Choosing a Christmas Market Cruise

Choosing a Christmas Market river cruise can be a daunting decision.  Which cruise line is right for you?  What is the best time to go?  Which river is the best? Which itinerary has the most markets? It’s a little too much to discuss in one sitting so we have split it up into a few different articles.  Along the way we will give you some suggestions for exploring further on your own.  To start, let’s look at the most important decision, which river is the best choice for Christmas Market Cruise?

Although there are other rivers with Christmas markets, the two you should consider if you are going for this reason are the Danube and the Rhine.  To determine which of the two is the best one for you, you need to consider two different things.  First is which best fits what you want with the Christmas Markets themselves.  The second is the countries and sites you would want to visit regardless of the markets.  We will look at each of those for both rivers below.  

The Danube River

The Rhine River

Both rivers have a variety of options for visiting Christmas Markets across Europe.  Regardless of the river you choose, the markets will have everything you have heard and the atmosphere that needs to be experienced to appreciate. The crafts are hand made, often made by the vendors the entire year only to be sold at the markets during Christmas. The food is made from recipes handed down for generations that let you experience each countries specialities. The Gluhwein, a warm mulled wine sold in collectable mugs is unique in each country and with each vendor. 

Danube Christmas Market Highlights

The Danube Christmas Market cruises sail from Germany to Hungary traveling through Austria.  If you are looking to have a lot of markets to visit, the Danube is probably your river. Although not every stop will have Christmas Markets, the majority of them will have more than a few with a lot of variety between them making them each something to remember.  

If you are lucky enough to travel through Nuremberg Germany, you will forever remember it by the smell of gingerbread everywhere along with one of the most iconic Christmas markets in Germany.  

Regensburg Germany has small medieval Christmas markets that require a fee to keep the numbers down but the river cruises arrange for your access as part of your tour.  

The Passau Germany Christmas market is half the size of most but sits in front of the St Stevens Cathedral.  

Salzburg Austria brings more Christmas Markets. Explore them during your full day tours or return later that night.  Don’t forget to try the Mozart Chocolate Liqueurs.  

In Vienna Austria you will find over 20 different Christmas markets.  The one in front of the town hall is the largest in Austria.  (The picture above.). 

Bratslava Slovakia doesn’t have Christmas markets but is known for having very large Christmas Trees.  

Budapest didn’t originally have Christmas markets until the tourist started coming but now they have some of the highest rated markets in Europe.  Hungary has the largest markets and also have a requirement that all items sold be hand crafted.  

Rhine Christmas Market Highlights

The Rhine Christmas Market cruises mostly start or end in Cologne sailing to Basel with stops in France but some can go further into the Netherlands to Amsterdam. Although you won’t find as many Christmas Markets in each port, they do have some of the largest.

Most of the Rhine cruises will start or end in Basel Switzerland.  Christmas markets are spread out everywhere and are the largest in Switzerland.  They are called the country of chocolate and you will see that throughout the markets. A lot of the cruises will have an overnight stay here.  

Strasbourg France borders France and Germany and shares its food, language and culture with each.  The architecture of the city feels like Christmas even when its not the season but the 1000s of lights that fill the night during the Christmas season make it magical.  Home to some of Frances oldest Christmas Markets, you won’t want to miss this city.  

Gengenbach Germany located in the Black Forest is an old medieval town where the Christmas Market becomes the worlds largest Advent calendar.

Dresden Germany has one of the oldest Christmas Markets. The largest one is a live Advent calendar where a window is open each day.  

Cologne Germany has 6 Christmas Markets and the largest one on the Rhine is in front of the Cathedral  A lot of them are interconnected showing the new market and the old market.  They may also include an ice rink.  If you visit the one in front of the Cathedral, walk behind it to find a beer hall where locals enjoy a local beer.   

The second thing to consider when deciding on a Christmas Market river cruise is the destinations themselves.  Most people think when you take a Christmas market cruise the the whole cruise experience is “Christmas”.  That couldn’t be further from the truth.  In most cases you are doing the excursions and visiting the same sites you would otherwise.  After your normal tour or excursion, or later in the evening when the lights have filled the Christmas nights, you get to visit the Christmas markets in that city.  Therefore, when you choose a Christmas market cruise, you should also be considering where you want to visit.  Review the highlights of the different rivers below to determine which appeals to you most.  

Nuremberg, Germany 

Regensburg, Germany 

Passau, Germany

Stop in Linz and do a small tour of just Linz or take the extended tour which takes you to Salzburg, Austria.  Do the full day tour.  Home of Mozart and where Sound of Music was filmed.  There is a lot of free time on the full day tour to explore the Christmas Markets.  Mozart Chocolate Liquor. 

Krems - (Viking) You won’t find any impressive Christmas Markets here.  

Vienna, Austria - 

Durnstein, Austria - no Christmas markets.  Small quaint town.  Wine area.  Hike up to the castle during the day.  (Ama) 

Bratislava, Slovakia - Known for his large Christmas trees.  

Budapest - a

Basel Switzerland - 

Lucerne (Truck Cruises)

Strasbourg, France - 

Baden - (Scenic Cruises & Tauck). Mercedes factory on Scenic cruises.  

Heidelberg, Germany - 




Cologne Germany - 

Amsterdam - 

Gengenbach, Germany - 

Dresden, Germany 

You can still do all of the regular tourist sites, but then after the tours, you get to visit the markets.  

Ama Magna is one of the options for the Christmas Cruises 

Pre and post nights.  Praugues Christmas markets have been the highest rates in the last couple years.  

Amsterdam doesn’t have Christmas Markets.  They do have the Festival of Lights along their canals.  Start out with a canal cruise to view the lights.  Ama spends the night here so you can enjoy the nightlife.  

Ama Waterway - most decorated cruise ships, both inside and out.  Ama also has connecting staterooms so it’s great for families on Magna.  Magna is great for families and the rooms average 350 sq feet.  

Warm Gluhwein - hot spiced wine.  Each family brings their own recipe.  

Carry the cash in local currency.  Euros accepted in most.  

Black Forest Cake would be a good thing to post.  Originates in the Black Forest area in Germany.  

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