Classic Christmas Markets
Note: The itineraries presented are subject to modification due to water levels, closures because of public holidays or other uncontrollable factors. Every effort will be made to operate programs as planned, but changes may still be necessary throughout the cruise. This day-to-day schedule is subject to change. Your final day-to-day schedule will be provided onboard on the first day of your cruise.

Day 1: Nuremberg (Embark)

Arrive at Nuremberg International Airport. If your cruise package includes a group arrival transfer or if you have purchased a private arrival transfer, you will be greeted by a Uniworld representative and transferred to the ship.
Note: For Arrival, Departure and Transfer details, please visit Uniworld.com/transfers. For Port Location details, please visit Uniworld.com/ports.

Day 2: Nuremberg

For a holiday extravaganza, look no further than Nuremberg, which boasts the largest and grandest Christmas Market in all of Germany— and that’s really saying something. The “Gingerbread Capital of the World” pulls out all the stops during the holidays, as you’ll see for yourself on a panoramic tour guaranteed to put you in a festive mood. You could not ask for a more perfect place to begin an exploration of Christmas traditions than Nuremberg. Stroll through the castle gardens and enjoy breathtaking views of the city, then walk through a maze of cobblestone lanes down to the central Market Square. There, spread out before the Church of Our Lady, is the largest Christmas Market in Germany.

No place like Nuremberg for the holidays

The Nuremberg Christmas Market is truly one of the most dazzling places to be during the holiday season. It is a magnificent winter wonderland straight out of a child’s storybook. With a Father Christmas themed carousel, mini Ferris wheel, steam railway, Santa Claus himself, and festive little stalls of craft workshops and activities, the merrymaking is endless. You will instantly be drawn in by the enticing scents of mulled wine, gingerbread, sweet roasted almonds, and the infamous Nuremberg Bratwurst (grilled sausage). The local guides will tell you what the best treats are in the market to see and try. The spectacular lights and enchanting Christmas decorations throughout the market only heighten the holiday spirit and bring out the air of warmth, joy, and tradition. Before your last stop at the Beautiful Fountain, you can further explore the Nuremberg city center or go shopping.

Nuremberg city tour with Christmas market

Beautiful at any time, Nuremberg’s Old Town is especially magical when dressed in all of its holiday splendor. Unfortunately, the city’s history also has a dark side, as you will see on a panoramic tour that shows you places where Hitler celebrated the might of his Third Reich—the Rally Grounds and the never-finished coliseum, Congress Hall—before you reach Old Town, where you’ll find the archetypal medieval German city. Stroll through the castle gardens and enjoy breathtaking views of the city, then walk through a maze of cobblestone lanes down to the central Market Square. There, spread out before the Church of Our Lady, is the largest Christmas market in Germany. Two hundred stalls filled with holiday wares—ornaments, nutcrackers, seasonal treats and hand-carved toys—await you, and the irresistible aromas of roasting nuts, cinnamon and grilled sausages waft through the air.

Adding to the fun is an area set aside especially for children, complete with a two-tiered carousel featuring carved reindeer and Santa’s sleigh. As you wander through the market, you will certainly want to indulge in some of the city’s famous gingerbread; after all, Nuremberg is known as the “Gingerbread Capital of the World.”

A special Captain’s Welcome Reception and Dinner will be prepared for you this evening.

Day 3: Bamberg

The fact that Bamberg still exists today is something of a miracle—it survived WWII bombing virtually unscathed. It’s a superb example of a medieval German city, one compact enough to explore on foot with a local expert. You’ll also have free time to visit not just one but four Christmas Markets and a captivating amount of nativity scenes located along nativity trail.

