Europe's Christmas markets are a tradition dating back hundreds of years. Bernadette Chua selects the best.
The Danube with Avalon
Avalon Waterways runs several festive itineraries on Europe's rivers, including Christmastime on the Danube. It starts with Nuremberg's famous Christkindlesmarkt, which attracts more than two million visitors every year. It concludes in magical Vienna with a culinary tour of the Advent market. You'll sample traditional Austrian festive foods and delicious local sachertorte.
On your way to Regensburg, there's a lecture on Christmas traditions and when you arrive, free time to shop for mulled wine, candied almonds and bratwurst. The tour also takes in Passau market where local craftspeople set up stalls and the carol singers are out in force.
Top itinerary: Avalon's Christmastime on the Danube seven-day cruise starts at $2796 per person, departing 14 December 2020.
A Uniworld Christmas
Uniworld has seven enchanting itineraries in 2020 on the Rhine, Danube and Seine rivers. Stopping in several European cities, you'll shop in centuries-old Christmas markets and indulge in decadent confectionery and numerous once-a-year-only delights.
Locals dressed in traditional Bavarian costumes browse the market stalls laden with traditional crafts and intricately carved Nativity figures. There are also exquisite festive tree decorations, fine contemporary gifts and ornamental fairy-tale villages decked in holiday finery.
Some itineraries visit Frankfurt Christmas market, which features a vintage carousel, a beautifully lit Christmas tree and food tastings of traditional specialties, such as marzipan-filled pastry.
A walking tour of Wiesbaden's Twinkling Star Christmas market takes in the historic buildings on the main square - all festively decorated and beautifully illuminated.
Top itinerary: Uniworld's eight-day Classic Christmas Markets December 2020 cruises depart Frankfurt or Nuremberg and are priced from $5399 per person.
Markets with Viking
There are a number of Christmas itineraries with Viking River Cruises including a lovely Amsterdam to Basel tour. You'll visit Cologne, Koblenz, Rudesheim, Speyer, Strasbourg and Breisach - cities all brimming with Christmas cheer. In Cologne, home to one of Germany's most photographed cathedrals, you can explore one - or all seven - of the city's themed Christmas markets.
Several of the markets are charmingly nestled among the medieval buildings. Other festive highlights include buying some Yuletide cookies and cakes baked specially for the festive season; joining the strolling carollers; exploring storybook villages; watching hand-carved toys and ornaments being made; being lured towards enticing stalls by the aroma of chestnuts and mouth-watering sausages; and chatting with rosy-cheeked market vendors over a mug of mulled wine.
Top itinerary: Viking River Cruises has an eight-day Rhine Getaway Christmas cruise priced from $3895 per person, departing on 4 December 2020.
Evergreen's Christmas Markets on the Rhine cruise kicks off in Amsterdam, which is usually blanketed in snow by December. The Dutch will be snacking on oliebollen (like donuts) and appelbeignet (apple fritters) from the markets' pine huts.
The next stop is Cologne to see the Christmas tree near the cathedral and explore the city's markets. The spectacularly lit up Angels' Market is particularly pretty.
After stops at Koblenz, Mannheim and Kehl, you'll reach Strasbourg for a walking tour of Grande le, the historical city centre. Strasbourg is also home to one of the oldest Christmas markets in Europe, which you can visit during your free time.
Top itinerary: The Evergreen eight-day Christmas Markets on the Rhine cruise is priced from $3685 per person, departing on 8 December 2020.
Explore more: evergreentours.com.au
APT grand tour
APT, one of Australia's oldest and most established touring companies, has longer Christmas markets itineraries, taking you to a number of destinations where you can experience the festive season in all its glory.
On the line's signature Christmas markets cruise, guests will visit the depths of the magical Black Forest in Germany, as well as the stunning cities of Salzburg and Munich.
In any German Christmas market, you'll learn about the local festive traditions. A potent drink Germans like to celebrate with is feuerzangenbowle. It's a traditional alcoholic drink where rum-soaked sugar loaf is set on fire. A must is a visit to a nutcracker workshop where you can try your hands at making the country's famous wooden Christmas toys.
Top itinerary: APT has a 23-day Magical Christmas Markets with Imperial Europe cruise, priced from $13,140 per person and departing on 13 November 2020.
Explore more: aptouring.com.au
'Tis the season with Scenic
Departing from the city of love, Scenic has a 21-day festive itinerary from Paris to Prague. The journey starts with three-nights in Paris, a city filled with Christmas cheer throughout November and December. The next stop on the itinerary is Amsterdam, before the cruise ventures towards real Christmas-market territory - Germany.
Scenic then takes you to a number of stunning Medieval and Victorian German towns and cities such as Nuremberg, where you can learn to make gingerbread. In Miltenberg, you'll meet a Baron and Baroness and learn about their Christmas traditions. There'll be schnapps tastings on board and learn how it is made from a local distiller in Melk, Austria.
Top itinerary: Scenic has a 21-day Christmas Wonderland with Paris & Prague cruise priced from $16,420 per person, departing on 13 December 2020.
Explore more: scenic.com.au