Discover Best River Cruises and Christmas Markets in 2023

woman enjoying beautiful view from the River Cruise

Embarking on a river cruise during the holiday season offers a magical combination of enchanting scenery, festive cheer, and unforgettable experiences. In 2023, European cities are ready to dazzle visitors with their captivating river cruises and enchanting Christmas markets. Whether you're seeking a winter wonderland experience or a cultural exploration, these cruises offer a unique way to immerse yourself in the holiday spirit while exploring some of Europe's most charming destinations.


Join us as we delve into the world of river cruises and Christmas markets in 2023, discovering the benefits of these vacations, exploring the best European cities to visit, and uncovering the popular river cruise packages available. 


So, grab a warm drink, cozy up, and let's set sail on a journey filled with joy, beauty, and the festive ambiance of river cruises and Christmas markets in 2023.


What to Expect from River Cruises and Christmas Markets in 2023


River Cruise on the central river near Cathedral


1. Immersive Holiday Atmosphere

River cruises and Christmas markets in 2023 promise an immersive holiday atmosphere that will transport you to a winter wonderland. Imagine strolling through cobblestone streets adorned with twinkling lights, the scent of mulled wine and roasted chestnuts filling the air, and the joyful sounds of carolers and festive music. From the charming markets to the beautifully decorated ships, every aspect is designed to immerse you in the spirit of the season.


2. Captivating Scenery

As you cruise along the picturesque rivers of Europe, you'll be treated to breathtaking winter landscapes. Snow-dusted castles, idyllic villages, and charming towns provide a scenic backdrop that seems straight out of a storybook. The beauty of the surroundings adds an extra touch of magic to your river cruise experience, creating unforgettable moments and photo opportunities.


3. Enchanting Christmas Markets

The Christmas markets are the heart and soul of these river cruises. In 2023, you can expect to encounter a wide array of markets, each with its own unique charm. From the traditional markets of Prague and Vienna to the bustling streets of Amsterdam and Berlin, these markets offer a treasure trove of handcrafted gifts, local delicacies, and festive decorations. Indulge in gingerbread treats, sip on spiced mulled wine, and browse through stalls filled with artisanal crafts, all while soaking up the cheerful atmosphere.


4. Cultural Discoveries

River cruises are not just about Christmas markets; they also provide an excellent opportunity to explore the rich culture and history of the cities along the way. In 2023, you can expect guided excursions to iconic landmarks, such as Prague Castle, Schnbrunn Palace, the Anne Frank House, and the Berlin Wall. Immerse yourself in the local traditions, sample regional cuisine, and learn about the fascinating stories that have shaped these vibrant European cities.


5. Festive Onboard Activities

River cruise ships are known for their luxurious amenities and top-notch entertainment, and during the holiday season, they go the extra mile to create a festive onboard experience. Enjoy themed parties, live music, holiday-inspired performances, and even visits from Santa Claus himself. Whether you prefer a quiet evening sipping hot cocoa by the fireplace or dancing the night away, there's something for everyone on these river cruises.


Affordable river cruises offer a budget-friendly way to experience the magic of river cruising and Christmas markets in Europe in 2023. From the enchanting atmosphere to the captivating scenery and cultural discoveries, these journeys promise to immerse you in the magic of the season while showcasing the best of Europe's traditions and destinations. So, get ready to embark on a memorable adventure that will leave you with cherished memories and a heart full of holiday spirit.


Benefits of River Cruise Vacation


Group of friends relaxing on a river cruise


1. Unpack Once, Explore Many Destinations

One of the most significant advantages of a river cruise vacation is the convenience of unpacking just once while still having the opportunity to explore multiple destinations. Unlike traditional land-based vacations, where you have to pack and unpack at each new location, on a river cruise, your floating hotel takes you from one city to another, allowing you to fully enjoy the journey without the hassle of constantly changing accommodations.


2. Intimate and Relaxing Atmosphere

River cruises offer a more intimate and relaxed atmosphere compared to their oceanic counterparts. With smaller ships and fewer passengers, you can enjoy a more personalized experience and attentive service. The cozy ambiance creates a sense of community among fellow travelers, fostering new friendships and a warm social environment. Relax on the sun deck as you glide along the river, taking in the scenic views and enjoying the peacefulness of the water.


