Danube Holiday Markets
From $3,399.00 USD
8 days from Passau to Budapest
December 9-16, 2020
MOAA Exclusive Offer ~ $150 per person Onboard Credit
Celebrate the season in the birthplace of many beloved holiday traditions. Budapest has celebrated Christmas for a thousand years, since the reign of St. Stephen, the king who founded Hungary and encouraged the spread of Christianity throughout his realm. As you ramble through the Christmas Market on Vörösmarty Square, admiring the handmade porcelain, stop to watch as kürtos kalács (a pastry) is baked on rods over an open fire and then coated with sugar before it’s handed to you. In Bratislava, where a lively young art scene is revitalizing the compact city core, stalls abound with traditional Slovakian Christmas items such as medovníky (spiced ginger cookies) and šúpolie (figurines made from corn husks). Experience Uniworld’s exclusive “Taste of Christmas” program in the heart of Vienna during the day. Glorious baroque architecture, delightful concerts and ravishing scenery will make this Christmas season unforgettable as you sail through the holidays on the Danube. Who will enjoy this cruise? Music lovers will find many special holiday treats on this cruise, from onboard caroling to an exclusive organ recital. Shoppers will delight in the chance to pick out a variety of unique gifts at enchanting Christmas markets.
Day 1: Passau (Embark)
Arrive at Munich 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.
Day 2: Passau
Passau is a crossroads in more ways than one—three rivers meet here and three nations nearly do, making for a fascinating cultural mosaic. Get to know the town with a guided stroll, then visit the local Christmas Market on the square in front of the cathedral. You’ll find a lot to enjoy here—from miniature houses and blown-glass ornaments to spun-sugar confections—in more than 70 stalls.
Passau walking tour with Christmas market
Passau walking tour with Christmas market
Join your local expert for a walk through picturesque lanes in the heart of Passau, stopping at the Town Hall to see its magnificent atrium, which boasts several massive works by the famous German painter Ferdinand Wagner, and pausing to admire the beautiful rococo stairway of the bishop’s New Residence. After much of the town burned to the ground in 1662 and again in 1680, the reconstruction involved many Italian artists, who gave Passau the baroque and rococo touches you see everywhere. Monumental St. Stephan’s Cathedral, built in glorious baroque style, forms the backdrop for the Passau Christmas Market. You’ll find a lot to enjoy here—from miniature Bavarian houses and blown-glass ornaments to spun-sugar confections—in more than 70 stalls. At times, the Passau Christmas Market also features demonstrations by local craftspeople, such as glassblowers, candle makers, wood carvers and confectioners, so you can buy your gifts directly from the people who made them.
A special Captain’s Welcome Reception and Dinner will be prepared for you this evening.
Day 3: Linz (Salzburg)
Your ship docks at Linz, a modern yet historic city that extends across the shimmering waters of the Danube. From there, you’ll head to Mozart’s birthplace of Salzburg, which is nestled in a glorious alpine setting that sparkles like a winter wonderland this time of year. Fans of “The Sound of Music” may recognize locations from the Oscar-winning film in the city’s Old Town, the site of the grand cathedral and absolutely enchanting Christmas Market.
Choice of Linz Town & Country: cider farm visit and Christmas markets or Full-day Salzburg walking tour with Christmas market
Linz Town & Country: cider farm visit and Christmas markets
The stunningly modern and often indescribable Linz Opera House was built in 2013, boasting a modern façade and contemporary design, designed to fit seamlessly into Linz’s urban landscape. Here, you’ll be treated to a guided backstage tour followed by a stroll through the city’s Old Town. Marvel at the historic Landhaus, a lightly-colored, Renaissance-style government building situated in a corner of Old Town. The former monastery was transformed into meeting place for Austrian politicians, but still holds on to its 16th century roots. After your stint at Old Market Square and the Plague Column, you’ll stop for something sweet at Café Jindrak, home of the famous Linzer Torte. Sample the delightful pastry, sip on a cup of delicious Austrian coffee and enjoy your free time in town. Embark on a short ride to the Austrian countryside to a typical, family-owned and operated, “Mostheuriger” farm. Upon arrival, you’ll be welcomed by the owner and the farm’s many critters. They’ll tell you the story of their family, farm and products, and you’ll indulge in a tasting of the region’s most popular drink, cider, and “Brettljause,” a spread of local delicacies. Then, you’ll enjoy a scenic ride through the countryside en route back to the ship.
