CHRISTMAS markets open across Europe this week as festive celebrations begin and tourists arrive on a flotilla of river cruise ships to stock up on festive gifts from hand carved wooden toys to exquisite decorations to take back home.

There is a magical atmosphere at European Christmas markets.
There is a magical atmosphere at Christmas markets that spread across Europe from Amsterdam to Vienna and Budapest. often recalls a magical Christmas market in Germany that still shines bright.

It helped that snow was falling as we munched on roasted chestnuts and giant pretzels, nibbled on marzipan pastries, and sipped gluhwein.

Energized by so many delicious snacks we finally found  time to shop for delicate glass baubles that still decorate our Christmas tree at home.

Christmas markets are full of atmosphere in the northern hemisphere with buskers singing carols amid a wonderland of lights. Not surprisingly, some of the biggest sales are from stalls selling decorations for the Christmas tree as well as wooden toys.

The markets are an annual affair in glorious medieval towns in November and December. And one of the best ways to visit these markets is on a river cruise that has port calls to spend time in them.

And while it is a little late to book this year – though there might be a few last-minute berths available – such a cruise is a highlight of the festive season.

Indeed, that attraction of Christmas markets has extended the river cruise season from October right through to December along the Danube, Rhine/Main, and Rhone rivers.

Major river cruise lines with ships sailing to Christmas markets include Avalon (, APT ( , Scenic ( ,  Viking (, and Uniworld (,  … and while there will be bags of Christmas cheer throughout these cruises, snowfall is not guaranteed en route.



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