3. Scenic Views and Close-Up Encounters

River cruises provide unparalleled access to some of the most stunning and picturesque landscapes. As you sail along the rivers, you'll be treated to breathtaking views of charming villages, rolling vineyards, majestic castles, and lush countryside. Unlike ocean cruises, where the coast is often distant, river cruises offer close-up encounters with the beauty and culture of the destinations, allowing you to truly appreciate the intricate details and immerse yourself in the local atmosphere.


4. Cultural Immersion and Guided Excursions

River cruises are an excellent way to immerse yourself in the rich cultural heritage of the regions you visit. These cruises often include guided excursions to renowned landmarks, historical sites, and cultural attractions. Knowledgeable local guides provide fascinating insights into the history, art, and traditions of each destination, enriching your understanding and appreciation of the places you visit. Whether it's exploring iconic museums, visiting ancient cathedrals, or tasting regional delicacies, you'll have the opportunity to delve deeper into the local culture.


5. All-Inclusive Experience

River cruises often offer all-inclusive packages, which means that many of your expenses, such as accommodation, meals, and guided excursions, are included in the upfront cost. This provides a hassle-free experience, allowing you to relax and enjoy the journey without constantly worrying about additional expenses. From gourmet meals featuring regional specialties to onboard entertainment and amenities, a river cruise vacation offers excellent value and peace of mind.


6. Unique Itineraries and Off-the-Beaten-Path Stops

River cruises offer unique itineraries that often include lesser-known ports and off-the-beaten-path stops. These smaller and less crowded destinations provide an authentic and immersive experience, allowing you to discover hidden gems and explore regions that are not easily accessible by larger cruise ships. You'll have the chance to uncover hidden treasures, interact with locals, and create lasting memories in places that are often overlooked by traditional tourism.


A river cruise vacation combines convenience, relaxation, cultural immersion, and breathtaking scenery, offering a truly unique and enriching travel experience. With its intimate atmosphere, personalized service, and the opportunity to explore multiple destinations without the hassle of constant packing, a river cruise is an excellent choice for those seeking a memorable and hassle-free vacation.


Best European Cities for River Cruises and Christmas Markets in 2023


Scenic view on bridges over Vltava river and river cruise


1. Prague, Czech Republic

Prague, the stunning capital of the Czech Republic, is a must-visit destination for river cruises and Christmas markets in 2023. The city's medieval charm and fairytale-like architecture create a magical atmosphere during the holiday season. Explore the Old Town Square, where the famous Prague Christmas Market takes place, offering a delightful array of handcrafted gifts, traditional Czech treats like Trdelnk (chimney cake), and warm mulled wine. Take a stroll across the Charles Bridge adorned with festive lights and enjoy the breathtaking views of Prague Castle illuminated in the night sky.


2. Vienna, Austria

Vienna, known as the "City of Music," becomes even more enchanting during the Christmas season. As you cruise along the Danube, make sure to disembark in Vienna to experience its world-renowned Christmas markets. The Vienna Christmas Market in Rathausplatz is a highlight, with its magnificent decorations, sparkling lights, and charming stalls offering everything from handicrafts to culinary delights. Don't miss the opportunity to attend a festive concert or opera performance in one of Vienna's grand concert halls, immersing yourself in the city's rich musical heritage.


3. Amsterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam, the vibrant capital of the Netherlands, offers a unique blend of culture, history, and holiday cheer. During a river cruise along the iconic canals, Amsterdam showcases its Christmas spirit through its lively markets and festive decorations. Visit the atmospheric Winter Village at Museumplein, where you can ice skate, browse through the Christmas stalls, and sip on Dutch hot chocolate. For a touch of traditional Dutch culture, explore the Christmas Market at the Royal Palace, featuring local crafts and delicious Dutch treats like oliebollen (fried dough balls).


4. Budapest, Hungary

Budapest, the "Pearl of the Danube," is a captivating city to explore during the holiday season. As you cruise along the Danube River, marvel at the city's stunning architecture, including the Parliament Building and Buda Castle, both illuminated with a magical glow. Budapest's Christmas markets, such as the one in Vrsmarty Square, offer a delightful experience with their wooden stalls, live performances, and mouthwatering Hungarian specialties like chimney cake and goulash. After a day of exploration, relax and unwind in one of the city's renowned thermal baths, an essential part of Budapest's culture.


5. Berlin, Germany

Berlin, the vibrant and cosmopolitan capital of Germany, is a city that truly comes alive during the holiday season. Discover the Berlin Christmas Market at Charlottenburg Palace, where you can wander through the illuminated gardens, shop for handmade crafts, and savor traditional German delights, such as bratwurst and glhwein. Don't miss the iconic Berliner Weihnachtszeit market at Gendarmenmarkt, featuring an impressive backdrop of historic buildings and a festive ambiance. Beyond the markets, explore Berlin's rich history by visiting landmarks like the Brandenburg Gate and the Berlin Wall Memorial.


These European cities offer an unforgettable experience for river cruises and Christmas markets in 2023. From Prague's fairytale charm to Vienna's musical heritage, Amsterdam's canals, Budapest's thermal baths, and Berlin's vibrant atmosphere, each city provides a unique blend of cultural immersion, festive cheer, and captivating sights. Embark on a river cruise to explore these magnificent destinations and indulge in the enchanting Christmas markets that make them truly magical during the holiday season.


4 Popular River Cruise Vacation Packages in Europe for 2023

Viking River Cruises is renowned for its exceptional river cruise experiences, combining luxurious accommodations, immersive itineraries, and impeccable service. In 2023, Viking offers an array of enticing river cruise vacation packages in Europe, allowing travelers to explore the continent's enchanting destinations while enjoying the comfort and elegance of their state-of-the-art ships. Here are a few popular Viking River Cruise packages to consider:


1. Romantic Danube

This eight-day cruise takes you along the Danube River, from Budapest to Nuremberg, showcasing the captivating beauty of Central Europe. Discover the historical treasures of Vienna, stroll through the charming streets of Passau, and explore the medieval city of Regensburg. Immerse yourself in the stunning landscapes of the Wachau Valley, visit the famous Melk Abbey, and experience the festive Christmas markets along the way.


2. Rhine Getaway

Embark on a magical journey along the Rhine River, from Amsterdam to Basel, on this eight-day cruise. Explore the captivating cities of Cologne, Koblenz, and Strasbourg, each offering its own unique blend of history, culture, and Christmas market festivities. Cruise through the breathtaking Rhine Gorge, lined with vineyards and picturesque castles, and witness the beauty of the Black Forest region.


3. Grand European Tour

This 15-day cruise is a comprehensive exploration of Europe's most iconic cities and landscapes. Travel from Budapest to Amsterdam, visiting enchanting destinations such as Vienna, Melk, Passau, Nuremberg, Cologne, and Kinderdijk. Immerse yourself in the rich history and culture of these cities, while enjoying the festive atmosphere of their Christmas markets. From the stunning castles of the Danube to the charming windmills of the Netherlands, this cruise offers an unforgettable European experience.


4. Portugal's River of Gold

Experience the beauty and culture of Portugal on this ten-day cruise along the Douro River. The journey from Lisbon to Porto, exploring the charming towns of Regua, Pinho, and Vega de Terrn. Discover the rich history of the region, visit the famous port wine cellars, and indulge in the delicious local cuisine. Along the way, enjoy the festive celebrations of Portugal's Christmas markets, immersing yourself in the unique traditions of the country.


Viking River Cruises' 2023 packages provide an exceptional opportunity to explore Europe's rivers and experience the magic of its Christmas markets. With their commitment to excellence, comfortable accommodations, and carefully crafted itineraries, Viking River Cruises ensures that every aspect of your journey is seamlessly orchestrated, allowing you to create lasting memories while discovering the best of Europe's enchanting destinations.



Embark on a magical journey in 2023, as river cruises and Christmas markets in Europe come together to create an enchanting experience. From Prague's fairytale charm to Vienna's musical heritage, Amsterdam's canals, Budapest's thermal baths, and Berlin's vibrant atmosphere, these cities offer a blend of cultural immersion and festive cheer.


Viking River Cruises presents popular vacation packages, ensuring luxurious accommodations, immersive itineraries, and impeccable service. Unpack once, explore multiple destinations and indulge in the beauty of scenic landscapes. Immerse yourself in the holiday spirit as you browse through charming Christmas markets. Create lasting memories and embrace the joy of river cruises and Christmas markets in 2023.

Tour Price

Our private tours typically range from $500 - $1000 per person/per night depending on chosen hotels and room categories, vehicles used, types of tours, flight cost, time of year and other factors. Make an inquiry for a customized trip quote.

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