These Uniworld River Cruises Take You To The Most Magical Christmas Markets In Europe

These Uniworld River Cruises Take You To the most Magical Christmas Markets In Europe

Who doesn’t love Christmas?

The year-end festive season is all about beautiful decorations, twinkling lights, sparkling snowflakes, cheerful carols, delectable treats and warm fuzzy feelings of love, happiness and joy. Wrap that all up in a glorious package and one of the most unforgettable and magical ways to enjoy the Christmas holiday season is by visiting Europe’s famed traditional Christmas markets.

Experience holiday season river travel aboard an all-inclusive, luxury river cruise such as Uniworld, voted #1 Top River Cruise Line for Families by Travel + Leisure magazine three years in a row, with their themed Christmas market river tours giving travellers plenty to be merry about.

You will cruise majestic waterways in luxury aboard a festively decorated ship, and their well-thought-out itineraries include visiting centuries-old Christmas markets where mulled wine and fresh gingerbread treats await you, plus you can take part in memorable excursions and other once-a-year delights.

Aboard Uniworld’s Christmas market river tours, you can wander the stalls of numerous Christmas markets in one trip, encountering the delights of each city’s unique rendition along the way. | Credit: via Unsplash

Uniworld River Cruises and Magical Christmas Markets 

* Do note that most Christmas Markets in Europe end their season on the 23rd or 24th of December and will not be available after that date. 

1. Germany

Nuremberg Christmas Market

Nuremberg “The Gingerbread Capital of the World”, is considered to have the world’s most famous Christmas market. | Credit : Nuremberg

For your holiday season river travel, Uniworld River Cruises offers itineraries that allow you to explore Germany, the birthplace of many Christmas traditions.

Renowned as the “Gingerbread Capital of the World,” Nuremberg boasts the world’s most famous Christmas market. Dating back to the mid-16th century, Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt attracts an estimated two million visitors each holiday season, drawn to its dazzling array of stalls.

Situated in the heart of the city’s Old Town, the main market square, known as Hauptmarkt, is flanked by the beautiful 14th-century Church of Our Lady and a fountain shaped like a Gothic spire.

Nuremberg’s Old Town, enchanting throughout the year, becomes particularly magical when adorned in its Christmas splendour. Wander through the castle gardens, revel in breathtaking city views, and explore the labyrinth of cobblestone lanes leading to the central Market Square.

There, more than two hundred stalls await, offering holiday wares such as ornaments, nutcrackers, seasonal treats, and hand-carved toys. Amidst the stalls, the air is filled with irresistible aromas of gingerbread, glühwein (warm spiced wine), cinnamon, roasting nuts, and grilled sausages.

Bamberg Christmas Market

Uniworld’s Christmas Market river tours extend to the historic Bamberg, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, offering an exploration of Bamberg’s renowned Nativity Walk. This captivating trail links 35 churches, museums, and public spaces exhibiting Nativity scenes, some crafted centuries ago.

The Bamberg Christmas Market features four distinct markets: the traditional one on the Market Square, another showcasing medieval cultural programs, and two markets highlighting local arts and crafts. Throughout the afternoon, shuttle buses are available to ferry guests between Uniworld’s ship and the town.

Frankfurt Christmas Market

Frankfurt, known as the “Manhattan” of Europe due to its towering skyscrapers and financial prominence, maintains a rich cultural core.

The city’s Altstadt, or old town, exudes charm and has been home to some of Europe’s finest Christmas markets for centuries. Choose to stay in town and indulge in a “Taste of Christmas” walking tour, featuring an array of sweet and savoury treats. Alternatively, venture out of town to explore the Christmas market in Wiesbaden.

The Sternschnuppenmarkt, or “Twinkling Star” Christmas Market in Wiesbaden, enchants visitors of all ages with its festive decorations and well-organized stalls. Featuring a colourful stage and amiable vendors, this market offers a unique backdrop with the grand Town Hall, State Capitol, and the beautifully illuminated Market Square Church.

2. Austria

Vienna’s Rathausplatz Christmas Market

The dazzling and ever-popular Rathausplatz Christmas Market is spread out in front of  Vienna’s city hall. | Credit: Christmas Markets In Europe

Uniworld River Cruises’ year-end holiday itinerary includes Austria, featuring Vienna, renowned for its spectacular Christmas markets nestled amidst breathtaking monuments and ancient architecture.

The Rathausplatz Christmas Market, positioned in front of the city hall, stands as the largest and most renowned among them. Its expansive layout boasts an ice-skating rink and a dedicated area for children to learn the art of crafting Christmas cookies and candies. The surrounding streets are adorned with stunning decorations, while the neo-Gothic City Hall serves as a mesmerizing backdrop, illuminated enchantingly after nightfall.

This market offers an array of imaginative souvenirs, ranging from animal-shaped candles to unique creations like candles containing miniature liquor bottles. Liqueur chocolates, artisanal cookies, charming decorations, and distinctive gifts further enrich the offerings at this bustling market.

Salzburg’s Christmas Market

After Vienna, the holiday season river travel continues to Salzburg, nestled amidst the Austrian Alps. Salzburg, designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, exudes charm with its cobbled streets, winding lanes, and inviting cafes nestled against a backdrop of snow-capped peaks—guaranteeing an enchanting and delightful Christmas experience.

In Salzburg, the likelihood of experiencing a snowy white Christmas is high, as the stalls adorned with snow-laden wooden roofs offer delightful festive foods and warm mulled wine.

The Salzburg Residenzplatz stands as one of the two main and largest Christmas markets, situated in the heart of the historic city centre. This market, among the oldest in Austria, showcases authentic traditional Christmas tree decorations, alongside stalls vending ‘Mozart chocolates’ and ‘Mozart Liqueurs’. Together with the market at Domplatz, these form the Salzburg Christkindlmarkt.

Did you know? Vienna is renowned for its association with great composers. As part of your itinerary, you can revel in an enchanting evening of music by some of these celebrated composers, including the illustrious Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who was born in Salzburg, and Johann Strauss.

Fun fact: Salzburg serves as the backdrop for the famous musical ‘The Sound of Music’, adding another layer of cultural richness to this captivating city.

3. Switzerland

Basel Christmas Market

Basel’s Christmas Market attracts visitors from all over the world, who come to see the iconic Christmas Street, lined with more than 100 beautifully decorated and illuminated Christmas trees. | Credit: Europe Best Destinations

Uniworld river cruises holiday itineraries extend to Basel, Switzerland, a cultural and artistic hub boasting a wealth of galleries, museums, and theatres.

Each year-end, Basel’s Christmas Market allures visitors globally to behold the captivating Christmas Street, adorned with over 100 exquisitely decorated and illuminated Christmas trees.

Seeking a special Christmas wish? Visit Basel’s 17th-century Town Hall during Advent and inscribe your aspirations within the Wish Book, open for both visitors and residents to express their innermost hopes and dreams.

Immerse yourself in Basel’s architectural marvels, such as the red-bricked Town Hall and the awe-inspiring 800-year-old Munster, characterized by its red sandstone walls, vibrant roof tiles, and twin towers.

Before you unfold the splendid Christmas Market, boasting over 150 stalls adorned with locally crafted items, unique ornaments, and tempting seasonal baked goods. Indulge in a mug of hot mulled wine as you peruse the festive offerings, immersing yourself in the warmth of the season.

4. France

Cologne Christmas Market

Uniworld river cruises take you to explore the largest city on the Rhine, Cologne and its famous Christmas Market. | Credit: Cologne Christmas Market

Uniworld river cruises along the Rhine offer captivating tours to Cologne, the largest city on the Rhine, showcasing a myriad of popular sites under the guidance of your Uniworld guide.

These sites encompass the old fish market, the Renaissance façade of City Hall, and the ancient Jewish mikvah—a ritual cleansing bath.

Stroll leisurely through the narrow, cobblestone pathways of Old Town, where a vibrant display of traditionally painted homes in every hue adorns the surroundings. Numerous pubs, cafes, and restaurants dot this charming area.

Within this picturesque riverside quarter stands one of Cologne’s twelve Romanesque churches, casting a majestic castle-like silhouette against the skyline.

Venture to Domplatte, the square housing the magnificent Cologne Cathedral. Step inside this Gothic masterpiece to witness the awe-inspiring Shrine of the Magi and the captivating beauty of its stained-glass windows. Adjacent to the cathedral, the renowned Cologne Christmas Market graces the square with its festive delights.

