If you’re like us, you feel a good amount of joy any time you’re faced with the opportunity to visit some of the picturesque riverside villages and towns of Europe. Add in the butler-serviced luxury of Crystal River Cruises, and your joy quotient doubles. Taking the equation a step further, fall and winter voyages aboard Crystal Mozart, Crystal Bach and Crystal Mahler this year, plus Crystal Debussy and Crystal Ravel in 2018, all feature days and evenings at quintessentially festive European Christmas markets, upping the joy to snow-covered-mountain levels.
Many of these glittering spectacles have been holiday traditions in Germany, Austria, Hungary and the surrounding areas for more than 400 years, and all of them are packed to the tinsel with sparkling sights, sounds of carols, and aromas of spiced treats. Glühwein (German mulled wine), gingerbread, dozens of varieties of Bavarian sausages and other savory treats, centuries-old cathedrals decked out in decidedly modern lighted wear – these markets take the already considerable charm of the destinations and dial it up several levels.
Here are just a few of our favorite Christkindlesmarkt (Christmas markets), and the joyous treasures you’ll find there:
NUREMBURG – The most famous of Germany’s Christmas markets, this one overflows with authentic holiday spirit rooted in tradition that dates back to… well, nobody knows for sure. But the earliest evidence has the market in existence in the mid 1600’s, which allows for an abundance of tradition to be established. Officially kicking off on the Friday before Advent each year, this Christkindlmarkt begins with a prologue speech by the Christkind, a white-and-gold-clad, angel-like woman, from the balcony of the Frauenkirche Church. Comparatively solemn next to the vibrant displays the market will show following the event, it marks the beginning of the holiday season in Nuremburg.
Why you’ll love it – The market itself takes on the appearance of a candy cane, with more than 180 shopkeepers and vendors housed in closely-knit red-and-white-roofed stalls. You can take in this colorful aerial view if you climb the staircase of the Church of Our Lady (a la the Christkind), and look over the sprawling market below. Also, not-to-be-missed at Christkindlmarkt are the curiously charming “Nuremburg Plum People,” tiny puppets made of prune limbs, fig torsos and walnut heads, with hand-painted faces.
SALZBURG (from Linz) – Set in the heart of Salzburg’s UNESCO-listed Old City, this Christmas market is one of Europe’s oldest Advent markets, dating back to the late 15th century. Today’s version of the market has been delighting holiday visitors since 1979. Twinkling lights strewn high above the rooftops of the stalls’ shopkeepers only add to the magic, appearing overhead like extra special holiday stars. Its appeal reaches beyond the many global visitors that flock to the city each Christmas, Salzburg’s market is a treat for the locals, too, giving it a truly authentic air.
Why you’ll love it – It’s not only about the treasures one can find at the Salzburg Christkindlmarkt, but also about the experiences one can have. Join in with the sing-along choir that opens to the public every Tuesday evening; enjoy a visit from the “Christ Child” with his angels every Thursday afternoon, and relish the angelic notes of traditional wind music performed every Thursday and Saturday evening.
VIENNA (on Rathausplatz) – Leave it to Vienna to make serious business out of having a jolly good time. This stunning city’s Christmas market near the Town Hall is a mecca for intricate glass works, candied and cream-filled pastries and hand-crafted wooden decorations. Vienna’s holiday traditions are steeped in history and authenticity, banning virtually any plastic toys and imagery of Santa Claus – considered the epitome of commercialized Christmas by locals – in favor of the joys of old and visits from the Christkindl. Of course, Vienna’s Christkindlmarkt boasts all the quintessential joy one would expect, from an ice rink to hot spiced Weihnachtspunsch, or “Christmas punch” made of wine, brandy or fruit juices. BONUS: A second Christmas market in front of the magnificent Schönbrunn Palace adds to the enchanting spectacle in Vienna.
Why you’ll love it – Appropriately, the market in the city of Mozart and Strauss fills with music throughout the season, with dozens of international choirs invited to perform Christmas hymns and carols in the Rathaus every weekend.
For the ultimate gift, treat yourself to a journey to the winter wonderland that is Eastern Europe in November and December. Or, wrap the journey up and gift it to someone you love for next year. Either way, more than a dozen European Christmas markets will illuminate the voyage and fill it with luxury and joy.
KOBLENZ – Six dazzling areas of the city’s Old Town turn Koblenz into a storybook village that one may expect to see in a Norman Rockwell painting. Münzplatz, Plan, Rathausplatz, Liebfrauenkirche, Jesuitenplatz and Zentralplatz are each historically charming unto themselves in one of Germany’s oldest cities, and at Christmastime, thousands of twinkling lights, festive music, and mulled wine to accompany the region’s famed Riesling transform the place into a fantasy land.
Why you’ll love it – Koblenz’s six-square set-up, illuminated throughout, makes it especially appealing to couples out for romantic strolls, or even stagecoach rides along the baroque-adorned avenues.
The holidays are inherently magical. A Crystal holiday makes the magic a luxurious gift to oneself or to those you treasure most. A Crystal River Cruises holiday that visits glittering markets in some of Europe’s most beautiful locales? That kind of magic is difficult to quantify.
Voyages in November and December of 2017 and 2018 aboard the luxury ships of Crystal River Cruises include complimentary Crystal Adventures ashore that visit Christmas markets in the cities above, as well as Passau, Bratislava, Budapest, Bamberg, Rüdesheim, Breisach, Dürnstein, Krems, and Regensburg. Book your enchanting holiday aboard Crystal Mozart, Crystal Bach, Crystal Mahler, Crystal Debussy and Crystal Ravel today.