As the home of the original Christmas market and the traditional Christmas tree, few places capture the magic of yuletide like Germany and there are some tough contenders for the country’s most idyllic Christmastime destination. If its medieval romance and glittering light displays you’re looking for, you can’t go wrong with a cruise along the picturesque Rhine River and as the temperatures plummet, the entire Rhine Valley is aglow with festive sparkle.
Germany’s legendary Christmas markets are the focal point of many wintertime tours and the Rhine hosts several atmospheric Christkindlmarkets, many sprawled along the scenic riverside. The wine-making town of Rüdesheim will be swapping Riesling for Glühwein over the holiday season, with a giant Christmas market held in its Old Town; Trier’s Christmas market crowns an annual German Mulled Wine Queen; and Cologne boasts no less than 5 Christmas markets, including one held in the shadow of its landmark UNESCO-listed Cathedral. There are plenty of other ways to get in the Christmas mood too - Koblenz’s Town Hall transforms into an enormous Advent Calendar for the entire month; Speyer hosts a dramatic fireworks and festive lights display; and the live manger scene in Worms draws huge crowds.
Of course, the best way to take in the sights of the UNESCO World Heritage listed Rhine Valley is with a river cruise and winter is one of the most scenic times to soak up the views, as the fairytale landscape transforms into a real-life winter wonderland. Take to the icy waters on a festive Christmas afternoon cruise from Rüdesheim or Cologne and look out over the snow-capped turrets of Katz Castle and Marksburg Castle while tucking into hot waffles and coffee. Or get romantic on a candlelit Christmas Dinner cruise along the Rhine or a Christmas Sunday Brunch Cruise, accompanied by a decadent spread of festive foods and a chorus of Christmas carols.