My very first European winter experience was on Viking’s Danube Waltz river cruise, and my husband Ben was lucky enough to tag along as we explored the Christmas Markets along the Danube.
We arrived in Budapest on a misty morning and checked into our home for the next week, the Viking Vili, docked in it’s amazing location under the famous Chain Bridge. From here it was an easy walk to the iconic parliament house, and back down to our first taste of the Christmas markets! The smell of mulled wine spices hung in the air, twinkling fairy lights created some magic, and despite the dreary weather there was a very festive feeling throughout the city! Later that night we gathered on the sun deck as the waiters brought around schnapps and hot chocolates to stay warm as we sailed past the lit up castle, fortress and parliament and towards Slovakia.
The next morning as we sailed towards Bratislava, I watched the riverbank cruise by from the comfort of my warm bed in our Viking Verandah Suite – what a treat! Once we docked in the Slovakian capital, it was a 5 minute walk to the centre of the gorgeous Medieval town.
Vienna’s Rathausplatz Christmas markets were really something special, with an ice skating rink set up out the front of the city hall, and as the sun set and the market stalls lit up it was absolutely magical!
From Linz, we took a coach to the Czech town of Cesky Krumlov, which was like something out of a fairytale!
Our last full day on the Danube was the last one, where we woke up in Passau as the snow started to fall. With a light dusting of snow, wandering around the Christmas markets picking up little gifts for our loved ones back home, cups of hot mulled wine in hand, it could not have been a more perfect way to finish the trip.
Viking’s ships are beautifully designed with clean Scandinavian styling, and more clever storage spaces in the cabin than most houses have! The staff are only too helpful and accommodating, and were often waiting for us as we boarded the ship at the end of a day of touring with a local treat, like a liqueur hot chocolate or mulled wine, or cheese fondue to welcome us home and warm us up. The food on board was delicious – and as some of our tablemates were excited to tell us, you can order one of everything on the menu!
The Danube Waltz at any time of year is a fabulous itinerary, but visiting Christmas Markets along the Danube from the comfort of a cozy ship is a perfect way to experience the European Christmas traditions. Viking have grandfather docking rights on the European rivers, and the locations of the ships make it easy to walk from your cabin to the sights in a few minutes.