Christmas Roundup: How to See Europe's Best Markets by Land and by River

Think it's too late to book a holiday trip to Europe? Think again. We looked at some notable seasonal packages for Europe just a month ago, and there are already a range of new options available for last-minute booking. Here are some tips on how to see some of the continent's best holiday displays…

On Land

This week, the IsramWorld Portfolio of Brands announced a holiday tour of Germany and the country's Christmas markets. EuropeToo, part of the IsramWorld Portfolio of Brands, will offer the Germany Christmas Markets tour from December 7-13 this year. Guests can sample Christmas sweets, regional specialties and Glϋhwein (or mulled wine), while listening to the Christmas choirs - all in the medieval towns of Rothenburg and Regensburg, as well as modern cities such as Munich and Stuttgart.  

The tour includes a visit to Christkindlesmarket in Nuremberg; a visit to Garmisch Partenkirchen, the site of the 1936 Winter Olympics; visit to Neuschwanstein Castle, the inspiration for the castle in Walt Disney's Sleeping Beauty; visit to the picturesque Heidelberg Castle; visit to the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart; and guided sightseeing throughout the tour.  

There are plenty of other markets all around Europe, of course, as well as seasonal celebrations that are a perfect excuse to hop across the pond. Auto Europe recently released tips on where to get in the holiday spirit in the UK, Belgium, Copenhagen, Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Ireland, Holland and Switzerland. Some of these markets are open through January, so even those who want to celebrate Christmas Day at home can still keep the mood for a few days more in Europe. 

On Water

Our own Susan Young recently took a look at the appeal of river cruising to the Christmas markets, and how different lines are catering to a wider range of demands. 

In 2015, Avalon Waterways has cruises as long as 16 days, many options seven to 12 days in length, and even a shorter five-day cruise, a good way to see if clients will like the Christmas markets concept. One unusual short cruise? Croisi-Europe operates a four-day “Christmas Magic in Belgium” itinerary. Guests visit Brussels’ Christmas market before heading to Antwerp and then on to Bruges’ Christmas market. Each Christmas market has its own personality, and river lines typically offer walking tours. New this year, each Holiday market itinerary for the Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection now includes a special “Taste of Christmas” guided walking tour in such cities as Vienna, Paris, Strasbourg and Frankfurt. Guests receive a local Christmas treat from vendors.

For travelers wanting to tour as many European Christmas markets as possible, Emerald Waterways’ 15-day “Christmas Markets of Europe Cruise,” sailing November 29, will take them to 25 markets from Amsterdam to Budapest. Some clients may wish to combine a markets cruise with the actual holiday dates; AmaWaterways’ two-week “Magnificent Europe” Christmas cruise itinerary, from Budapest to Amsterdam on December 17.

Tauck, meanwhile, has increased the capacity of its Christmas market cruises along the Danube and Rhine rivers by 67 percent and increase the number of ships sailing on its two holiday-themed itineraries from three to four. The new ms Inspire and ms Savor will both make their Christmas market cruise debuts, joining the ms Treasures and the ms Swiss Jewel