Christmas markets in Europe on your bucket list? Want to see the best of the best, and as many as you can in a one-week vacation? Well, you’re not alone! That was exactly what we wanted, and we were able to check European Christmas markets off our bucket list this year by taking a Christmas Market cruise with Viking River Cruises down the Danube River!
If you’re coming from the United States, where the standard vacation is 7 days it is tough to visit more than 2 cities in such a short period of time. Plus who likes to pack and unpack several times? Not us, even after 2.5 years of travel, we are still relatively horrible at packing (especially for winter travel). That’s why a Viking River cruise was the perfect way to visit 5 amazing Christmas markets. We unpacked once and cruised down the Danube River visiting all the Christmas markets along the way.
Which ones you ask, well here’s a recap of where our Viking River Cruise went!
Viking River Christmas Market Cruise
Our first taste of Christmas markets came in Budapest. The capital city of Hungary was the start of our Viking River cruise. We arrived a few days before our cruise began because we wanted to explore Budapest more in-depth and beat that nasty thing called jet lag.
There are several Christmas markets throughout Budapest. The first day of the tour we joined the Christmas market walking tour to make sure we didn’t miss any. We did add on 3 days in Budapest at the start of our trip, we didn’t want to miss anything in this magical city.
The biggest Christmas market in Budapest is located in Vörösmarty Square. The square is transformed the annual Budapest Christmas market, with over 100 stalls offering all sorts of Christmas themed goodies. The market was open daily starting Sunday, November 29th, on the weekday’s things were shutting down between 8 pm-10 pm.
We stayed at the Kempinski hotel, which was the perfect location for exploring the Christmas markets as we could see the Vörösmarty square market from our room!
My personal favorite Budapest Christmas market is the one in front of Saint Stephens Basilica. Still new to the Christmas market scene in Budapest, as it opened for the first time in 2011. Here you will find similar stalls as the Vörösmarty Square Christmas market, but what sets this one apart is the backdrop – Saint Stephens Basilica.
If you ask me this is the picturesque Christmas market in Budapest. There is also a small ice skating rink around the Christmas tree, loved watching the children go round and round. This market is less than 700 meters away from the Vörösmarty Square Christmas market, so make sure to swing by both when in Budapest.
Day 3 and we woke up in our second country on our three country river cruise. We had the entire day in Vienna, actually until midnight! We opted to go on the walking city tour, as this gave us the option to see the city by foot. After our tour, we wandered the streets stumbling upon several of the 20+ official Christmas markets in Vienna. We, of course, made time to try the hot spiced Glühwein, the official drink of the season.
The Viennese Christmas Market located in front of the City Hall was the highlight and the must-see Christmas market in Vienna. The Christmas Markets of Vienna are fun during the day, but they really come to life after dark. All the Christmas lights turn on and the beautiful City Hall illuminated makes for a great backdrop.
Waking up as we were cruising into Passau is no better arrival into this picture-perfect town. Passau is at the mouth of three rivers Danube, Inn, and Ilz. The houses along the river are gorgeous hues of yellow, orange, and green. We had our cameras ready as we pulled into the port that morning.
Passau’s main Christmas market is set in the old historic town center, with St. Stephen’s Cathedral as a backdrop. Grab a cup of hot glühwein and browse the 70+ stalls selling all sorts of Christmas goodies. If you’re hungry grab a 1/2 meter bratwurst! Make sure to save enough time to go inside St. Stephens Cathedral, and wander the streets of Passau.
A Christmas market set in the UNESCO World Heritage city of Regensburg was the second of three Christmas markets in Germany on our Viking River cruise. The Christmas market has stalls that surround the 500-year-old Neupfarr Church.
During our free time off the ship in Regensburg, we made sure to explore the narrow streets, hidden passageways, and courtyards of the city. We tried to see as much as we could in Regensberg exploring Kohlenmarket, Haidplatz, and Lucreziamarkt before boarding the ship.
Related Article: Fairytale Castles in Germany
The Nuremberg Christmas markets draw more than two million visitors per year. Nuremberg is home to the largest Christmas markets in Germany and one of the most famous Christmas markets in the entire world. Visiting this epic Christmas market was the grand finale of our Viking River cruise. The Nuremberg Christmas market is right in the central square or Nuremberg’s old town. The Nürnberger Christkindlesmarkt has been a tradition for more than 400 years.
There were a few products at this Christmas market we hadn’t seen in any other cities, prune people & Nuremberg sausages. The prune people, which are among the top sellers in the Nuremberg Christmas market. Prune people have been sold at the market for decades, and are available in hundreds of figures ranging from naked, kissing couples, cooks, etc. These strange figurines are made out of prunes and are nine to 22 centimeters high and sold throughout the market.
Another favorite in the city is the Nuremberg sausage which is like a mini bratwurst. They cannot (I am sure by some German law, seriously) be longer than 9cm or weigh more than 25g. The Nuremberg sausages are typically served 3 in a bun and of course, topped with mustard.
We visited on a Saturday, and the market was in full swing. By far this was the largest, and busiest market. I would suggest visiting on a weekday or early in the morning, as it can get crowded. Open daily from 10am-9pm.
We had a relaxing week cruising with Viking down the Danube Christmas market hopping. As a bonus, we got all of our Christmas shopping done. Pulling into port beats fighting for a parking spot in a mall any day!
Have you been to the Christmas markets in Europe? Which are your favorites?
*We were invited by Viking River Cruises, but all options are our own*