The 8 best Christmas market river cruises for 2024

Megan duBois

Imagine sailing down one of Europe's iconic rivers as picturesque villages, castles and landscapes pass you by, all while twinkling lights from nearby Christmas markets dance on the water. While this might sound like a fairytale, it can be a reality on a Christmas market river cruise.

From late November through December every year, most river cruise companies with Europe-based ships take excited passengers to idyllic towns to learn about Christmas traditions, shop at local Christmas markets and try tasty seasonal treats.

These river cruises only run seasonally while the markets are open, so they tend to book up quickly with passengers ranging from older adults to all types of families looking for a winter holiday filled with festive fun.

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Here, we list the eight best Christmas markets river cruises to take in 2024, along with tips to get the most out of each sailing and highlights not to miss.

Best for short cruises: Riverside Luxury Cruises' Christmas on the Danube

river cruise to christmas markets

If you're looking for a short sailing to tack onto the beginning or end of a trip, Riverside Luxury Cruises offers four-night Danube River sailings that start in Vienna, Austria, and end in Passau, Germany. The majority of the trip is spent in Austria, with port days in Vienna, Krems, Melk and Linz before a final day in Passau.

In Vienna, you can choose to visit one of the city's 100+ museums or visit the iconic Opera House before heading to the Christmas market for a glass of mulled wine and shopping. For those interested in wine, Krems is a must-see destination known for some of the best wines in the country. Before departing from Passau, be sure to explore the Christmas market as well as St. Stephen's Cathedral to see the impressive organ, which is the biggest cathedral organ in the world with almost 18,000 pipes.

Each ship in the Riverside Luxury Cruises fleet is all-suite and comes with butler service. Ships offer an indoor pool and a Jacuzzi to use before or after your trips ashore.

Related: Best river cruises in Europe

Riverside Luxury Cruises' Christmas Atmosphere Along the Danube cruises depart in early and mid-December 2024. Fares start at $1,161 per person, based on double occupancy.

All your meals, one excursion per destination, gratuities, Wi-Fi, butler service and transfers are also included in your cruise fare. Alcoholic drinks are only included with the Premium All-Inclusive Package, which can be selected at booking.

Best for Francophiles: CroisiEurope's Christmas in the Seine Valley

river cruise to christmas markets

France is known for some of the most photogenic Christmas markets in Europe, and you have the chance to see some of them on a five-night Christmas in the Seine Valley river cruise with CroisiEurope Cruises. These shorter cruises are great if you'd like to spend a few days in Paris before stepping onto the cruise ship and sailing to three other beautiful towns.

The river cruise starts in Paris, where you can spend the day exploring the city, seeing the Christmas markets in Montmartre or Saint Germain or shopping for high-end gifts along the Champs-Élysées before the 5 p.m. all-aboard time.

Day two will bring you to Rouen, where you are invited to join Christmas Eve dinner and midnight mass. You'll also get to see more of Rouen on day four and take a guided tour. If you have free time, be sure to stop in at La Couronne, the oldest operating restaurant in France and the place that inspired Julia Child to start cooking.

Spend Christmas Day in Honfleur, one of the cutest cities on the voyage. Be sure to get the town's specialty, a steaming bowl of moules frites (mussels with fries), for Christmas lunch. After three days of touring smaller towns, you'll return to Paris, where the Eiffel Tower is visible from the banks of the Seine.

CroisiEurope's Christmas in the Seine Valley cruise departs Dec. 23, 2024. Fares start at $1,570 per person, based on double occupancy.

Included with the cost of the cruise are all of your meals and most drinks, free Wi-Fi, all onboard activities and port fees. Headsets are also included for excursions if you choose to go with the group for tours rather than venturing off on your own.

Related: Best river cruise lines around the world

Best for families: Adventures by Disney's Rhine River Christmas Markets Cruise

river cruise to christmas markets

Families looking to explore Christmas markets through Switzerland, France, Germany and The Netherlands will enjoy Adventures by Disney's Rhine River Cruise: Christmas Markets sailing. The eight-day cruise allows kids as young as 5 to join, though Disney's suggested age is 8 or older.

What really makes Adventures by Disney stand out is the Adventure Guides, Disney-trained leaders who are experts in each destination. Each Adventure Guide travels with the group throughout the cruise so your family really gets to know them, and they get to know you. This allows them to make personalized recommendations about activities and meals. As you walk through each town they share the history, culture and legends of the destination.

The weeklong trip starts in Basel, Switzerland. The next two days make Strasbourg, France the home port from which you can choose to visit Europa Park in Rust, Germany, or head to Colmar, France, which is famous for its Christmas Markets and Cheese Museum. You'll have most of the second day to enjoy Strasbourg.

Day four brings the group to Mannheim, Germany, where you can enjoy a funicular ride to Heidelberg Castle or tour the town of Baden-Baden where the Christmas market is not to be missed.

In Rüdesheim, you can choose to take part in a coffee and hot chocolate tasting, marvel at one of the largest mechanical music box collections in the world, enjoy a wine tasting or explore the city on your own. The evening is spent sailing through the Rhine Gorge as you pass 30 castles along the shore.

The last day in Germany is spent in Cologne, where you can visit the beautiful Christmas markets that dot the city landscape, as well as lace up some skates to glide around an open-air ice rink. The cruise ends in Amsterdam, where you can choose to visit the Rijksmuseum, the Rembrandt House Museum or the Van Gogh Museum, along with taking a scenic canal cruise through the city.

Adventures by Disney's Rhine River Cruise: Christmas Markets cruise departs Dec. 19, 2024. Fares start at $6,599 per adult and $5,899 per child under 11, based on double occupancy.

Fares for the once-a-year cruise include most meals, drinks at lunch and dinner (plus a nightly cocktail hour where a range of mixed drinks are complimentary), excursions in each port of call, porter service, transportation in port, Wi-Fi, gratuities for onboard staff and Adventure Guides, and onboard entertainment.

Related: Are river cruises right for kids?

Best for couples: Viking's Danube Christmas Delights

river cruise to christmas markets

Couples looking to get away for the holidays should consider Viking 's Danube Christmas Delights river cruise. The seven-night cruise takes passengers to four countries: Hungary, Slovakia, Austria and Germany. The trip combines opportunities to explore the ports of call with lectures and cultural performances onboard the ship.

In Budapest, you'll spend two days exploring the city at places like Castle Hill and the Grand Market Hall before shopping and dining at the Christmas market in front of St. Stephen's Basilica. Then in Bratislava, Slovakia, the group will attend an organ concert and shopping at the Old Town Christmas market.

In Vienna, Austria, the whole city comes alive with lights and a festive spirit. One thing not to miss here is the extra-charge excursion to a local winery, where you will celebrate the year's harvest and vintage.

Another highlight of the cruise is Krems, where the group will visit Göttweig Abbey and get exclusive access to the chapel in the inner courtyard to see the nativity scene. (The chapel is usually closed to visitors.) Finally, in Passau, you can watch an Advent wreath demonstration or take a flight to see the landmark Neuschwanstein Castle, which inspired Walt Disney's Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland Park.

Viking offers Danube Christmas Delights river cruises from late November through mid-December in 2024 and 2025. Fares start at $2,799 per person, based on double occupancy.

Fares include shore excursions in every port; free Wi-Fi; all meals; beer, wine and soft drinks with lunch and dinner; port taxes and fees; and visits to UNESCO World Heritage Sites. In select ports, passengers can sign up for optional excursions that are an added cost. These could be worth the upcharge, depending on the type of experience you want to have.