Full-day Salzburg walking tour with Christmas market
Salzburg’s musical heritage is apparent everywhere in its UNESCO-designated Old Town. The birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Salzburg celebrates its most famous son in many forms—with statues, with chocolates, with concerts—but there are other musical associations to discover too. Walk with your guide through the Mirabell Garden, the beautiful formal gardens where Maria sang “Do-Re-Mi” with her young charges in the movie The Sound of Music, and through the heart of the Old Town, which lies on both sides of the river. Because Salzburg belonged to the archbishops, the splendid cathedral has been the focal point of the city for nearly 600 years. The archbishop’s magnificent residence faces the square now named for Mozart, and the house where Mozart was born is nearby. (Mozart worked for the archbishop of his day—whom he despised—before he moved to Vienna.)
After your walking tour, you have some leisure time to explore the enchanting Christmas Market located in the square in front of the cathedral. Here you’ll find everything from Austrian lace to cinnamon-marbled cakes. Shop, nibble, browse and sing along with the carolers as you celebrate the holidays in this magical part of the world. Your guide can also suggest some great restaurants in the area: Café Tomaselli has hosted musical notables, from Mozart to Max Reinhardt, since 1705.
Note: Today’s lunch will be on your own.
Day 4: Cruising the Wachau Valley, Krems
One of the most beautiful abbeys in Austria is still an active Benedictine monastery, but a monastery the likes of which you’ve never seen— Napoleon himself once laid his head here in the lavish imperial quarters. With its 14th-century stained glass windows, the abbey’s jewel box of a church is the perfect setting for a soul-stirring concert of organ music. Both the millennium-old town and the valley itself have been designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Choice of Krems town visit or Benedictine Monastery Göttweig with organ concert
Krems town visit
Stroll around charming Krems as it takes on the most festive of forms. A local expert will take you on a tour of its splendid Christmas Market (or Christkindlmarkt as its known in Austria) and explain the local crafts, special handmade Christmas decorations, like straw stars and Kletzen Männla, beeswax candles, and edible figurines made from dried plums. Savor “Punsch” and Poppy dumplings, Spitzbuben cookies, and roasted chestnuts and almonds. During this time of year, baroque and medieval houses are stunning backdrops for alleys and streets lined with stalls for the market and storefronts adorned with holiday décor. Spend your free time this afternoon wandering along Museum Mile, perhaps stopping in one of the many fascinating museums for a tour, such as the Gozzoburg. This 13th century merchant mansion is a testimony to Krems as a trade center and features wonderfully preserved fresco paintings, including the largest preserved medieval fresco and graffito paintings north of the Alps. Or, opt for grabbing a bite to eat and something to drink at a cozy bar or café in the Krems Stein, a lively student town. Then, peruse the local shops for a souvenir to commemorate your time in Krems before heading back to the ship.
Benedictine Monastery Göttweig with organ concert
It stands majestically on a hill above Krems, one of the most beautiful abbeys in Austria. Though Göttweig Abbey was founded in the 12th century, the complex of monastic buildings—where an active community of Benedictine monks still lives—largely dates to the early 1700s, when, following a fire, an extravagant abbot rebuilt on a lavish scale. Some of these rooms were designed for royal visitors, which might explain why the ceiling fresco above the Emperor’s Staircase features Emperor Charles VI as Apollo, and Napoleon once stayed in the imperial apartments. Following a guided tour of the complex’s highlights, you’ll step into the beautiful abbey church, which retains its 14th-century stained-glass windows, for a special organ recital. If the weather favors you on your journey to and from the abbey, you might get to see sunlight sparkling on icicle-crusted grape trellises as you ride through the vineyards; the monks have grown wine grapes here for more than 900 years and at one time supplied wine for church services all over Austria.
Note: The organ concert may take place in a different location if the Göttweig Abbey visit falls on a Catholic holiday.
You’ll want to find a comfortable seat in the lounge or on the Sun Deck today as your ship cruises through the Wachau Valley. Over the eons, the Danube cut a gorge through the foothills of the Bohemian Mountains, resulting in a 19-mile (30-kilometer) stretch of riverine scenery so beautiful; UNESCO declared it a World Heritage Landscape. Castle ruins dominate hilltops; baroque church towers appear on the riverbanks, marking historic villages and splendid abbeys; and vineyards and apricot orchards cling to the rocky slopes. Some of Austria’s finest white wines are produced from grapes grown on the dry-stone terraces above the river, where grapes were first planted 2,000 years ago.
Day 5: Vienna
Renowned for its art and architecture, its classical music, its decadent pastries and its lengthy list of famous former residents, the refined city of Vienna is a cultural treasure trove. Experience the city with your choice of tours, as well as something extra special—VIP access to an extraordinary collection of art.
