With the festive season fast approaching, Europe truly embraces the Christmas spirit. From the authentic, traditional markets of Vienna, to a charming international-oriented display in Nuremberg, Europe stands out with its impressive offering of beautiful Christmas-themed markets that promise to delight and enchant all visitors. Where better to pick-up last-minute gifts, wander around the enticing food stalls, sip on warming drinks and soak up the heart-warming festive atmosphere. We have selected some of our favourite Christmas markets that promise to turn your imagination into reality and transport you to a Christmas wonderland.
NUREMBERG, GERMANY CHRISTMAS MARKETS
One of Europe’s finest Christmas markets, Nuremberg’s enticing aromas of mulled wine, irresistible bratwurst and traditional gingerbread create an unforgettable atmosphere in the Old Town, which is decorated in colourful Christmas regalia over the festive season. Let yourself be enchanted by the city’s vibrant atmosphere, and be sure to visit the Market of the Sister Cities to purchase international gifts, including French marmalade and handmade Czech wooden angels. To truly embrace Nuremberg’s impressive Christmas offering, climb the stairs of the Church of Our Lady and get a wonderful view of the lights, red and white coloured stalls and the amazing Christmas-themed decorations.
VIENNA, AUSTRIA CHRISTMAS MARKETS
The Christmas markets in Vienna date back to the Middle Ages, with each boasting its own unique charm and magic. If you are looking for a market that has a lively atmosphere, the Rathausplatz Market is where you need to be. Try the delicious hot punch, it truly sets the mood in the lead-up to Christmas. Make your way through the variety of stunning stalls selling Christmas ornaments, candles and mouth-watering bites, or make a beeline for the enormous Christmas Tree in front of the Rathaus. For an authentic Austrian experience, head to Spittelberg, a hidden gem loved by locals, and the perfect place to wind down after a busy evening perusing the market.
ZAGREB, CROATIA CHRISTMAS MARKETS
The Croatian capital deservedly won the title of Best European Christmas Market, three years in a row. Offering an extensive variety of events and stalls, there truly is something for even the most discerning travellers. The most exciting events are held on Ban Josip Jelačić Square, which brings the city to life with music and concerts on open-air stages. For a truly magical experience, take in the iconic sky lantern ceremony, which sees thousands of lanterns released into the sky in one of Croatia’s most spectacular Christmas traditions. Zagreb also has lots on offer for the kids, including skating at Ice Park as well as a number of free concerts, all of which will take your Christmas experience to another level!
BUDAPEST, HUNGARY CHRISTMAS MARKETS
This Eastern-European capital ticks all the boxes for classic Christmas markets. From a huge Christmas Tree to mouth-watering traditional Hungarian food, the range of stalls and activities are sure to cater to everyone from young children to adults. Make sure you visit the Christmas Fair at Vorosmarty Square, as well as the Christmas Market by Basilica, both of which offer a magical Christmas experience. Catch the monumental light show at St. Stephen’s Basilica, which allows visitors to see the see facade in a new dimension thanks to a pair of 3D glasses. The Christmas markets in Budapest differentiates from others around Europe by focusing on the preservation of authentic Hungarian Folk art and traditions, rather than commercialised Christmas gifts. Nowhere else in the world can a city make you feel like a local quite like Budapest.
SALZBURG, AUSTRIA CHRISTMAS MARKETS
Birthplace to the most famous Christmas carol, Silent Night, the pretty hometown of Mozart and The Sound of Music comes into its own at Christmas. The spiralling streets of this Austrian idyll are like something from a children’s fairytale where you’ll find yourself surrounded by snow-sprinkled market stalls that look much as they did when they were first set up way back in the 15th century. Be ready to browse tiny trinkets, dazzling decorations and vendors selling yummy gingerbread in these magical markets, and with the focus here is on quality over quantity, expect hand-knitted socks rather than novelty candles for stocking fillers at this winter wonderland. If you have time, be sure to make the 90-minute bus journey to romantic St Wolfgang; on Wednesdays, this lakeside Christmas market is lit entirely by candles — forget tacky Christmas lights.
PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC CHRISTMAS MARKETS
Set in the very heart of the city in the traditional Czech marketplace, the Christmas markets in Old Town Square have long been rated as one of the most beautiful Christmas destinations and markets in the world. In dozens of wooden stalls, merchants offer traditional Christmas goods from Czech blown glass balls, gifts and decorations made of glass pearls or straw, hand-embroidered tablecloths, wooden toys and biscuit cutters to name a few. Prepare to be enticed by the sounds and smells of customary Czech Christmas cuisine – barbecued pork, grilled blood sausages, Czech muffins, hot roasted chestnuts, gingerbread biscuits conkers, beer, mull and mead. In addition to the unique atmosphere of this historic market, the twenty-metres-tall Christmas tree, embellished by thousands of lights and special ornaments, on the stroke of every hour is ablaze with a large audio-visual animation accompanied by music and thousands of lights.
In contrast to some bigger markets across Europe, the Prague Christmas Market is a smaller, more personal experience with such a warm welcome, you can’t help be feel like a local.
And if you can’t decide which Christmas Market you want to visit first, why not tick off a few at the same time and take a river cruise?…
River cruising through Europe with AmaWaterways is an excellent way to get into the heart of a city. Discover local culture and sights on included tours, and then hop back on your luxurious river cruise ship and sail to the next stunning city or charming town. Included in the fares of these river cruises are shore excursions in every port of call; all dining on board (including The Chef’s Table specialty restaurant); fine wine, beer and soft drinks with lunch and dinner; internet access and Wi-Fi; and bicycles that you can use to explore on your own or join our guided bike tours.
This is one example of the many Iconic Christmas Markets Cruises (Cruise Year 2020 / 2021) available:
7 Night Cruise – Prices start from as little as £1400 per person including flights and all transfers
Cruise from: Budapest to Nuremberg
Travel back through centuries as you walk along cobblestone streets through grand cities and historic towns bedecked with twinkling Christmas trees and lined with wooden huts gleaming with handcrafted treasures. Iconic Christmas Markets are plentiful and are on full display for your enjoyment. Budapest’s Vörösmarty Square, where all products sold in the market are guaranteed as traditionally handmade; Vienna with its impressive Christmas Markets that seem to majestically appear around every corner; Nuremberg’s festive Christkindlesmarkt, the largest and oldest Christmas Market in Germany; Regensburg’s Christmas Market at Thurn and Taxis Castle, considered one of Bavaria’s most beautiful and romantic; and Prague with its renowned Christmas Markets in the Old Town square; —along with many others throughout your journey—are yours to explore. Sparkling lights; the festive sounds of children dressed as angels singing carols; enticing smells of hot-mulled wine, roasted chestnuts, sausages and sweet treats of every kind; and timeless wonders are a feast for all your senses.
Countries: Austria, Germany, Hungary. Rivers: Danube
On our cruises, you will enjoy an extensive line-up of included tours. In many cases, you will have a choice of excursions, such as standard tours, bike tours, hikes and Special Interest Tours. We always include a large variety of activities so that you can choose how you want to explore. No matter your preference, your days will be full of discovery and wonder.
Itinerary: Nuremberg to Budapest
DAY 1; Budapest – EMBARKATION – Illuminations Cruise
Board the ship in Budapest for your Iconic Christmas Markets cruise. (D)
DAY 2: Budapest – “Queen of the Danube” tour and Vörösmarty Square Christmas Market
Home to several UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the Buda Castle quarter in Castle Hill and Heroes’ Square, Budapest offers an unmatched combination of culture and tradition. Your city tour begins with a visit to the vibrant Great Market Hall. The remainder of this tour takes you to both the Buda (hilly) and the Pest (flat) sides of the river. Afterwards, you’ll visit Vörösmarty Square, the oldest and the most spectacular of all the Christmas Markets in Budapest. (B,L,D)
DAY 3; Vienna – “Imperial Vienna” tour with Town Hall Christmas Market OR Vienna bike tour – Schönbrunn and illuminated Christmas Markets
The “City of Waltzes” offers a treasure trove of gems just waiting to be discovered. Join a tour showcasing its regal splendors, such as the majestic Opera House and the former Imperial Palace of the Habsburgs before concluding in Vienna’s historic city center. Afterwards, you’ll visit the Rathaus (Town Hall) Christmas market. If you prefer a more active adventure, then join a guided bike ride through Vienna. During the afternoon, visit the Schönbrunn Palace with a giant sparkling Christmas tree. This market presents a glittering and stellar Christmas experience. Cap the day off with “Vienna by Night” Christmas markets at the beautifully decorated Maria Theresaplatz Christmas market, set amongst the world-renowned sights of Vienna’s majestic Ringstrasse, and at the illuminated Rathaus, Vienna’s largest Christmas market. (B,L,D)
DAY 4; Melk – Benedictine Abbey visit OR Melk bike tour
High on a rocky outcrop lies the Melk Abbey, one of Europe’s most revered Baroque monasteries. Visit this magnificent Benedictine Abbey, which now houses a museum chronicling its history and a famous library with countless medieval manuscripts. Alternatively, go on a guided bike ride around Melk. (B,L,D)
DAY 5; Passau – “City of Three Rivers” walking tour and Christmas Market OR Danube bike tour OR Salzburg excursion including Hellbrunn Palace Christmas Market
Join a walking tour of this 2,000-year-old city, noted for its Gothic and Italian Baroque architecture and St. Stephen’s. Go in search of Bavarian-style crafts at the Christmas Market. Alternatively, you can travel through the serene Austrian Alps to Salzburg, birthplace of Mozart. Your full-day excursion in Salzburg includes a walking tour of the UNESCO-designated Old Town, its magnificent cathedral and its Christmas Markets, including the Hellbrunn Palace, where its inner courtyard is turned into a romantic backdrop for one of the most beautiful Christmas Markets in Austria. For the active adventurer, join a guided bike tour along the Danube. (B,L,D)
DAY 6; Regensburg – UNESCO city tour, Thurn and Taxis Christmas Market OR Tastes of Bavaria OR Walhalla bike tour
Regensburg is one of Germany’s best-preserved medieval cities, as well as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Join a guided walking tour showcasing the city’s architectural highlights, including the Old Town Hall and the Porta Praetoria, before visiting the Old Town Christmas Market. As an alternate option, sample some of Bavaria’s specialties—beer, sausage and pretzels. Or bike to the base of Walhalla where there is a neoclassical white marble temple inspired by the Parthenon in Athens. Later in the day, you’ll be treated to one of Bavaria’s most beautiful and romantic Christmas Markets at Thurn and Taxis, where you can watch artisans make their unique arts and crafts. (B,L,D)
DAY 7; Nuremberg – Cruise Main-Danube Canal – Nuremberg city tour OR Tastes of Franconia – Nuremberg Christmas Market
Enjoy a scenic morning cruise as the ship crosses the Continental Divide via the Main- Danube Canal to Nuremberg. Join a city tour of WWII highlights and then walk through Nuremberg’s cobblestone streets to the Imperial Castle and 900-year-old city ramparts. Alternatively, you can taste your way through the city with a Franconian specialties tour, which introduces you to bratwurst, rotbier (red beer) and lebkuchen (gingerbread). Later, you can visit Nuremberg’s Christkindlesmarkt, one of the world’s largest and most famous Christmas Markets. (B,L,D)
DAY 8; Nuremberg – DISEMBARKATION
Disembark the ship and bid farewell to Nuremberg as you prepare for your flight home. (B)