Best for old-world charm: Uniworld's Belgian Holiday Markets

river cruise to christmas markets

Travelers looking to explore all of the Old World historic charm of Belgium will want to book Uniworld's Belgian Holiday Markets cruise. The seven-night cruise visits Belgium and the Netherlands, with port days in iconic cities like Ghent, Bruges and Antwerp.

The cruise is a closed loop, starting and ending in Brussels. On day one, take time to explore the city on your own after dropping your luggage off at the ship. Then on day two in the city, enjoy all the chocolate you can with a tour and chocolate tasting, plus a visit to the Christmas market. On day three, you'll need to decide whether to visit Ghent or Bruges, both of which have beautiful architecture and a Christmas market and offer opportunities to try local food.

The cruise continues into the Netherlands at Maastricht, where you can explore the city and its Christmas market, or head to Aachen, Germany, for festive fun. Alternatively, you can visit Valkenburg's underground Christmas market, located inside a cave. The last stop of the cruise is Antwerp, Belgium, where you can enjoy a concert, a beer tasting and time to enjoy the city at your leisure.

Uniworld offers its Belgian Holiday Markets cruise on four departure dates from late November through mid-December 2024 (and three December dates in 2025). Fares start from $3,799 per person, based on double occupancy.

The cruise fare includes premium spirits and wine, access to bikes and walking sticks, fitness classes, Wi-Fi, enrichment lectures, and shore excursions in each port. Onboard gratuities and group transfers to and from the airport are also included.

Related: River cruise packing list: What to pack when traveling by riverboat

Best for solo travelers: Tauck's Yuletide Spirit

river cruise to christmas markets

Solo travelers looking to enjoy a river cruise without the hassle of a single supplement should check out Tauck's Christmas market itineraries. On all European river cruises, including the seven-night Yuletide Spirit: Amsterdam to Brussels cruise, the line waives the single supplement on Category 1 riverview cabins.

If your cruise starts in Amsterdam, you don't have to be on the ship until 4 p.m. so use the morning to walk around town or get tickets to tour the Anne Frank House. On your second day in Amsterdam, visit the Rijksmuseum and take an evening canal cruise with the group. Foodies will love it when the cruise heads to Gouda to explore the history of the city plus get a tasting of stroopwafels, which are cookie sandwiches invented in the city.

The midpoint of the cruise will bring you to the decision to visit either Ghent, which is one of the oldest cities in Belgium, or Bruges, known for its medieval architecture and beautiful canals. The cruise also visits Antwerp, where you can explore the various Christmas markets that are spread throughout the city. Your trip ends in Brussels, with a whole day to explore the cute squares and charming markets and try local fare.

Tauck offers four December departures of its Yuletide Spirit: Amsterdam to Brussels cruise in 2024 and 2025, meaning the last cruise sets sail after Christmas. Fares start at $3,690 for solo travelers in a Category 1 room, but book soon as the single rooms are already selling out.

Solo travelers should know that these cabins don't have a balcony and are the smallest on the riverboat at 150 square feet, but you likely won't be spending much time in your room on this sailing. The cruise fare includes all gratuities, private shore excursions, meals, unlimited drinks including premium spirits, and basic Wi-Fi, plus airport and train transfers.

Best for an extended cruise: Avalon Waterways' Festive Time on the Romantic Rhine

river cruise to christmas markets

Travelers looking for a longer cruise that sails deep into the southern part of Europe will want to consider the Avalon Waterways' Festive Time on the Romantic Rhine river cruise, which includes one night in Lucerne and three nights in Lake Como. There are also Festive Time on the Romantic Rhine itineraries that don't include the land-based post-cruise days if you want a shorter trip.

For the longer 12-night cruise and land-based trip, guests will embark the cruise ship in Amsterdam, where they can enjoy a day of free exploration before boarding the riverboat, followed by an Amsterdam canal cruise on day two. The cruise then departs for Germany, where you will be able to explore the Christmas markets in Cologne and Rüdensheim on days three and four. Day five is when travelers can enjoy Mainz and see the Gutenberg Museum or travel further on a bus to Heidelberg to explore Heidelberg Castle.

Day six brings the cruise to Strasbourg, France, where you can tour the La Petite France District and wander through the warm glow of the Christmas market. The cruise then heads back to Germany to visit the Black Forest, where you can learn about local traditions and German winemaking.

The final stop on the cruise is Basel, Switzerland, where you will disembark the ship to take a motor coach tour that starts in Mount Pilates, where you will ride 7,000 feet up the mountain in a gondola for incredible views. Your journey continues with a land-based post-cruise bus tour to Italy's Lake Como on days nine through 12. You can take a boat ride around the lake, explore the city on your own and marvel at the Duomo.

Avalon Waterways offer its Festive Time on the Romantic Rhine cruise on Dec. 8, 2024. Prices start at $4,822 per person, based on double occupancy.

Fares include meals, drinks during meals and happy hour, Wi-Fi, a library, excursions, bike rentals and a fitness center. Gratuity is not included for hotel stays and meals during the land portion of your trip.

Best for unique destinations: AmaWaterways' Gems of Southeast Europe

river cruise to christmas markets

While many river cruises traverse the waters around France, Germany and Austria, AmaWaterways ' Gems of Southeast Europe itinerary takes guests to Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Serbia and Romania. The seven-night cruise sails between Budapest and Giurgiu along the Danube River.

If your sailing starts in Budapest, you'll need to arrive a day early if you plan to explore the city; the cruise does not offer excursions here. Your first stop will be Mohacs, where you can enjoy the nearby Christmas Markets in Pecs or venture to Szekszárd for a wine tasting. Day three is split between Vukovar and Novi Sad, where you can explore the historic towns and enjoy the holiday cheer with live music, artisan crafts and delightful bites of food.

The cruise continues to Belgrade, where you can wander around the city on your own, take a hike to Belgrade Fortress or put on a helmet and take a bike ride around town. Day five is exciting for nature enthusiasts as you sail through The Iron Gates, which is a series of gorges that mark the border between Serbia and Romania.

The cruise ends in Rousse, where you can venture further into Romania to Bucharest, which is known as the "Little Paris of the East" for a city tour and Christmas Market.

AmaWaterways' Gems of Southeast Europe departs on multiple dates between late November and late December in 2024 (2025 dates run mid-November to mid-December). Fares start at $2,880 per person, based on double occupancy.

Fares include Wi-Fi, wellness activities, daily entertainment and cultural performances, all meals, drinks at lunch and dinner plus a daily cocktail hour, excursions in each destination and access to knowledgeable guides.

Bottom line

If you've ever considered a Christmas market river cruise, 2024 is the year to finally cross the experience off your bucket list. Many of the best river cruise brands and tour companies offer Christmas markets river cruises throughout Europe, whether you're looking for a family-friendly option, solo travel sans single supplement or a cruise with unique destinations.

It's most important to choose a cruise based on which destinations you wish to visit and which travel dates and itinerary lengths work with your schedule. But don't forget to consider the cruise line.

The inclusions on most of the river cruises are similar but can vary in scope, such as which drinks are included or cost extra, and how many complimentary shore excursions you can choose from. You'll also want to think about the overall vibe of your trip and what your expectations are, whether you're looking for a luxury trip with more upscale ships and higher service levels or a more affordable option that emphasizes exploring and finding your own adventures.

