People who think a Christmas Markets cruise is just a Danube cruise with colder weather are missing out. These cruises – which are only offered for four weeks each year – are like no other European river cruise you’ll take. And here’s why:
#1: Europe during the holidays is vastly different from Europe in summer
Even if you’ve been to Germany and Austria before, you probably visited during the summer. And Europe during the holidays is a completely unique – and completely magical experience. Europe takes Christmas festivities as a personal challenge, and seeing the quaint villages – and grand cities like Vienna – all decorated within an inch of their lives is like living in a European Hallmark movie, but without all the flirty princes. (Hey, nothing’s perfect.)
#2: It’s never hot
This will seem like a giant DUH, but it’s something that a lot of people never consider. For those who get hot and tired in the summer heat, it’s actually refreshing to tour when it’s in the 30’s and 40’s (and sometimes the 50’s – thanks, global warming). You never feel drained, you never have to take a break because you’re overheated, and you get to wear all those fabulous scarves you bought on other trips.
#3: The Christmas Markets are BEYOND charming
You’ll find them in virtually every village or city your cruise ports at. The markets are arrangements (sometimes a hundred or more) of wooden stalls and shops selling all manner of adorable Christmas ornaments, nativity displays, soaps and many other items; and they’re a great place for holiday gifts. Enjoy a mug of hot chocolate or gluhwein (pronounced “glue-vine” – warm, mulled wine with spices) as you shop. Caution: if you enjoy 4 or 5, you may need a steamer trunk to get your purchases home.
There are also “Pink Christmas” markets in the major cities like Vienna – gay versions of the Christmas markets. Packed with LGBT folk and sometimes evening drag shows and the like, these markets generally feature artisan versions of the tchotchkes you’ll find at the regular Christmas markets. Get your dance on, flirt with the hot European clientele, and shop like the American you are.
#4: The tourist crowds are MUCH smaller
Europe in summer is gorgeous, of course, but the crowds (particularly post-pandemic) are huge. Touring in December – especially when you’re in the window after Thanksgiving and before Christmas – means you’ll encounter only 30 or 40% of the summer crowd size. The Christmas Markets are very popular with locals, but because far less Americans are traveling at that time, these countries aren’t overrun as they are in the summer.
#5: Fantastic award seat availability and airfare deals
Because this couple of weeks in early December is a trough between the major travel holidays, you can find a lot more milesaver award seats. And if you’re paying for your ticket, the fares are equally low (an average of $600-700 in economy – a bargain this year, with sky high airfares abounding). If you’ve traveled in 2022, either with paid tickets or miles, you know how difficult it has been to get any kind of deal (mileage redemption rates have been astronomical), so this is a total score.
#6: Holiday shows at the Kursalon and Vienna Opera House
These are both spectacular venues (the Vienna Opera house, in particular), and both offer holiday shows. On Brand g’s cruise you’ll have the option to take in a concert at the Kursalon; or you can buy tickets to a performance at the Vienna Opera House on your own. If you’re not that into holiday music, ballet, etc., but want to see the Vienna Opera house for its over-the-top grandeur (and it’s WORTH it), get a standing-room only seat for a performance. They’re only 5-10 Euro. Tip: Dress decently. You certainly don’t need to be in black tie, but you’ll feel a bit out of place in jeans and a light-up Christmas sweater.
Recommendation: If you don’t have an evening to spare but still want to see the Vienna Opera House, you can also take a daytime guided tour:
#7: Vienna’s Ringstrasse
This is the wide boulevard that surrounds the historic inner district of Vienna, and is home to more grand, architecturally eye-popping European buildings than just about anywhere in Europe. It’s as if Disneyland married a European Monopoly board. And in the Christmas season, this glamour is compounded with fabulous street decorations that make all these buildings – the Imperial Palace, Parliament, the National Theater, the list goes on – totally spectacular. You’ll feel like Emily in Paris. In Vienna.
#8: Other great German cities are a short train ride away
Brand g’s 2022 Christmas Markets cruise ends in Nuremberg, Germany – and cities like Munich and Frankfurt are just an hour or two’s train ride away (cost about $20-65). So you can extend your stay in one of these quintessentially German cities.
Recommendation #1: Stay in Munich and take a day trip tour to Neuschwanstein Castle. It’s the huge, whimsical castle (built by mad King Ludwig for just himself) on which Walt Disney based the Disney castle. Extraordinary.
Recommendation #2: Salzburg, Austria (Mozart’s birthplace and where The Sound of Music was filmed) is magical. You’ll have the option to do a day trip here while on Brand g’s Christmas Markets cruise, but if you have the time to add onto your trip, Salzburg is truly worth a 2-3 day stay. You can take a train from Vienna (where Brand g’s cruise begins). It’s just a two-hour trip, and tickets run $10-75. Stay in the walled Old Town area of Salzburg, which is deservedly a UNESCO World Heritage site. There are a handful of charming boutique hotels, as well as a couple of stunning hotels from Marriott’s Luxury Collection.
Things to do:
- Stroll the uber-charming Old Town. Great shops and restaurants. You can spend half a day just doing this.
- Take a half-day Sound of Music tour. Even if you’re not a huge fan of the musical, the sights are beautiful and the tour is exceptionally well-done.
- Take in a Mozart dinner and concert. It’s held in gorgeous palace-like surroundings, and the dinner and show are surprisingly good.
#8 – Onboard festivities
While we can only speak for the Brand g version of a Christmas Markets cruise, onboard our glam river ship we’ll feature holiday theme parties, signature Brand g entertainers and festive Christmas dinners. What happens on the Danube…
Need any more encouragement? Save $400 per person on our 2022 cruise with promo code TRAVELISBACK, through Aug 31st!
And hey. maybe you’ll even get to flirt with a prince (or princess). It can happen.