Travels with Bob

A Different Twist on the Christmas Holidays

Christmas Market

Europe’s Christmas market river cruises are a magical way to enjoy the season.

It’s the same story every year. As soon as the evenings get chilly and leaves begin to drop, people everywhere start stressing about the upcoming Christmas season and all of the details ahead. Yet, there may be a better alternative.

If you wait until September or October, it may be too late to plan a special European getaway to celebrate the joy of Christmas this season. But maybe not. A few opportunities may still be available for last-minute travelers looking to de-stress their holidays by jetting off to Europe.

Most of the major river cruise lines offer Christmas Market theme cruises along Europe’s Rhine and Danube rivers beginning in late November and running through Christmas. Most river cruises are 7-nights and some cruise lines offer itineraries with pre- or post-cruise land extensions. While many of these cruises are fully booked well in advance, you might still find availability due to cancelations. So it’s worth checking.

My favorite Christmas markets are located in Nuremburg and Vienna on the Danube and in Cologne on the Rhine. In addition, holiday magic can be experienced in the smaller towns and villages along the rivers. It’s a great way to skip the holiday parties, get in some last-minute gift buying, and experience European holiday and religious customs for yourself.

You will want to pack your winter coat and gloves because you will likely encounter nippy temperatures and possibly even snowflakes – both easily remedied with a cup of hot chocolate or cider and by sampling the many other treats available in the markets. [Warning: The German apple strudel is addictive.]

If a river cruise is not your thing, try a land vacation in London or Paris where the holiday season is in full swing by the end of November. I recommend early December for such trips because air and hotel prices usually increase substantially between December 20 and early January. Or better yet, plan to spend four or five days in London before taking the Eurostar express train through the Chunnel to Paris and extend your holiday by celebrating with the French, as well, before flying home.

Once you experience a Christmas market river cruise or some other magical holiday trip in Europe, I am sure you will want to do it again. So if you missed the boat this year, now is the time be thinking about next year’s holiday season.