Looking for the perfect festive Winter vacation? Europe’s cities and towns are home to charming old-world celebrations that date back hundreds of years. Holiday river cruises along Germany, France, and more elevate the experience of the season. Top river cruise lines offer holiday-themed itineraries that will take you and your loved ones to incredible markets, let you experience traditional recipes, choir concerts, lights, and more on a truly magical trip!
Top Cities to Visit on a European Holiday River Cruise
To help you decide on the perfect holiday itinerary, we’ve put together a short guide to some of our favorite European cities that offer a look into the deep-rooted festivities of the continent.
See all of these captivating European cities and more on a holiday river cruise onboard AmaWaterways!
Home to France’s oldest Christmas Market, Strasbourg lies on the border of France and Germany and holds an important place in the European Union as the seat of the European Parliament. During the Winter season you can stroll past canals and the charming streets of Petite France in the city’s historic Old Town. You’ll find the holiday market around the grand Notre Dame Cathedral where a towering decorated tree acts as the centerpiece to the stalls selling handmade toys, Nativity figures, and ceramics alongside warm cinnamon crepes!
Cologne is a city steeped in holiday spirit and tradition. The Cologne Cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is home to the Shrine of the Three Kings, said to hold the remains of the Biblical Three Wise Men. Markets dot the city around the holidays, the most famous of which are located in Cathedral Square, in front of City Hall, and a medieval Christmas Market in front of the Chocolate Museum. Each market has its own charm, such as the puppet theatre and merry-go-round that kids will love at the Altstadt Market or the original Christmas mulled wine to be enjoyed at the Cathedral Market!
Head to Nuremberg for an unforgettable European holiday experience. Today the city harks back to its medieval grandeur as the unofficial capital of the Holy Roman Empire. One of the oldest and largest Christmas Markets in the world can be found at the Christkindlesmarket in the central square of Nuremberg’s Old Town. Here you can explore the many stalls with famous handmade ornaments, gingerbread, Plum People figures, and more as carols drift through the illuminated square.
Known as ‘The City of Music’ for the many famous musicians that lived and influenced classical music in this region, Vienna is a magical holiday destination. Visit the music halls, St. Stephen’s Cathedral, or the Opera House to hear the lilting melodies of the season, or head to the Christmas Market at Freyung Square and listen to choir performances as you shop. Schönbrunn Palace, once home of the Hapsburgs, also hosts its own dazzling market during the holidays where you can sample Vienna’s traditional pastries such as apfelstrudel and vanillekipferl!
‘Queen of the Danube’, Budapest is a lively city with an intriguing past and striking architecture. From the Parliament building, to the bridges connecting Buda and Pest including the famous Chain Bridge, to Buda Castle, there is much to see as you explore the city – especially during the holiday season! Vörösmarty Square is home to the city’s most famous Christmas Market where an impressive Nativity Scene complete with live animals and six-foot Advent Wreath can be viewed amidst lit up stalls with mulled wine, traditional honey cakes, and many other treats!