Looking for Christmas markets? A new cruise sails to 20 of France’s markets this winter


Rows of twinkling lights and the sweet aroma of mulled wine — ’tis the season that Christmas markets come alive.

But if visiting one Christmas market isn’t enough, a new cruise explores 20 markets in a single trip.

Luxury river cruising company European Waterways‘ new “Christmas Markets Cruise” departs from Strasbourg, France and sails through Alsace-Lorraine, a French region near the border of Germany.

Passengers visit markets aboard Panache, a 12-passenger hotel barge, that has six junior suites — each with an attached bathroom — plus a communal dining area, cocktail bar and heated spa pool.

European Waterways’ “Christmas Markets Cruise” will set sail on three dates in 2024, starting in late November.

Source: European Waterways

The cruise costs $7,990 per person — based on double occupancy. Alternatively, guests can charter the entire barge for $87,000, Derek Banks, managing director of European Waterways told CNBC Travel.

Daily guided tours, wine and meals — prepared by an onboard chef — are also included on the cruise.

The Christmas markets

The seven-day itinerary includes guided tours to 13 Christmas markets in Strasbourg, six in Colmar and one in Haguenau.

Strasbourg, the capital of Alsace and the self-proclaimed “capital of Christmas,” is home to France’s oldest Christmas market, Christkindelsmärik.

Here, guests can explore 13 Christmas markets spread across the city’s Old Town, and wander through Place Gutenberg and la Petite France — historic parts of Strasbourg.

The Strasbourg Christmas market, the oldest Christmas market in France, attracts thousands of visitors each year.

Frederick Florin | Afp | Getty Images

Colmar, a town and commune in Alsace, is known for its colorful half-timbered houses and medieval architecture. Here, guests can explore Old Colmar’s six Christmas markets — including a gourmet market, local produce markets and a children’s Christmas market.

Half-timbered houses in Colmar adorned with Christmas lights during the holiday season.

Source: European Waterways

Guests will also visit Haguenau, home to the only Christmas market in north Alsace that is open daily from late November to December. The small town is famous for its traditional Alsatian Christmas market experience, and old nativity scene made of wood and clay, according to Alsace’s tourism authority website.

On top of Christmas markets, the cruise includes “additional, holiday-related guided excursions,” Banks said. These include visits to the Meisenthal Glass Bauble factory in Lorraine — home to traditional mouth-blown glass baubles — and Musée du Chocolat, Strasbourg’s Chocolate Museum.

Guests watch as chocolate is poured at the Musée du Chocolat in Strasbourg, France.

Source: European Waterways

This year, European Waterways’ last Christmas cruise departed on Dec. 10, but reservations for 2024 and 2025 are now open, a company representative told CNBC Travel. 

Other Christmas-themed cruises 

Uniworld Boutique River Cruises organizes similar holiday-themed cruises on board a larger ship. The company’s Christmas cruises are hosted on a triple deck 128-passenger cruise ship that has 64 cabins.

The luxury cruise line has seven holiday season itineraries available from November to December.

Uniworld’s Christmas-themed cruises start at $2,299 per person.

Source: Uniworld Boutique River Cruise

“Our most sought-after Christmas market itinerary, the eight days ‘Classic Christmas Markets,’ stands out as a favorite among our guests,” a company representative told CNBC Travel.

The itinerary includes visits to nine Christmas markets and sails from Germany’s Nuremburg to Frankfurt, making stops at Bamberg, Rothenberg, Würzburg, Wertheim and Wiesbaden.

The “Classic Christmas Markets” cruise is priced between $2,299 and $6,899 per person — depending on the room type, according to the company’s website.

“We offer Christmas market cruises in several European destinations to showcase different regional traditions to our guests. Within each region, the markets selected represent … famous, and some hidden gem, markets,” the representative said.

Uniworld also organizes holiday-themed cruises that stop in multiple countries. This includes a 13-day “Grand Christmas & New Year’s” cruise that visits Austria, Germany and Hungary, and an 11-day “Enchanting Christmas & New Year’s” cruise that sails through Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary.

This article was originally published on CNBC