5. Hungary

Budapest Christmas Market

You will get a taste of Hungary’s dynamic capital city with your choice of Uniworld’s Christmas Market river tours. | Credit: Dan Freeman via Unsplash

Situated on opposite banks of the Danube, Buda and Pest exude distinctive charm and allure, each with its own unique character.

Your journey through Hungary’s vibrant capital city offers a selection of tours, granting you an immersive experience in Budapest’s rich cultural tapestry. Among the highlights is a visit to Budapest’s renowned Christmas Market, counted among Europe’s largest.

Budapest has embraced the spirit of Christmas for a millennium, tracing back to the era of St. Stephen, the revered king who established Hungary and fostered Christianity across his realm.

Embark on a panoramic tour commencing from Heroes’ Square, crafted in 1896 to commemorate Hungary’s millennium and honour its historical figures. Traverse the city, capturing glimpses of its striking architectural landmarks, culminating at Vörösmarty Square. Here, Budapest’s expansive Christmas Market awaits, boasting around 100 cheerfully adorned stalls emitting enticing aromas of cinnamon, fresh bread, and sizzling meats grilled over open fires.

This esteemed Christmas market invites only the finest Hungarian artisans, ensuring a treasure trove of exquisitely crafted and distinct gifts.

Fun Fact: Hungary boasts a wealth of accomplished musicians, notably Franz Liszt, who established a music university in Budapest in 1875. The Franz Liszt Academy, a world-renowned conservatory, offers degree programs in classical instruments, singing, conducting, and composition. Music aficionados can partake in a guided tour of the academy, culminating in an orchestra performance by current students, continuing Liszt’s musical legacy.

6. Slovakia

Bratislava’s Christmas Market

Bratislava is relatively new to Christmas markets, with its first being established in 1993. In the distance is the city’s iconic Parliament building that commands the skyline; this masterpiece of Neo-Gothic architecture is as spectacular inside as out. | Credit : Visit Bratislavia

In Slovak, “Merry Christmas” is expressed as “Veselé Vianoce!”

Slovakia, once veiled behind the “Iron Curtain,” retains an aura of mystique and allure to this day. The petite capital city of Bratislava, embodying the heart and soul of Slovakia, harbours a surprisingly colourful history.

As part of Uniworld river cruises holiday itineraries, delve into Bratislava’s intriguing past guided by a local expert. Immerse yourself in the local Christmas Market, a delightful tradition relatively new to Slovakians.

Bratislava inaugurated its inaugural holiday market in 1993, swiftly embracing the seasonal customs of its Austrian and Hungarian neighbours—an experience you’ll be delighted to share.

7. Belgium

Brussels Christmas Market

The Grand Place in Brussels is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and shows off a spectacular and colourful symphonic light display several times a day. | Credit: Visit Brussels

For travellers seeking a fresh experience beyond the classic markets of Germany, consider holiday season river travel that unveils a different facet of Belgium, often overlooked by many tourists.

Nestled between the prominent tourism hubs of France, Germany, and the Netherlands, Belgium, despite its small size, exerts significant cultural influence, making it a standout destination on any European journey.

This region is renowned for its expertise in chocolates, French fries, speciality spirits, and beers—delights you’ll have the pleasure of experiencing during Belgium’s most festive time of the year.

Belgium’s holiday season is truly exceptional, with each city boasting its own distinctive Christmas ambience. Rows of stalls adorned with handcrafted gifts and delectable winter treats set the stage, complemented by enchanting festivals, ice skating rinks, captivating light displays, and towering Ferris wheels.

Indulge in the atmosphere as you savour vin chaud (hot spiced wine), sample some of the world’s most exquisite cups of hot chocolate, and relish warm liege waffles and spiced gingerbread—culinary delights that truly enhance the holiday experience in Belgium.

have yourself a merry christmas onboard uniworld

Embarking on a Christmas market cruise not only immerses you in the winter spirit but also promises a serene and unforgettable getaway, presenting exclusive opportunities to procure unique gifts for your loved ones.

Uniworld river cruises present holiday season itineraries that traverse some of Europe’s most iconic and enchanting Christmas markets.

Aboard Uniworld’s exquisitely designed ships, guests can relish an all-inclusive and intimate vacation experience paired with top-notch personalized customer service. Cruising along historical waterways, you’ll be treated to breathtaking and unforgettable vistas, while partaking in their meticulously curated onboard and onshore experiences.

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