8 Christmas Market River Cruises In Europe

River cruises offer leisurely exploration and intimate adventures. Taking a river cruise around the holidays means you get to experience timeless traditions, like European Christmas markets. Our travel advisor, Carie Skerritt, says “The best part about Christmas markets is immersing yourself in the culture of the community.”

Christmas tree at the famous Christmas Market in Strasbourg - Alsace, France
Christmas tree at the famous Christmas Market in Strasbourg – Alsace, France (Photo Credit: Leonid Andronov / Shutterstock.com)

European Christmas Market Magic

Warm up with a steamy mug of mulled wine as you wander the enchanting stalls of some of the largest and most famous Christmas markets in Europe. Shop handmade ornaments, toys, and gifts as you inhale the festive aroma of gingerbread and roasted chestnuts. Dazzling decorations and lights delight the eyes, while the sound of Christmas carolers and church bells fill the air.

Most European Christmas markets are open from the last week of November through December 22. Several of these Christmas market river cruises start in November, so you can still be home in plenty of time for the holidays.

What To Expect On An AmaWaterway Luxury Christmas Market River Cruise

A large variety of activities, including tours, and choice of excursions let cruisers choose their own adventure. AmaWaterways’ Christmas market cruises are decked out in holiday cheer. Onboard experiences include “Shoes for St. Nick” where passengers set slippers out to be filled with treats just like European children do on St. Nicholas Day. Guests are invited to deck the halls during the ship’s Tree-Trimming Party. If you cruise on Christmas Eve, you can expect to find Christmas cookies in your stateroom. A holiday feast, complete with all the trimmings, tops it all off.

Our travel advisors Carie Skerritt and Bill Sharo with Dream Vacations can help you book any of these Christmas market river cruises via our Book A Trip page. “AmaWaterways is considered a luxury item,” remarks Skerritt, who recommends the cruise line for everyone from foodies to multi-gen travelers. “There is something for everyone so you don’t have to have a group leader responsible for everyone’s needs and wants — it’s all included,” she adds. “The ships are decorated and festive so just being on the ships puts you in the holiday spirit,” according to the travel advisor. Here are some Christmas market river cruises you can book today!

REGENSBURG, GERMANY - DECEMBER 13, 2019: The city's main Christmas market on the Neupfarrplatz (New Parish Square) around the Neupfarrkirche (New Parish Church) in dusk.
Regensburg Christmas Market (Photo Credit: Mikhail Markovskiy / Shutterstock.com)

1. Magna On The Danube

Budapest To Vilshofen

  • Length: 7 Nights
  • Starting Price Per Person: $2,399
  • Dates: October 6 – December 22

Experience Hungary, Slovakia, Austria, and Germany (including the iconic capital cities of Budapest, Bratislava, and Vienna) in all of their holiday glory. Peruse some of the best holiday markets in Europe, including Regensburg and Salzburg. Budapest Christmas Market is Hungary’s largest. Taking place on the cobblestone Vorosmarty Square, this handcrafts-only market is a great place to find one-of-a-kind gifts. With over 150 vendor stalls, Vienna’s Christkindlmarkt takes place in front of its 19th-century town hall.

Christmas Market, Christkindlmarkt Hellbrunn Palace, Hellbrunn Advent Magic, Salzburg, Austria, Europe, 18. December 2017
Christkindlmarkt Hellbrunn Palace (Photo Credit: footageclips / Shutterstock.com)

2. Christmas Markets On The Danube

Budapest To Vilshofen (Or Reverse)

  • Length: 7 Nights
  • Starting Price Per Person: $2,399
  • Dates: November 28 – December 19

This route also cruises along the second-longest river in Europe through Austria, Germany, Hungary, Slovakia, stopping in the capital cities of Budapest, Bratislava, and Vienna, as well as Salzburg. Both Magna on the Danube and Christmas Markets on the Danube tours cruise through The Wachau Valley, where you can take a walking tour of Dürnstein.

However, this river cruise also gives you the opportunity to visit Linz, where you can find one of the most beautiful Austrian Christmas markets at Hellbrunn Palace. It also stops in Passau, where a walking tour brings you to St. Stephen’s Square and its baroque cathedral in the heart of Old Town. At Passau Christkindlmarkt, you can find cute little Bavarian-style model houses, cookie cutters, and olive wood products from Assisi.

Christmas Market in Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Christmas Market in Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany (Photo Credit: Sina Ettmer Photography / Shutterstock.com)

3. Christmas Markets On The Rhine

Amsterdam To Basel (Or Reverse)

  • Length: 7 Nights
  • Starting Price Per Person: $2,299
  • Dates: November 25 – December 21

Cruise through France, Germany, The Netherlands, and Switzerland as the Rhine takes you to several European towns with cherished Christmas markets. In Cologne, visit Christmas Market at the Cathedral, one of the best German Christmas markets. Located in the heart of the city, the market takes place at the foot of a UNESCO-designated Gothic cathedral.

What’s better than shopping? Shopping while tipsy! Go wine tasting in the winemaking town of Rüdesheim then enjoy holiday traditions from around the world at the Rüdesheim Christmas Market of Nations.

Known as the “Capital of Christmas,” Strasbourg boasts the oldest and largest Christmas Market in France, Christkindelsmärik. Check out the world’s largest Advent calendar at the Heidelberg Christmas Market, where the town hall windows count down the days to Christmas, revealing the portrait of a world-famous artist each night.

