(PANACHE CRUISES)_From floating ice rinks to gigantic gingerbread houses, travel experts at Panache Cruises have named the top ten most unusual Christmas markets, all of which are best explored by cruise ship.
Featuring supersized candy cane Christmas trees to life sized gingerbread houses, there are some incredible festive attractions across the globe for cruise lovers to explore.
These include floating market stalls in The Netherlands and the opportunity to experience a walk back in time to a Victorian Christmas in California.
Yet many of the world’s most unusual Christmas markets are hard to reach by air and land travel alone. Arriving by sea can be a fantastic choice for people wishing to visit multiple Christmas markets on one holiday, especially as many are close to cruise ship ports of call.
James Cole, Founder and CEO of Panache Cruises explained: “Christmas markets are a fantastic way to enjoy the festive season and there are some incredible attractions available for travellers who are prepared to explore that little bit further.
“Few people realise though that a Christmas markets cruise can be a very effective way of visiting some of the hardest to reach markets. What’s more you can visit lots of different markets on just one cruise itinerary.
“A River Danube river cruise is the perfect example where the stops might include Prague, Vienna, Bratislava and Budapest. All of these incredible festive destinations have the most fantastic Christmas market programmes.
“Christmas markets are also great places to find unique gifts which cannot be found anywhere else. With the same global brands on High Streets across the world, it can be refreshing to find unique gifts from local craft workers which are just not available at home.
“The relative strength of the Pound also allows for some excellent bargains to be found. Furthermore, there are no weight restrictions when transporting gifts back home on a cruise ship making overseas shopping trips by sea a very attractive proposition, especially if they leave and return to a port in your home country.”
Here are Panache Cruises’ Top 10 Christmas Markets to explore by sea:
Vilshofen, Germany - The Floating Christmas Market
Vilshofen on the River Danube is perhaps the perfect stop for any Christmas river cruise due to the fact that the main venue for this market is actually afloat! Housed within a large three storey river barge, this incredible market is adorned with a huge Christmas tree and thousands of lights and baubles. Additional market stalls can be found on the river bank alongside the vessel. Here you will find all the usual Christmas fare of locally made gifts, Glühwein and sweet pastries. With all the Christmas lights reflecting in the river, this truly is a sight to behold.
Gardens by the Bay, Singapore - Candy Cane Christmas Tree
Thanks to its Colonial past and large expatriate population, Singapore has some truly excellent Christmas displays which attract millions of visitors each year. What is more, thanks to Singapore’s diminutive size, all of Singapore’s festive treasures are easy to explore from the city’s main cruise terminal. Christmas Wonderland at ‘Gardens by the Bay’ is just one of the city’s many Christmas attractions. People come here from all over the world to see the magnificent light sculptures, the impressive array of floral ice carvings and the park’s Candy Cane Christmas Tree which stands eight metres tall.
Leiden, The Netherlands - The Market On The Water
Easily reached from the ports of Antwerp and Amsterdam, Leiden’s famous floating Christmas market is consistently rated one of the world’s best. On top of the city’s oldest canal, visitors will find boats filled with almost 100 stalls selling food, drinks and handmade gifts. There is even a floating ice rink and regular stage performances. Landlubbers and cruise aficionados alike will enjoy visiting this unique Christmas market in the centre of Holland.
New York City, USA - Winter Village Igloos
New York’s Christmas Village, sponsored by the Bank of America, has become one of the most popular Christmas markets in the world. With its 17,000-square-foot ice skating rink (which is completely free to use), a fantastic iceless curling arena and over 170 glasshouse market stalls, Christmas in New York is something to behold. Visitors can also hire cosy igloos within which to enjoy the market’s plethora of gourmet food and drink. New York’s cruise port remains incredibly busy even in the midst of winter thanks to it being the launch point for a myriad of Caribbean cruise itineraries. The Big Apple is also linked to Southampton in the UK by Cunard’s historic transatlantic liner service.
