The tinkling of silver bells, the floating kiss of snowflakes, and the mesmerising scent of spiced wine... not many settings captivate the senses like a European Christmas market.
The magic of the holiday season is palpable in every beautiful detail - from the wooden toy maker’s stall to the angelic voices of Christmas carollers drifting through the cold air.
If you’re dreaming of painting yourself into this fairytale picture, then now is the time to start planning. Exploring via river cruise is the ideal way to cover multiple magical markets along Europe’s most iconic waterways, and these are a few of the stops you can look forward to.
1. Miltenberg Christmas Market, Germany
The medieval hamlet of Miltenberg is a scene straight from a postcard, with its charming town square and historic buildings, one of which is the oldest pub in Germany. During the festive season the whole town is bedecked with Christmas trimmings, and the boutique Christmas Market is a treasure trove of local arts and crafts and Franconian culinary delights.
2. Bamberg Christmas Markets, Germany
There are four markets to explore in the UNESCO World Heritage-listed streets of Bamberg; a traditional market, a medieval market, a market dedicated to arts and crafts and an advent market; the last a gathering of local craftsmen over one much anticipated weekend. The stately Roman town lends the perfect backdrop to these festivals, which are small in size but overflow with character.
3. Nuremburg Christmas Market, Germany
Nuremberg’s yearly Christmas Market is one of the largest and most spectacular in the world. Hundreds of stalls sell everything from fresh gingerbread cookies to Christmas angels made from prunes, but it is the spell-binding atmosphere that will fill you with Christmas cheer. If you’re lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of the Christkind, a local girl who has been voted the Christmas representative for the year.
4. Romantic Christmas Market, Thurn und Taxis Palace, Germany
Set in the courtyard of a magnificent palace, this torch-lit market has a modest number of stalls but oodles of ambience. Open fires at various points around the square invite you to warm your hands with a cup of hot punch or taste spit-roasted boar cooked right before your eyes.
5. Passau Christmas Market, Germany
Set against the majestic backdrop of St. Stephen’s Cathedral in the heart of Passau’s enchanting Old Town, this Christmas market makes up for its petite size with a warm local welcome. The vendors are delightfully chatty, and amongst the stalls of locally sourced wares you’ll find fresh-baked sengzelten - delicious rye flatbread topped with sour cream and chives.
6. Krems Christmas Market, Austria
The lovely town of Krems is known as the Pearl of Wachau Valley, and while its Christmas market is less dazzling than its contemporaries there is plenty to delight you on an evening stroll. One unique highlight is the apricot schnapps, or Marillenschnaps. This local specialty can be enjoyed straight up or laced through mulled wine.
The luxury itinerary that visits these magical markets and more: Grand Europe Christmas Markets
7. Vienna Christmas Markets, Austria
Austria gives Germany’s markets a run for their money with the world-famous Vienna Christmas Markets, held in multiple locations throughout one of Europe’s most enchanting cities. Vienna Christmas World, the Old Viennese Christmas Market and the cultural Christmas Market in front of Schönbrunn Palace are just a few options in a truly stunning line up. Don’t forget to munch on sugar-dusted Vanillekipferl cookies as you browse.
8. Bratislava Main Square Christmas Market, Slovakia
In the heart of historic Bratislava is the old market square, where red tents spring up every festive season for a traditional Christmas market. Browse the range of Slovak handicrafts and nosh on local specialities; freshly barbequed meat, cabbage soup and potato pancakes might seem unusual, but you’ll be quickly won over by the rich local flavours.
9. Budapest Christmas Markets, Hungary
Although the peak of Budapest winter is dotted with enticing Christmas markets, the two central events are the most spectacular. The Christmas Fair at Vorosmarty Square is a charming collection of stalls selling artisanal crafts and products, traditional Hungarian handicrafts and mouth watering Hungarian food, including the traditional cinnamon chimney cake.
Not too far away is the stately St Stephens Basilica, which looks over a market that is celebrated for its glittering light show and picturesque ice skating rink.
All these markets are featured as part of the complimentary shore excursions on Crystal Cruises’ Grand Europe Christmas Market Cruise. Your local Travel Associates advisor has the latest information on Crystal Cruise packages, so get in touch to plan your fairytale Christmas.