Whether you go this year or next, there’s nothing better than visiting Europe’s biggest Christmas markets by cruise ship
Christmas is one of my favourite times of the year. I adore the smells, the music, the food and seeing trees glistening with hundreds of fairy lights.
I don’t think there’s anything I dislike about it, I’m one of those people that really does wish it could be Christmas every day.
And if there’s one thing I must experience at this time of the year, it’s a Christmas market. Whether that be the one that visits my city or one I can visit by cruise.
I’ve explored several Christmas markets over the years, but it’s always the ones in Europe that fill my heart with the most magic.
So, with that in mind, I’m sharing with you four Christmas markets that are worthy of being added to your itinerary and one that’s not so traditional or tasteful!
Amsterdam offers some of the best Christmas markets in Europe and thanks to the ease of moving around the city – even if you’re only calling in on your cruise for one day – I’m confident you can still visit at least two of the markets.
Every year, Damrak is lined from top to bottom with various vendors selling everything from wooden ornaments to delicious bratwurst.
When you leave your ship, this will be the first market you come across and it’s certainly worth taking in the atmosphere and the smells.
As you continue heading deeper into the city, you’ll eventually reach Museumplein where every year it transforms into a stunning Christmas village.
This is without doubt one of the best Christmas markets in Amsterdam and it should absolutely be on your list.
There’s an ice rink, market stalls, mulled wine, delicious food and so much more.
The market on Damrak usually pops up between late-November and early-December. The Museumplein market runs from mid-to-late December.
One of Copenhagen’s most visited attractions is Tivoli, a theme park in the heart of the city that first opened its doors in 1843.
With its rich history and vintage feel, this is the perfect Christmas market setting for those that truly love this time of the year.
The historic garden is filled with lights, wooden houses and snow-covered trees, 70,000 baubles are dotted around and over 1,000 trees are decorated with lights.
Santa Claus is also there to greet visitors and ensure all visiting children remain on the ‘nice’ list, he does this with the help of his reindeer, of course.
Stalls sell everything from sweets and tree decorations to knitted items and hot drinks.
Tivoli transforms into a Christmas wonderland from mid-November until the end of December.
Bruges is quaint and charming at the best of times, so to see it transformed into a winter wonderland is something very special.
The main square is where it all happens, and at Grote Markt you’ll find vendors housed in wooden chalets selling everything from delicious Belgian chocolates to tree decorations. There’s also a sizeable ice rink right in the heart of it all.
Saint Nicholas Day is not one, but two days, in Belgium. Sinterklaas (Santa Claus) makes a grand entrance by boat on the last Sunday of November before his gift giving on 6 December – these are great times to be in the city – but those whom have been naughty must run, as tradition states you’ll be bundled into a sack and taken away to Spain.
Dates for the market do vary, but this year it runs from November 23 until January 1.
This is a destination, like Amsterdam, which offers visitors more than one option, but one of the most popular is the Viennese Dream Christmas Market which is held in front of the City Hall.
The setting is stunning, especially at night when everything is lit up, and one thing you’re guaranteed is to be charmed by the abundance of Christmas cheer.
Although this market is slightly more commercialised than most, it’s still worth a visit and you’ll find some traditional food, drinks and decorations available.
Other options to consider if you have the time are the markets at Freyung, Belvedere Palace and the market at Schonbrunn Palace.
All the markets tend to run from mid-November until late-December. The market at Schonbrunn Palace also offers a New Year market which is open from around December 27th until early-January.
THE WILDCARD: Hamburg’s XXXmas Market
Hamburg offers several Xmas markets, with the most popular one being Weihnachtsmarkt which is held in front of the Town Hall.
Here, you’ll find everything you’d expect from a yuletide market, but if you want to experience something very different – and a place your cruise line probably won’t tell you about – then you need to visit the ‘Santa Pauli’ festival on the Reeperbahn, the world’s first erotic Christmas market.
You’ll still find mulled wine, delicious food and traditional Xmas ornaments, but you’ll also come across angels in a strip tent (entry is free) and stalls selling, well, I’ll let your mind do the creative work with that, but let’s just say, it’s likely to be X-rated.
Santa Pauli runs every year from the end of November until the end of December and can be found on the Reeperbahn, Hamburg’s aptly named ‘Mile of Sin’.