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SCENES OF THE SEASON: GLITTERING EUROPEAN CHRISTMAS MARKETS

European Christmas Markets

These Winter Wonderlands Have Delighted Visitors for Centuries

There’s something in the air, something other than the perfectly formed crystals of softly falling snow. Something other than the aroma of spiced mulled wine and freshly baked gingerbread and schnitzel. Or even the refrains of carolers set against classical symphonies. This “something” is intangible, indescribable and simply magical. And it’s found throughout the aisles and ice rinks and cobbled walks of traditional European Christmas markets. These magical scenes have endured and evolved over many years, with some cities, like Salzburg, having been celebrating the season since the 15th century. Today, of course, there are plenty of modern delights the suit the modern traveler, but mostly, you’ll feel as though you’ve traveled to a timeless era when handmade ornaments and sweets and beautiful decorations and twinkling lights are universally wonderful.

Today, we’re looking ahead to visiting these magical Christmas markets along the Danube and Rhine rivers with Crystal River Cruises in 2021 and 2022. Setting the mood and getting us into the spirit are some scenes from a few of our favorite Christkindlesmarkt.

Cologne Christmas Market
Cologne Christmas Market

Weihnachtsmarkt at Roncalliplatz in front of Cologne’s glorious cathedral is perhaps the most famous of the city’s seven Christmas markets, with the tallest Christmas tree in the Rhineland (a Nordmann fir) illuminated by 50,000 LED lights. More than 150 artisan stalls offering the handmade specialties of the region while games and activities for all ages entertain visitors.

Vienna Christmas Market
Vienna Christmas Market

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 glassworks, 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.

Budapest Christmas Market
Budapest Christmas Market

Numerous markets glitter in the avenues of the Hungarian capital, like this one at City Park Varosliget at magnificent blue hour. St. Stephen’s Basilica presides over the market on Szt. István Square and the city’s largest production is featured on Vörösmarty Square. Several of the city’s markets offer manmade ice rinks in the heart of the festivities, like the Ice Rink Palace in the City Park with its massive open-air rink that embodies the spirit of the season.

Strasbourg Christmas Market
Strasbourg Christmas Market

Bringing festivities to the square of the Strasbourg Cathedral since 1570, this is the oldest Christmas market in France (the only market in France until the 1980’s) and considered the “capital of Christmas” in the heart of the Alsace region.

Heidelberg Christmas Market
Heidelberg Christmas Market

An illuminated windmill, carousel and “Germany’s most beautiful ice rink” are all among the sights that will charm you as you wander through this fairy tale, but it may be the smells that truly capture your spirit. Aromas of roasted almonds, cinnamon-spiced pastries and hot chestnuts fill the air between the abundantly adorned stalls in the square of Heidelberg’s Old Town.

Salzburg Christmas Market
Salzburg Christmas Market

The Sound of Music was famously filmed in this enchanting Austrian city and, fittingly, the sound of Christmas also originated in the area. Silent Night was composed in 1818 and was later declared a UNESCO intangible cultural heritage treasure. The song and many others ring through the city’s Christmas markets each year.

Each year, Crystal River Cruises sail to the most enchanting markets in locales along the Danube and Rhine rivers. Plan to celebrate the magic of the season on the luxury voyage of your dreams with added flexibility and peace of mind.

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