“Morning with the Masters” at the Vienna Art History Museum
Choice of Vienna city tour with Christmas market or “Taste of Christmas” Vienna walking tour
“Morning with the Masters” at the Vienna Art History Museum
The Vienna Art History Museum (Kunsthistorisches Museum) is home to an astonishing collection of artistic treasures. Its doors open early especially for you as you join an art historian for a tour of some of the masterpieces gathered here: View a unique group of works by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Vermeer’s Allegory of Painting, Raphael’s Madonna in the Meadow, and portraits by Rembrandt, Velazquez, Rubens, Titian, Tintoretto and Van Eyck, among others, in the Picture Gallery before moving on to the Kunstkammer galleries, where you can see Benvenuto Cellini’s legendary salt cellar (the only gold sculpture he created that has survived to the present day) and hear its remarkable story. Your exclusive tour ends with a reception in the magnificent Cupola Hall, perhaps the architectural highlight of the splendid building.
Vienna city tour with Christmas market
Ring Street, the great horseshoe-shaped boulevard lined with many of the city’s major landmarks— Parliament, City Hall, the Vienna State Opera, glorious museums—is a mere 150 years old, practically an infant for a city of Vienna’s age. It replaced the walls that had protected the city for centuries. A drive along Vienna’s Prater Street and Ring Street provides you with a glimpse of the magnificent buildings that showcased the Habsburgs’ grandeur, ending at St. Stephen’s Cathedral. Stroll with your guide along the Graben, the elegant artery of downtown Vienna, and Kohlmarkt, which is lined with chic shops (don’t miss the dazzling display of holiday confectionary art in the windows of Café Demel, which once supplied Empress Sissi with candied violets), on your way to several delightful Christmas markets.
The Am Hof Advent Market features contemporary crafts, ranging from jewelry to knitwear; just a few steps further along, on Freyung Square, is the oldest and most traditional of the city’s markets. Handsome palaces border the triangular square, which is filled with delightful stalls selling Nativity scenes, wine and vanilla crescents, Austria’s most famous Christmas cookie. How can you resist? Luckily, this is the moment and the place to sample these and other holiday specialties! Also on your agenda is Vienna’s most famous Christmas market, situated in front of City Hall, where more than 140 wooden stalls entice you with every sort of delicacy. Be sure to try the rum balls and nutmeg-spiced macaroons, which are local favorites, and amble through the adjacent park to admire the elaborately decorated trees.
After enjoying some treats here, you’ll walk through the luxe Palais Ferstel shopping arcade to the bustling Christmas Market in front of the City Hall, which you may explore on your own.
“Taste of Christmas” Vienna walking tour
Vienna is a delicious experience for visitors (and for locals too, of course) at any time of the year, but it’s especially inviting during the winter holidays. Join an exclusive excursion that combines delectable treats of the season with a look at some of the highlights in the Innere Stadt—the historic city core. A drive along Prater and Ring streets provides a glimpse of the magnificent buildings that showcase the Habsburgs’ grandeur, followed by a closer look. This district offers a stunning array of Vienna’s gems in just a few blocks.
Drop by the 14th-century Minorite Church to see the animated Nativity scene, then stroll with your local guide down elegant shopping streets, including the Graben and Kohlmarkt (don’t miss the dazzling display of holiday confectionary art in the windows of Café Demel, which once supplied Empress Sissi with candied violets), step into a newly restored 15th-century courtyard house, see where Mozart once lived (though he moved often as his finances changed), peek into some of the Hofburg’s courtyards and churches, and discover as you go along the luscious flavors of Vienna’s favorite holiday sweets and savories. You’ll sample delicate vanilla crescents, the fruit-filled pastry called kletzenbrot, poppy-seed cake, fluffy apple krapfen (a type of doughnut) and air-dried Tyrolean ham and rye bread. Vienna also cherishes its New Year’s traditions, so you’ll find market stalls offering the good-luck charms Viennese people exchange on New Year’s Eve: You may spot marzipan pigs, chocolate chimney sweeps, plush mushrooms, tiny metal ladybugs, even lucky pennies— they all symbolize prosperity and good fortune for the coming year. Pick up some good luck and a mug of mulled wine and roam on your own through this short- lived market before returning to the ship.
Day 6: Cruising the Danube River, Bratislava
Once hidden from the world behind the “Iron Curtain,” Slovakia retains an air of mystery and intrigue, and its small capital city has an unexpectedly colorful history. You’ll learn more about Bratislava’s past from a local expert and also visit the local Christmas Market—a relatively new (and thoroughly delightful) tradition for Slovakians. How do you say “Merry Christmas” in Slovak? “Veselé Vianoce!” The heart and soul of Slovakia, Bratislava is full of surprises. The city straddles the mighty Danube and has played a leading role in the politics and culture of the region for many centuries. Unlike cities with venerable Christmas Markets, Bratislava just established its first holiday market in 1993. But the Slovakians have quickly embraced the seasonal traditions of their Austrian and Hungarian neighbors—and you’ll get to embrace them as well.