Bamberg walking tour with Christmas market

The entire heart of historic Bamberg is a UNESCO World Heritage Site; it is yours to explore today. In the splendid late-Romanesque Imperial Cathedral you will find the only papal tomb in Germany, that of Pope Clement II (who was the bishop of Bamberg before he became pope), as well as the tomb of Emperor Henry II (who established the bishopric). Near it are two magnificent palaces: The Old Palace, the late-Gothic imperial residence (if you saw the 2011 3-D version of The Three Musketeers, you’ll recognize it immediately), sits across from the New Residence, where the 17th-century prince-bishops lived. Cross the footbridge to the old Town Hall; legend has it that the bishop refused to give the town land for their town hall, so they built an artificial island for it smack in the middle of the Regnitz River. You’ll also see parts of Bamberg’s famous Nativity Walk, which links 35 churches, museums and public spaces that display Nativity scenes; some made hundreds of years ago.

When the tour concludes, you’ll have time to explore Bamberg’s Christmas Market, which is actually four markets: the traditional one on the Market Square, one featuring medieval cultural programs and two markets that focus on local arts and crafts. Shuttles will be provided throughout the afternoon to take you between the ship and town.

A stroll through Nativity Town

Join your family guide through your tour of the wintry German town of Bamberg located in Franconia. After surviving a WWII bombing, Bamberg is currently listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its authentic medieval appearance. During the holidays it is filled with Christmas markets and Nativity stations across town. Stroll along the large Franconian half-timber nativity trail and make sure not to miss any of the 36 nativity scenes from the Christmas Story. The scenes spread across the town including the Bamberg Cathedral, museums, small chapels, public buildings and all-around Bamberg County. You will also have the chance to visit the Christmas Markets in Maximiliansplatz square in the heart of the Old Town. Here kids will get the chance to dress up and learn how to start a fire with fire stones. Rejoice the festivities through the illuminated and decorated streets and shops. While strolling the market make sure to sample traditional German Christmas treats such as lebkuchen, a German like gingerbread; grilled bratwurst, and mulled wine.

Day 4: Kitzingen (Rothenburg), Würzburg

Rothenburg looks like something straight out of the pages of a storybook, with its medieval walls, cobbled streets, Gothic churches and Hansel-and-Gretel houses. Join a local expert for an insightful walking tour, and then wander amongst the stalls at one of Germany’s oldest Christmas markets

Full-day Rothenburg with walking tour and Christmas market

Rothenburg really does look like a fairytale version of the Middle Ages. Great stone walls surrounding the medieval core stand tall, linking towers, bastions and parapets, and timber-framed houses decked out for the holidays line the narrow cobblestone streets and tiny squares. Walk with a local expert to the magnificent Town Hall, whose Gothic, Renaissance and baroque features reveal its long history. The Gothic Franciscan Church is revered for its famous Tilman Riemenschneider altarpiece depicting St. Francis receiving the stigmata.

Your local expert can suggest the best places to enjoy a lunch on your own before you wander among the stalls of one of Germany’s oldest and most celebrated Christmas markets. You’ll find charming handcrafted wares and souvenirs, as well as pastries and mulled wine to keep you warm. Don’t miss a favorite seasonal treat, the schneeball, or snowball, made from strips of sweet dough shaped into a ball that is fried and covered in powdered sugar or chocolate. Be sure to check out the original Käthe Wohlfahrt Christmas Store opposite the market. A huge Christmas tree revolves in the center of the store, and some 35,000 Christmas-themed items line the shelves.

Rock on Rothenburg

Rothenburg is Germany’s quaint fairytale town that evokes an exciting medieval charm with its ancient cobblestone roads, narrow winding lanes, and wrought iron signs dangling from store windows. Walk the ramparts and take a historical trip to the Medieval Crime and Justice Museum to learn about the torture and punishments carried out in the past. Meet the Night Watchman to hear his amusing jokes and tales and find out what his job was all about once upon a time. Get a delightful taste of Rothenburg’s Schneeballen (snowballs), the local sweet pastry specialty and pay a visit to Käthe Wohlfahrt’s Christmas Museum and Store, a place filled with pure holiday magic and more Christmas decorations under one roof than you will ever see! Additionally, Rothenburg is one of Germany’s best shopping towns so indulge yourself in all the shopping as you wish or go explore St. Jakob’s Church, which houses a gloriously carved wooden altarpiece that dates back to 500 years ago.

