Christmas in Europe Europe blog and travel tips

Best European Christmas Market Tours and Cruises [2022]

August 11, 2022 (Last Updated: September 5, 2022)
by Carolyn
Christmas market in Tallinn

If you want to do something a little different this year, then how about visiting Europe for Christmas?

Visiting Europe during late November or December means seeing some of the continent’s most beautiful cities in all their illuminated, twinkling finery and you may also discover the best European Christmas market along the way.

Why shop online or at the usual shops and stores in town when you could shop in the best European cities for Christmas gifts that are truly unique?

Just imagine – sipping a glass of mulled wine while witnessing all the fun of the fair in Lucerne. Touring the Black Forest before finding out what a Bavarian Christmas entails or visiting Shakespeare’s birthplace before heading to Bath via the rolling green landscape of the Cotswolds.

How about buying Swiss chocolate direct from the producer, riding a horse-drawn carriage in Austria or seeing the glockenspiel in Munich’s main square? 

All this and much more awaits when you book one of these European Christmas market tours. Taking an organised tour removes all the legwork from organising your trip – so you can focus on fun. And, of course, your Christmas gift list. 

If you want to find the best Christmas market river cruise for 2022 or the top tour by coach to plan ahead for 2023, then this guide makes life easy. We’ve listed all our recommended tours, so you can compare them before making an informed choice about which to take. 

It doesn’t matter where you’re from: America, Australia, Asia or even Europe – the best Christmas markets await. Let’s dive on in. Here are eight of the best European Christmas market tours and cruises. 

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Quick Summary of European Christmas Tours and Cruises Covered in This Guide

Tour NameDuration
Christmas Markets of Germany8 daysMore Info
Christmas Markets of Austria, Germany & Switzerland8 days More Info
Alpine Christmas Markets9 daysMore Info
Christmas in Central Europe7 daysMore Info
English Christmas Markets7 daysMore Info
Winter Wonderland9 daysMore Info
Rhine Christmas Markets with Switzerland and Strasbourg9 daysMore Info
Festive time on the romantic Rhine with Paris & London14 daysMore Info

Top European Christmas Market Tours and River Cruises for 2022

Christmas Markets of Germany 

Tour operator: Insight Vacations

Our verdict: Best winter tour of Germany

Rothenburg Germany at Christmas
Rothenburg ob der Tauber is one of the prettiest villages in Europe at Christmas time.

Some of the best European Christmas markets can be found in Germany – and this tour takes in a number of them. Beginning in Berlin, along the way you’ll visit the destinations of Leipzig, Dresden, Nuremberg and Rothenburg ob der Tauber before ending your journey in Munich.

The fully guided trip includes city tours, seeing the remains of the Berlin Wall, tastings of local food and drinks like mulled wine and stollen, discovering the German Christmas pyramids tradition, celebrating in Munich and of course visiting glittering festive markets. 

Travel via a luxury air conditioned coach with WiFi is included throughout, though you’ll need to book your own flights. You can either opt for an ‘open jaw ticket’ into Berlin and out of Munich, or take the train between them at the start or end of the trip. This takes around four hours. 

  • Tour highlights: Berlin – Leipzig – Dresden – Nuremberg – Rothenburg ob der Tauber – Munich
  • Tour length: 8 days
  • Maximum group size: 40
  • Start/end point/s: Berlin to Munich
  • Departure dates: November & December
  • Accommodation style/rating: 3 or 4* hotels

> Click here for details, prices & availability


Christmas Markets of Austria, Germany & Switzerland 

Tour operator: Trafalgar

Our verdict: Best European Christmas markets tour

Christmas Market in Vienna
Vienna’s Christmas Market is a highlight of a visit to the city during the festive season.

This tour will whisk from Vienna to Zurich, taking in a range of cities so you can shop for Christmas in Europe. Your trip begins in Vienna, Austria and you’ll visit Germany en route before ending the tour in Zurich, Switzerland.

During this eight day tour you’ll be able to sample Glühwein in Switzerland, Austria and Germany. You can also find out what a Bavarian Christmas involves in Oberammergau and see the glockenspiel in Marienplatz, Munich. Sampling local foods such as bratwurst and shopping for unique gifts at various winter markets is also a key highlight. 

Air conditioned coach travel in a group of up to 50 is included. Flights are not covered, so you’ll need to book your own. An ‘open jaw’ or two single tickets may take you into Vienna and out of Munich, or you could take the train between them. This journey would take around ten hours. 

  • Tour highlights: Vienna – Munich – Innsbruck – Lucerne – Zurich
  • Tour length: 8 days
  • Maximum group size: 50
  • Start/end point/s: Vienna to Zurich
  • Departure dates: November & December
  • Accommodation style/rating: 3 or 4* hotels

> Click here for details, prices & availability


Alpine Christmas Markets

Tour operator: Insight Vacations

Our verdict: Best mountains, lakes, forests & cities tour

Innsbruck Christmas market
Innsbruck’s Old Town becomes even more attractive when the Christmas decorations go up.

