Since I was born and have traveled throughout Europe, I can say with confidence that experiencing the castles, cathedrals and picturesque villages on a river cruise is one of the most enjoyable and hassle free ways to do so.
On a river cruise you will always be in the middle of the action as the ships dock in the center of towns which gives you easy access for a leisurely walk around town. If you are like me you’ll go to a nice little café and enjoy a wonderful espresso or you could join one of the comprehensive sightseeing tours which are usually included with your river cruise.
Instead of dealing with traffic traveling from town to town, you will enjoy the beautiful scenery pass by your balcony and always arrive relaxed and ready for a new adventure. There is never any rush and plenty of time to unwind.
To take you deeper into the experience of what it is like to slowly sail down one of the worlds beautiful rivers, I have chosen an itinerary that is close to my heart because I love Christmas in Europe. I hope this lovely itinerary gives you an idea what each day on a river cruise feels like and all the beautiful sights and sounds you will experience.
Christmastime in Germany & Austria
Vienna, Austria (Embarkation)
Welcome to Vienna, Austria’s romantic capital! This afternoon, board your river cruise vessel and meet your crew at a welcome reception.
Once the center of the mighty Habsburg Empire, Austria’s capital has much to offer: the lavish Hofburg Palace, the impressive Vienna Opera House, majestic Ring Boulevard, and awe-inspiring St. Stephen’s Cathedral, to name just a few of the sights you will enjoy on your city tour. You do not rush through Vienna—you waltz, taking your time to savor each classic sight and sound. Shop in the Kärntnerstrasse and enjoy Sachertorte or Apfelstrudel in a cozy neighborhood café – this is definitely for me. Soak up the atmosphere of the Adventszeit (Advent season) and spend some time in the beautiful Christmas markets located throughout the city.
This morning, enjoy a guided walk around Dürnstein,known for the magnificent baroque Stiftskirche with its blue façade. After lunch, visit the magnificent Benedictine Abbey that dominates the town of Melk from its commanding hill site and is one of Europe’s largest monasteries. The view from the terrace over the Danube and surrounding countryside is breathtaking! This evening you’ll sample some of the region’s famous wines.
Linz, Austria’s third-largest town, lies on both banks of the Danube and is an important industrial town and busy river port. An optional full-day excursion to Salzburg takes in the popular Sound of Music sights as well as more Christmas cheer—the traditional carols, the sparkling lights, and the smell of candles and gingerbread. Passau, ideally located at the confluence of the Rivers Inn, Ilz, and Danube, is a city of graceful arcades and cobblestone streets. St. Stephen’s Cathedral houses the world’s largest church organ with more than 17,000 pipes.
Regensburg is one of Germany’s best preserved medieval cities. Architectural highlights on your guided tour include the Old Town Hall, the beautiful white and gold Old Chapel, and the Porta Pretoria—gates to an ancient Roman fort built in 179 AD. The Christmas market is located on the historic market square. Germany is famous for its sausages, and Regensburg is home to the country’s oldest restaurant—Historische Wurstküche (the Historical Sausage Kitchen), dating back to the 12th century.
Although Nuremberg suffered extensive damage during WWII, much of it was restored to its original style. Marvel at this historic city with its fabulous Gothic churches and elegant patrician houses, all explained by a local expert. Nuremberg hosts Germany’s most famous Christmas market, which dates back to 1628. The Old Town is illuminated with festive lights and decorations. The city’s traditions include famous Lebkuchen, toy making, and metal working. After dinner we’ll introduce you to some of Germany’s famous beers.
Nuremberg–Excursion to Munich
After breakfast, drive to Munich, where a Local Expert will proudly show you the sights of the Bavarian capital. An inspiring mix of historic buildings and impressive architecture, you’ll see the Olympic Stadium, 1,000-foot-high Television Tower, Nymphenburg Palace, Marienplatz in the historic heart of the city with the Old and New Town Halls, and the gothic Frauenkirche. Later, there’s free time to explore on your own.
The traditional Christmas market is located on the Marienplatz, with aromas of toasted almonds, roasted chestnuts, and gingerbread filling the air and the strains of alpine Christmas music coming from the town hall. At the nearby Rindermarkt, you’ll find the Kripperlmarkt, one of the largest markets in Germany specializing in mangers and other nativity accessories. And don’t leave Munich without paying a visit to the famous Hofbräuhaus for a stein of beer! Return to your ship in the late afternoon.
A day to relax and enjoy Nuremberg at your own pace. Stroll through the festively lit streets, write those last-minute postcards, or ask your Cruise Director for suggestions of things to do.
Bamberg is a beautiful UNESCO World Heritage medieval site. Your walking tour takes in its breathtaking cathedral, the Old Town Hall straddling the River Regnitz, and serpentine streets with charming houses and 18th-century mansions. At this time of year the town is decked out for Christmas and especially interesting are the many nativity scenes that are built by local citizens and exhibited throughout the town.
Würzburg. Excursion to Rothenburg
Known as the “Pearl of the Romantic Road,” Würzburg is surrounded by sloping hills covered with vineyards. The magnificent Bishop’s Residenz is another UNESCO World Heritage Site. After lunch, set off on the most scenic section of the Romantic Road to Rothenburg ob der Tauber. This ancient walled city, with its ramparts, fountains and cobbled lanes, is steeped in history. Although known for its year-round Christmas market, the real one at this time of the year is an experience not to be missed. Try a Schneeball (snowball), a local specialty that is not at all suitable for a diet!
This morning, stop in Wertheim, whose overlapping half-timbered houses are grouped along winding streets. Glassblowers have a long tradition in this town and, especially in winter, they produce decorations that hang on Christmas trees all over the world. Marvel at the tasteful Christmas decorations in the shop windows and stroll through the charming Christmas market.
Miltenberg is a picturesque Bavarian village that thrived on income from river traffic. Its cultural wealth and affluence are reflected in the beautiful medieval and renaissance houses and the Gothic splendor of the Merchant Hall shown to you during your guided walk. The town center is within walking distance of the ship, as is the Christmas market. Before lunch, learn how to bake a local soft cookie specialty.
Today you will board your home-bound flight or enjoy a few extra days in Europe.
Whether it’s a journey for just yourself or a group of friends, I would love to chat with you about all the amazing options that are available and create a truly memorable experience for you.
River Cruises are also a wonderful way to spend time together with your best friends, your favorite club or create an unforgettable family reunion.
May all your travels stir your soul and change your life forever – Ales.
Please contact me for a free consultation!