Christmas market cruises

Ben Gibson / 17 August 2018

Christmas market cruises: enjoy the traditional European Christmas markets while on a cruise around Belgium, Germany and Holland.

Christmas is the perfect time to indulge friends and family, but maybe this year it’s time to treat yourself 

Whatever time of year it is, it#s never too early to start planning your Christmas getaway. We all know how the festive season creeps up on you, so make some plans now and give yourself something truly magical to look forward to. 

How about sailing away to the atmospheric Christmas markets of Europe in December?

The history of Christmas markets

Many of the festive traditions we celebrate in the UK actually began on the Continent, and the region’s famous Christmas markets, known as Christkindlmarkts, were a good reason for people to meet up in the long, dark months of winter. This ancient tradition quickly spread across Europe and is still an eagerly awaited occasion in many cities.

During the advent season, market squares buzz with celebration, carol singing and festive food and drink. You can guard against the cold with a mug of steaming Glühwein, a hot mulled wine sometimes served with a warming shot of brandy. Have a sweet tooth? There are plenty of tasty treats on offer too, including candied almonds, chestnuts, stollen and fragrant gingerbread.

But the main draw of the markets is quite simply – shopping! They’re ideal for unusual, handmade gifts, so you can enjoy browsing the colourful stalls in search of the perfect present to take home in time for Christmas. What makes the experience extra special are the sparkling decorations that illuminate medieval buildings and historic town squares in a jolly glow, adding a touch of magic to your visit.

Must see Christmas markets

Saga’s seasonal Christmas Markets departure aboard Saga Sapphire means you can shop ‘til you drop at the festive markets of Bremen, Bruges and Amsterdam, just perfect for getting into the Christmas spirit. Not just spirits – but included wine and beers too – as the cruise is even all inclusive!

Saga are also including free transfers from the cruise ports into the city centres in both Bremen and Bruges, while an optional excursion is available to Amsterdam. So forget about that sunny weather outside – let me be the first to wish you a Happy Christmas!


This atmospheric Christmas market is one of the most attractive in Germany. Set in front of the Town Hall, over 170 stalls sell every imaginable type of festive gift, food and handicraft, while the smell of cinnamon and the sound of carol singers fills the air. It doesn’t get any more festive!


The capital of Belgium is a magical city, especially in the heart of winter when its cobbled streets are alive with festivities, glowing lights, food and gift stalls, and an open-air ice rink. It goes without saying that Bruges is also a chocolate-lover’s paradise – and authentic Belgian chocs make a great Christmas gift to return home with! Amsterdam – Or why not join the excursion into the city of Amsterdam, where there are several independent markets to discover. From traditional wooden chalets evoking the magic of a traditional Victorian Christmas to open ice rinks and modern street food, there’s something for everyone.


Q How late is too late to book a river cruise to the German Christmas markets?

These trips book up fast but do give it a try. Saga may have late availability for both river and sea cruises going to the European markets - and don’t forget Scandinavia, where snow is all but guaranteed.

But don’t ignore what’s on your doorstep. Britain is fast catching up with European festivities. Bath now has more than 170 charming wooden gift chalets winding round its Georgian streets with all the glühwein and stollen you can handle – plus traditional British yuletide fare if that’s more to your taste. Bury St Edmunds, Edinburgh, London and Manchester are all fabulous, too.

If you’re going independently, sort out accommodation before you book your travel: cities fill up fast when the market’s in town.

Extract taken from Saga Magazine, November 2017. For more travel tips,  subscribe to the magazine today!


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.