Nuremberg, Bavaria / Germany - December 05 2018: Traditional Gingerbread heart cookie (Lebkuchenherz) with sugar icing at famous Christmas market saying Greetings from Christkindlesmarkt Nürnberg
Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt (Photo Credit: Corinna Haselmayer / Shutterstock.com)

4. Iconic Christmas Markets

Nuremberg To Budapest (Or Reverse)

  • Length: 7 Nights
  • Starting Price Per Person: $2,299
  • Dates: November 27 – December 19

As the name suggests, this cruise takes you through Austria, Germany, and Hungary to some of the most iconic Christmas markets on the Danube. Nuremberg’s historic Christkindlesmarkt is perhaps the best-known Christmas market in Germany. According to our expert tips on European Christmas markets, you should try the mulled wine from Vollrath’s Heidelbeergluhwein and Nuernberger Rostbratwürste (famous grilled sausage in a bun), and pick up a Zwetschgenmännlein, a unique figurine carved out of dried plums.

Step back in time at a Bavarian palace at Regensburg’s Romantic Christmas Market. Craftsmen sell toys, such as dolls and marionettes, while craftsmen peddle their pottery and paintings at the Lucreziamarkt. While in Vienna, you’ll find a Christmas market seemingly around every corner. Finish the trip by exploring the beautiful markets of Budapest.

AmaCerto (Photo Credit: AmaWaterways)

5. Magical Christmas Markets

Nuremberg To Vienna (Or Reverse)

  • Length: 7 Nights
  • Starting Price Per Person: $2,399
  • Dates: December 4 – December 25

This magical cruise takes you down the Danube, one of Europe’s most beautiful rivers, to Austrian and German Christmas markets. Wooden booths take over cobblestone streets for one of the oldest and most popular Christmas markets, Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt. Sample the gingerbread, mulled wine, and roasted almonds at this world-famous market.

Stroll through the romantic medieval German town of Regensburg to visit one of the most beautiful Christmas markets in Bavaria in front of Thurn and Taxis Castle. Blacksmiths, glass blowers, candle-makers, basket weavers, and a hat-maker demonstrate their skills at stalls while selling their goods in one of the country’s best-preserved medieval cities.

This cruise also stops by the aforementioned Christmas markets of Salzburg, as well as four of Vienna’s most enchanting markets, including the regal Schönbrunn Palace, the charming Maria Theresa markets, and Vienna’s largest (and busiest), Christkindlmarkt on the Rathausplatz.

Amsterdam, The Netherlands - July 13, 2017: The Amaprima, part of the Amawaterway River Boat fleet, docked in Amsterdam as part of a Rhine River cruise.
AmaPrima docked in Amsterdam as part of a Rhine River cruise (Photo Credit: Ruth Peterkin / Shutterstock.com)

6. Rhine Castles & Swiss Alps Christmas

Amsterdam To Basel (Or Reverse)

  • Length: 7 Nights
  • Starting Price Per Person: $2,099
  • Dates: October 9 – December 25

Encompassing The Netherlands, Germany, France, and Switzerland, this Rhine River cruise fantasy offers fairytale castles and historic vineyards in addition to Christmas markets. Starting in canal-laden Amsterdam, this cruise winds its way through the German city of Cologne, where you can browse the city’s most impressive Christmas markets.

Then it’s on to the winemaking hamlet of Rüdesheim and the festive Christmas markets of Heidelberg. Forty hilltop castles and fortresses dot the banks of the historic Rhine Gorge, which is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Cross the border into the majestic mountain landscapes of France’s Alsace region as sweeping Swiss Alps views await in Strasbourg.

AmaPrima (Photo Credit: AmaWaterways)

7. Rhine & Moselle Delights

Basel to Amsterdam

  • Length: 10 Nights
  • Starting Price Per Person: $3,199
  • Dates: November 27

Discover four countries — France, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland — along the Rhine and Moselle rivers. Explore the fairytale towns of Riquewihr, Freiburg, Bernkastel, and Cochem. Take a gondola ride in Rüdesheim before visiting the Christmas markets.

Germany’s Roman roots are on display in its oldest city, Trier. In fact, the UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to so many Roman relics it is often referred to as the “Rome of the North” or “Second Rome.” Stroll between the Main Market, Cathedral Square, and the Christmas Market at Viehmarkt Square and you may just run into the reigning Mulled Wine Queen.

Saint-Jean Cathedral, Festival of Lights, Lyon, France
Saint-Jean Cathedral lit up for the Festival of Lights in Lyon, France (Photo Credit: Sebarrere / Shutterstock.com)

8. Colors of Provence Christmas Cruise

Lyon to Avignon

  • Length: 7 Nights
  • Starting Price Per Person: $
  • Dates: December 2 – December 16

Cruising through the South of France sounds like an excellent way to kick off the holiday season. See the streets of Lyon light up during the city’s annual Festival of Lights. In Oignt, Provençal nativity scenes called crèches display terracotta figurines known as santons. Admire the art exhibits projected onto walls of former limestone quarry caves at Carriéres de Lumiéres.

Why You Should Book With Our Travel Advisors

Our travel advisors will ensure that you receive every AmaWaterways river cruise offer that you qualify for, including complimentary shore excursions and beverages. They offer up to $300 credit to spend onboard. Our travel advisors can also help you book hotel stays at ports on either side of your voyage.

Not only do you get exclusive bonus offers when you book through our travel advisors instead of directly with the cruise line, but you also rack up AmaWaterways Privilege Rewards benefits. Our travel advisors aren’t just concerned with offering the best deals — they’re also committed to offering the best experience.

Related Reading:

  1. Best Tips For Christmas Markets In Europe According To Experts
  2. 8 Best Christmas Market Towns In France
  3. 9 Best German Christmas Markets To Visit
  4. How To Plan A Christmas Markets Road Trip In Europe