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Christmas Markets

Celebrate an Old World Christmas on one of Europe’s great rivers. Glittering cities across France, Germany, Austria and beyond light up with Christmas markets offering hand-carved toys and ornaments. While you shop, sample hot chocolate, spicy glühwein and aromatic gingerbread.

river cruise to christmas markets

Christmas on the Seine


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Christmas on the Rhine & Moselle

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Christmas on the Main & Moselle

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Christmas on the Rhine

river cruise to christmas markets

Christmas on the Danube

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Danube Christmas Delights

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Christmas Along the Elbe

Highlights of christmas markets.

Enjoy visits to Europe’s delightful Christmas markets, onboard festivities and more—all designed to complement your itinerary’s regular highlights. Join us in exploring the lands where our most cherished holiday traditions began and treat yourself to a true European Christmas. Here is a preview of all you will enjoy during a Christmas Market cruise with Viking

  • Exuberantly decorated Christmas markets nestled in charming cities
  • Yuletide cookies, cakes and other freshly baked treats
  • Cobblestone streets illuminated by holiday lights
  • The angelic songs of strolling carolers
  • Storybook villages and snow-capped castles on the riverside
  • Hand-carved toys and ornaments from Christmases past
  • Onboard music performances, tree trimming and cooking demonstrations
  • Good tidings and cheer shared with rosy-cheeked market vendors

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Christmas Market River Cruises

Embrace the magic of the holiday season aboard a Christmas market river cruise as you discover the Christmas markets in Germany and Austria and participate in age-old holiday traditions aboard your cruise along the Rhine and Danube rivers.

Christmas Markets


Welcome to Europe's Christmas Markets

This 700-year old holiday tradition gets right to the heart of what Christmas is truly all about. The old world feel comes into focus this time of year as you stroll through the cobblestone streets and enjoy the sparkle of holiday lights, handcrafted surprises found around every corner, and mulled red wine on offer to keep you warm... adding to the yuletide experience.

The river of kings – the danube, old world europe – rhine river cruises, aboard our christmas markets river cruises, a christmas markets river cruise... with your riverboat done up for the holidays.

So many of our river cruise guests tell us that it's often the little extras they enjoy aboard their Tauck riverboat that make every day of their cruise that much more memorable... and that's before they even step ashore for their first excursion! Your Christmas Markets cruise will be no exception. Along with unlimited complimentary beverages (including beer, wine and premium spirits, specialty coffee, tea, water and soft drinks) aboard ship, and snack baskets available from 10:00 AM to midnight... you'll enjoy special onboard holiday touches like a tree-trimming party, caroling and other festive gatherings... a traditional European Christmas dinner with all the fixings... special evenings of holiday-themed entertainment, and much more!

Experiencing Europe's Christmas Markets

Treasure the magic of europe's christmas markets along the rhine or danube.

In every stop on your Christmas Markets cruise along the Rhine or Danube, you'll enjoy all the magic of your destination's holiday markets, each of which has taken on a distinctive character of its own over the centuries. You'll discover those local traditions… like the hot mulled wine known as glühwein, served in collectible mugs unique to each market… that have caught on to become an indispensable part of the holiday celebration. And on our Rhine Christmas Markets cruise, you'll experience some special holiday magic on an exclusive visit to the Thurn und Taxis family's Palace of St. Emmeram in Regensburg. Tour this lavish Baroque family home – converted from a monastery in the 18th century – and browse its private Christmas Market.

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Experience Europe's Christmas Markets

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Christmas Cruises

Christmas Cruises

European Christmas markets river cruises 

Originating in Germany, dating back to the late Middle Ages, Christmas markets are popular in northern Europe.  

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Discover the Christmas markets of Europe on a luxury river cruise

Europe during winter is unlike anywhere else, with gingerbread stalls and twinkling fairy lights welcoming in the festive period. Discover the magic of a Christmas markets cruise, and celebrate Yuletide as the Germans, Austrians, and Hungarians do. 

Nuremberg Christmas markets

Christmas Market stall with hanging gingerbread

Cologne Christmas markets

 Famous Christmas markets in front of the Cathedral in Cologne, Germany

Budapest Christmas markets

Christmas market at Saint Stephen Basilica square in the centre of Budapest, Hungary

Breisach Christmas markets

Ornaments and decorations at a German Christmas market

Vienna Christmas markets 

Christmas markets located in front of the Vienna City Hall

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Christmas & New Year River Cruises

river cruise to christmas markets

Christmas Market River Cruises

A festive vacation is a great way to celebrate the winter season. Walking around the beautifully decorated markets with family, friends, or as a solo traveler, and trying all the delicious treats on offer is perfect for those wanting something different to your average vacation. We currently offer two Christmas Market cruises, which give the chance to see exciting cities and towns along the Rhine or the Danube, while you explore and shop for that perfect yuletide souvenir.

Walking amongst the unique market stalls with a chimney cake and a hot chocolate really make an evening special, and bringing home unique gifts can make Christmas morning more magical. During your festive celebrations at home, you'll also be able to relive the marvelous memories by telling friends and family about your travels, and the amazing things you saw in the many towns and cities you visited. Alternatively, consider one of our river cruises covering the Christmas and New Year periods. Try the Rhine or Danube rivers at Christmas and enjoy each location on-board your five-star ship. Or perhaps New Years on the Rhine or Danube rivers are more your style...?

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Carrousel Travel


Board AmaWaterways AmaLea in Nuremberg for your Iconic Christmas Markets cruise. (D)

Join a city tour of WWII highlights and then walk through Nuremberg’s cobblestone streets to the Imperial Castle and 900-year-old city ramparts, followed by a visit to some of the local Christmas markets. Later, you can visit Nuremberg’s Christkindlesmarkt, one of the world’s largest and most famous Christmas markets. You will also cross the Continental Divide via the Main-Danube Canal as the day ends. (B, L, D)

Regensburg is one of Germany’s best preserved medieval cities, as well as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Join a guided walking tour showcasing the city’s architectural highlights, including the Old Town Hall and the Porta Praetoria, before visiting the Old Town Christmas market.

As an alternate option, sample some of Bavaria’s specialties—beer, sausage and pretzels. Or bike to the base of Walhalla where there is a neoclassical white marble temple inspired by the Parthenon in Athens. Later in the day, you’ll be treated to one of Bavaria’s most beautiful and romantic Christmas markets at Thurn and Taxis, where you can watch artisans make their unique arts and crafts. (B, L, D)

Join a walking tour of this 2,000-year-old city, noted for its Gothic and Italian Baroque architecture and St. Stephen’s Cathedral. Go in search of Bavarian-style crafts at the Christmas Market. Or, for the active adventurer, join a guided bike tour along the Danube. Alternatively, you can travel through the serene Austrian Alps to Salzburg, birthplace of Mozart. Your full-day excursion in Salzburg includes a walking tour of the UNESCO-designated Old Town, its magnificent cathedral and its Christmas Markets, including the Hellbrunn Palace, where its inner courtyard is turned into a romantic backdrop for one of the most beautiful Christmas Markets in Austria. (B, L, D)

High on a rocky outcrop lies the Melk Abbey, one of Europe’s most revered Baroque monasteries. Visit this magnificent Benedictine Abbey, which now houses a museum chronicling its history and a famous library with countless medieval manuscripts. Alternatively, go on a guided bike ride around Melk. Afterward, enjoy a scenic cruise of the UNESCO-designated Wachau Valley before arriving in Vienna and exploring the local Christmas markets. (B, L, D)

The “City of Waltzes” offers a treasure trove of gems just waiting to be discovered. Join a tour showcasing its regal splendors, such as the majestic Opera House and the former Imperial Palace of the Habsburgs before concluding in Vienna’s historic city center. Afterwards, you’ll visit the Christmas Markets. If you prefer a more active adventure, then join a guided bike along the Danube River. During the afternoon, visit the Schönbrunn Palace with a giant sparkling Christmas tree. This market presents a glittering and stellar Christmas experience. (B, L, D)

Budapest is one of Europe’s most regal and storied cities—and many of its most iconic sights can be seen right off the banks of the Danube. Your tour through this sprawling World Heritage city offers splendid views from historic Buda Castle of the twin cities on both banks of the river. You’ll also visit Fisherman’s Bastion and see the marvelous Royal Palace, St. Stephen’s Basilica, Heroes’ Square and much more. Later, explore this beautiful city’s Christmas Markets. As an alternative, you can hike to Castle Hill, walking along Fishermen’s Bastion and take in all the iconic sites of Budapest with an active exploration. (B, L, D)

Disembark the ship in Budapest and bid farewell to the city before preparing for your return flight home. (B)

  • Roundtrip airport to ship transfers including meet and greet and luggage handling
  • Seven nights cruise cabin accommodations on the AmaWaterways AmaLea
  • Gourmet dining for all meals onboard the ship throughout the cruise
  • Wine and beer with lunch and dinner
  • Daily happy hour
  • All shore excursions in each port
  • Onboard entertainment and lectures
  • Ship-wide Internet and Wi-Fi access
  • All onboard gratuities for ship staff
  • Taxes, fees and port charges


(*) Pricing based on credit card payment. All other pricing based on cash or check payment. All prices listed are per person, based on stated occupancy. Airfare is not included in listed prices.


Designed with vibrant pops of color that call to mind the autumn harvest in European vineyards, and appointed with signature twin balconies in most staterooms, the AmaLea is a sleek river ship created with luxury yachts in mind. A host of comforts and conveniences fill her decks, including a massage and hair salon, gift shop and specialty coffee station. The relaxing Sun Deck features a heated pool as well as a swim-up bar, while the vibrant Main Lounge provides an exhilarating stage for nightly performances. Enjoy an evening dining experience like no other at The Chef’s Table, where rustic wooden floors, contemporary lighting and a glass-enclosed kitchen combine to form the stunning backdrop for your gastronomic entertainment. And with a walking track on the Sun Deck, a fitness room and a fleet of onboard bicycles, you’ll have everything needed to stay active and healthy while sailing Europe’s great rivers.


Double Balcony AB Cabin


Double Balcony BB Cabin


French Balcony Cabin


Window Cabin

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river cruise to christmas markets

Europe and Mediterranean: Classic Christmas Markets Cruise

7-night river queen cruise.

From $3,699 per person* Additional government taxes, fees and port expenses per person: $220

Uniworld Boutique River Cruises

A journey that will make you believe in holiday magic all over again. Once upon a time, people gathered on cobblestone squares to buy the special tools and ingredients they needed to make the treats of the season. They kept warm with hot spiced wine, music and games while they shopped and chatted with the local tradesmen. Those were the first Christmas markets, 500 years ago. Today, though the light comes from twinkling electric bulbs rather than torches, bonhomie and fun still prevail. Discover villages with fairytale houses and a friendly, festive atmosphere. Share traditional holiday goodies with the people who made them. Watch as modern children abandon their usual electronics and discover the enchantment of hand-carved wooden toys, as scents of cinnamon and roasting nuts fill the air. Sail through Christmas country, trying Frankfurt's famous apple cider and Nuremberg's gingerbread. Throughout, cozy up to steaming mugs of glühwein (warm spiced wine) and do as the locals do by collecting different mugs from each stall and town you visit. Embrace the holiday spirit in Germany, the land where many Christmas traditions began, and find the magic of the season in the smiles that you meet along the way.

All-Inclusive Cruise

True All-Inclusive Boutique River Cruising™

All gratuities for onboard services

Unlimited fine wine, beer, spirits and nonalcoholic beverages**

Locally sourced cuisine

Shore excursions with local experts as your guide

Internet and Wi-Fi

All arrival and departure day transfers

  Executive Member Benefit

Executive Members receive an annual 2% Reward, up to $1,000, on qualified Costco Travel purchases

Receive a $50 shipboard credit per person (maximum $100 per stateroom)♦

  Digital Costco Shop Card

Member Exclusive: Digital Costco Shop Card with every Uniworld river cruise†

Sailing Itinerary

river cruise to christmas markets

Note: Cruise itineraries are subject to change. Please verify ports and times directly with the cruise line.

Port of Call Port of Call (Arrival, Departure)

river cruise to christmas markets

Nuremberg is the largest city in Franconia and the natural centre of North Bavaria. In terms of population it is the second largest city in Bavaria and the thirteenth largest in Germany. Together with its neighbours Fürth, Erlangen, Schwabach and the surrounding rural districts, Nuremberg is part of one of Europe’s most important economic areas, where the EU and its Eastern neighbours meet. Nuremberg is surrounded by attractive landscapes: to the East the Franconian hills, to the North "Franconian Switzerland" and to the South-West the Franconian Lakes. Centuries of art and architecture made Nuremberg a treasure. During the 15th and 16th centuries, Nuremberg enjoyed a cultural flowering that made it the center of the German Renaissance, bringing together Italian Renaissance and German Gothic traditions. In the artists' workshops were found such great talents as Veit Stoss, Peter Vischer, Adam Krafft, Michael Wolgemut, and above all, Albrecht Dürer. Koberger set up his printing press here, and Regiomontanus built an astronomical observatory. Here, too, flourished the guilds of the Meistersingers, composed of prosperous artisans; Wagner made their most famous member, Hans Sachs, the hero of his opera Die Meistersinger von Nuremberg. Many of Nuremberg's most important buildings, including some of the finest churches in Germany, have been restored or reconstructed. The old part of the city, the Altstadt, lies mainly within a pedestrian zone. Today's visitors can see the ruins of the ramparts that once surrounded the city as well as more modern sites, such as the Justice Palace, where the War Crimes Tribunal sat in 1946. Visitors can also see the Zeppelinfeld arena, the huge amphitheater where, from 1927 to 1935, Hitler staged those dramatic Nazi rallies that were immortalized by Leni Riefenstahl in Triumph des Willens (Triumph of the Will). Hitler's architect, Albert Speer, constructed what has been called a "concrete mecca," whose grounds today have been turned into a park with apartment blocks, a trade fair, and a concert hall. Speer's Congress Hall, larger than the Colosseum in Rome, has become a recording studio and warehouse.

river cruise to christmas markets

Situated in the heart of Upper Franconia, Bamberg is an historical yet dynamic city. It is a town of tradition and progress, both of which successfully complement each other. In short, Bamberg is a beautiful city which for many reasons is always worth a visit. The locals like to stress that their city spreads across seven hills like Rome, has a network of waterways like Venice, and an old city which is at least as beautiful as Prague and on which the same architects left their unmistakable mark. Those who know Bamberg will agree that these claims are not unjust. A glance at just four of the many sights is enough to understand why. The Old Town Hall, which like the bow of a ship parts the flow of the River Regnitz, can only be reached by two stone bridges; the Romanesque/Gothic Cathedral is endowed with four unique towers of the same height; the picturesque fishermen's houses of "Little Venice" prop each other up on the river bank and the magnificent New Residence boasts a splendid baroque room known as the Emperor's Hall. Bamberg is not just a work of art which happens to be of historical interest but a dynamic, pulsating city with a population of 70,000. Bamberg has all the facilities a city, its inhabitants and visitors need. It is ideal for shopping, working and living, for spending holidays and holding conferences. After just a few hours in Bamberg, every visitor comes away with that special Bamberg feeling. Bamberg offers a wide and interesting range of leisure facilities; it knows how to please the eye, appeal to the ear and surprise the tastebuds. In summer, Bamberg's beer cellars or "Keller" are a special attraction. Here the locals and tourists can appreciate a locally brewed beer and savour a typical Franconian snack. Bamberg is a lovely town for those who also enjoy a stroll. The possibilities are many and include the Hain, an extensive wooded park on the periphery, or the pretty paths along the canals and the River Regnitz. Bamberg has a lot to offer not only for those who have cultural leanings, but also for those who enjoy sports.

river cruise to christmas markets

Wurzburg is a city in Germany's Bavaria region. It's known for lavish baroque and rococo architecture, particularly the 18th-century Residenz palace, with ornate rooms, a huge fresco by Venetian artist Tiepolo and an elaborate staircase. Home to numerous wine bars, cellars and wineries, Wurzburg is the center of the Franconian wine country, with its distinctive bocksbeutel (bottles with flattened round shapes).

river cruise to christmas markets

Wertheim Village, Germany's first premium outlet shopping destination, is nestled within the picturesque wine-growing region of the Tauber Valley, and near to Wertheim, one of the country's most beautiful and romantic towns. The City of Wertheim, with its romantic historic town centre, a prominent Relais & Chateaux Resort, numerous traditional restaurants, and a wide range of recreational and cultural amenities, is a well-established tourist destination popular with the residents of Frankfurt and its many affluent suburbs. Crowned by the spectacular ruins of Wertheim Castle, the city and its surroundings have long served as a preferred destination for scenic, cultural and gastronomic enjoyment. A dedicated shuttle service connects the historic city centre to Wertheim Village. Wertheim Village is strategically located at Junction 66 - Wertheim/Lengfurt - of the A3 Autobahn, within 60 minutes from each of Frankfurt and Nuremberg. The Village is in the State of Baden-Württemberg and on the border of Bavaria. It enjoys over 500 metres of motorway frontage and sits prominently on an idyllic hillside offering a spectacular view to the more than 23.5 million vehicles passing the site each year. Moreover, Wertheim's location just west of the Autobahn A3/A7 interchange makes it readily accessible to the more than 50 million people annually passing through the region. The design of Wertheim Village is a creative interpretation of the regional Franconian architectural style, using exquisite details and high-quality materials to express the historic traditions of building craft for which the region is world famous. Varied façades, an animated roofscape, decorative art detailing and rich landscaping provide customers with a unique, engaging and romantic shopping environment. The Village has spacious and high-quality restrooms, baby changing facilities, a Tourist Information Centre aimed at promoting the Village and the region as a major tourist destination, public phones, restaurants and cafés, and amenities to provide a satisfying customer visit. Wertheim Village is located near the intersection of the famed Castle Route and the Romantic Road - two of the most important and popular tourist itineraries in Europe. Reaching from Mannheim to Prague, and from nearby Würzburg to the Alps, this dynamic tourist region includes such nearby destinations as Rothenburg ob der Tauber, with some 2.5 million annual visitors, the UNESCO World Heritage Residenz Castle in Würzburg, mediaeval Nuremberg with its world-famous Christmas Market, plus countless castles, forts, wineries and spas. Other important sources of tourism are the frequent trade fairs and congresses in Frankfurt, which attract an additional 12 million international visitors to the region each year.

Frankfurt am Main

river cruise to christmas markets

Frankfurt am Main is the largest city in the German state of Hesse and the fifth largest city of Germany. Situated on the Main River, it has a population of approximately 650,000 (but about 5 million in its metropolitan area). Among English speakers it is usually known as simply Frankfurt, but Germans call it by its full name so as to distinguish it from another Frankfurt in Germany, Frankfurt an der Oder. It was once called Frankfort-on-Main in English, a direct translation of Frankfurt am Main. The three pillars of Frankfurt's economy are finance, trade fairs, and transport; it is the transport hub of Germany. Frankfurt has been Germany's financial capital for centuries. Frankfurt is often called "Bankfurt" or "Mainhattan" (derived from the local Main River). It is one of only three European cities that have a significant number of high-rise skyscrapers. With 9 skyscrapers taller than 150 meters (492 feet) in 2004, Frankfurt is second behind Paris (La Défense and Montparnasse: 12 skyscrapers taller than 150 meters, not counting the Eiffel Tower), but ahead of London (Canary Wharf and City: 8 skyscrapers taller than 150 meters). The city of Frankfurt contains the tallest skyscraper in Europe, the Commerzbank Tower. In Germany, only Frankfurt and Düsseldorf have high-rise skyscrapers. Frankfurt is renowned for its finance industry, on a par with London and Paris, as well as for its central location in Western Europe, surrounded by the most populous areas of Europe. It has a first-class infrastructure and a major international airport: Frankfurt International Airport. It is the second or third busiest in Europe, depending on the data used. Passenger traffic at in 2003 was 48,351,664, second in Europe behind London Heathrow Airport (63,487,136), almost in a tie with Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (48,220,436). Frankfurt has a huge number of institutions, among them its university, Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität, as well as a number of museums, most of them lined up along the Main river on the Museumsufer (museum shore) and a large botanical garden, the Palmengarten. The best-known museums are the Städelsches Kunstinstitut und Städtische Galerie, called Städel, and the Naturmuseum Senckenberg. The Museum für moderne Kunst (Museum of Modern Art) and Schirn Kunsthalle (Schirn Art Galery) are also notable.

Onboard the River Queen

Cruise FPO 6

River Queen

Costco Member Reviews

4.6 of 5 stars

  • Year Built: 1999
  • Year Refurbished: 2010

Double Occupancy Capacity: 132

River Queen features all river-view staterooms and is considered one of the most unique river cruise ships in Europe. The ship's exterior resembles the Grand River steamships of the 1930s, while the plush interior provides a classical elegance reminiscent of the famous Art Deco style.

Member reviews become available after at least 5 are received in order to provide you with an accurate picture of this travel product.

Onboard Activities

Activities & services (included in cruise).

river cruise to christmas markets

  • Bars/Lounges
  • Fitness Center
  • Sauna/Steam Room
  • Concierge Desk
  • Duty-Free Shops/Boutiques
  • Safe Deposit Boxes

Activities & Services (available for an extra fee)

river cruise to christmas markets

  • Full-Service Spa
  • Beauty Salon
  • Internet Center
  • Self-Service Laundromat

river cruise to christmas markets

Main Dining Room

Main Dining

Main Dining Room (open seating):  This seating option allows you to choose when and with whom you dine. Menus are a blend of classic cuisine with a touch of contemporary elegance, and are created using only the finest and freshest ingredients often brought onboard from local ports of call. You'll be surrounded by the beauty of passing riverbank towns and villages.