Today’s lunch will be on your own.

Day 5: Würzburg

This morning, you’ll head off to see the Würzburg Residence, a baroque-style palace famous for its gigantic ceiling fresco. Later, visit the town’s renowned Christmas Market, held in front of the old City Hall, for some one-of-a-kind gifts for friends back home. Beautifully decorated wooden booths are illuminated by the soft glow of Christmas lighting, and the air is filled with the scent of roasted chestnuts and the sound of Christmas carols. One of the best ways to embrace a different culture is through encounters with local residents, which you’ll experience this afternoon in a typical Franconian village. Make new friends over hot drinks and homemade seasonal treats.

Würzburg Residence with Christmas market

This 300-room UNESCO World Heritage–designated residence was constructed over a period of 60 years in the 18th century. An extraordinarily lavish palace, it was created under the auspices of two Schönborn prince-bishops, Lothar Franz and Friedrich Carl, who brought enormous knowledge and passion to the project, as well as a budget for the best of the best. The magnificent grand staircase boasts the world’s largest ceiling fresco, painted by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo. Portions of the building were damaged by Allied bombing in 1945, but fortunately most of the historic furnishings had been stored off-site and key rooms were unharmed, so you can see the original—and matchless—artwork, gilding and statuary. Check out the spectacular Hall of Mirrors and the imposing Imperial Hall, which boasts a large oval dome and 20 half-columns.

At the conclusion of your tour, you’ll head back to Würzburg’s glorious Christmas Market, which is held in the square in front of the old City Hall. Beautifully decorated wooden booths are illuminated by the soft glow of Christmas lighting, and the air is filled with the scent of roasted chestnuts and the sound of Christmas carols. As you rove among the booths, you can watch glassblowers and wood carvers at work and buy their handiwork directly from them.

Franconian Christmas “Village Day”

Travel through Franconia’s rolling hills and farms to the picture-perfect village of Aschfeld, which features a historic church with a defensive wall that protected residents throughout the Middle Ages. A visit to Aschfeld offers a truly special opportunity to interact with small-town Franconians and chat with them about their daily lives. Locals will share traditional homemade Christmas goodies such as cookies, stollen and gingerbread, along with coffee and tea. Their English-speaking abilities vary, so this is a great opportunity for you to try out your German, just as your hosts are trying out their English. Here’s one phrase you might want to know: “Fröhliche Weihnachten,” which means “Merry Christmas!”

Würzburg’s winter wonderland

The Würzburg Residence is a grand palace that is an impressive work of art in itself, historically built by famous artists and leading architects of Germany and France for the Prince-Bishop. The majestic interior of the residence was the finest of its time, filled with the most intricate details and exquisite paintings. Your expert family guide will take you on a discovery tour through the palace where you will see wonders such as Tiepolo’s ceiling frescos in the Imperial Hall and the exotic art engraved in the Mirror Cabinet. Find out how many times you can see yourself in the mirrors! This elaborate combination of baroque styles and château architecture resulted in a unique and phenomenal achievement of the arts.

Festive Franconia

Experience the small-town charm of Franconia as you travel through the German countryside to the Franconian village of Aschfeld. There, you will be welcomed by the village mayor and village ambassador who are eager to tell you about their town. You will get a chance to visit Kirchenburg, a fortress church built in 1500 that was built for protection in case of an attack. Walk through a local museum where old crafts and workshops were restored. Practice your German as you mingle with the local kids and adults over hot drinks and homemade seasonal treats during the reception at the community hall.

Day 6: Wertheim

Located at the confluence of the Tauber and Main rivers, Wertheim is a lovely village dating back over a thousand years. It epitomizes the friendly, slow-paced small-town atmosphere of many German villages; here, residents greet each other by name as they do their daily shopping for fresh bread and sausage in tiny shops. On your guided walking tour of the village, you’ll hear a lot about daily life in Wertheim, as well as facts about the town and its history. Its many well-preserved medieval buildings—complete with low doors and tiny windows—attest to the inconveniences of life in the Middle Ages.