If you want to see beyond the cities, discover more than the best European Christmas market with this tour that also takes in stunning Alpine scenery. While you travel, you’ll experience winter life in Munich, by Lake Chiemsee and in Innsbruck.

You’ll also explore the Black Forest, visit Freiburg and Strasbourg, and end in the Swiss city of Zurich.

Optional activities to take part in include feasting medieval style or riding a horse-drawn carriage in Austria, sampling Lebkuchen and Glühwein in Germany and shopping at the largest covered Christmas market in Europe in France.

This trip begins in Munich, Germany and ends in Zurich, Switzerland. If you’re not travelling elsewhere before or after, you could fly into one city and out of the other, or take a three-and-a-half hour train ride between the two. 

  • Tour highlights: Munich – Innsbruck – Black Forest – Freiburg – Zurich
  • Tour length: 9 days
  • Maximum group size: 24 for the small group tour option
  • Start/end point/s: Munich to Zurich
  • Departure dates: November & December
  • Accommodation style/rating: 3 or 4* hotels

> Click here for details, prices & availability


Christmas in Central Europe

Tour operator: G Adventures

Our verdict: Best central European winter tour

Salzburger Christkindlmarkt
The aromas of mulled wine and cinnamon can be enjoyed at Salzburg’s Christmas Market. Image © Salzburg Tourism

This small group tour has a more personal feel than when you’re part of a bigger crowd, yet it’s just as affordable as some trips involving larger groups. There’s also added flexibility because you can start in Vienna and finish in Berlin or travel in the opposite direction. With this trip, you can enjoy a European Christmas your own way. 

Guided tours and market visits in Vienna, Salzburg, Munich, Nuremberg and Berlin are included, and you’ll also have free time in each place to spend as you wish. Travel for this tour is by train, private vehicle and on foot. 

  • Tour highlights: Vienna – Salzburg – Munich – Nuremberg – Berlin
  • Tour length: 7 days
  • Maximum group size: 18
  • Start/end point/s: Vienna to Berlin (or vice versa*)
  • Departure dates: November & December
  • Accommodation style/rating: 3 or 4* hotels

> Click here for details, prices & availability

*This itinerary is also available in reverse. > Click here to view the Berlin to Vienna option. 


English Christmas Markets

Tour operator: Back-Roads Touring

Our verdict: Best winter tour of southern England

Market stall in London.

If it’s the UK you want to visit, this tour around the best Christmas markets in southern England might just tick the right boxes. You’ll start in London’s Kew Gardens before visiting Cirencester, Stratford-upon-Avon, the Cotswolds, Bath, Winchester and Hampton Court Palace. 

Some of the finest European Christmas destinations can be found in the UK, but that’s not all you get with this tour. Shakespeare’s birthplace, the ancient honey stone buildings of the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the historic cities of Bath and Winchester also await. 

To cap it all, you can also see a royal palace in all its festive finery.

This tour starts and ends in London, making it the perfect round trip tour.  

  • Tour highlights: London – Stratford-upon-Avon – Cotswolds – Bath – Winchester
  • Tour length: 7 days
  • Maximum group size: 18
  • Start/end point/s: London
  • Departure dates: December
  • Accommodation style/rating: 3 or 4* hotels

> Click here for details, prices & availability


Winter Wonderland

Tour operator: Insight Vacations

Our verdict: Best whistle-stop winter tour of Europe

Twinkling lights illuminate Lucerne’s Chapel Bridge.

Also operated by Insight Vacations, this tour takes in three countries – Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Beginning with a welcome dinner and ending back in Frankfurt, this tour allows you to see the Alps, a range of historic European cities and of course plenty of wonderful countryside.

Between Rothenburg ob der Tauber and Munich you’ll even travel via parts of the Romantic Road. 

Must-dos as you travel include sampling a stein of beer at Hofbräuhaus in Munich, seeing Mozart’s birthplace, visiting the Swarovski crystal factory, taking a cable car trip in Lucerne and sampling authentic, freshly-baked Lebkuchen or stollen at the markets.

  • Tour highlights: Rothenburg ob der Tauber – Munich – Salzburg – Innsbruck – Lucerne
  • Tour length: 9 days
  • Maximum group size: 40
  • Start/end point/s: Frankfurt am Main
  • Departure dates: November & December
  • Accommodation style/rating: 3 or 4* hotels

> Click here for details, prices & availability


Rhine Christmas Markets with Switzerland and Strasbourg

Tour operator: Scenic Luxury Cruises & Tours

Our verdict: Best European winter tour by boat

Christmas market at Strasbourg
The Christmas Markets are the ideal place to purchase gifts for loved ones and memorable souvenirs for yourself.

A fact worth knowing when you’re planning to head to Europe is that the best Christmas destinations don’t have to be toured by coach, train or car. You can also take to the water to see Switzerland, France and Germany, and visit Amsterdam. This trip involves travel by lake and river, so there’s no need to worry about stormy waters. 