Inside Stateroom

  • Ocean View Stateroom

Suite Stateroom

Classic stateroom with small window (category: cl).

river cruise to christmas markets

Category: CL

Deluxe Stateroom with Window (Category: DE)

Category: DE

Stateroom with French Balcony (Category: FB)

Category: FB

Suite (Category: S)

river cruise to christmas markets

Category: S

Rhine Deck

  • Ship Name: River Queen
  • Year Entered Present Fleet: 1999
  • Maximum Capacity: 132
  • Number of Passenger Decks: 3
  • Number of Crew: 36
  • Officers' Nationality: European
  • Ocean-View without Balcony: 62
  • Capacity Based on Double Occupancy: 132
  • Country of Registry: Switzerland
  • Total Staterooms: 66
  • Suites with Balcony: 4
  • Crew/Hotel Staff Nationality: International

Available Dates & Prices

Departure date, river-view stateroom, balcony stateroom, departure date - 12/08/2024, departure date - 12/22/2024, terms & conditions.

*Price shown is per person based on double occupancy and is valid for select stateroom categories only. Click on the Terms & Conditions link below for details.

**Unlimited beverages include premium wine and premium spirits. Diamond List of wine and spirits is available at an additional cost.

♦Executive Members receive a $50 shipboard credit per person, maximum $100 per stateroom. Executive Member benefit is valid for primary cardholder only. Shipboard credit is per stateroom based on double occupancy. Shipboard credit will be applied to your onboard account. Any unused portion of the credit is nontransferable, nonrefundable and may not be redeemed for cash.

†One Digital Costco Shop Card per room/stateroom, per stay. The exact amount of the Digital Costco Shop Card will be calculated during the booking process. The Digital Costco Shop Card promotion is nontransferable and may not be combined with any other promotion. A Digital Costco Shop Card will arrive by email approximately 10 days after the start of your cruise. Click on the Terms & Conditions link below for additional information.

Ship's registry: Switzerland

Digital Costco Shop Card

This booking includes a Digital Costco Shop Card which will arrive by email one to two weeks after you return from your vacation. The Digital Costco Shop Card is a convenient payment option in our warehouses and on

Ship Rating

5 of 5 stars

An outstanding luxury cruise experience with an exceptional level of attention to detail. Expect superb service from all levels of officers and staff.

4.0 of 5 stars

A very good quality all-around cruise experience aboard a ship that offers a range of facilities and services.

3.0 of 5 stars

A decent, unpretentious cruise experience, with a moderate amount of space and quality in furnishing and fittings.

2.0 of 5 stars

A modest quality cruise experience with less attention to detail and service.

1.0 of 5 stars

Expect a very basic cruise experience with minimal attention to service, hospitality and finesse.

0.5 of 5 stars

Offers some, but not all, of the amenities and services associated with the next highest star rating.

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The best river cruises for boutique European cruising

From wine tasting along the Douro to Italian feasts with top chefs in Venice, browse the most amazing river cruise itineraries

best river cruises

From the Douro to the Rhine , Europe has some of the world's most scenic rivers that are best experienced on a small ship, where you can sail from little towns to historic cities via relaxing long stretches of countryside.

We've rounded up the best river cruises for boutique sailing, selecting those that combine the most carefully put-together itineraries aboard the loveliest ships, including a super-luxe option to explore the Venetian Lagoon in autumn 2024.

River cruises are also the perfect introduction to cruise holidays for first-timers, while those who already know and love the joy of discovering destinations by small ship will enjoy exploring new itineraries accompanied by famous faces, such as chef James Martin and historian Lucy Worsley .

Here are Good Housekeeping's pick of the best river cruises for exploring Europe's wonderful rivers, plus a few options for those who want to travel further afield.

Sail the magical Venetian Lagoon and hear Russell Watson sing

best river cruises

Venice is a captivating city, almost frozen in time, where astoundingly beautiful buildings line a maze of canals — it's no wonder the sheer decadence of this place captures the hearts of so many. Part of the thrill of visiting Venice is getting swept up in its narrow streets, peering into windows displaying intricately painted masks and feasting on plates of risotto in piazzas. Join Good Housekeeping's fantastic music-themed Venice cruise with world-renowned tenor Russell Watson, which includes an exclusive intimate concert in this stunning and historic city and seven nights on board a luxury ship. You'll explore the lagoon's elegant waterways aboard S.S La Venezia. It's an incredible eight-day itinerary that takes you around the Venetian Lagoon to visit places such as Chioggia, Torcello, Mazzorbo and Burano.

S.S. La Venezia matches Venice's splendour in its opulent fittings, filled with accents that honour its location, including exquisite Venetian masks and Murano glass. Everything's included on this five-star cruise, from delicious food and wines to a choice of excursions around the islands.

When? October 2024


Taste Portuguese wines on a Douro River cruise

best river cruises

The gorgeous Douro Valley is an enchanting and peaceful pocket of Portugal, famed for its port wine and loved for its storybook-style beauty. Terraced vineyards rise steeply from the winding river and are dotted with whitewashed Quintas - the region's terracotta-roofed wine estates - making it a particularly scenic area for a relaxing river cruise.

Sit on the sundeck of a ship to watch the scenery pass by, and delight your palate with some of Portugal’s most sensational wines on an eight-day round-trip cruise on the Douro River. You'll be able to explore the area and learn more about its port production — with plenty of opportunities to sample it yourself on visits to rustic Quintas

After arriving in Porto to board the A-ROSA ALVA, you’ll sail to Régua, a pretty riverfront town that’s produced port since the 18th century. You'll follow the Douro, hopping from place to place to where Portugal borders Spain before turning back. A highlight is visiting a Quinta in Pinhão where, depending on the season, you might get to take part in the traditional grape harvest, picking and crushing the grapes underfoot .

When? June and September 2024

Visit Germany's famous Christmas markets along the Rhine

cologne germany christmas market, aerial drone view over cologne rhine river germany europe

There are so many enchanting cities and villages along the banks of the Rhine, and they really come into their own in December. Germany is famed for its atmospheric Christmas markets, and many of the best in the country can be found along the Rhine, making a Christmassy cruise a fabulous way to explore them.

There's Mainz, one of the oldest cities in Germany, where you can visit a historic Christmas market on the Domplatz, set against a backdrop of the illuminated Mainz Cathedral. You'll want to visit Koblenz too, a city considered to have one of the most beautiful Christmas markets in Germany, and one of the largest in the Rhineland.

Join Good Housekeeping for a festive voyage along the Rhine on the the beautiful ship A-ROSA Aqua and you'll visit Mainz and Koblenz as well as Frankfurt and Cologne, where the market takes place right in front of the famous Cologne Cathedral.

On board your ship you'll find a sauna, fitness area, and whirlpool to enjoy between your market trips, and ample breakfast, lunch and dinner buffets in the ship's lovely dining venues.

When? December 2024 FIND OUT MORE

Glide along the Danube and see the Lipizzaner horses in Vienna

best river cruises

The banks of the Danube have seen the rise and fall of empires and provided inspiration to some of Europe's greatest artists and composers. This grand river winds its way past mysterious hillside castles and ancient medieval towns and meanders through a range of culture-rich cities, including four European capitals . A river cruise is an unbeatable way to explore some of the cities straddling the Danube, allowing you to visit several towns, villages and cities on one trip, without having to organise local transport yourself.

One of the finest cities that the Danube flows through is Vienna, once the home of Mozart, where manicured gardens, chic coffee houses and baroque palaces will have you feeling like you've stepped back in time. It's also the home of the Royal Lipizzaner Stables at the Spanish Riding School, where grand Lipizzan horses perform a mesmerising type of equine ballet. On Good Housekeeping's Danube River cruise you can visit the Royal Lipizzaner Stables with historian Lucy Worsley. You'll enjoy an aperitif and a talk before watching the training of the young stallions in the imperial atmosphere of the Baroque winter riding school, as classical Viennese music plays.

When? September 2024

Sail further afield with a cruise through Vietnam and Cambodia

sunrise view of popular tourist attraction ancient temple complex angkor wat with reflected in lake siem reap, cambodia

While Europe has more than its fair share of enchanting rivers, you're also spoilt for choice if you fancy a river cruise further afield.

Asia has several waterways which provide ideal routes for discovering new countries and cultures. Flowing through Myanmar, China, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, the Mekong is one of the longest rivers in the world and home to an incredible range of wildlife.

It makes the ideal destination for a river cruise that combines culture, delicious cuisine and wildlife-spotting. You might spot species like the endangered Irrawaddy dolphin, giant freshwater stingray and giant catfish swimming alongside you.

Good Housekeeping is offering an immersive adventure along the Mekong through Cambodia and Vietnam. You'll sail in a Luxury Balcony suite aboard the Mekong Jewel, a luxurious and beautifully decorated ship, to visit unforgettable sights like the UNESCO-listed Angkor Wat temples and incredible cities like Phnom Penh and Hanoi.

There'll be ample opportunities to learn about the turbulent history of the region too, with visits to the infamous Killing Fields and a glimpse of the Viet Cong's network of tunnels dating back to the Vietnam War.

When? December 2024

Enjoy an Italian feast with James Martin in Venice

the best river cruises in europe, cruise in venice

One thing that's synonymous with Italy is good food, and that's exactly what you can enjoy on this eight-day sailing around Venice and the Veneto region.

Tick off Venice's spectacular sights, including the Grand Canal, Rialto Bridge and St Mark's Basilica, which you'll visit after dark on our Good Housekeeping cruise . As part of our GH trip, you'll also get VIP access to the Doge's Palace, the stunning Venetian Gothic palace that dates back to 1340.

Sailing on the luxurious S.S. La Venezia , which accommodates only 126 guests and has a wonderfully intimate feel, you'll also visit the colourful, charming islands of Burano (pictured above), Mazzorbo and Torcello, all situated in the Lagoon of Venice.

If all of that wasn't exciting enough, the cherry on top will be meeting acclaimed chef James Martin, who will join you on board for the day to give a talk and partake in a Q&A and book-signing session. In addition, the much-loved Saturday Morning host will cook a delectable gala dinner one evening, too.

Discover local traditions as you sail the Ganges in a luxury ship

a building with many windows

Another Asian adventure awaits on the Ganges, India's most sacred river. Sailing along this important body of water allows you a unique insight into life along its banks. It meanders 2,500km through the country from its starting point high in the Himalayas down through sprawling cities, tiny villages, and spectacular nature.

A Ganges cruise is a wonderful way to see some of India's best attractions, with highlights including the Rajbari temple complex in Kalna, the artisan village of Matiari, and the neoclassical Hazarduari Palace in Murshidabad.

Join Good Houskeeping's once-in-a-lifetime tour of India , which includes seven-night cruising in luxury down the Ganges. After exploring India's Golden Triangle – including a trip to witness both sunset and sunrise over the iconic Taj Mahal – you'll board the opulent Ganges Voyager II, a spectacular ship adorned with hand-painted murals, to explore the culture and history on the river banks. Of course, another highlight of India holiday is the cuisine, and you'll be joined on board by Michelin-starred British-Indian chef Atul Kochhar, who will share his passion for Indian cooking in a live demonstration.

When? November 2024

Discover the wonders of Egypt and sail the Nile

karnak temple is considered one of the largest places to worship ever built in the world

A brilliant option if you're itching to explore another continent is Egypt, where the Nile holds awe-inspiring archaeological treasures along its banks.

A cruise along this fabled river allows you to easily visit magnificent temples like Kom Ombo, Philae, and Edfu and to see the Valley of the Kings, the ancient burial grounds of Egyptian royalty. There are several more fascinating monuments to see along the way, including the towering twin statues known as the Colossi of Memnon. Join a cruise along the Nile with Good Housekeeping and you'll see all this and more while sailing on board the exceptional luxury ship, River Tosca. Making this river cruise even more special is the company of historian and author Lucy Worsley.

Lucy is an expert in Agatha Christie, who took inspiration from this region for one of her most famous works, Death on the Nile. You'll have afternoon tea at the hotel which features in the novel and Lucy will share her knowledge of the famous author's work during several Q&As and talks.

More cruise ideas:

- The best cruises for couples

- A guide to Northern Lights cruises

- The most beautiful Danube cities and towns

- A guide to Japan cruise holidays

- The most beautiful rivers in Europe

- The best small ship cruises

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river cruise to christmas markets

8 best river cruises in Europe, from the Douro to the Danube

E urope is a continent built on its rivers, with many having played a vital role in the formation and development of its most important cities. From the Thames to the Tiber, they are a ever-flowing reminder of the continent’s long and varied history.

The opportunity to sail along these rivers, among the world’s most beautiful and peaceful waterways, is a temptation that’s easily given in to. Of course, a river cruise is about more than just spending time floating on the water (although that option is available, should you wish). It’s about the towns, cities and landmarks along the way.

These trips will take you on a relaxing and slow-paced journey to vineyards and valleys, tours and excursions, returning each night to your own floating hotel. Each day offers quick stops to discover some of the continent’s most important culture at your own pace.

The Independent has rounded up eight of the best Europe river cruise packages, from epic continental crossing and to the finest Christmas markets to explore.

Capitals of Eastern Europe, Viking River Cruises

Viking River Cruises’ Capitals of Eastern Europe itinerary is a 16-night trip covering the main cities on the Danube. It sets sail from Vienna, the elegant and sophisticated Austrian capital, and it finishes in Constanta, Romania, before a quick final journey over land to Bucharest to end your trip with a two-night stay.

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On the way you’ll visit a host of towns in Hungary, Serbia and even Bulgaria, but on this trip the bigger cities are the main attraction. Vienna is followed by Bratislava – where Baroque palaces meet a typically Eastern European Old Town – and then Budapest . The Hungarian capital is a highlight: from festooned “ruin bars” and thermal baths to a spectacular neo-Gothic parliament building, the city has a wide variety of architecture, activities and things to do.

How to book

The tour lasts for 17 days, starting from £3,795pp. This price includes return flights, one excursion in each port of call and all meals.

North Rhine & The Netherlands, TUI

Alongside the Danube, the Rhine is one of Europe’s main cruise rivers. Many operators have several Rhine packages; TUI’s offering covers a stellar range of cities for a very affordable price. It’s ships have two dining options (a bistro and a more formal restaurant) with al fresco seating, as well as a wellness and activity area on the top deck. No excursions are included, but this does give you free rein to choose whatever activities you like.

The first two days are spent in Amsterdam , where you’ll have ample time to wander its canals and green spaces, such as the Vondelpark, or visit attractions such as the Anne Frank museum, Van Gogh museum and Rijksmuseum.

Days three and four bring you to Rotterdam and Dusseldorf. You can enjoy the port area in Netherlands ’ second city or simply marvel at its dramatically different modern architecure, while Dusseldorf provides a variety of museums and concerts alongside a lively Old Town. On days five to seven, you’ll visit four picturesque riverside cities and towns: Bonn, Koblenz, Boppard and Oberwesel. There are waterfront bars and restaurants galore, and each has its own slice of history (think of a Beethoven museum in Bonn and a memorial to the ruler who united Germany in Koblenz).

From £1,219pp for this seven-night trip, including three meals per day (you can add coffees, alcohol and other drinks on an all-inclusive basis for an extra £20 per night) and return flights.

The Douro, Riviera Travel

A trip along the northern Douro river can offer views to rival even the most idyllic of Algarve beaches. This trip starts in Porto , where bars and restaurants line the banks in the Ribeira (Riverside) district, but it is worth climbing the various hills to see other areas and sites, such as the cathedral and Dom Luis I Bridge.

After setting off along the Douro, your first two stops are Pinhao – a picturesque wine town, famous for being at the heart of the Port-producing region of the country – and Castelo Rodrigo, a 12th-century walled village located in the highlands. Day four will see you visit Salamanca, the Spanish sandstone city famous for its cathedrals and university.

The next two days are spent in Peso da Régua and Lamego – two small hillside towns – before returning to Porto on day seven. The cruises ends here but the holiday isn’t; this package also contains a three-night stay in Lisbon . After travelling to the capital by coach, you’ll visit the nearby towns of Coimbra (day eight) and Sintra (day 10), while you’ll have a day in the capital sandwiched in between; while in Lisbon, take in the city’s unique Manueline and Pombaline architecture while wandering through its grand squares, and visit Sao Jorge castle or the city’s famous Time Out Market.

This 11-day cruise is priced from £2,128pp, including all meals on board, excursions, airport transfers and coach travel where necessary.

The Rhone, Scenic Cruises

Scenic Cruises’ luxury Rhone sailing takes you through some of the best sections of southern France , starting in Lyon . The regional capital has 2,000 years of history, so it’s blessed with a Roman amphitheatre right through to a Renaissance Old Town. Your first trip will take you north along the Saone river to Macon, a famous wine region in Burgundy.

The next two towns, Vienne and Viviers, offer spectacular views of the Rhone before you arrive in Avignon for two nights. You can enjoy a private concert at the Palais des Papes – once a Papal residence – as well as a cooking class onboard, but a visit to the city itself is worth it to wander its narrow streets and charming squares, starting with the Place de l’Horloge. Your final day takes you to Arles, at the mouth of the Rhone – from here, you can travel home, stay in the city or carry on towards Marseille .

Prices start at £1,863pp for the eight-day cruise. The package includes 20 meals, the premium concert experience, cooking lessons and 19 shore activities, ranging from walking tours to wine tastings.

Holland & Belgium, Avalon Waterways

Avalon’s eight-day cruise of the Low Countries is an excellent way to experience some of the region’s best cities in a relaxing way. It starts and ends in Amsterdam , where you’ll have a number of nights to wander its scenic network of canals lined with beautiful 17th-century buildings.

When you move onto Belgium, you’ll visit Ghent , Brussels and Antwerp on consecutive days. More tranquil canals await you in Ghent, and those who enjoy being by the water can continue this in Antwerp’s waterfront area. Brussels has more than its fair share of landmarks and museums (all centred around Grand Place, main square and Unesco Heritage Site), but the Royal Museum of Fine Arts (Antwerp) and St Bavo’s Cathedral (Ghent) are definitely places to visit during the other stops. Day six will take you to Rotterdam before you head back to the Dutch capital.

From £1,635pp. Meals and some activities are included; there are additional excursions in each destination that can be purchased.

Danube Delights, Emerald Cruises

This trip from Emerald Cruises takes you along the famous river to Regensburg. It starts with two nights in Budapest , with a traditional Hungarian folklore show and tour of Buda Hill on offer, along with any solo sightseeing you’d like to do. Days three and four take you to Bratislava and Vienna, where you can enjoy cycling tours and hikes.

Krems and Durnstein are the last two stops in Austria before you head to Passau, the German “City of Three Rivers”. At the confluence of the Danube, Inn and Ilz rivers, the city is home to an impressive cathedral and Old Town. After disembarking at Regensburg, you make your way to Munich , where a good plan is to spend time exploring the Bavarian capital before you fly home.

From £1,995pp for this eight-day cruise, which includes five guided tours, 20 meals and complimentary wine, beer and soft drinks served with lunch and dinner on board.

Christmas Markets on the Rhine, Ama Waterways

There’s something quite special about experienceing Christmas celebrations on a river cruise through Europe. On this AmaWaterways voyage, you sail the Rhine, boarding in Amsterdam and with a first stop in Cologne. The Gothic cathedral provides the backdrop for one of the country’s best Christmas markets, where you’ll find dozens of stalls selling festive items, many of it handmade. Other markets include the more elaborate Heinzels Wintermärchen in the Old Town and the Markt der Engel (a more rustic affair in the city’s Neumarkt square). For those who want to mix in a bit of sightseeing, the Museum Ludwig and Roman-Germanic Museum can give you a taste of arts and history.

Next on the itinerary you’ll visit the German towns of Heidelberg and Speyer, where more markets await, before arriving in Strasbourg, France. Here you’ll find an eclectic mix of French and German culture, a warm festive spirit and plenty of opportunities to wander the markets that are spread throughout the town. Wander further afield and you’ll find Petite France, a pretty district known for cobblestone streets and canals. Holidaymarkers return to Germany for the penultimate stop in Breisach, before disembarking in Basel (though you can always stay in Switzerland for a taste of Swiss Christmas markets).

From £2,254, including meals and some activitie; flights and airport transfer not included.

European Sojourn, Viking River Cruises

This ultimate itinerary bisects Europe to take passengers from Amsterdam to Bucharest, via sections of the Rhine, Main and Danube among other European rivers. Along the way, passngers will visit some of Europe’s principal cities – think Budapest, Amsterdam and Vienna – smaller (but just as beautiful) riverside settlements such as Passau and Bamberg, and lesser-known towns including Vidin and Kolocsa.

Hidden gems range from Melk, an Austrian town in the underrated Wachau Valley wine-making region, Osijek, the fourth-largest city in Croatia, and Kinderdijk, a Dutch village famous for its set of 19 windmills. With 23 days, eight countries, 20 towns and cities, and at least 10 Unesco World Heritage Sites, there’ll be plenty to see as you traverse the length of central Europe.

From £5,395pp, including flights, 19 guided tours, all meals, transfers and amenities.

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Overview Christmas Markets on the Rhine

7- night cruise, 7- night cruise with 2-nights amsterdam pre-cruise and 2 nights lake lucerne, 2 nights zurich post-cruise, 7-night cruise, 7- night cruise with 2 nights zurich, 2 nights lake lucerne pre-cruise, 7-night cruise add pre- or post-cruise land program 7-night cruise with 2-nights amsterdam pre-cruise and 2 nights lake lucerne, 2 nights zurich post-cruise 7-night cruise add pre- or post-cruise land program 7-night cruise with 2-nights amsterdam pre-cruise and 2 nights lake lucerne, 2 nights zurich post-cruise 7-night cruise with 2-nights amsterdam pre-cruise and 2 nights lake lucerne, 2 nights zurich post-cruise add pre- or post-cruise land program 7-night cruise 7-night cruise with 2 nights zurich, 2 nights lake lucerne pre-cruise add pre- or post-cruise land program 7-night cruise, cruise from : amsterdam to basel, cruise from : basel to amsterdam, countries: france, germany, netherlands, switzerland france, germany, netherlands, switzerland, rivers: rhine, christmas markets on the rhine at a glance.

  • Amsterdam to Basel
  • Basel to Amsterdam
  • Amsterdam to Zurich
  • Zurich to Amsterdam

Itinerary is subject to change. For the most up-to-date information, please refer to the itinerary schedule provided with your final documents.

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