Christmas is a truly magical time of year, and we’re never one to turn down the opportunity for a Christmas market cruise, but the lead up to the big day can be quite stressful, elbowing your way around crowded stores, trying to tie up loose ends at work, and finding the time to sit down with the tape and wrapping paper to get all the gifts wrapped.
Interestingly, the media never portrays the festive period as a time of such frustration and anguish, instead focusing on images of young couples wearing hats, scarves, and gloves, walking hand-in-hand under the softly falling snow, groups of women laughing over glasses of mulled wine without a care in the world, and grandparents picking out ornate tree decorations with their grandchildren, watching their little faces light up in amazement.
You’re probably wondering where this seemingly make-believe world is? It’s Europe!
Come December, most European cities transform into a winter wonderland, with Christmas markets selling all manner of handcrafted ornaments, gifts and street food. It’s estimated that there are more than 500 Christmas markets set up across the continent each year.
Christmas Market Cruises
Many cruise operators offer dedicated Christmas market itineraries, taking you from one market to another in search of gifts, souvenirs and that all important festive atmosphere. Here are just a few of the most stunning Christmas markets in Europe:
Ghent Christmas Market, Belgium
Ghent is located just a 45 minute drive from the popular port of Zeebrugge, and easily accessible by any cruise docking into the Belgian port. If you’re travelling with children, the Ghent Christmas Market is an excellent choice.
The Bruges Christmas Market is very near by, and this is the place that tends to draw the crowds. Bruges is much more touristy than Ghent and has a much larger (and costly) market.
The Ghent Christmas market is smaller, so it’s easier to navigate and keep track of little ones, plus the items are more affordable. It’s held outside the cathedral, Sint-Baafsplein, which is where you’ll find the classic wooden huts, carol singers, and live jazz performances. To the other side of the Belfry on Emile Braunplein, you’ll also find the ice-skating rink.
Tivoli Gardens Christmas Market, Denmark
The Tivoli Gardens are perhaps the most popular shore excursion in Copenhagen regardless of the time of year as they are absolutely beautiful and it’s a great family destination with fairground rides, cafes, and stunning scenery, but it’s at Christmas when this place really becomes a must-see attraction.
The entire gardens are adorned with sparkling fairy lights which help set the mood, and around 50 stalls set up selling classic Christmas offerings.
If you’re hoping to buy some gifts, this market probably isn’t the best as handmade products are limited, but if you’re looking to enjoy some festive food and drink, you’ve come to the right place! Glühwein, or mulled wine, can be found almost everywhere, and the warm smells of the spices fill the air.
Hungry? No problem, savoury pancakes, roasted chestnuts, and sweet treats can be found in abundance!
Lubeck Christmas Market, Germany
Lubeck’s annual Christmas market is held in the city centre and is only a 25-minute journey from Travemünde.
There are some great markets across Europe, and competition is fierce, but Lubeck’s Christmas market definitely ranks as one of the best on the continent.
Not only is a section of the market set amongst the ‘Fairy Tale Forest’ outside St. Mary’s Church, designed with twinkling lights and stalls which reflect themes from the classic tales from the Brothers Grimm, Lubeck is also home to Lubeck marzipan.
Lubeck’s marzipan is considered to be the purest form of the sweet treat in the world as it’s made with 100% almond paste. Stalls sell this by the bucket full, either on its own, or encased within a dense fruit cake to create stolen.
Why not also try Lubecks own take on glühwein? It’s made with very hot spices and is incredibly potent!
Head on a Christmas Market cruise this year…
It’s estimated that the major Christmas markets welcome more than 2 million guests each year, so why not make this years’ Christmas one to remember with a cruise to one of Europe’s Christmas markets. They’re extremely popular and are a great way to get a last minute holiday in before the end of the year.
Christmas markets take place all around the world, but the chance of snowfall makes Europe’s Christmas market cruises much more appealing.