This 12 day tour packs a lot in, yet there’s also time to explore all the destinations at your leisure. Commencing with a walking tour in Zurich, you’ll then travel to Bern and Gstaad before arriving for two nights by the lake in Montreux on the Swiss Riviera. 

The tour continues with visits to Basel, one of the biggest Christmas markets in Strasbourg and the German spa town of Baden Baden. Cologne is the last stop before the trip ends in Amsterdam in the Netherlands. 

  • Tour highlights: Zurich – Lucerne – Montreux – Strasbourg – Baden-Baden – Cologne – Amsterdam
  • Tour length: 9 days
  • Maximum group size: (163 on ship)
  • Start/end point/s: Zurich to Amsterdam
  • Departure dates: December
  • Accommodation style/rating: on board, plus 3 or 4* hotels

> Click here for details, prices & availability


Festive time on the romantic Rhine with 3 nights each in Paris & London

Tour operator: Avalon Waterways

Our verdict: Best romantic river tour

Enjoy Amsterdam’s Christmas decorations from the water on your Rhine River cruise.

Experience the best of both London and Paris with this Rhine cruise that includes three nights in each of these two magical cities. You’ll hop on board in Basel, Switzerland, and will end the trip two weeks later in London. En route you’ll visit Germany, France, the Netherlands, 

The Black Forest and German vineyards are two of your first destinations on this cruise. 

Strasbourg in France is another stop during the early stages, where the city will be all dressed up for Christmas. By day five, you’ll be sailing through the Rhine Gorge to end your first week with visits to Cologne and Amsterdam. 

From Amsterdam you’ll take a modern high speed train to Paris, where you’ll have three nights in one of the world’s most romantic, historic and cultural cities. During a guided sightseeing tour you’ll take in the likes of the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame Cathedral and the Louvre. 

Then you’ll board the famous Eurostar train to travel from Paris to London. Again, your time in the city commences with a tour of all the key landmarks, such as Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, St Paul’s Cathedral and Piccadilly Circus. 

  • Tour highlights: Basel – Black Forest – Strasbourg – Rhine Gorge – Cologne – Amsterdam – Paris – London
  • Tour length: 14 days
  • Maximum group size: 160 (on ship)
  • Start/end point/s: Basel to London
  • Departure dates: November & December
  • Accommodation style/rating: on board, plus 3 or 4* hotels

> Click here for details, prices & availability


Why book a guided tour of Europe? 

Many travellers prefer guided tours for various reasons. Often it’s the most cost and time effective way to see the places you want to go to. The operator will take care of travel, hotel bookings and local trips, so you don’t have to.

For first-timers in particular a guided trip can be the simplest option. It’s also perfect for solo travellers who don’t want to go it all alone – and you’re likely to meet new people along the way. 

Your tour guide can advise on and look after all sorts of issues or queries that might crop up while you travel. They will generally have good local knowledge, and can help you out whether you want to uncover a city’s secrets or know whether or not to add a tip. 

Taking a tour can also help you to budget, as major costs like transport and hotels are already covered. Visiting a number of destinations means you can choose those you’d like to spend more time in on future trips, too!


What to look for when choosing a European Christmas Markets tour

Dresden Christmas market
Christmas is a very special time to visit Europe.

Here are some things to look for when picking out the right tour for you. 

Sightseeing & excursions

What sort of guided walking tours or organised trips to places you want to see are included? Will any extras be payable once you’re there? 

Visit vs drive by

Check the wording carefully if you want to spend time at a particular place. Does the tour include a sighting en route without a stop, or several hours or even nights in the destination?

Hotel ratings

What standard of hotel is included? If you’re used to four and five star luxury, then you may not be content with a two star property some way out of town, for example. 

Meals

Typically a tour might include breakfast every day, but lunch or dinner on selected days only. Check carefully so you can budget accordingly! 

Optional extras

If certain activities or attractions are listed – or suggested – on the itinerary, is entry to these included? How about any travel required to get there and back? 

Free time

Lots of free time means you can explore at will. With a packed itinerary, there may not be time to see or do all you’d like to. How much time you want to spend exploring on your own steam really is a matter of personal preference. 

Fast or slow pace

Does the pace of the tour suit you? If long, leisurely lie-ins are a favourite feature of your vacations and holidays, then don’t choose a tour that involves early starts every single day!


Best European Christmas Market Tours and Cruises | Final thoughts

Swiss church at Christmas time
Christmas Market tours visiting both cities and smaller villages are available.

If you want to tour Europe the easy way during winter, one of the above tours should hopefully suit you down to the ground! 

When you are ready to book, do make sure you’re getting the best deal. Tour Radar is our favourite to book with as they often offer special deals and discounts. You can access their site directly via the links supplied above. 


For more European Christmas vacation ideas take a look at this page. The following articles offer suggestions for specific destinations: