Most European cities and towns transform from everyday life into traditional wintery villages from mid-November until just before Christmas Eve. Tourists and locals alike love going to Christmas markets attracted by the enticing aroma, handmade craft and traditional food.
Even though, snow can’t be guaranteed, you can however look forward to Christmas-card settings with traditional handmade decorations which are beautifully lit during the evening. And if you’re lucky, you might even come across a local choir singing traditional Christmas songs. It can’t get any better than that.
The main advantage of visiting traditional Christmas markets with a river cruise is the opportunity to not only visit one market but several. As you sail along the Rhine, you’ll see beautiful towns and villages fully decorated with beautiful Christmas lights and ornaments.
With so many popular Christmas markets scattered around Europe, how do you choose the best ones to visit? Luckily, the Christmas Market on the Rhine river cruise by AmaWaterways has picked the very best Christmas markets for you to visit. Here is what you can expect:
1. Christmas Market in Strasbourg
Even though Strasbourg is not a very big city, it still hosts an impressive 11 Christmas markets every year. The first ever recorded market took place in 1570. At the time, it was only open for three days and sold products and gifts for the upcoming holiday.
The most impressive and must-go-to Christmas market is located at the Place de la Cathédrale. Having the cathedral as a backdrop of a traditional Christmas market is something very special and will get everyone into the festive spirit.
2. Christmas Market in Freiburg
The Freiburg Christmas Market is located right in the heart of the historical old centre. It’s well known for its many stalls selling handcrafted products such as ceramics, wooden craft, jewellery and traditional German hand puppets.
For the younger visitors, the market opens its doors to the Christmas bakery and a candle workshop. The glassblowers are also known for letting the youngsters have a try which is always a real treat to watch.
3. Christmas Market in Heidelberg
If you ever wanted to ice skate against a romantic backdrop in form of a castle, then the Christmas market in Heidelberg will be the one for you. It might well be the most romantic Christmas market in Germany, if not in Europe.
Head over to the market square to see the symbol of the market: the Christmas pyramid. Almost every German family will have a Christmas pyramid at home. The one on the market is of course considerably bigger and uses historical figures from Heidelberg’s local history.
4. Christmas Market in Cologne
The Christmas market in Cologne is one of the most visited markets in Germany attracting over four million visitors a year. The markets in Cologne are all very young in comparison to other European Christmas markets with the cathedral market opening in the 1990s.
Getting around from market to market is very straight forward when using the Christmas Market Express train. It runs between four of the Cologne Christmas Markets. This is the most relaxing way to hop from market to market, especially when you have children with you.
5. Christmas Market in Rüdesheim
The Christmas market in Rüdesheim is much cosier as it’s slightly smaller than the Cathedral Christmas market in Cologne. Having said that its main attraction is Europe’s largest nativity scene. Stall holders from over 12 different countries sell items such as elk fur, jam made from cloudberries, glass products to only name a few. This Christmas market encourages you to wander around and discover some hidden gems among the stalls.
There are a few Christmas market traditions that we can highly recommend for you to try:
1. Drink a traditional Glühwein out of a Christmas market mug.
2. Try the Feuerzangenbowle which is a stronger alcoholic beverage which will keep you nice and warm during cold winter nights.
3. Eat traditional Christmas biscuits such as cinnamon stars and German gingerbread.
4. Buy an Advent wreath for your home as a keepsake.
While exploring the Christmas markets and trying out local specialities, your home from home will be the AmaKristina which was built in 2017.
Accommodating 156 passengers in spacious staterooms, select staterooms can become adjoining by request, and some offer triple occupancy to accommodate the needs of families many incorporating the exclusive Twin Balcony concept.
The ship also features a Fitness Center, Massage, Hair and Beauty salon; complimentary Internet access and first-run Hollywood movies; plus a fleet of bicycles to enhance your river cruise experience.