Experience the deep-rooted holiday traditions of Europe at its most festive time of year. From the iconic canals of Amsterdam to Switzerland’s glittery cities, Lucerne and Zurich, get caught up in the magic of the holidays with visits to some of the world’s most timeless Christmas Markets. Warm up with a mug of steamy glühwein while at the Cologne Christmas Market located in front of its UNESCO-designated Gothic cathedral. Let the “Capital of Noël,” Strasbourg, the oldest and largest Christmas Market in France, captivate you the way it has for so many others for centuries. Meander through Heidelberg’s majestic Christmas Market nestled idyllically amongst the historic squares of the Old Town. And while in Gengenbach, marvel at the world’s largest Advent calendar, where every evening at 6:00 PM, the brightly lit windows of the neo-classical town hall open and behind each one is a picture by a famous artist, such as Andy Warhol. Cherish all the glory of the season in grand European style as you cruise along the Rhine.
Board the ship in Amsterdam for your Christmas Markets on the Rhine cruise
There are 165 canals in Amsterdam, and you’ll get to enjoy some of them on your canal cruise. Later in the day, set sail out of Amsterdam.
Enjoy cruising to Cologne, home to one of Germany’s most revered Gothic masterpieces, the Cologne Cathedral. Join a guided tour through the enchanting Old Town. Explore the UNESCO-designated cathedral and then visit one of Europe’s largest and most renowned Christmas Markets located in front of the cathedral. Alternatively, ride a bike along the Rhine or visit a local tavern to taste Cologne’s traditional Kölsch beer and reibekuchen mit apfelmus—potato pancakes served with applesauce.
Cruise through the castle-laden Rhine River Gorge before reaching the winemaking town of Rüdesheim. Once in Rüdesheim, you will have three choices of morning excursions. Wine connoisseurs will want to go to a wine cellar for a wine tasting or go on a hike through the vineyards. You may also opt to join a guided bike tour through the town and along the Rhine River. Later in the day, you can visit Siegfried’s Mechanical Musical Instrument Museum, or taste one of the town’s special delights, Rüdesheimer coffee. You’ll also have plenty of time to enjoy Christmas traditions from all over the world at Rüdesheim Christmas Market.
You have the choice to explore two of Germany’s historically rich cities, along with their festive Christmas Markets. Visit Heidelberg, a city that will capture your heart with its mighty castle and historic university. While here, wander along one of Europe’s longest pedestrian shopping streets, the Hauptstrasse, soaking up the Yuletide celebrations at the town’s Christmas Markets. Alternatively, you can explore one of Germany’s oldest cities, Speyer, known for the largest Romanesque cathedral in Europe—a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You’ll also have time to visit its Christmas Market in front of the “Old Mint” (Alten Münze) in the famous Maximilianstrasse, with a view of the romantic Imperial cathedral (Kaiserdom).
Strasbourg is even more alluring during the season of Advent. The Christkindelsmärik dates back to 1570, making it the oldest Christmas Market in France. Enjoy a panoramic bus tour that takes you past the Parc de l’Orangerie, the European Parliament and the Place de la Republique. Afterwards, walk through the historic town center on the Grande Île, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and through the lovely “La Petite France” district, where you will see the Cathédrale de Nôtre Dame with its famous astronomical clock and then visit the town’s famous Christmas Market. You can also choose to explore Strasbourg’s different districts by bicycle. During the afternoon, visit Gengenbach Christmas Market where, every year, the locals count down to Christmas with a 24-day, larger-than-life Advent calendar.
Visit the enchanting Alsatian town of Riquewihr, beautifully dressed in her holiday finery with twinkling decorations and a lively Christmas Market. On your walking tour, admire historic architecture, as well as famous sights such as the Dolder Gate. Alternatively, you may wish to visit Freiburg, founded in 1120 and home to Freiburg’s Münster, a Gothic cathedral constructed of red sandstone, as well as its enchanting Christmas Market. Those wishing a more active excursion will want to cycle through the scenic countryside.
Disembark the ship and bid farewell to Basel as you prepare for your return flight home.