- Stroll Europe’s enchanting Christmas markets—from the intimate festivals in Salzburg and Regensburg to Nuremberg’s holiday extravaganza—and revel in each event’s distinct traditions, treats, and crafts.
- Enjoy insight on the historical importance of the Danube from a National Geographic expert as you experience the river’s tapestry of medieval, Renaissance, and Roman influences.
- Visit Vienna’s Museum of Natural History for an inside look at its meteorite exhibit, co-curated by a National Geographic grantee.
- Learn the art of taking nighttime pictures from a National Geographic photographer, then set out to capture storybook villages aglow with twinkling lights and candles.
As winter approaches, Europe warms with an irresistible holiday spirit, brightened by the beloved Christkindlesmarkts—or Christmas markets—that pop up in small towns and large cities alike. Cruise the Danube to visit magical merchant villages from Nuremberg to Vienna, and witness the customs that are unique to each festival. Soak in choral music and spice-scented air while browsing stalls filled with everything from glittering ornaments to colorful toy soldiers. Explore your medieval surroundings in charming towns like Regensburg and Melk, and see grand castles decked with tinsel and garland during this enchanting season.
Arrive in Nuremberg in the early afternoon and embark the Scenic Amber. Enjoy a welcome dinner on board this evening.
Our holiday festivities begin at the Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt, one of the largest and most popular Christmas markets in all of Europe. The annual gathering of toy and trinket merchants stays true to its centuries-old roots, encouraging the sale of traditional gifts and food. Stroll row after row of candy cane-striped stalls—gingerbread and mulled wine in hand—and peruse intricate ornaments, toy-soldier nutcrackers, and the city’s famous plum people. Later, choose between touring the city’s World War II sites, bicycling along Ludwig Canal, or joining a gingerbread-making class.
Set at the confluence of the Danube, Naab, and Regen rivers, Regensburg once served as a free imperial city of the Holy Roman Empire. Browse stalls aglow with candles and twinkling lights at the town Christmas market, set in the courtyard of St. Emmeram Palace. Alternatively, set out on a guided walk through the medieval center to see its splendid Gothic cathedral, 12th-century stone bridge, and the ancient Roman gateway to the city. Or tour the historic Kuchlbauer Brewery and its whimsical tower—a tribute to modern art.
Today, choose between a visit to Salzburg or the Czech town of Český Krumlov—both designated World Heritage sites. Stroll the storybook streets of Salzburg's Old Town, host to one of the continent’s oldest Christmas markets, set in a picturesque square in front of the Salzburg Cathedral and beneath the city’s iconic medieval castle. Or tour Český Krumlov’s historic center, a labyrinth of cobblestoned streets lined with medieval, baroque, and Renaissance houses.
In Austria’s Wachau Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage site, hike to the hilltop ruins of Dürnstein’s medieval castle or embark on an enjoyable bike ride along the river from Dürnstein to Melk. Alternatively, enjoy a guided tour of Melk’s 18th-century Benedictine abbey, one of the world’s most magnificent baroque buildings. You may instead choose to visit a local winery for a guided tour of the cellars and vines, followed by a tasting of the region’s celebrated Grüner Veltliners and Rieslings. This evening, sip a cocktail as we cruise past churches and castles festooned with holiday décor.
Arrive in Vienna this morning, and visit Schönbrunn Palace, host to an intimate, upscale Christmas market during the holiday season. You may instead opt to take a specially arranged tour of the Museum of Natural History for an inside look at its meteorite exhibit, co-curated by National Geographic grantee Ludovic Ferrière. Or peruse the galleries of the Belvedere Museum, home to the world’s largest collection of Gustav Klimt paintings.
Later, step into a magical winter wonderland at the city’s Christkindlmarkt, framed by twinkle-lit trees and the soaring neo-Gothic city hall, its lights all aglow. Wander past merchants selling roasted chestnuts and Weihnachtspunsch, a spicy spiked punch—the perfect accompaniments as you browse stalls brimming with beeswax candles and hand-blown glass ornaments. Breathe in the opulence and luxury of Palais Liechtenstein while enjoying a glass of fine Austrian Sekt. Then be enthralled by an enchanting private Viennese evening concert featuring the timeless music of Strauss and Mozart. Even in elegant Vienna, Palais Liechtenstein is one of the grandest of all venues.
Wake up in Budapest and set out on a walking tour to discover its architectural gems, including the splendid neo-Gothic Parliament building. Climb historic Castle Hill, see the Royal Palace and visit Matthias Church, the stunning setting for the coronations and weddings of the Habsburg royalty; then enjoy a private piano concert. Alternatively, explore Budapest through the lens of its Jewish history; hike the Buda Hills that rise beyond the city center; or venture to the charming riverfront town of Szentendre, home to a thriving artist colony.
After breakfast, depart for the airport or your next destination.
- Prague Extension4 days from $600
Having survived throughout the centuries with much of its architecture intact, Prague is considered one of the best-preserved medieval cities in Europe. Gain firsthand insights into the city’s turbulent history as you explore the cobbled streets that wind beneath the baroque domes and Gothic spires that grace the stunning skyline.
Arrive in Prague and settle into our centrally located hotel.
Trace centuries of history on a guided tour through this “city of a hundred spires.” Get acquainted with spacious plazas and magnificent cathedrals as you wind your way along the cobbled streets of the Old Town. Visit the lively Old Town Square, a focal point of the 15th-century conflict between the reformist Hussites and the ruling Roman Catholics, and see the statue commemorating Jan Hus, the religious reform leader and Czech national hero who was burned at the stake for heresy. Gaze up at the impressive Astronomical Clock, and catch its festive hourly performance.
Set out to explore Prague at your leisure. Consider a visit to the historic Jewish Quarter, where the synagogues, museums, and cemetery tell an unforgettable story of struggle and perseverance. Cross the iconic Charles Bridge to see St. Vitus Cathedral and the courtyards and palaces that make up Prague Castle, the largest ancient castle in the world. Or delve into Prague’s modern history in Wenceslas Square, where citizens gathered during the Velvet Revolution to first demand, and then celebrate, the end of communism.
After breakfast, transfer to the airport or continue on to your next destination.