Wertheim walking tour with mulled wine and Christmas stollen demonstration

You’ll see the dramatic ruins of Wertheim Castle standing high above the village as you ramble through the narrow streets, passing small bakeries and butcher shops. The counts of Wertheim began building this huge fortress in the 12th century, and the town grew up in its shelter. Wertheim had defenses of its own too: The Pointed Tower, a former watchtower also used as a jail for drunkards and shrews in the 13th-century, still stands, leaning slightly toward its neighbors, not from age but because flood waters have undermined it. It’s not the only architectural wonder you’ll pass: Blue House’s spectacular half-timbering is painted with an unusual cobalt glass-based paint, and Zobel House is just 10 feet (3 meters) wide at its base. In the Market Square, you’ll see St. Mary’s Chapel, which was erected in 1447; the step-gabled house built for 16th-century wine merchant Lorenz Baunach; and the 1574 Angels’ Well, which derives its name from the two little angels that hold Wertheim’s coat of arms. Stop in at a butcher shop for a sampling of the best local sausage; you can even buy some (canned, of course) to take home with you! Then enjoy a cup of mulled wine and a stollen (traditional German fruitcake) baking demonstration by a master baker at a private village wine estate. After the tour you can stay in town to shop for keepsakes or visit the Glass Museum before making your way back to the ship.

Michelstadt Christmas market

The historic half-timber facades of the houses and town hall from 1484 are the worthy setting for more than 100 wooden market stalls made in a particularly attractive style. The extraordinary decoration like the magical nativity scene with life-sized figures, the giant Christmas pyramid, a group of angels and the big colorful wooden musical box conjure up a festive atmosphere. Father Christmas comes regularly to cheer up the children. In the castle's wine tasting hall, sculptors, wood turners, ivory carvers and carpenters demonstrate their craft. Even the toy museum opens its doors wide, to the joy of adult and child visitors alike. Advent music, Christmas concerts and the sound of trumpets lend everything a reflective, festive note.

Wertheim’s medieval sights & winter treats

On this tasty holiday excursion, start your day with a classic Christmas stollen bread demonstration onboard before exploring the picturesque town of Wertheim with your family guide. This old German town holds many secrets of the middle ages, waiting to be uncovered. Discover the reason why the color blue was so expensive and how knights of that era were buried. Home to the Pointed Tower and former Princely Residence, this quaint village is home to scenic views and impressive architecture. After your stroll through town, explore Wertheim’s Market Square, where kids can enjoy punsch and the parents can sample glühwein. The fun doesn’t end there though. Once aboard, participate in an exciting hands-on workshop where you can learn to twist the renowned pretzels like a pro with a Master Baker.

Day 7: Frankfurt

Frankfurt is known as the “Mainhattan” of Europe, a financial powerhouse with soaring skyscrapers as well as traditional Old Town architecture. Experience both aspects of the city today, with time to browse the local Christmas market, one of the best on the Continent. Other options include a “Taste of Christmas” walking tour featuring all sorts of sugary and savory treats or an excursion to the Christmas market in Wiesbaden.

Mainhattan walking tour with Christmas market

Dive into the energy of this sophisticated city with your guide, roaming from its historic heart, Römer Square, to its landmark skyscraper, Main Tower, where you’ll take an elevator to the 650-foot-high (198 meters) viewing platform for a panorama of the 50 skyscrapers that underline the importance of this European hub. Closer to earth, you’ll see the Römer, a complex of patrician houses originally built around 1288 that has served as Frankfurt’s City Hall for more than 600 years. From here, you’ll notice the red sandstone tower of St. Bartholomew’s Cathedral; kings were elected and emperors crowned here beginning in 1356. Then you’ll have the opportunity to explore this lovely city at your own pace. Old Town, which is resplendent with the joyous sights and sounds of Frankfurt’s Christmas Market, is a great place to start. This market is one of the largest in Germany, as well as one of the most beautiful, featuring a vintage carousel and a huge, gorgeously illuminated Christmas tree.

