While Americans have their shopping mall Santas, Europe’s celebration of the holiday seasons have always had strong roots in traditions. The continent’s annual Christmas markets, which originated in Germany hundreds of years ago, evoke nostalgic memories of simpler times, with countless stalls selling popular holiday decorations, while the aroma of mulled wine, fresh bread and meat cooking over embers hovers in the air. It’s all part of the immersive experience offered by European Waterways’ new Christmas market cruises in France’s Alsace & Lorraine, which are available on select departures of the company’s 12-passenger luxury hotel barge, Panache, in November and December 2023.
“Germany hosts some 3,000 Christmas markets, and the Alsace-Lorraine region – which was once part of Germany but now belongs to France – carries on the tradition,” noted Derek Banks, Managing Director of European Waterways. “The region is renowned for its bright and festive Christmas markets, as well as its picturesque castles and France’s oldest wine road – all of which are part of European Waterways’ Christmas Markets Cruises.”
Banks continued: “In addition to the festivities, Christmas markets offer some great seasonal treats, such as vin chaud or mulled wine, a large variety of gingerbread, and christolle – a brioche made with candied fruits and filled with almond cream.”
Advance Bookings for Cabins and Charters
Now open for booking, European Waterways’ Christmas Markets Cruises are all-inclusive and include luxury accommodation, daily excursions, fine wine and gastronomic meals served onboard by a master chef. They’re available on Panache’s November 26, December 3, and December 10, 2023 departures. Cabins are $7,490 per person, based on double occupancy. The full boat can also be chartered for $79,500 for any of the departure dates.
Full of Good Cheers
Historically important to the towns’ economic and social fabric, and often constructed in front of majestic churches, the many public squares of Alsace & Lorraine come alive with colorful lights, music and good cheers during the holiday seasons’ Christmas markets.
Among the numerous markets explored with European Waterways is Strasbourg’s Christkindelsmärik. Welcoming millions of visitors every year, Strasbourg – the capital of Alsace and “the capital of Christmas” – is host to one of the oldest and largest markets in Europe. Guests can “step back in time” as they wander the many historic quarters of the city, such as Place Gutenberg and la Petite France (Little France). They will also visit such local attractions as the Musée du Chocolat, or chocolate museum, where they can watch seasonal candy being made. Capping these memorable experiences is a gastronomic dinner at a traditional Alsatian restaurant.
Other memorable excursions include a visit to the six Christmas markets that ring the center of Colmar, a town whose cobblestone streets and half-timbered houses recall the early Renaissance. Among the highlights is the market at Place de la Cathédrale, which spreads out in the shadows of the Gothic Eglise Saint-Martin. The itinerary also includes a visit to the Christmas market of Haguenau, famous for its 54-foot-long nativity scene.
In Lorraine, guests will visit the city of Lutzelbourg and its Meisenthal Glass Bauble factory, the original birthplace of the traditional Christmas ornaments, to watch the glass blowers in action. They will explore the remarkable glassware collection of French jeweler Rene’ Jules Lalique at the Musée Lalique. The building’s extensive creations of glass art were a major influence on the Art Nouveau and Art Deco movements.