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The Leader in Small Ship and River Cruising Worldwide

Worldwide Discovery at Extraordinary Value Since 1958

2017 Christmas Markets Along the Danube

Germany: Nuremberg, Regensburg, Passau • Austria: Linz, Melk, Vienna

ABOARD OUR PRIVATELY OWNED 140- TO 162-PASSENGER SHIPS DESIGNED FOR AMERICAN TRAVELERS

9 Days from only $2695 including international airfare

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Trip Experience

Watch travelers immerse themselves in Germany’s and Austria’s holiday traditions as they explore enchanting Christmas markets.

Trip Extension: Vienna

Visit the famed Spanish Riding School and sample local flavors on this optional extension.

Program Director

Hear how Janneke Bogaert's home country made it easy for her to explore much of Europe.

Trip Itinerary

Get more information about your detailed itinerary, like optional tours, exclusive Discovery Series events, and more.

Courtesy Small World Productions
Vienna and the Danube

Revel in the iconic staples of Viennese culture, from coffeehouses to dance floors, with travel expert Rudy Maxa.

Courtesy Small World Productions
Germany’s Romantic Road

Revel in storybook German scenes as travel expert Rudy Maxa follows the villages along the Romantic Road.

Courtesy Small World Productions
Salzburg and the Lakes District

Join travel expert Rudy Maxa in Salzburg, Austria, and preview the charm awaiting on our optional tour.

©2013 The New York Times
Germany's Energy Revolution

Discover the renewable energy options being developed as part of the revolutionary—and controversial—German Energy Transition.

Courtesy Anika Pilnei and Ian Cross
Great Railway Journeys of Europe: Vienna to Trieste

Explore the former Austrian Empire's history—and opulence—on display within Vienna's great landmarks.

Courtesy Epiphany Morgan
Katharina: A 365 Docobites Film

Let a local horse-drawn carriage driver take you into the heart of Austria’s equestrian culture.

FROM
$2695
9 DAYS
$300/DAY
including international airfare
8 DAYS FROM $1495 River Cruise Only
Extend Your Trip
 

Travel from $1995—including
airfare—on December 2017
departures. Reserve by 5/31/17

 

Find out how nutcrackers
went from lowly utensils to
holiday icons. Read article »

 

Arrive early in Munich before your trip begins
See More Options »

NEW: Activity Level

Our NEW Activity Level rating system ranks our trips on a scale of 1 (easiest) to 5 (most difficult) to help you determine if a trip is right for you. The information below is a general guide to our rating system, but see our itineraries for much more detailed physical activity information about each trip.

Activity Level 1:

1 2 3 4 5

Easy

Travelers should be able to climb 25 stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 1-2 miles over some uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last at least 1-2 hours at a time. Altitude can range from zero to 5,000 feet.

Activity Level 2:

1 2 3 4 5

Moderately Easy

Travelers should be able to climb 40 stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 2-3 miles over some uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last for at least 2-3 hours at a time. Altitude can range from zero to 5,000 feet.

Activity Level 3:

1 2 3 4 5

Moderate

Travelers should be able to climb 60 stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 3 miles over some steep slopes and loose or uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last for 3 or more hours at a time. Altitude can range from 5,000 to 7,000 feet.

Activity Level 4:

1 2 3 4 5

Moderately Strenuous

Travelers should be able to climb 80 stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 4 miles over some steep slopes and loose or uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last for 4 or more hours at a time. Altitude can range from 7,000 to 9,000 feet.

Activity Level 5:

1 2 3 4 5

Strenuous

Travelers should be able to climb 100 or more stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 8 miles over some steep slopes and loose or uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last for 4 or more hours at a time. Altitude can range from 10,000 feet or more.

Itinerary Overview

Christmas trees aglow with white candles ... the wafting harmonies of Handel, Bach, and the strains of “Silent Night” ... sumptuous gingerbread cakes ... handmade wood carvings ... and the warm, happy spirit of the season all around you. Experience this popular holiday getaway, and cruise along the Danube River through the most beloved ports of Austria and Germany. You’ll explore the region’s craft-filled Christmas markets in the company of like-minded American travelers, and behold storybook medieval towns in all their holiday finery. Along with spending convivial moments with others who share the holiday spirit. Plus, enjoy NEW onboard enhancements such as complimentary house beer, wine, and soft drinks, as well as improved wireless Internet in all cabins and common areas—all at no additional cost. Only Grand Circle brings you this unique and comprehensive holiday River Cruise package at such an unbeatable value!

Day-to-Day Itinerary

  • 3 nights from only $545

    Join us on an optional extension to explore one of Europe’s most culturally rich cities, with more museums than any other city in Germany. The Alte Pinakothek (Old Picture Gallery) alone has nearly 900 paintings on display, with major works by Durer, Rubens, and da Vinci. The largest university community in Germany, Munich offers enchanting contrasts, from sidewalk cafes serving mouth-watering sausages and locally brewed beers to public squares graced with historic churches, monuments, and statuary.

    View Extension Itinerary
  • Depart the U.S. today on your flight to Nuremberg, Germany.

  • Arrive in Nuremberg this morning, where a Grand Circle representative meets you at the airport and helps you transfer to the pier to embark your waiting river ship. Upon arrival, enjoy some free time to relax and familiarize yourself with your ship.

    Gather this evening for a ship briefing about your River Cruise, and get better acquainted with your Program Director and fellow travelers during dinner. Afterward, settle in for your first night onboard.

  • After breakfast, disembark for a tour of Nuremberg, one of the most important cities of the Franconia region.

    This medieval city surrounded by 13th-century walls is the second-largest city in Bavaria. Today the city's name evokes the notorious post-World War II war trials. But throughout its history, Nuremberg has been known for its wonderful creativity and handcrafts—its toys and fancy metalwork are particularly famous.

    Return to the ship for lunch before an afternoon visit to Nuremberg's famous Christkindlmarkt (Christmas market), where you have free time to browse on your own. This is Germany's most famous traditional Christmas market, and it is open throughout the holiday season, with a myriad of colorful stalls offering handmade Christmas decorations, toys, ceramics, glasswork, and candles. Food stalls tempt you with Bratwurst, mulled wines, sweets, and pastries—including the famous Nuremberg gingerbread. Various programs regale visitors with chorale offerings, concerts, and a live Nativity scene.

    Tonight, after a Welcome Drink and as you enjoy the Captain's Welcome Dinner onboard, the ship quietly slips anchor and heads out on the Main-Danube Canal. We cruise overnight on our way to our next port-of-call.

    Please note: Christmas markets typically open one week before, or at the start of Advent observances in mid- to late-November. Hours of operation for the holiday markets vary depending on region, and may be limited or closed between December 24 and December 26, as well as on New Year’s Day. When possible, your trip itinerary may be adjusted as a result.

  • This morning, cruise Europe's highest canal, the Main-Danube. En route, learn about the engineering techniques and innovations—from locks to water pumps—that have allowed travelers to navigate Europe’s rivers during an exclusive Discovery Series lecture. Please note: During the Main-Danube Canal transit, it may be necessary for the Captain to close the Sun Deck because of low-standing bridges.

    You will learn more when you join us for an onboard discussion outlining the amazing history of the great Main-Danube Canal. The technological workings of this canal are an engineering marvel. You are also invited to an exclusive Discovery Series German language lesson, where you can learn some German phrases—such as, Schöne Feiertage (Happy Holidays)—commonly used during the Christmas season.

    You have lunch onboard just as we're arriving in Regensburg, a hidden treasure with elements dating back to medieval times. After your meal, go ashore for a walking tour. Since the city suffered no damage during World War II, it remains beautifully preserved.

    Your tour features the Old Town Hall and the famous Stone Bridge, Germany's oldest, which was constructed during the twelfth century. You also visit the Regensberg Christkindlmarkt (Christmas market) in Neupfarrplatz, which lights up in December with seasonal cheer. You have time here to explore on your own, strolling among the stalls and shopping for unique handmade Christmas gifts.

    After an early dinner on the ship, join us for an exclusive Discovery Series event as we walk to a local church to hear a choral concert featuring festive holiday music.

    Later in the evening, return to the ship, which remains docked in Regensburg overnight.

  • Enjoy a leisurely morning onboard today, as the ship prepares to set off for its next destination. Your cruise toward Passau begins shortly before lunch. 

    If the weather obliges, you might go on deck and take in the scenes of life along the banks of this noble river, or spend some time with fellow travelers over coffee or cards.

    This afternoon, you'll learn how to bake Stollen, a traditional German bread made with fruit and nuts, and topped with powdered sugar, during an exclusive Discovery Series demonstration. 

    In late evening we arrive in Passau, where we dock overnight.

  • This morning, learn about local holiday lore during an exclusive Discovery Series discussion about German Christmas Traditions. Then disembark for a tour of the lovely medieval town of Passau.

    Situated at the confluence of the Danube, the Ilz, and the Inn rivers, Passau has been called the Dreiflussestadt (City on Three Rivers). The city was significantly developed by the prince bishops of Passau, who made it their royal residence and capital of the largest Danube diocese.

    You'll enjoy a short walking tour of this elegant town that has served as a German cultural and intellectual hub for centuries. See the impressive Bishop's Residenz, the 13th-century Town Hall, and the town's magnificent  St. Stephen's Cathedral, which boasts the world's largest church organ, with 17,774 pipes and 231 resounding stops. The cathedral's original Gothic plan is still evident through the 17th-century reconstruction it received in the grand Baroque style. One of its most striking features is the gorgeous octagonal dome that hovers over the intersection of the nave, where the congregation sits, and the transept, which runs perpendicular to it.

    Passau's colorful Christmas market is located in front of the cathedral. You have some free time to do some shopping or simply browse the wide assortment of handcrafts and Christmas creations.

    Lunch and dinner will be onboard. The ship sets sail to Linz, Austria in late afternoon.

  • This morning the ship calls at the port of Linz. You have the day free to explore this Old-World city. Linz, one of the largest ports on the Danube and the second-most populous city in Austria, was initially settled by Romans in the first century AD, and today is one of the country's cultural centers. It offers a wealth of discoveries—from its Hauptplatz, one of the loveliest squares in Europe, to the 17th-century Abbey of St. Florian, where Linz's native son, Anton Bruckner, was the organist and composed many of his famed masterpieces of church music. His burial site is at the abbey.

    You could also consider a visit to Linz's historic Landhaus, a complex of structures currently used as government headquarters. These buildings served as the city's university in the 17th century, and it was here that the well-known mathematician and astronomer Johann Kepler formulated his theory of planetary motion. A short walk takes you to the Linzer Schloss (Linz Castle), where you can browse its Provincial Museum of Upper Austria, containing artwork from medieval to modern times. Linz is also a center for trade in antiques, so you might wish to stop in at a few of its shops to see what treasures you can find.

    Return to the ship for lunch where you can spend the rest of your day relaxing or continue exploring Linz's charming Christmas market and abundance of museums on your own. 

    Or, journey into the heart of the Alps with an optional full-day Salzburg excursion. This beautiful city—birthplace of Mozart—will seem familiar those individuals who are forever enchanted by The Sound of Music, and you'll visit the grounds where much of the film was shot.

    Your tour includes a visit to the Getreidegasse, the renowned center for Austrian shopping. Note the intricate architectural details of this lane of shops and galleries, nestled under their skillfully crafted wrought-iron signs and offering jewelry, antiques, leather goods, and regional foods. The vaulted passageways offer delightful pathways to artisans' workshops and arcaded courtyards.

    You'll get another taste of Alpine Christmas traditions as you visit the fabulous Salzburg Christmas market. Handmade seasonal crafts of all sorts are available, and the aromas of traditional holiday foods add magic to the colorful setting.

    Have lunch in this beautiful city and free time to explore on your own before boarding your ship again in the late afternoon in Linz.

    This evening, as you cruise the river again, celebrate your discoveries and new Christmas memories at the Captain's Farewell Dinner onboard. 

     

  • After breakfast, disembark in Melk for an excursion to the dramatic 900-year-old Baroque Melk Abbey.

    This magnificently ornate structure has a long and storied history. Strategically situated on a steep, cliffside perch, Melk Abbey's earliest incarnation was as a Roman border post. Later, it served as a tenth-century Babenberg fortress. It became a Benedictine monastery in 1089 and earned a distinguished reputation for medieval scholarship. Its library includes more than 70,000 books and 2,000 manuscripts, chiefly from the ninth through the 15th centuries. The Abbey also houses a remarkable cherub-filled library of thousands of books and manuscripts, and 365 windows—one for every day of the year. The interior of the Abbey's church is a kaleidoscope of red, orange, and gold—with a magnificent carved pulpit and shimmering ceiling frescoes. You'll also enjoy free time to explore Melk at leisure before returning to your ship.

    After setting sail again near lunchtime, enjoy hot chocolate and relax onboard as your ship cruises along one of the most beautiful parts of the Danube—the Wachau Valley. Your Program Director will provide enlightening commentary about this UNESCO World Heritage Site consisting of sculpted hills and medieval towns built along the river.  

    You arrive in Vienna before dinnertime. After dinner, you can accompany your Program Director for a peek into this elegant city.

    Vienna without music wouldn't be Vienna. So, subject to availability of tickets, you may want to join us this evening on an optional Musical Vienna outing for a performance in one of Vienna's famed concert halls. This optional excursion is an excellent opportunity to hear classical Viennese music in a setting where Johann Strauss himself performed.

    • Meals included:

    After breakfast, disembark and transfer to the airport for your flight home.

  • POST-TRIP EXTENSION:
    Vienna, Austria

    3 nights from only $545

    Explore Vienna, a magnificent Old World city of museums and music, art and architecture, and famous people from its storied past, that has lost nothing of the grace and charm that has for centuries helped it stand out even in the dazzling company of other great European cultural capitals. Once an imperial city of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, there are many historical wonders to discover, such as the Ringstrasse—a circular boulevard that traces the path of a medieval wall that surrounded Vienna until 1860, when it was torn down by Emperor Franz Joseph and replaced with the impressive road to modernize city.

    From the slow pace of its coffee houses to the bustle and bounce of its public trams and trolleys, Vienna will leave you enchanted.

    View Extension Itinerary
  • 3 nights from only $545

    Explore Vienna, a magnificent Old World city of museums and music, art and architecture, and famous people from its storied past, that has lost nothing of the grace and charm that has for centuries helped it stand out even in the dazzling company of other great European cultural capitals. Once an imperial city of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, there are many historical wonders to discover, such as the Ringstrasse—a circular boulevard that traces the path of a medieval wall that surrounded Vienna until 1860, when it was torn down by Emperor Franz Joseph and replaced with the impressive road to modernize city.

    From the slow pace of its coffee houses to the bustle and bounce of its public trams and trolleys, Vienna will leave you enchanted.

    View Extension Itinerary
  • Depart the U.S. today on your flight to Vienna.

    • Meals included:

    Arrive at the airport this morning, where a Grand Circle representative meets you and helps you transfer to the pier to embark your river ship. Upon arrival, enjoy some free time to relax and settle in.

    Gather this evening for a ship briefing, and meet your Program Director and fellow travelers during dinner. Afterward, settle in for your first night onboard.

  • After setting sail this morning, enjoy hot chocolate and relax onboard as your ship cruises along one of the most beautiful parts of the Danube—the Wachau Valley. Your Program Director will provide enlightening commentary about this UNESCO World Heritage Site consisting of sculpted hills and medieval towns built along the river.

    Then, after lunch, disembark in Melk for an excursion to the dramatic 900-year-old Baroque Melk Abbey.

    This magnificently ornate structure has a long and storied history. Strategically situated on a steep, cliffside perch, Melk Abbey's earliest incarnation was as a Roman border post. Later, it served as a tenth-century Babenberg fortress. It became a Benedictine monastery in 1089 and earned a distinguished reputation for medieval scholarship. Its library includes more than 70,000 books and 2,000 manuscripts, chiefly from the ninth through the 15th centuries. The Abbey also houses a remarkable cherub-filled library of thousands of books and manuscripts, and 365 windows—one for every day of the year. The interior of the Abbey's church is a kaleidoscope of red, orange, and gold—with a magnificent carved pulpit and shimmering ceiling frescoes. You'll also enjoy free time to explore Melk at leisure before returning to your ship.

    Tonight, join your fellow travelers for a Captain's Welcome Drink and Dinner onboard.


  • This morning the ship calls at the port of Linz. You have the day free to explore this Old-World city.

    Linz, one of the largest ports on the Danube and the second-most populous city in Austria, was first settled by Romans in the first century AD, and today is one of the country's cultural centers. It offers a wealth of discoveries—from its Hauptplatz, one of the loveliest squares in Europe, to the 17th-century Abbey of St. Florian, where Linz's native son, Anton Bruckner, was the organist and composed many of his famed masterpieces of church music. His burial site is at the abbey.

    You could also consider a visit to Linz's historic Landhaus, a complex of structures currently used as government headquarters. These buildings served as the city's university in the 17th century, and it was here that the well-known mathematician and astronomer Johann Kepler formulated his theory of planetary motion. A short walk takes you to the Linzer Schloss (Linz Castle), where you can browse its Provincial Museum of Upper Austria, containing artwork from medieval to modern times. Linz is also a center for trade in antiques, so you might wish to stop in at a few of its shops to see what treasures you can find.

    Return to the ship for lunch where you can spend the rest of your day relaxing or continue exploring Linz's charming Christmas market and abundance of museums on your own.

    Or, journey into the heart of the Alps with an optional full-day Salzburg excursion. This beautiful city—birthplace of Mozart—will seem familiar those individuals who are forever enchanted by The Sound of Music, and you'll visit the grounds where much of the film was shot.

    Your tour includes a visit to the Getreidegasse, the renowned center for Austrian shopping. Note the intricate architectural details of this lane of shops and galleries, nestled under their skillfully crafted wrought-iron signs and offering jewelry, antiques, leather goods, and regional foods. The vaulted passageways offer delightful pathways to artisans' workshops and arcaded courtyards.

    You'll get another taste of Alpine Christmas traditions as you visit the fabulous Salzburg Christmas market. Handmade seasonal crafts of all sorts are available, and the aromas of traditional holiday foods add magic to the colorful setting.

    Have lunch in this beautiful city and free time to explore on your own before boarding your ship again in the late afternoon in Linz.

    Please note: Christmas markets typically open one week before, or at the start of Advent observances in mid- to late-November. Hours of operation for the holiday markets vary depending on region, and may be limited or closed between December 24 and December 26, as well as on New Year’s Day. When possible, your trip itinerary may be adjusted as a result.

  • This morning, we set out on the river again. Along the way, you'll be invited to join an exclusive Discovery Series German language lesson, where you can learn some German phrases—such as, Schöne Feiertage (Happy Holidays)—commonly used during the Christmas season. In mid-morning, you disembark for a tour of the lovely medieval town of Passau, our first stop in Germany.

    Situated at the confluence of the Danube, Ilz, and Inn rivers, Passau has been called the Dreiflussestadt (City on Three Rivers) because of its location. The city was significantly developed by the prince bishops of Passau, who made it their royal residence and capital of the largest Danube diocese.

    You'll enjoy a short walking tour of this elegant town that has served as a German cultural and intellectual hub for centuries. See the impressive Bishop's Residenz, the 13th-century Town Hall, and the town's magnificent St. Stephen's Cathedral, which boasts the world's largest church organ, with 17,774 pipes and 231 resounding stops. The Cathedral's original Gothic plan is still evident through the 17th-century reconstruction it received in the grand Baroque style. One of its most striking features is the gorgeous octagonal dome that hovers over the intersection of the nave, where the congregation sits, and the transept, which runs perpendicular to it.

    Passau's colorful Christmas market is located in front of the Cathedral. You have some free time to do some shopping or simply browse the wide assortment of handcrafts and Christmas creations.

    Return to your ship for lunch onboard before free time to discover more of the town on your own.

    The ship sets sail again this evening, en route to Regensburg, with dinner aboard.

     

  • You arrive and dock around mid-morning in Regensburg, Germany's largest medieval city. Then, enjoy a walking tour of this hidden treasure. Since the city suffered no damage during World War II, it remains beautifully preserved.

    Your tour features the Old Town Hall and the famous Stone Bridge, Germany's oldest, which was constructed during the twelfth century. You also visit the Regensberg Christkindlmarkt (Christmas market) in Neupfarrplatz, which lights up in December with seasonal cheer. You have time here to explore on your own, strolling among the stalls and shopping for unique handmade Christmas gifts.

    You'll have lunch onboard ship and an afternoon at leisure.

    After an early dinner on the ship, join us for an exclusive Discovery Series event as we walk to a local church to hear a choral concert featuring festive holiday music. You return to the ship, which remains in Regensburg overnight, later in the evening.

  • Enjoy a leisurely morning onboard today, as the ship prepares to set off for its next destination. Your cruise toward Nuremberg begins shortly before lunch. 

    If the weather obliges, you might go on deck and take in the scenes of life along the banks of this noble river, or spend some time with fellow travelers over coffee or cards.

    This afternoon, you'll enjoy two exclusive Discovery Events: a lecture outlining how the Main-Danube Canal's innovative system of locks has made Europe's rivers navigable, and a Stollen baking demonstration, where you'll learn how to prepare this traditional German bread made with fruit and nuts, and topped with powdered sugar.

    Later in the evening, as you cruise the river, celebrate your discoveries and new Christmas memories at the Captain's Farewell Dinner onboard. We cruise through the night on our way to Nuremberg.

  • Your ship docks at Nuremberg quite early this morning. After breakfast, you disembark for a tour of Nuremberg, one of the most important cities of the Franconia region.

    This medieval city surrounded by 13th-century walls is the second-largest city in Bavaria. Today the city's name evokes the notorious post-World War II war trials. But throughout its history, Nuremberg has been known for its wonderful creativity and handcrafts—its toys and fancy metalwork are particularly famous.

    Return to the ship for lunch before an afternoon visit to Nuremberg's famous Christkindlmarkt (Christmas market), where you have free time to browse on your own. This is Germany's most famous traditional Christmas market, and it is open throughout the holiday season, with a myriad of colorful stalls offering handmade Christmas decorations, toys, ceramics, glasswork, and candles. Food stalls tempt you with Bratwurst, mulled wines, sweets, and pastries—including the famous Nuremberg gingerbread. Various programs regale visitors with chorale offerings, concerts, and a live Nativity scene.

    Tonight, linger over your final dinner aboard, and spend your evening as you wish. The ship remains in Nuremberg tonight.

  • After breakfast, disembark and transfer to the airport for your flight home.

  • POST-TRIP EXTENSION:
    Munich, Germany

    3 nights from only $545

    Join us on an optional extension to explore one of Europe’s most culturally rich cities, with more museums than any other city in Germany. The Alte Pinakothek (Old Picture Gallery) alone has nearly 900 paintings on display, with major works by Durer, Rubens, and da Vinci. The largest university community in Germany, Munich offers enchanting contrasts, from sidewalk cafes serving mouth-watering sausages and locally brewed beers to public squares graced with historic churches, monuments, and statuary.

    View Extension Itinerary

Click below to read our Travel Planning Guide on Christmas Markets Along the Danube

Read Travel Planning Guide