Double your fun today with visits to two Christmas markets. The first is in Mainz, the birthplace of Gutenberg’s revolutionary printing press and home to a 200-year-old Christmas market. The next is in Rüdesheim, a town famous for its life-sized Nativity scene, brandy-infused coffee and a quirky museum devoted to mechanical musical instruments.
Mainz, standing at the confluence of the Rhine and the Main rivers, may be best known as the city where Johannes Gutenberg prepared his priceless 42-line bible for publication in 1485, using his newly invented printing press. You have the morning at leisure to explore the city that inspired such ingenuity, venturing off on your own to visit the Gutenberg Museum or one of the other intriguing museums nearby. Or you could stroll with the Cruise Manager through the Old Town neighborhood known as the Cherry Orchard, which is lined with picturesque half-timbered houses, on your way to the 200-year-old St. Nicholas Christmas Market. The millennium-old St. Martin’s Cathedral acts as its backdrop, and the holiday pyramid smack in the middle of the square reflects Mainz’s history— figures of Gutenberg and the ancient Roman commander Dresus join the standard angels and Santas. Mainz’s Old Town brims with specialty shops tucked into lovingly restored buildings: You’ll find jewelry, leather goods, books, toys—something special for every special person on your list.
However you choose to spend your time in Mainz, you’ll head back to the ship for a short cruise to Rüdesheim, which, like many cities along the Rhine, dates back to Roman times, when the Rhine was the northern border of the empire. Today, Rüdesheim is famous for its beauty and its entertaining alley of shops and wine bars called the Drosselgasse. It’s also home to a unique and fascinating little museum devoted to mechanical musical instruments.
Siegfried’s Mechanical Musical Instrument Museum with Christmas Market
Board a delightfully quaint mini train to Siegfried’s Museum of Mechanical Musical Instruments. This small, personal museum houses one of the world’s best collections of mechanical musical instruments in a 16th-century mansion, the Brömserhof. Here a guided tour will introduce you to rare mechanical instruments; some of them are 300 years old, and all of them are wonderfully inventive and fun. Listen as tiny birds pop out of music boxes and begin to sing; marvel as colorfully costumed mechanical figures play miniature violins. It’s an enchanting and surprising experience. Your enchantment continues at Rüdesheim’s fabulous Christmas Market. Browse the more than 120 stalls packed with holiday delights, and don’t miss Rüdesheim’s life-sized Nativity scene—one of Germany’s largest. If a hot beverage appeals to you, order a Rüdesheimer coffee and enjoy the ritual as it is prepared before you: The local brandy is set a-fire as it is poured into the drink. Be sure to take a look at the illuminated decorations on the rooftops—Rüdesheim’s residents have a friendly competition to see who can mount the brightest and most unusual lighted holiday display.