Christmas is the most magical time in Europe, and the best way to see both Europe and these festive events is a river cruise. Viking Cruises have been perfecting this itinerary longer than The Christmas Markets with a Viking River Cruise. Make your plans for 2019!
anyone in Europe and blends culture, history and an abundance of Christmas cheer.
A Typical Gluehwein Stand, Cologne, Germany
The ideal way to start a Rhine Getaway at Christmas is to spend three days in Amsterdam before embarkation. Viking has hotel packages, and Amsterdam is easy to navigate with their “I amsterdam” Tram/Train pass. Or, have your travel agent pick a hotel by city region and then zip around to your interest areas using the same transport pass. Two great hotels that give you good attraction access are the Pillows Anna van den Vondel, a boutique luxury hotel close to the museum district, and the NH Collection Amsterdam Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky, which is in the middle of Dam Square.
The NH Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky provides easy access to downtown and all points through the public transportation system
The ship is well appointed with the main restaurant, and a large bar/lounge and an extensive top deck for viewing. The cuisine rotates by region and city, expect some specialties of that town every night with regular favorites. Given the 190 passengers and the diversity of tastes, Viking has mastered the art of blending great regional food with solid favorites, like the grilled ribeye and at least one other beef dish per night.
A typical Viking entre, prepared to order
Viking is small enough you can meet all the other passengers in conversations, meals or mingling and that is the main focus of the first night as the ship sets sail. Viking is about meaningful interaction with other guests, the staff and the culture and history of each stop along the way. On most days, the ship sails at night then docks during the day for exploration.
Viking EIR docked in Cologne, within easy walking distance of three Christmas markets
The included tours are well designed, which present the essential history, landmarks and cultural nuances of that city. Each stop has at least one added, extra charge tour for the more adventurous of those sailing with Viking a second or third time. Viking is very picky about tour guides in each city, they have to be experts in their area, and undergo extensive training and periodic reviews.
Tour guide Evelyn explains the intricacies of the Heidelberg Castle during the included tour
On and off the ship is easy as it’s always the second deck, and Viking has some of the best docking locations in each city. The included maps pinpoint your exact dock location, interesting local landmarks, and markets, so a walking tour on your own is secure.
The Daily Briefing, each evening, sets the exact schedule and events for the next day during happy hour
Day 1: Windmills and More Windmills. Kinderdijk is the most famous windmill town in Holland, and you get a living history lesson on windmills and their importance to early Holland. The original 150 windmills are now down to 19 in Kinderdijk.
One of 19 surviving windmills in Kinderdijk
Day 2: Cologne, Germany. Germany definitely celebrates Christmas like no other nation in Europe, so expect Christmas markets to pop up every few blocks. Each market has a special gluehwein mug, just purchase and refill during your walk. Here the included tour takes you to Old Town Heidelberg and the famous Cathedral.
Christmas markets have items you just can get in the U.S., most hand-made
Day 3: Koblenz & Rudesheim, Germany. The morning excursion is up to the 700-year-old Marksburg Castle. In afternoon, the ship features a guided sailing for viewing castles and hearing their stories. In Rudesheim, hear more about history of romanticism with storybook villages, renown Riesling and chardonnays.
In Rudesheim, the Christmas markets are spread through the shopping district making for a nice evening stroll
Day 4: Heidelberg & Speyer, Germany. Heidelberg is the oldest university in Germany, and the actual Manheim Steamroller, was first propelled tractor originated in the town, not the musical group!
The Knights Museum, part of Heidelberg Castle
In the 1800s, the charm of the Heidelberg castle, a Gothic-Renaissance masterpiece, was also a draw for artists and others, including Mark Twain.
Frederic the IV, primary inspiration and founder of the castle
Day 5: Kehl & Strasbourg. Strasbourg makes a French Christmas statement with numerous Christmas markets. A grand included tour of the city’s famed cathedral, historical center, and parliament starts the day. The Mercedes Benz Factory tour will get your motor running autobahn style.
The inspiring cathedral at Kehl, over 700 years old!
Day 6: Breisach, Germany. At the entrance to the Black Forest, you experience the mountain landscape, cuckoo clocks, Christmas stands and even Black Forest Cake. The optional tour to the Colmar area, where the WWII “Pocket Battle” was fought will bring history alive. Included are numerous battlefield memorials, and a stop at the actual site of Audy Murphy’s machine gun stand against German forces made him the most decorated American soldier of all time.
The placard to Audy Murphy at the actual battle site, outside of Colmar.
Day 7: Basel, Switzerland. Docking early in Basel, and then it is off the ship for optional excursions to Lucerne or Zurich or air transport home. Viking just might be the most organized tour operation in how coordinated they are in transporting people and luggage in a timely fashion after the cruise is over.