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our viking river cruise to the christmas markets in germany

Christmas markets Germany

Visiting the Christmas Markets in Europe has always been a bucket list item for us.

So when Viking offered us our choice of a second cruise — we fell in love with them on a cruise through the South of France earlier this year — we unhesitatingly booked Germany  after Thanksgiving so we could finally make this dream come true.

Get out your calendar because, trust me, you’re going to want to start planning this trip for next year.

Christmas markets horses

Surprisingly, the Christmas Markets have been around for centuries — in Germany, since the Middle Ages — and many of the original traditions continue to this day.  In fact, one of the things Michael and I liked most about the Markets was the fact that, although they attract thousands of tourists, they are so obviously cherished as a warm and welcoming gathering place for locals, who can be found at all times of the day or night eating, drinking and just enjoying being together.

Christmas Markets stage

Eating is a big part of the Markets, and I hope you’ll come back tomorrow when I share some of the new unique and delicious dishes we indulged in.

Meanwhile, let me tell you about one of the most fun traditions of the Christmas Markets. Every year, each one — and there are multiple Markets in many of the cities — features its own signature mug. Here are the two we bought:

Christmas markets mugs

What happens is you spend a couple of euros for the mug and then you buy and refill your drinks — from the traditional mulled wine called gluhwein to hot chocolate and Kinderpunsch — for a couple more euros. If you decide you don’t want to keep the mug, you can return it and get back your “deposit.” If I lived in Germany (or if I had been traveling with one of my friends rather than my husband), I would be the proud collector of mugs from every single Christmas Market!

I would also own these star lights that I stopped to admire every time we passed them

Christmas markets star lightsand these rows of colorful balls, which would look great in my wanna-be office

Christmas markets light balls

and these flower candles in every color. I only bought them in green and blue.

Christmas markets candles

I would also have bought those adorable ceramic houses but we were traveling on KLM, and they give their own adorable ceramic houses to all business class passengers.

Many of the new friends we made on our cruise actually ended up buying extra suitcases to take home the handmade ornaments

Christmas markets Christmas booth

hand knit scarves, gloves and sweaters

Christmas markets scarves

and all the gifts they had picked up.

I can’t imagine a better way to enjoy the Christmas Markets than on a Viking River Cruise. Beside the fact that the cruise itself is proof that the journey is as important as the destination, it made it so easy for us to visit almost two dozen markets in Cologne, Frankfurt, Heidelberg, Wurzberg, Rothenburg, Bamberg and Nuremberg.

In some of the cities, we could visit the Markets both during the day, when there were fewer people around and it was easier to shop,

Christmas markets castle

and again at night when the lights and the atmosphere were so beautiful and festive.

Christmas markets Cologne show

Walking through the Christmas Markets is such a magical experience, it often feels like you’re in a fairy tale land.

Christmas markets houses

Although each Christmas Market definitely has its own charm, our favorites were the ones in Cologne, where we spent two nights on our pre-cruise extension. There are seven Christmas Markets in the city, and, although we chose to walk everywhere, you can hop on this cute train to go from one to another:

Christmas markets train

We were staying right near the Cologne Cathedral, which provided a striking background to the Christmas Market we loved the most.

Christmas markets Cologne Dom

This was such a special trip, we’re already hoping that next year during the holiday season, we’ll be rolling down the Danube on another Viking River Cruise, this time visiting the Christmas Markets from Budapest to Vienna.

I’m already cleaning out my cabinets to make room for those mugs.


  1. Robin (Masshole Mommy) says:

    Loving ALL of your pictures. Sounds like an amazing experience.

  2. I’m actually planning a cruise for 2017 and will be sure to consider Viking because Europe would be amazing to visit.

  3. Wow this sounds so magical, I would love to visit one of these markets and experience it for myself. x

  4. I JUST told my Mom about this cruise you did. She was in Austria with my military dad in 1955 and said she went to one Kriskindlemart and did not appreciate it and would love to go back. I’m going to send her your blog and maybe next year we can make that happen. Just beautiful, Lois!

  5. Love these. We took a river cruise through Germany this summer and loved it. Your pictures make me want to go back.

  6. OH, how I’d LOVE LOVE LOVE to go on that cruise. The photos are spectacular, and loving Christmas lights as I do I would have gone nuts.

    I’d love to go to Germany to visit my dad’s hometown. He’s in touch with the mayor and they’re always urging us to come back. Someday…

  7. Gorgeous photos and it looks like such a magical trip!

  8. Your post brought back wonderful memories of our own trip last year. In fact, we plan to go back, independently in the fairly near future and do it all over again. Three cities though.

  9. We did the Christmas market cruise in 2013 and absolutely loved it too. I recognized some of your pics. Missing that Gluhwein right now!

  10. I have always wanted to go to the Christmas markets! It looks like such an amazing experience.

  11. Helene Cohen Bludman says:

    What gorgeous photos! Sounds like such a special trip that could only be more special by the time of year. The mugs are so cute and I would have been tempted to buy one in every Christmas market, too!

  12. What an amazing experience. Must add to my travel list!

  13. Looks like a beautiful place to visit! How fun for you!

  14. You are so lucky. i love Germany – My favorite town Is Heidelberg! I love the way you descend down into in. Actually I’m going to Gerrmany in Julu. I love your pictures.

  15. Fun! I would love to have this experience because I love European markets and all the beautiful things you can buy there. Plus, it’s a nice way to get a feeling for local culture and traditions. I lived near Prague for a while and always enjoyed the Christmas market and other seasonal markets in Old Town Square.

  16. Wow, they’ve really made the Christmas Markets look spectacular. Browsing each market sounds like so much fun.

  17. If there is one vacation to book, it’s this one. Love the pics! What a wonderful place to go. Looks like you had an amazing time.

  18. Sounds like a lovely place to visit during the holidays. My ancestors are from Germany it would be really neat to learn about their heritage. What a great trip!

  19. This looks like a great idea for a trip.
    Your pictures are fantastic.

  20. This looks like a wonderful trip! Viking cruises have been on my bucket list for a while now!

  21. There are several places I would love to visit in Europe this time of year. Everything looks amazing. I enjoyed the pics.

  22. This is absolutely on my bucket list!!!! Amazing.

  23. It seems as if you had a wonderful trip and saw many beautiful places. It is nice that the trip lived up to your expectations.

  24. Adding this to my bucket list. Christmas Towns are my favorite of all places to visit. Christmas is my favorite holiday and I could listen to Christmas music year round…. but I need to make it to Germany and experience this!

  25. I’ve never heard of this before. I feel like I’m really missing out. I doubt I’ll ever make it to Germany but if I ever do this would be a sight to see. This looks so magical.

  26. That looks like a fun time & the shopping looks fantastic! I bet Germany is gorgeous this time of year!

  27. What an amazing trip. I would love to go at this time of the year.

  28. Janell @ Saving You Dinero says:

    Wow!! That looks amazing. I will be adding Germany to my list of places to visit!

  29. lois.
    what fun. wow. once in a lifetime kind of experience. your adventures are so wonderful and inspiring. thank you for sharing. happy holidays to you and yours.

  30. Gorgeous pictures . Really looks like a fairy land come to life!

  31. What fun! Looks like a fantastic trip. Glad you enjoyed, Lois.

  32. Wow! That looks overwhelmingly awesome! What a great little river cruise

  33. I am not a big fan of the holidays, but I do LOVE Christmas markets, particularly the seasonal food. When we lived in Europe, we visited several each year, they are so fun! The cruise would be a great way to relive that!

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