The History

Europe’s Christmas markets date back to medieval times, when German territories covered a wide swath of the continent. Some...

The Rhine Christmas Markets

Let’s talk about the Rhine Christmas markets. There are a number of wonderful Christmas Markets on the Rhine, and...
European Christmas Markets
The History
European Christmas Markets
The Rhine Christmas Markets

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Cologne Market
European Christmas Markets

The History

Europe’s Christmas markets date back to medieval times, when German territories covered a wide swath of the continent. Some of Germany’s oldest Christmas markets trace their origins as far back as the 15th and 16th centuries. Dresden’s market first opened for one day on Christmas Eve in 1434. Meanwhile, the oldest evidence of Nuremberg’s Christmas market dates it to 1628, though some suspect it stretches back at least to 1530.

In Germany, the number of Christmas markets has also been on the rise for the last 50 years—tripling from about 950 markets in the 1970s to about 3,000 in 2019. Local tourism bureaus use them to persuade people to visit during winter’s bleakest days, and tour companies have expanded from bus tours to Christmas market river cruises that stop in cities along the Danube, from Germany to Hungary.

Every holiday season, Christmas markets transform the main squares of cities across Europe into winter wonderlands. Wooden huts adorned with twinkling lights and boughs of holly line the streets. Vendors sell hand-carved ornaments and Nativity scene figurines, alongside piping hot mugs of glühwein (mulled wine), as Christmas carols fill the air. In Germany alone, where the tradition began, there are normally 2,500 to 3,000 Christmas markets a year.

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Rhine christmas market
European Christmas Markets

The Rhine Christmas Markets

Let’s talk about the Rhine Christmas markets. There are a number of wonderful Christmas Markets on the Rhine, and each one is worth visiting. These markets all have their own charm. When visiting the Rhine  Christmas Markets we suggest leaving room in your stomach for the day’s adventure and room in your suitcase for the treasures you are sure to find.

Cologne Germany’s Christmas Markets & Cathedral

First let’s look at Cologne Germany. Christmas market traditions in Cologne’s Old Town date back to 1820. During this time the city’s Nikolaimarkt opened and became a month long annual tradition during the  holiday season. The market was a huge success and embraced as a part of the annual season.

When visiting Cologne don’t miss Cologne’s Cathedral. The Cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and host to the Shrine of the Three Kings. Because of it’s significance it’s one of the oldest and most important pilgrimage sites in Northern Europe.

Sixty five years later, Cologne’s City Council made the controversial decision to ban Christmas markets. It was in 1970 that the Christmas markets were re-introduced to Neumarkt, and then 7 years later, to Alter Markt as well. Since then, Christmas markets in Cologne have become increasingly popular. In 1995, the iconic Christmas market by Cologne Cathedral were introduced.

Rudesheim Germany Christmas Markets & Traditional Rudesheim Coffee

Next let’s talk about Rudesheim, Germany. In the Rhine Valley the entire world is welcomed to Rudesheim

Rudesheim Germany on the Rhine

Rudesheim Germany on the Rhine

during the Christmas season. Christmas is the highlight and shining beacon of the year. For many decades the Christmas Markets in Rudesheim on the Rhine have been celebrating Advent in a very special way. Over 17 nations offer goods and tasty specialties with beautiful crafts from all over Europe.

Guests from all over the world celebrate together with locals throughout the historical landscape of the Rhine Valley and give the market a distinctive flair. Make sure to try some famous Rudesheim coffee! And do not miss a chance to ride the little train that runs through the town.

Amsterdam Netherlands Christmas Markets

The Christmas Markets in Amsterdam are not at one but several locations. Besides shopping, many Christmas markets also offer many other activities. Go ice-skating on an (indoor) ice-skating rink, take a ride on a Ferris wheel or enjoy delicious traditional food and drink at one of the many stalls. There are several markets in Amsterdam.

It’s worth staying a day in Amsterdam to make sure you get to visit them, since Amsterdam is often an embarkation or disembarkation point. One of the highlights in Amsterdam is the Festival of Lights. This is very popular and often viewed on the canals, but there are also walking tours for the Festival of Lights as well. The Rhine river Christmas markets are a true bucket list item for many people.

Ludwigshafen Germany Christmas Market at Heidelberg

When making a stop in Ludwigshafen you don’t want to miss the festive Christmas markets of Heidelberg. The lingering scent of candied nuts, hot mulled Gluhwein, and fresh cut pine linger in the air. The sight of beautiful, handcrafted wooden stalls are the backdrop of this 17th century German town, making it a perfect fairy tale setting. Enjoy a warm mug of Gluhwein while exploring this market.

Heidelberg is beautiful year round, but during Christmas, it’s transformed into a magical holiday delight offering five different squares to choose from with over 140 stalls, and an ice skating rink beneath the castle.

Strasbourg France is a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Strasbourg France, a UNESCO World Heritage site is famous for Christkindelsmarik. This translates to market of the Christ Child. Historically this market is the oldest Christmas market in France, dating back to 1570. Notable German influence is evident in the architecture here. Strasbourg’s atmosphere is magical, unique and not to be missed.

The shops and streets are decked out in their finest decor for eagerly awaiting guests. Shop windows sparkle and twinkle and the scent of cinnamon and spices evokes memories of childhood while you are strolling around. As you inhale the aromas you’ll hear Christmas carols echo from the churches.

Strasbourg Christmas Market

Strasbourg Christmas Market

The whole city is transformed into an enchanting setting for you to enjoy and capture into your heart. You can’t miss the Christkindelsmarik’s Christmas tree due to its incredible height.  In 2019 the tree was 115 feet tall. Strasbourg is considered to be one of the most famous Christmas markets in Europe.

Not far away is Germany’s Gengenbach’s Christmas market. Stroll through the magnificently decorated city center and marvel at the world’s biggest Advent calendar house. Elaborate stained glass windows make this Advent house truly special to behold during Advent. Next, explore little alleyways and listen to the beautiful sounds of the Christmas choirs. Don’t forget to take in the sights and smells of the the holidays while you’re visiting  Gengenbach.

Riquewihr and Breisach Christmas Markets

Freiburg is Germany’s southernmost city. It’s a popular gateway to the Black Forest and the site of a lively market that’s centered on the City Hall Square. The square offers food and gift vendors’ booths spreading into the neighboring streets of Altstadt.

While exploring you’ll find gift stalls, tree sellers, and other merchants in the market surrounding the Cathedral. Fortunately, the market operates from about 7 a.m. running until early afternoon, and sometimes later. Make a special note that this market operates year round.

Christmas Markets in Basel Switzerland

The Basel Christmas markets are considered to be some of the prettiest and largest in Switzerland. Quaint Christmas markets are found in the center of the city, and the heart of the town is festively decorated with a magnificent Christmas tree.

The square in front of the Cathedral is exquisitely decorated at Christmas time. Visitors enjoy the atmosphere and splendid lights. Treat yourself to all the Christmas delicacies and enjoy the unique highlights that you only get to see during the holidays.

For more on the history of the Christmas markets visit this page. Ready to book a Christmas market river cruise? Contact us! It doesn’t cost you anything extra, and we can get you great deal with extra perks.

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