If you haven’t finished your Christmas shopping and you don’t see just what you’re looking for at the market, you could check out the designer shops on Goethe Street or the little boutiques on Berger Street. The treasures of the Römer are so close to the ship that you can take in the sights at your leisure before returning to the dock. If you’d like a break from holiday shopping, no fewer than 13 museums line the Main River right next to your ship, all of them worth exploring. The Städel has a splendid collection of works by painters ranging from Rubens to Baselitz.

Wiesbaden Twinkling Star Christmas market

The Sternschnuppenmarkt (or “Twinkling Star”) Christmas Market in Wiesbaden is a delight for visitors young and young at heart, festively decorated and well-organized, with a colorful stage and a good mix of friendly vendors. There’s also a one-of-a-kind backdrop, the city’s grand Town Hall, State Capitol and the Market Square Church, the latter of which is beautifully illuminated.

Frankfurt’s festive zoo

During your visit in Frankfurt you will get the chance to visit the Frankfurt Zoo. Located in the center of the city, the Frankfurt Zoo is the second oldest zoo in Germany. The zoo is home to about 450 different animal species from around the world, from seals to tigers, snakes to otters, and penguins to crocodiles. Learn about animal conservation and ways in which one can protect the environment. The kids can run around and play in the Fraport playground while the adults can refresh and nourish themselves at the gastronomy areas. With various activities for kids and teens throughout the zoo, every member of the family is guaranteed to have a good time.

“Taste of Christmas” Frankfurt walking tour

What better way to end your holiday cruise than by sampling some of the seasonal specialties of this region? Join your local expert for an exploration of Frankfurt’s culinary delicacies, including holiday treats such as bethmännchen, a marzipan- filled pastry named for a 19th-century banking family, and quetschemännchen, quirky little plum-and-nut figures that are traditionally made for the season (they were also traditionally sent by a young man to the young lady he was interested in; if she accepted one from him, she accepted him also). These are just a couple of the treats awaiting you as you ramble through the picturesque area around historic Römer Square, where markets have been held since the 13th-century. Tall half-timbered houses, including the old Town Hall, enclose the square, which has hosted a Christmas market since the 1390s. Now you’ll find long rows of gaily decorated stalls filled with imaginative crafts and delicious foods, one last delightful market for you to enjoy before you head home.

A special Captain’s Farewell Reception and Dinner will be prepared for you this evening.

Day 8: Frankfurt (Disembark)

Disembark the ship. If your cruise package includes a group departure transfer or if you have purchased a private departure transfer, you will be transferred to the Frankfurt International Airport for your flight home.
Note: The itineraries presented are subject to modification due to water levels, closures because of public holidays or other uncontrollable factors. Every effort will be made to operate programs as planned, but changes may still be necessary throughout the cruise. This day-to-day schedule is subject to change. Your final day-to-day schedule will be provided onboard on the first day of your cruise.

Day 1: Frankfurt (Embark)

Arrive at Frankfurt International Airport. If your cruise package includes a group arrival transfer or if you have purchased a private arrival transfer, you will be greeted by a Uniworld representative and transferred to the ship.
Note: For Arrival, Departure and Transfer details, please visit Uniworld.com/transfers. For Port Location details, please visit Uniworld.com/ports.

Day 2: Frankfurt

Frankfurt is known as the “Mainhattan” of Europe, a financial powerhouse with soaring skyscrapers as well as traditional Old Town architecture. Experience both aspects of the city today, with time to browse the local Christmas market, one of the best on the Continent. Other options include a “Taste of Christmas” walking tour featuring all sorts of sugary and savory treats or an excursion to the Christmas market in Wiesbaden.