Toronto, Canada - Life-size Gingerbread House
Those in Toronto know Christmas is coming when the city’s lifesize gingerbread house is put up at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel. Consisting of almost 9,000 gingerbread bricks, visitors can actually walk through the two-storey gingerbread display and fight the temptation to have a nibble on the walls. There are also market stalls selling crafts, foods and drinks to check out too. Although Toronto cannot be accessed by cruise ship in December, it is an easy ‘add on’ especially if your cruise starts or finishes in New York. Many people choose to take the short one hour flight from New York to Toronto to visit the Canadian city’s fantastic Christmas decorations as part of their wider cruise holiday.
Valkenburg, The Netherlands - Underground Cave Markets
Festive fanatics in the know come to Valkenburg in the Netherlands every year to top up on festive cheer. Valkenburg is home to Europe’s largest underground Christmas market. Located in vast caves underneath the town’s ancient ruins, this underground market is filled with festive market stalls, spectacular decorations, life-size nativity sculptures and Christmas trees. The caves are turned into a subterranean winter wonderland over the festive season. Valkenburg is under two hours from Antwerp where many cruise ships stop in the run up to Christmas.
Bondi Beach, Australia - Christmas in the Sun
Visiting a Christmas market wearing shorts instead of coats and flip flops instead of gloves does not conjure up the normal image of Christmas. Yet for Australians, Christmas in the scorching heat is the norm. With market stalls lining the seafront selling festive food, drinks and handcrafted gifts, a visit to the Bondi Beach Christmas markets provides an incredible contrast to the festive experience we are used to in the Northern Hemisphere. Bondi Beach is easily accessed from Sydney’s main cruise terminal at Circular Quay in downtown Sydney. Christmas markets can also be found at ‘The Rocks’ at weekends (a short walk from the cruise terminal) or at Martin’s Place in the city centre.
San Francisco, USA - A Victorian Christmas
Although more of a common sight in Britain, a Victorian Christmas has made its way to the west coast of America, with a Charles Dickens theme to it. The Dickens Fair offers visitors a step back in time with theatres, pubs, shops, stalls and music halls. With regular entertainment shows acting out Dickens’ stories, the Fair is a wonderful place to experience a Victorian-themed Christmas. Located less than 10 miles from San Francisco’s main cruise terminal at the unusually named ‘Historic Cow Palace’, this annual event opens in late November and is open every weekend until the end of December. Given that many cruises start and finish in San Francisco at this time of year, this is one attraction that should not be missed.
San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina - The ‘Little Switzerland’ in South America
Located in the beautiful South American region of Patagonia, the city of Bariloche is tucked away in the midst of the Andes mountains. Commonly referred to as the ‘Little Switzerland’ of Argentina, Bariloche stages one of the quirkiest festive celebrations in the Southern Hemisphere. The city’s central square comes alive with wooden market stalls plus a massive Christmas tree. Santa Claus also keeps a house here where children can drop off their letters to the good Saint in the run up to Christmas. Cruise ships stop in Puerto Montt which is circa 3 hours away from Bariloche by coach. Whilst the excursion is longer than most, the views of the mountain landscapes, alpine lakes, fjords and glaciers along the route make the journey very worthwhile.
Amsterdam, The Netherlands - Meet The Real Santa Claus
No ‘Top 10’ list of unusual Christmas markets would be complete without mentioning Amsterdam. The self-proclaimed home of Sinterklaas (the legend behind Santa Claus), the famous Saint arrives in Amsterdam every year by steamboat from Spain. The Saint’s arrival is marked with a huge procession through the city and traditionally takes place in mid-November (the first Saturday after 11 November). The feast of Sinterklaas celebrates the name day of Saint Nicholas on 6 December. The Christmas markets throughout Amsterdam are an incredible spectacle and run from the arrival of Santa Claus until the end of December. The city’s most famous markets are the huge Christmas Village at Museumplein (Museum Square) and the Amsterdam Winter Paradise at the RAI Amsterdam Convention Centre. Here you will find both indoor and outdoor ice skating rinks, snow tubing, cross country skiing and a giant Ferris wheel. You can even have a snowball fight with real snow whilst you listen to Christmas carols sung by local choirs!
To find out more about cruising to these Christmas market destinations and many more in 2024 please visit https://www.panachecruises.com
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