In winter’s past, Europeans gathered in town squares to buy and sell spices, sweets, and other special items for the holidays. These were the first Christmas Markets, and centuries later they continue to bring the magic of the season alive. Spend a night in Budapest before embarking the elegant AmaLea for a festive journey along the Danube River. In Regensburg, Salzburg, and Vienna, discover dramatic architecture and delight in the spirit of the age-old Christmas Markets. Disembark in Nuremberg, home to one of the world’s largest holiday markets, where the city’s famous gingerbread is just one of many treats to enjoy.
Frequent study leader and historian, John Meffert is a long-time proponent of preservation. As former director of the National Trust’s Southern Office, John now serves as a consultant on heritage conservation services in his hometown of Charleston, South Carolina, where he has also served as the director of the Preservation Society of Charleston preserving the historic resources of the city.
Depart for Budapest on an overnight flight.
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 1: BUDAPEST, HUNGARY
Arrive in Budapest, “the Pearl of the Danube,” and transfer to the Sofitel Budapest Chain Bridge hotel. Following a welcome lunch, depart on a walking tour to admire the city’s architectural highlights and explore its celebrated Christmas market, where all products are guaranteed to be made by hand. The evening is at leisure to experience Budapest’s festive holiday atmosphere. L
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 2: BUDAPEST
View some of the city’s finest architecture, including the grandiose Szechenyi Bath, the House of Hungarian Art Nouveau, and the Opera House. After lunch at a café specializing in Hungarian strudel, embark AmaLea and settle in to your cabin before the captain’s welcome dinner. This evening, enjoy a special “Illuminations Cruise” along Budapest’s famed riverfront. B,L,D
MONDAY, DECEMBER 3: BUDAPEST
As you cruise the Danube en route to Vienna, enjoy onboard lectures and entertainment. B,L,D
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 4: VIENNA, AUSTRIA
Today explore the “City of Waltzes” in one of two ways. Choose a city tour showcasing Vienna’s regal splendors, including the majestic Opera House, the former Imperial Palace of the Habsburgs, the UNESCO-listed city center, and St. Stephen’s Cathedral, before visiting the Rathaus (Town Hall) Christmas Market, Vienna’s largest. Alternatively, join a guided bike ride along the Danube. In the afternoon, visit the Karlsplatz (Artisans) Christmas Market, a local favorite, and the market at Schönbrunn Palace, featuring a giant, sparkling Christmas tree. Conclude the day with a “Vienna by Night” tour of illuminated Christmas markets, including the Rathaus and the beautifully decorated Maria Theresaplatz market, set amongst the world-renowned sights of the majestic Ringstrasse. B,L,D
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 5: MELK, AUSTRIA
Cruise through the Wachau Valley to Melk, where perched high on a rocky outcrop is Melk Abbey, one of Europe’s most revered Baroque monasteries. Visit the magnificent Benedictine Abbey, which now houses a museum chronicling its history and a famous library filled with medieval manuscripts. Alternatively, join a guided bike ride along the Danube and through the scenic Strudengau Valley. B,L,D
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 6: PASSAU, GERMANY
Depart on a walking tour through the 2,000-year-old city of Passau, noted for its Gothic and Italian Baroque architecture, and browse Bavarian-style crafts at the Christmas market. Alternatively, travel to Salzburg, birthplace of Mozart, for a full-day excursion that includes a walking tour of the UNESCO-designated Old Town. More active guests may choose to ride bicycles along the Danube. B,L,D
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 7: REGENSBURG, GERMANY
Explore Regensburg, one of Germany’s best-preserved medieval cities, on a guided walking tour including the Old Town Hall; the Porta Praetoria, gates to an ancient Roman fort; and other highlights, before visiting the Old Town Christmas Market. As an alternative, sample Bavarian beers, sausages, and other local specialties; or bike to Walhalla to see its neoclassical white marble temple, inspired by the Parthenon. Later in the day you will be treated to one of Bavaria’s most beautiful and romantic Christmas markets at Thurn and Taxis Castle. B,L,D
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 8: NUREMBERG, GERMANY
During a scenic morning cruise cross the Continental Divide via the Main-Danube Canal to Nuremberg. Step ashore for a walking tour of the city center. See the Imperial Castle, famous town wall, home of Albrecht Dürer, and still-active courtroom where the Nuremberg Trials took place. Alternatively, enjoy a sampling of regional specialties, including Nuremberg bratwurst, bottom-fermented red beer, and Christmas gingerbread. Later visit the Christkindlesmarkt, one of the world’s largest and most famous Christmas markets. Gather tonight for our farewell dinner. B,L,D
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 9: NUREMBERG / RETURN
Disembark in Nuremberg this morning and transfer to the airport for flights home. B