Nothing will get you in the holiday spirit like the scent of roasted chestnuts, gingerbread and hot mulled wine, and the sight of festive holiday décor as you stroll through bustling Christmas markets across Europe – or even close to home.
Christmas Markets are essentially street markets, which are associated with the celebration of Christmas during the four weeks of Advent. Usually set up outdoors, the Christmas Markets specialize in a variety of local crafts and wares, along with tasty holiday delicacies. This is a no “mass-market” shopping experience; it’s a chance to experience a long-held holiday tradition throughout many parts of Europe. In fact, these historic markets have filled medieval town squares in late November and each December for hundreds of years.
Browse row after row of highly decorated stalls, illuminated with twinkling lights, for the perfect, one-of-a-kind gift, from hand-blown ornaments and handcrafted toys to beer steins and colorful woolen scarves.
A river cruise is an excellent way to experience the magical Yuletide season, as you’ll get to partake in multiple Christkindlmarkts, as the Christmas Markets are known. At one time, Christmas Market voyages were only offered along a handful of European rivers; today, nearly every major river cruise line offers sailings that traverse the Danube, Main, Rhine and beyond. Outside of Europe, one popular route brings you to the celebrated Mississippi River, with markets that beckon you with calliopes ringing in Christmas carols.
Christmas Market river cruising also goes well with time spent with family and loved ones. Travel logistics are handled for you, so you’re free to celebrate the season. The price for each vacation generally includes riverboat and hotel accommodations, along with most meals, entertainment and guided sightseeing. It’s quickly becoming a popular time for multi-generational families to cruise together, as these voyages are a great value and a lot of fun.
As you wander through the many markets, stay merry with these tips:
- Bundle up in layers and wear good walking shoes. It can get a bit nippy in the outdoor air, but don’t fret – a cup of hot mulled wine and delectable gingerbread as a snack will keep you on the go along the many cobbled streets and rows of stands.
- Visit more than one market! Depending on which city or neighborhood you are in, each Christmas market has a distinct personality – some are more traditional than others, with different music and local, handcrafted items.
- Daytime is good; nighttime is great! The markets generally open in the afternoon, and you can peruse what’s on display. Once night falls and the lights are aglow, everything is more festive.
- Bring small bills. Many of the stalls will accept credit cards, but it’s beneficial to bring cash. You wouldn’t want to miss getting that unique gift because plastic is a no-go.
- For a fun memory, collect the mug. Each market boasts its own distinct ceramic mugs. Highly collectible, you might just end up with a suitcase full! (You can also return it to the vendor you bought your beverage from for a small refund.)
A trip to the Christmas Markets will have you stepping back in time to a world without big-box retailers and long lines. Don’t wait too long to contact your travel professional to book – these cruises are popular and tend to fill up fast! In fact, while you’re in the holiday spirit this year, it’s the perfect time to book your Christmas Markets vacation for next year and get the best cabin and itinerary!
Written by Suzanne A. Harbison, Marketing Manager at Nexion LLC
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