Christmas market river cruise

With so many options available, I can help you find the perfect river cruise. Complete the enquiry from and I’ll get back to you.

To find out more about how much a river cruise costs and what is included, see my blog.

  1. Danube Delights: Vienna, Budapest, and Bratislava

The Danube River, winding through Central Europe, becomes a Christmas wonderland during the winter season. You’ll visit the iconic capital cities; Vienna, Budapest, and Bratislava, where Christmas markets burst with handmade crafts, local delicacies, and a festive atmosphere. Enjoy the grandeur of Vienna’s imperial palaces and the charm of Budapest’s historic thermal baths, while savouring seasonal treats and shopping for unique gifts.

  1. Rhine Romance: Cologne, Strasbourg, and Basel

A Rhine River cruise during Christmas is a delight for lovers of medieval charm and picturesque landscapes. As you pass through the UNESCO protected Rhine Gorge, you’ll pass medieval castles and vineyard-covered hills.  Stop at Cologne and Strasbourg where the Christmas markets are legendary, offering everything from traditional wooden toys to mouthwatering, traditional treats like bratwurst and gingerbread.

  1. Dutch Delights and German Gemütlichkeit: Amsterdam to the Heart of Germany

Your journey continues with a visit to Dutch Christmas markets, where the canals of Amsterdam set the stage for a festive atmosphere. Cruise through the picturesque Dutch countryside, exploring charming towns and indulging in local treats like oliebollen (Dutch doughnuts). As you make your way into Germany, prepare for the heartwarming traditions of German Christmas markets.

Some of the Markets that you could visit:

Cologne: Cathedral Splendour and Christmas Magic

The towering spires of Cologne Cathedral dominate the skyline and can be seen as you approach by river. The city’s Christmas market, set against this architectural marvel, is a sensory delight. Explore over 160 festively adorned stalls, each offering handcrafted ornaments, intricate wooden toys, and the famous local specialty, stollen; a sweet bread filled with nuts, dried fruits, and marzipan.

Nuremberg: Gingerbread and Nostalgia

Known as the “Gingerbread Capital” of the world, Nuremberg’s Christkindlesmarkt is a treasure trove of holiday delights. The market dates back to the 16th century and is presided over by the Christkind, a symbol of Christmas in German-speaking Europe. Admire the charming wooden stalls adorned with red-and-white cloth and savour the aroma of roasting nuts and spiced wine. Don’t miss the chance to taste the world-famous Nuremberg sausages and indulge in the soft, sweet gingerbread known as Lebkuchen.

Heidelberg: Castle Romance and Artisan Crafts

The picturesque town of Heidelberg, with its iconic castle overlooking the Neckar River, hosts a Christmas market brimming with old-world charm. The market is an arts and crafts haven, showcasing handmade pottery, glassware, and jewellery. The setting is complemented by the sounds of live music and the scent of roasted chestnuts. Take a stroll along the Alte Brücke (Old Bridge) for a breathtaking view of the castle illuminated with festive lights.

Würzburg: Wine, Wreaths, and Winter Delights

Set against the backdrop of the Würzburg Residence, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Christmas market in Würzburg offers a unique blend of tradition and elegance. The market stalls feature an array of locally produced wines, intricate handcrafted wreaths, and artisan gifts. Enjoy a cup of mulled wine as you stroll through the beautifully illuminated courtyard of the Residence.

Embarking on a European Christmas river cruise is a delightful way to create lasting memories and experience the holiday season in a unique and magical way. Whether you choose the enchanting Danube, the romantic Rhine, the iconic Seine, or another European waterway, you’re sure to be captivated by the festive spirit that flows through each charming city and town along the route. Cheers to a holiday season filled with warmth, joy, and the magic of European Christmas markets!

2024 River Cruise options

These are some of my favourite Christmas Market River Cruise Itineraries for 2024.

There are lots of other options available – please ask and I can find the best river cruise for you.

Prices can change and are subject to terms and conditions and availability. Based on two people sharing – solo supplements apply.

Please get in touch as I often have special offers from our river cruise partners.

AmaWaterways – 5 Star

Magna On the Danube – Christmas: 7 nights | Budapest to Vilshofen

Onboard the stunning, double width, AmaMagna. From £3175pp (flights to be added).

Experience timeless holiday traditions and elegant pageantry in five countries—the Czech Republic, Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary – on this beautifully curated itinerary specifically designed for the AmaMagna.

Uniworld – 5 star all-inclusive

Classic Christmas Markets itinerary: 8 days | Nuremberg to Frankfurt

A river cruise for those wanting to experience the quintessential magic of the holidays. From £3,699pp

You’ll travel onboard one of the most unique ships cruising Europe’s waterways, the River Queen has an exterior resembling the steamships of the 1930s and an elegant Art Deco interior. Decorated in richly textured blue and white fabrics—with marble bathrooms and inspiring artwork—River Queen is a sublime floating hotel designed with your every comfort in mind.

Scenic – 5 star all-inclusive

Rhine Christmas Markets: 8 days | Amsterdam to Basel

Begin your magical journey in Amsterdam and explore the highlights along the Rhine. From £3,097pp

Enjoy the Christmas ambience and explore the festive markets. Throughout your journey, you will be enchanted by the magical traditions of Christmas, including the fragrant aroma of gluhwein, roasted chestnuts and bustling markets bursting with festive excitement.

Admire festive decorations and twinkling lights along streets and squares – even your beautiful Scenic Space-Ship will be decked out in all the Christmas finery.

Emerald – 5 Star

Christmas Markets on the Danube 8 days | Nuremberg > Budapest

Travel onboard a contemporary Emerald Cruises Star-Ship. From £1,540

Visit three capital cities: Vienna, Bratislava and Budapest and explore their Christmas markets.

Complete the enquiry form to find out more about Christmas Market river cruise options.