Our best Christmas Market river cruise on the Rhine and Main rivers, start in Cologne Germany and sailing to Nuremberg.
For eight days, you will cruise the Rhine and Main between Cologne and Nuremberg, where beer gardens, wine cellars, and Christmas markets add to a holiday spirit brimming with good cheer.
Browse endless colorful ornaments and handmade toys as the aroma of spicy glühwein fills the air. Follow the Romantic Road to Rothenburg ob der Tauber.
This 8 day cruise with 5 ports and 5 shore excursions with local guides & headsets is offered by Viking River Cruises.
Christmas Markets Itinerary & Excursions
day 1& 2
An intriguing mix of old and new, Cologne reveals its Roman heritage in the city layout and ancient ruins that lie scattered through the town.
Cologne’s modern plazas and Hohe Strasse, a pedestrian-only shopping zone, host welcoming shops, enticing restaurants and, of course, cologne boutiques.
Arrive in Cologne, home to one of the world’s finest cathedrals. Transfer from the airport to embark your ship. After boarding, relax and get settled in, or spend some time on your own exploring the city, a stunning blend of modern plazas, ancient Roman ruins and, of course, cologne boutiques. After dinner, relax and enjoy musical entertainment in the Lounge.
On a breathtaking stretch of the Rhine that leads from medieval Koblenz to Braubach to Rüdesheim, the 11th-century Marksburg Castle towers over the river.
This morning, explore Koblenz on your own. This traditional German country town rests at the confluence of the Rhine and Moselle Rivers. Its lively Christmas markets, cobblestone streets, wood-beamed houses adorned with flowers, ancient market square, and medieval churches recall the fairy-tale Germany of old.
Later, enjoy scenic cruising along the Middle Rhine, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This picturesque stretch is flanked by steeply sloping vineyards, splendid castles, and dramatic rocky banks. You will pass by the famed Lorelei Rock, whose legendary maiden mesmerized sailors with her song. (B, L, D)
Lively and romantic, the medieval town of Miltenberg on the Main River lies amid one of Germany’s fine wine–producing regions.
If you wish, join an optional full-day excursion to Heidelberg, home to Germany’s oldest university, founded in 1385. Tour the imposing red sandstone ruins of Heidelberg Castle, originally built in the 13th century.
Your guided walk ends at Heidelberg’s Old Town and marketplace, where you can explore the city’s festive Christmas market. Shop for special gifts, sample scrumptious local treats or treat yourself to lunch at a local café.
Or remain on board and enjoy scenic cruising along the Main River. Arrive in Miltenberg in the afternoon and disembark for a walking tour. This enchanting riverside village is brimming with charm, its cobblestone streets lined with medieval houses and flower-bedecked balconies.
Würzburg is home to the Bishops’ Residenz, one of Germany’s largest and most ornate palaces and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
After breakfast, disembark for a full day amid the charms and exquisite architecture of Bavaria. Journey to Würzburg, beautifully restored after heavy damage during World War II.
During your visit, tour the Bishops’ Residenz, a magnificent baroque palace with many paintings and frescoes. Built in 1744 for the prince-bishop, it features a sweeping staircase and spectacular ceiling frescoes by Tiepolo.
If you wish, trace the Romantic Road to Rothenburg ob der Tauber. Stop for a hearty lunch in a local restaurant, then explore this medieval town with its joyful Christmas market.
Rothenburg is also home to the German Christmas Museum, open all year, and you’re invited to try the local pastry, the Schneeball (snowball).
Founded in 902, Bamberg remains a medieval-looking city known for its symphony orchestra and specialty, “smoke” beer.
Sail through the morning; after lunch, we visit Bamberg, with its medieval city center, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Your walking tour includes a visit to the magnificent 11th-century cathedral, reworked in late Romanesque style in the 13th century, and the picturesque city hall built on an island in the middle of a river.
We remain docked well into the evening, so feel free to walk around Bamberg or visit its traditional Christmas markets, especially beautiful when lit up after dark.
You can also follow Bamberg’s popular Route of Nativity Scenes to view diverse crèche displays at a few dozen churches, museums and other public spaces.
day 7 & 8
One of Germany’s most renowned and intriguing cities, Nuremberg is surrounded by 13th-century walls that have many fully intact gates and watchtowers.
Arrive in Nuremberg during a leisurely breakfast. Take a tour of the city’s most prominent landmarks, and delight in the iconic Christmas market in Old Town’s Main Market Square.
Browse booths with colorful ornaments, handmade gifts, and sweet-smelling treats; there is no better place to shop for wooden toys and nutcrackers, and you may even spot the golden curls of the Christkind, an angel who brings children toys.
Taste the traditional lebkuchen (gingerbread), savory bratwurst and glühwein (hot spiced wine); chances are you’ll hear carolers harmonizing a favorite holiday song.
Day 2: A center of Bavarian culture, Nuremberg is filled with traditional half-timbered houses, Gothic churches, and World War II history.
After breakfast, disembark and proceed to the airport for your return flight.
Or extend your journey with 3 nights in Prague, Czech Republic, including a tour of Old Town and Prague Castle.
This is considered Viking’s best Christmas Market river cruise, contact a European cruise expert or look through other river cruises.