In many of the charming towns and villages in Germany and Austria, Advent is ushered in with the opening of the Christmas markets. Medieval in appearance, they are held in the town square and sell food, drink and lovely handmade gifts from open-air stalls.
The history of Christmas markets goes back to the late middle ages in the German-speaking parts of Europe- in fact, the Vienna “December Market” was a forerunner of the Christmas market and dates back to 1294.
A visit to a European Christmas Market is truly a journey through time and Christmas history. Wander streets that are perfumed with the scent of gingerbread, cloves, sugar cakes and ale, and filled with the sound of music. Drink in the spirit of the season as you experience the festive singing and dancing that are the heart of European culture. Feel the magic of twinkling Christmas lights as you browse unusual handmade tchotchkes, children’s toys and unique art. Explore baubles made by master glassblowers and find distinctive decorations that provide one-of-a-kind holiday gifts.
The cruise itineraries that explore these lovely markets are typically held on the Main, Rhine, Danube and Seine rivers. While Christmas market sailings on river cruise lines generally begin in mid-November and continue through the end of the year, they do sell out early, so it’s best to book in advance.