The history of Christmas Markets goes way back to the late Middle Ages in the German-speaking part of Europe. The Bautzen Christmas market was first mentioned in records in 1384 when King Vaclav (that’s Wenzel in German) gave the townspeople the privilege to hold a market for meat. Through the years the market transformed itself into a Christmas Market… now known as “Wenzelsmarkt"" in honor of King Vaclav. Today, the German Christmas markets remain some of the most popular markets in the world, although many countries have since adopted this old-world tradition. A great way to experience several European Christmas Markets is by taking a Viking River Cruise.
Most Christmas Markets start the last week of November, ushering in the season of Advent, and run through to Christmas Eve. The markets are generally held in the Town Square and pedestrian zones, which are usually walking distance from where the ship docks. There’s nothing like wandering through a market of wooden stalls, covered in brightly colored Christmas lights and handmade decorations. The mouth-watering aroma of Bratwurst sausages cooking on the grill, the sweet smell of “Christstollen”, (an egg bread with candied fruit), the spices of hot mulled wine (Gluhwein) and the perfumes of fancy soaps fill the air! Visitors stroll the festive illuminated streets while munching on gingerbread cookies and other delectable treats. All of the markets have a stage set up for entertainers, mostly children who perform traditional folkloric songs and dances. There are choirs singing carols, as well as orchestras and bands providing festive musical accompaniment.
Each market has a unique ambiance and a Viking River Cruise allows you to sample several. There are traditional handcrafted products such as intricate glassware and jewelry, embroidered lace, wooden toys, nutcrackers, metal-ware, ceramic plates and mugs, beautifully dressed puppets and dolls, and hats, gloves, socks and scarves. Some stalls have spinning wheels right on the premises to make wool items to order! Fresh honey and scented bee’s wax candles are also plentiful. Locally made ornaments of exquisite hand-blown glass or whimsical carved wood are plentiful. Intricate crèche nativity scenes are unlike anything sold at the mall and would likely become a family heirloom.
There is no better way to discover the enchanting Christmas Markets of Europe than on a Viking River Cruise. Guests will travel along Europe's scenic rivers and visit the bustling holiday markets in cities such as Prague, Nuremberg (home to today’s most renown market), Vienna, Strasbourg and Budapest. Every destination is captivating and enjoyable. Aside from the free time available to shop at the markets, guests receive complimentary guided tours in each port, informative lectures, and interesting demonstrations. After an exhilarating day in port, guests return to the comfort and luxury of a beautifully appointed stateroom. The onboard dining experience features authentic regional dishes bursting with flavor from locally sourced ingredients. A Viking River cruise is always an immersive and enlightening experience. It becomes even more extraordinary when the itinerary includes the European Christmas Markets."