Wiesbaden Twinkling Star Christmas market

The Sternschnuppenmarkt (or “Twinkling Star”) Christmas Market in Wiesbaden is a delight for visitors young and young at heart, festively decorated and well-organized, with a colorful stage and a good mix of friendly vendors. There’s also a one-of-a-kind backdrop, the city’s grand Town Hall, State Capitol and the Market Square Church, the latter of which is beautifully illuminated.

Frankfurt walking tour with Christmas market

Dive into the energy of this sophisticated city with your guide, roaming from its historic heart, Römer Square, to its landmark skyscraper, Main Tower, where you’ll take an elevator to the 650-foot-high (198 meters) viewing platform for a panorama of the 50 skyscrapers that underline the importance of this European hub. Closer to earth, you’ll see the Römer, a complex of patrician houses originally built around 1288 that has served as Frankfurt’s City Hall for more than 600 years. From here, you’ll notice the red sandstone tower of St. Bartholomew’s Cathedral; kings were elected and emperors crowned here beginning in 1356. Then you’ll have the opportunity to explore this lovely city at your own pace. Old Town, which is resplendent with the joyous sights and sounds of Frankfurt’s Christmas Market, is a great place to start. This market is one of the largest in Germany, as well as one of the most beautiful, featuring a vintage carousel and a huge, gorgeously illuminated Christmas tree.

If you haven’t finished your Christmas shopping and you don’t see just what you’re looking for at the market, you could check out the designer shops on Goethe Street or the little boutiques on Berger Street. The treasures of the Römer are so close to the ship that you can take in the sights at your leisure before returning to the dock. If you’d like a break from holiday shopping, no fewer than 13 museums line the Main River right next to your ship, all of them worth exploring. The Städel has a splendid collection of works by painters ranging from Rubens to Baselitz.

“Taste of Christmas” Frankfurt walking tour

What better way to begin your holiday cruise than by sampling some of the seasonal specialties of this region? Join your local expert for an exploration of Frankfurt’s culinary delicacies, including holiday treats such as bethmännchen, a marzipan- filled pastry named for a 19th-century banking family, and quetschemännchen, quirky little plum-and-nut figures that are traditionally made for the season (they were also traditionally sent by a young man to the young lady he was interested in; if she accepted one from him, she accepted him also). These are just a couple of the treats awaiting you as you ramble through the picturesque area around historic Römer Square, where markets have been held since the 13th-century. Tall half-timbered houses, including the old Town Hall, enclose the square, which has hosted a Christmas market since the 1390s. Now you’ll find long rows of gaily decorated stalls filled with imaginative crafts and delicious foods.

A special Captain’s Welcome Reception and Dinner will be prepared for you this evening.

Day 3: Cruising the Main River, Wertheim

Located at the confluence of the Tauber and Main rivers, Wertheim is a lovely village dating back over a thousand years. It epitomizes the friendly, slow-paced small-town atmosphere of many German villages; here, residents greet each other by name as they do their daily shopping for fresh bread and sausage in tiny shops. On your guided walking tour of the village, you’ll hear a lot about daily life in Wertheim, as well as facts about the town and its history. Its many well-preserved medieval buildings—complete with low doors and tiny windows—attest to the inconveniences of life in the Middle Ages.

Wertheim walking tour with mulled wine and Christmas stollen demonstration

You’ll see the dramatic ruins of Wertheim Castle standing high above the village as you ramble through the narrow streets, passing small bakeries and butcher shops. The counts of Wertheim began building this huge fortress in the 12th century, and the town grew up in its shelter. Wertheim had defenses of its own too: The Pointed Tower, a former watchtower also used as a jail for drunkards and shrews in the 13th-century, still stands, leaning slightly toward its neighbors, not from age but because flood waters have undermined it. It’s not the only architectural wonder you’ll pass: Blue House’s spectacular half-timbering is painted with an unusual cobalt glass-based paint, and Zobel House is just 10 feet (3 meters) wide at its base. In the Market Square, you’ll see St. Mary’s Chapel, which was erected in 1447; the step-gabled house built for 16th-century wine merchant Lorenz Baunach; and the 1574 Angels’ Well, which derives its name from the two little angels that hold Wertheim’s coat of arms. Stop in at a butcher shop for a sampling of the best local sausage; you can even buy some (canned, of course) to take home with you! Then enjoy a cup of mulled wine and a stollen (traditional German fruitcake) baking demonstration by a master baker at a private village wine estate. After the tour you can stay in town to shop for keepsakes or visit the Glass Museum before making your way back to the ship.

Day 4: Würzburg

This morning, you’ll head off to see the Würzburg Residence, a baroque-style palace famous for its gigantic ceiling fresco. Later, visit the town’s renowned Christmas Market, held in front of the old City Hall, for some one-of-a-kind gifts for friends back home. Beautifully decorated wooden booths are illuminated by the soft glow of Christmas lighting, and the air is filled with the scent of roasted chestnuts and the sound of Christmas carols. One of the best ways to embrace a different culture is through encounters with local residents, which you’ll experience this afternoon in a typical Franconian village. Make new friends over hot drinks and homemade seasonal treats.

Würzburg Residence with Christmas market

This 300-room UNESCO World Heritage–designated residence was constructed over a period of 60 years in the 18th century. An extraordinarily lavish palace, it was created under the auspices of two Schönborn prince-bishops, Lothar Franz and Friedrich Carl, who brought enormous knowledge and passion to the project, as well as a budget for the best of the best. The magnificent grand staircase boasts the world’s largest ceiling fresco, painted by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo. Portions of the building were damaged by Allied bombing in 1945, but fortunately most of the historic furnishings had been stored off-site and key rooms were unharmed, so you can see the original—and matchless—artwork, gilding and statuary. Check out the spectacular Hall of Mirrors and the imposing Imperial Hall, which boasts a large oval dome and 20 half-columns.

At the conclusion of your tour, you’ll head back to Würzburg’s glorious Christmas Market, which is held in the square in front of the old City Hall. Beautifully decorated wooden booths are illuminated by the soft glow of Christmas lighting, and the air is filled with the scent of roasted chestnuts and the sound of Christmas carols. As you rove among the booths, you can watch glassblowers and wood carvers at work and buy their handiwork directly from them.

Franconian Christmas “Village Day”

Travel through Franconia’s rolling hills and farms to the picture-perfect village of Aschfeld, which features a historic church with a defensive wall that protected residents throughout the Middle Ages. A visit to Aschfeld offers a truly special opportunity to interact with small-town Franconians and chat with them about their daily lives. Locals will share traditional homemade Christmas goodies such as cookies, stollen and gingerbread, along with coffee and tea. Their English-speaking abilities vary, so this is a great opportunity for you to try out your German, just as your hosts are trying out their English. Here’s one phrase you might want to know: “Fröhliche Weihnachten,” which means “Merry Christmas!”

Day 5: Kitzingen (Rothenburg), Schweinfurt

Rothenburg looks like something straight out of the pages of a storybook, with its medieval walls, cobbled streets, Gothic churches and Hansel-and-Gretel houses. Join a local expert for an insightful walking tour, and then wander amongst the stalls at one of Germany’s oldest Christmas markets

Full-day Rothenburg with walking tour and Christmas market

Rothenburg really does look like a fairytale version of the Middle Ages. Great stone walls surrounding the medieval core stand tall, linking towers, bastions and parapets, and timber-framed houses decked out for the holidays line the narrow cobblestone streets and tiny squares. Walk with a local expert to the magnificent Town Hall, whose Gothic, Renaissance and baroque features reveal its long history. The Gothic Franciscan Church is revered for its famous Tilman Riemenschneider altarpiece depicting St. Francis receiving the stigmata.

Your local expert can suggest the best places to enjoy a lunch on your own before you wander among the stalls of one of Germany’s oldest and most celebrated Christmas markets. You’ll find charming handcrafted wares and souvenirs, as well as pastries and mulled wine to keep you warm. Don’t miss a favorite seasonal treat, the schneeball, or snowball, made from strips of sweet dough shaped into a ball that is fried and covered in powdered sugar or chocolate. Be sure to check out the original Käthe Wohlfahrt Christmas Store opposite the market. A huge Christmas tree revolves in the center of the store, and some 35,000 Christmas-themed items line the shelves.

Today’s lunch will be on your own.

Day 6: Bamberg

The fact that Bamberg still exists today is something of a miracle—it survived WWII bombing virtually unscathed. It’s a superb example of a medieval German city, one compact enough to explore on foot with a local expert. You’ll also have free time to visit not just one but four Christmas Markets and a captivating amount of nativity scenes located along nativity trail.

Bamberg walking tour with Christmas market

The entire heart of historic Bamberg is a UNESCO World Heritage Site; it is yours to explore today. In the splendid late-Romanesque Imperial Cathedral you will find the only papal tomb in Germany, that of Pope Clement II (who was the bishop of Bamberg before he became pope), as well as the tomb of Emperor Henry II (who established the bishopric). Near it are two magnificent palaces: The Old Palace, the late-Gothic imperial residence (if you saw the 2011 3-D version of The Three Musketeers, you’ll recognize it immediately), sits across from the New Residence, where the 17th-century prince-bishops lived. Cross the footbridge to the old Town Hall; legend has it that the bishop refused to give the town land for their town hall, so they built an artificial island for it smack in the middle of the Regnitz River. You’ll also see parts of Bamberg’s famous Nativity Walk, which links 35 churches, museums and public spaces that display Nativity scenes; some made hundreds of years ago.

When the tour concludes, you’ll have time to explore Bamberg’s Christmas Market, which is actually four markets: the traditional one on the Market Square, one featuring medieval cultural programs and two markets that focus on local arts and crafts. Shuttles will be provided throughout the afternoon to take you between the ship and town.

Day 7: Nuremberg

For a holiday extravaganza, look no further than Nuremberg, which boasts the largest and grandest Christmas Market in all of Germany— and that’s really saying something. The “Gingerbread Capital of the World” pulls out all the stops during the holidays, as you’ll see for yourself on a panoramic tour guaranteed to put you in a festive mood. Stroll through the castle gardens and enjoy breathtaking views of the city, then walk through a maze of cobblestone lanes down to the central Market Square. There, spread out before the Church of Our Lady, is the largest Christmas Market in Germany.

Nuremberg city tour with Christmas market

Beautiful at any time, Nuremberg’s Old Town is especially magical when dressed in all of its holiday splendor. Unfortunately, the city’s history also has a dark side, as you will see on a panoramic tour that shows you places where Hitler celebrated the might of his Third Reich—the Rally Grounds and the never-finished coliseum, Congress Hall—before you reach Old Town, where you’ll find the archetypal medieval German city. Stroll through the castle gardens and enjoy breathtaking views of the city, then walk through a maze of cobblestone lanes down to the central Market Square. There, spread out before the Church of Our Lady, is the largest Christmas market in Germany. Two hundred stalls filled with holiday wares—ornaments, nutcrackers, seasonal treats and hand-carved toys—await you, and the irresistible aromas of roasting nuts, cinnamon and grilled sausages waft through the air.

Adding to the fun is an area set aside especially for children, complete with a two-tiered carousel featuring carved reindeer and Santa’s sleigh. As you wander through the market, you will certainly want to indulge in some of the city’s famous gingerbread; after all, Nuremberg is known as the “Gingerbread Capital of the World.”

A special Captain’s Farewell Reception and Dinner will be prepared for you this evening.

Day 8: Nuremberg (Disembark)

Disembark the ship. If your cruise package includes a group departure transfer or if you have purchased a private departure transfer, you will be transferred to the Nuremberg International Airport for your flight home.

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Classic Christmas Markets

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