European Holiday Market Tours for the 2017 Christmas Season

Heidelberg Christmas Market
The Heidelberg Christmas market

Despite the fact that it’s still summertime, it’s never too early to start thinking about the holiday season. 

If you’re thinking about getting away for this upcoming Christmas, these tours supplied by this list are sure to do the trick. Here are six different tour and cruise operators who can add some extra special Christmas cheer to your family’s holiday season this year – whether you are looking for authentic, festive delicacies or to immerse yourself in a different style of holiday tradition.

Abercrombie & Kent

This Christmas, this luxury tour operator is offering families a new “Christmas Markets Along the Danube” holiday tour. The cruise runs for a total of nine days and is limited to only 24 guests, allowing for the trip to be particularly intimate. Travelers will start in Vienna, Austria, and end in Munich, Germany, staying within the confines of the two countries throughout the journey. 

While in Vienna, guests will tour the famous, baroque Belvedere Museum, take a Viennese waltz lesson, visit St. Stephen’s Cathedral, tour the city while driving along the Ringstrasse (or Ring Road), visit Schönbrunn Palace and its Christmas market as well as other Viennese holiday markets, including the famous Christkindlemarkt on the Rathausplatz. This famous holiday market dates back to the 18th century, but only moved to its present location in 1975. It estimates a rough 3.5 million attendees per year, and offers high quality blown glass and handcrafted wood gifts. 

There will be more Christmas markets in Passau, Regensburg and Nuremberg, Germany. At the latter, travelers will get to enjoy an original, homemade, holiday classic: gingerbread.

This tour runs through December 10 to 18, 2017.

Collette

This tour operator is offering two different Christmas holiday market tours this year: the “Spotlight on Paris Holiday” and the “Classic Christmas Markets” tours. 

On the Paris tour, travelers can spend seven days – either from November 27 to December 3, December 4 to December 10, or December 11 to December 17, 2017 – understanding what the City of Lights is all about during this time of year. There will be a tour of Notre Dame Cathedral, a Seine River cruise showing off the city skyline, and time at the Champs-Elysees Christmas Market. Guests will also dine at the Eiffel Tower, which will have holiday-inspired decorations, and be able to gaze at the Christmas window displays of Galerie Lafayette and Printemps Haussman. The tour will also take travelers out of Paris and into the city of Reims, where they will also get to explore that city’s holiday market.

“Classic Christmas Markets” is a nine-day tour, with dates including November 25 to December 3, December 2 to December 10, or December 9 to December 17, 2017. This tour will take guests through Strasbourg, France, Würzburg, Nuremberg and Munich, Germany, as well as Innsbruck, Austria. Each country will host its own variation of a “Christkindlesmarkt,” complete with authentic gifts, delicacies and European charm. There will also be excursions to other historic and cultural landmarks on this tour. 

GOGO Vacations

Explore the German city of Frankfurt on this tour operator’s holiday market itinerary. One of the shorter tours on this list, visitors will be able to enjoy the city for three full nights. Guests will stay at the five-star Le Meridien Frankfurt, receive breakfast daily as well as private hotel transfers, and walk through the Rüdesheim Christmas markets, which includes dinner. 

The Rüdesheim holiday market is set in Frankfurt’s “chocolate box” old quarter, adorned with warm, twinkly lights and pine galore. There are 120 stalls from 12 different countries, all gathering to celebrate and share their own variation of holiday tradition with the world. Some “must-do’s” at this holiday market involve trying Rüdesheim mulled wine or Rüdesheim coffee – the latter exclusively made with locally distilled Asbach Uralt Brandy and whipped cream. Asbach Uralt also makes its own variety of brandy-filled chocolates, which could make for an authentic gift. A highlight of this market arrives on is the parade for St. Thomas on December 20, a traditional pageant where minstrels, masked men and others walks through the Old Town.

This tour should be booked by September 30, 2017 and runs tours through November 27 to December 23, 2017.

Cunard

Travelers can also set sail for the holiday season on this cruise line, with festive options aboard the Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria ships. The Bruges Short Break cruises run for three nights, while the Bruges and Amsterdam cruises run for five. Those aboard the Queen Elizabeth on the Bruges Short Break tour will travel from December 8 to 11, 2017, and those aboard the Queen Victoria on the Bruges and Amsterdam tour will travel from December 12 to 17, 2017.

The Bruges Short Break tour will start in Southampton, traveling to Zeebrugge (Bruges) and back to Southampton again. The famous Christmas market in Bruges is home to picturesque cobblestone streets, festive ice sculptures, horse-drawn carriages, ice skating and holiday sweets. 

The Bruges and Amsterdam cruise also departs from Southampton, though it not only stops in Bruges, but Amsterdam and Cherbourg, France, as well. The Museumplein Christmas village in Amsterdam hosts live entertainment, Christmas games, gifts and traditional Dutch food and drinks. The Cherbourg Christmas market also hosts live entertainment as well as seasonal delicacies such as grilled chestnuts and mulled wine. There are more Christmas gifts to be found here, along with an ice skating rink and a toboggan run. 

Pleasant Holidays

This tour operator has recently expanded its Germany portfolio, making holiday market tours available throughout the country. Known to have some of the best holiday markets, travelers with this tour operator will explore Berlin, Munich, Nuremburg, Stuttgart, Hamburg and Frankfurt. Going through so many German cities, guests with Pleasant Holidays will be able to see the cultural differences and influences of each city.

Aside from Germany, there are other cruises offered through Prague, Rome, Salzburg, Vienna and ending in Budapest aboard AmaWaterways' river cruises.

Insight Vacations

Unlike most other itineraries on this list, this tour operator brings travelers to some “off the beaten path” locations, such as Russia, Poland and Bavaria. Some of these tours include “Christmas Markets of Poland, Prague & Germany,” “Christmas Markets of Austria & Bavaria” and “Easy Pace Russia with Christmas Markets.”

However, there are still other European holiday tours offered, including the “Alpine Christmas Markets” tour through the Alps, the “Christmas Markets of Germany” tour and the “Winter Wonderland” tour through Salzburg and Innsbruck, Austria, Lucerne, Switzerland and Frankfurt, Rothenburg, Munich, Mainz and Heidelberg, Germany. These tours vary from seven- to nine-day itineraries.

Avanti Destinations

Avanti's "German Christmas Markets" itinerary offers holiday travelers a four-day journey through Munich and Nuremberg. Available from December 1 through 24, 2017, this tour operator offers clients two nights with hotels in each city with first-class rail transportation, private tours of both cities' Christmas markets, dinner and daily breakfast. As an independent travel specialist, Avanti allows travelers to customize their trips to their liking, allowing for additional excursions to other international towns' Christmas markets. Avanti suggests festive cities such as Salzburg, ZurichBaselFreiburg, and Strasbourg, though tours can be arranged in Vienna, Budapest, UlmRegensburg and elsewhere.

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