I had heard about the best Christmas markets in Europe for years but wanted to find out for myself what they were like. I had no idea what to expect. Now I know and I can share with you the best Christmas markets in Europe along the Rhine River. I took a river cruise on the Viking River Cruise ship TOR to explore these magical places: Basel, Switzerland; Black Forrest, Breisach, Germany; Colmar, France; Strasbourg, France; Heidelberg, Germany; Koblenz, Germany; and Cologne, Germany.
Best Christmas Markets in Europe: Basel, Switzerland
Basel Switzerland – One of the quaintest markets I came across from the beginning day of the cruise. This one is small, yet honestly, after seeing a few of the other cities Christmas Markets, being small is a good thing! It has all the charm of the other bigger markets, yet is less crowded and has all the bells and whistles to make you fall in love with the best Christmas markets in Europe. It has candle making, glass firing and chestnuts roasting, the perfect combination of all things Christmas.
Best Christmas Markets in Europe: The Black Forest near Breisach, Germany
Black Forrest, (Breisach, Germany) – These Christmas Markets are a bit more difficult to get to, as you have to drive up into the mountains to get to the Black Forrest. It is home to the famous makers of the original cuckoo clock circa 1630 and the black forest cake. It is quite a trip up there and once you have made it to the entryway, you will be sidetracked by the clocks and the cake, but if you persevere, you will find right at the entry into the Black Forrest the most down-to-earth Christmas Market on this whole journey. These markets are more rustic and in an outdoor setting, so button up, but they do have bonfires to keep you warm and rustic areas to drink glühwein.
Best Christmas Markets in Europe: Colmar, France
Colmar, France – This is one of the most spectacular Christmas markets you will encounter on the tour. It is actually home to not one, but literally, five different Christmas markets spread all over the town, all within walking distance. Now get ready for busy, as hoards of people come here for these markets. Although it is fascinating, I found the crowds almost too overwhelming to really enjoy it, as I got caught up and crushed in the onslaught of people a few times. I found myself wanting to go to a side street with hardly any people just to take a break and a photograph. My travel writer friend Christa Thompson of Fairytale Traveler went when it wasn’t so busy, so read her article and see her amazing photographs.
What is glühwein (also known as hot mulled wine)?
Mix four quarts of red wine, one quart of white wine, one pint of brandy and one cup of sugar, 12 whole cloves with a bit of AllSpice with orange slices. Gently warm and then steep for an hour over low heat and serve with cinnamon sticks.
Best Christmas Markets in Europe: Strasbourg, France
Strasbourg, France – Honestly, one of my favorites, this multicultural city right on the border between France and Germany, does an amazing job of blending the two cultures and brings out one of the best Christmas markets in Europe, right at the foot of an overwhelming beautiful cathedral. Not only is it one of the best on the tour, but the city itself is decorated in full bloom in the magic that is Christmas on every street corner and building in town. You will also enjoy this city’s enchanting carousel by the cathedral, the hot glühwein, and orange chaud, but don’t forget the snowball treats.
Here they have Schokokusse, which is sold at the Christmas Markets in Strasbourg, France. They date back to the 1820’s in Germany. They are made from the foam of sweetened egg whites, or meringue. Although most people think they are marshmallows, they are not! Their consistency is fluffy, but not sticky or gooey. Today they are available in many different flavors.
Best Christmas Markets in Europe: Heidelberg, Germany
Heidelberg, Germany – For this German Christmas Market, we made our way to the Heidelberg Castle, before taking a tour of the castle, right out in front there is a small Christmas market, best if visited to see the castle.
Best Christmas Markets in Europe: Koblenz, Germany
Koblenz, Germany – This is a really nice and quaint Christmas Market that was not too crowded when we arrived in the afternoon. Although it is close to the church, it is not overpowered by a magnificent cathedral, but instead blends into the town perfectly. I thought this one had a lot of charm and is well worth a visit.
Best Christmas Markets in Europe: Cologne, Germany
Cologne, Germany – These Christmas markets were fabulous, I found quite a few. The one right at the base of the stunning cathedral was fantastic and I bought several things here. I was able to beat the crowds in the early morning, but of course, they eventually arrived and it did get crowded in no time. I love this Christmas market for the setting, to be able to look up at the overpowering cathedral made it simply majestic. However, a bit further up the street, the market was much more quaint and down-to-earth, which I also enjoyed with fewer crowds. Thmerry-go-rounds-rounds and beautiful Christmas decorations galore.
Best Christmas Markets in Europe: Zurich, Switzerland
Zurich, Switzerland –There are some great markets inside of the main train station surround the Swarovski’s famous crystal tree. If you stroll along the Bahnhofstrasse, you will come across the Christmas market at Werdmühleplatz. Although it is one of the newest Christmas markets in Zurich, it is very charming due to its live singing tree. Oh, and I got to stay in a swanky library hotel!
Best Christmas Markets in Europe
The Best Markets are:
In my humble opinion, my favorite Christmas markets on the Rhine River with Viking River Cruises were, in no particular order:
Basel, Strasbourg, Koblenz, and Cologne
Now Colmar was amazing, but the crowds kept me from rating it higher. It is a shame because it is such a gorgeous little town, but if you could be there when it is not prime time, it would be perfect as well.
My stay at a Swanky Library Hotel, Zurich, Switzerland at the end of a Viking River Cruise.
Disclosure: My Rhine Getaway aboard the Viking River TOR ship was courtesy of Viking River Cruises, but the magic that ensued was all my own.
Pinners, Pin this one: