Six of the best Christmas market cruises

Six of the best Christmas market cruises

Enjoy a cruise to the beautiful Christmas markets of Europe, either by sea or on the river. Nathaniel Cramp takes a look at some of the best options for some festive fun.

Christmas markets on the Danube

What? A seven-night cruise with AmaWaterways along the Danube from Budapest to Vilshofen in Germany.

Why? The cruise takes in timeless holiday traditions and elegant pageantry in four countries – Hungary, Slovakia, Austria and Germany. Passengers get the chance to explore beautiful cities like Budapest, Bratislava and Vienna decked out in their holiday finery with glittering Christmas trees illuminated by thousands of lights. Cruise passengers can wander the stalls of Europe’s most traditional and enchanting Christmas markets, including Regensburg and Salzburg, shopping for handcrafted toys and gifts, sipping hot mulled wine and inhaling the fragrance of gingerbread and roasted chestnuts.

Book it: AmaWaterways’ seven-night Christmas Markets on the Danube, from £2,254 per person, departing from November 27, 2022.

Budapest: one of the top destinations for European river cruises

Festive market getaway

What? A three-night cruise from London Tilbury to the beautiful Belgian city of Bruges.

Why? This bargain priced three-night trip to Bruges is onboard Ambassador’s new ship Ambience. It sails round-trip from London Tilbury, so there’s no need for flights. Ambassador promises to push the boat out for the festive season with seasonal galas and festive shows. The Christmas market in Bruges is held in the city’s Grote Markt with pretty, wooden chalets surrounding a glittering ice rink.

Book it: Ambassador’s three-night Festive Market Getaway, costs from £249 per person, departing on December 18, 2022.

Ambience exterior. Image courtesy of Ambassador Cruise Line.

European Christmas markets

What? Eight nights round-trip from Portsmouth, taking in Scandinavia as well as Germany and Belgium.

Why? This cruise on Balmoral calls at Zeebrugge for a tour to the Christmas market in Bruges and Hamburg for some proper German festive cheer. It also heads to Gothenburg in Sweden, offering the chance to see the Liseberg and Haga festive markets illuminated after dark, and wonderful Copenhagen. The Danish capital is a must-visit at this time the year, with the Tivoli Gardens full of displays and stalls offering everything from Nordic handicrafts to local delicacies.

Book it: Fred. Olsen’s eight-night European Christmas Markets, costs from £899 per person, and departs December 2, 2022.

Balmoral docked in Belfast

Classic Christmas markets

What? Eight days along the Rhine from Nuremberg to Frankfurt.

Why? Germany is the land where many of our Christmas traditions began, so where better to go to experience them first-hand. This cruise winds its way along the Rhine and allows guests to try Frankfurt’s famous apple cider and Nuremberg’s gingerbread. They can also sip on steaming mugs of glühwein and do as the locals do by collecting different mugs from each stall and town they visit.

Book it: Uniworld’s eight-day Classic Christmas Markets cruise costs £3499 per person, departing December 1, 2022.

Nuremberg Christmas market. Image courtesy of Uniworld River Cruises.

Christmastime in Alsace and Germany

What? Five days of festive fun from Frankfurt to Basel, via Strasbourg.

Why? This river cruise along the Rhine south from Frankfurt travels through Strasbourg – home to one of the oldest and finest Christmas markets in Europe, which dates back to the 16th century. It also includes an excursion to Heidelberg, where the castle towers above an ice rink and the market takes up five separate squares, and travels through the chocolate box beauty of the Black Forest.

Book it: Avalon Waterways’ five-day Classic Christmastime in Alsace and Germany costs from £1266 per person, departing December 10, 2022.

Avalon Suite Ship

Northern Europe

What? Seven nights to Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium round-trip from Southampton.

Why? This itinerary on P&O’s new ship Iona comes alive at this time of year, with calls in Hamburg for the traditional German-style Christmas markets, before further stops at Rotterdam, so guests can experience Amsterdam at Christmas, and then Zeebrugge for the ancient Belgian city of Bruges. Customers can sip a glass of glühwein while they get their Christmas shopping all wrapped up while indulging in the luxuries of a cruise holiday at sea. Plus, as it’s round-trip, there’s no need to fly.

Book it: P&O offers a seven-night Northern Europe cruise, from £589 per person, departing December 10, 2022.

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