Bratislava walking tour with Christmas market
Bratislava walking tour with Christmas market
St. Martin’s Cathedral gives you a hint of the surprising history of this surprising city. The Gothic church was built into the medieval city’s fortifications, and 19 Habsburg rulers were crowned inside it, including Empress Maria Theresa. Close to the cathedral you’ll find St. Michael’s Gate, the last remaining portal in the medieval wall—and your entryway to Bratislava’s Old Town, which blends Gothic, baroque and art deco structures with some less graceful reminders of the Communist era. The stately 18th-century Primatial Palace, in the center of Old Town, was the site where the Pressburg peace treaty was signed in 1805. Another 18th-century palace, Grassalkovich, is now the president of Slovakia’s official residence. Your tour ends in the heart of Old Town, where the Christmas Market is in full swing. Vendors at this charming market specialize in small handcrafted items, such as figurines made from corn husks, bells, lace, wire jewelry and pottery from specific regions of Slovakia. Try a mug of a local honey wine, which is served hot; as you browse through the offerings and listen to schoolchildren sing Christmas carols.
Day 7: Budapest
Located on opposite sides of the Danube, Buda and Pest each have their own distinctive character and allure. You’ll get a taste of this dynamic capital city with your choice of tours, and visit Budapest’s celebrated Christmas Market—one of the largest in Europe. Christmas has been celebrated in Budapest for a thousand years, since the time of St. Stephen, the king who founded the nation of Hungary and encouraged the spread of Christianity throughout his realm, but the city began as a Roman encampment almost a millennium before that. Over the centuries it was controlled by Germans, Austrians, Ottomans and Communists, all of whom have left traces.
Choice of Budapest city tour with Christmas market or “Do as the Locals Do” Budapest walking tour with Christmas market
Budapest city tour with Christmas market
A panoramic tour will carry you from Heroes’ Square, created in 1896 to honor the thousand-year anniversary of Hungary’s founding and its greatest historical figures, past some of the city’s most striking architectural sights—Dohány Street Synagogue, the Hungarian National Museum, the state opera house, St. Stephen’s Basilica and the truly stunning Parliament Building—to Castle Hill. The city of Buda began here, when King Béla built a strong keep in 1243 as a defense against Mongol invaders. The current castle is primarily 18th-century, and the Castle Hill district has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You’ll go inside the magnificent 700-year-old Matthias Church, named for one of Hungary’s greatest kings, and then wend your way on foot to the picturesque Fisherman’s Bastion, whose seven fairytale-like towers represent the seven tribes that originally settled the region. At Vörösmarty Square you’ll find Budapest’s most celebrated Christmas Market, one of the largest in Eastern Europe. The enticing aromas of cinnamon, baking bread and meats grilling over open fires drift among the 100 or so gaily decorated stalls.
Only the finest Hungarian craftspeople are invited to participate in this market, so you can be assured of finding unique and beautifully made gifts.
Note: Visits to the interior of St. Matthias Church may not be possible on some weekends and Catholic holidays.
“Do as the Locals Do” Budapest walking tour with Christmas market
Hop on the metro with your local guide, rubbing shoulders with residents who are out doing their holiday shopping, to the Fehérvári Street market hall. Three floors of produce and Hungarian specialties—garlands of paprika and sausages, jars of golden honey, the special gold-foil-wrapped candies Hungarians hang on their Christmas trees (and eat one by one until only the empty wrappers deck the tree), goose liver pâté—fill stalls and shelves. If you want to pick up some souvenir foodstuffs, look for those labeled Hungarikim, which must meet strict standards to merit the label. After you leave the market, you’ll head to Szamos Gourmet Palace (getting there will entail a ride on the tram, another linchpin in Budapest’s excellent public transportation system) for a coffee break.
Marzipan is a favorite confection in this city, and Szamos has specialized in making it since the 1930s, so you might want to try some—but the shop’s truffle selection is almost irresistible too. Nearby, you’ll see the famous Vörösmarty Square Christmas Market; spend a little while taking in its delicious aromas and colorful stalls before strolling to quiet Karoly Gardens with your guide for a respite from the holiday bustle. Then ramble down Karoly Boulevard, named for Budapest’s first mayor, to the magnificent Central Market Hall. The oldest, biggest and most diverse of Budapest’s market halls, the Great Market Hall is worth a look just for its splendid tiled roof; the interior, however, is equally dazzling. Explore it on your own, return to the ship with your guide or return to the Vörösmarty Square Christmas Market. If you go back to the Christmas Market, be sure to check out the enchanting gingerbread ornaments decorated with Hungarian folk motifs; in the middle of the square you’ll find a playhouse where children bedeck their own tasty ornaments in workshops during the afternoon. (Feel free to join in and try your hand at creating your own gingerbread ornaments.)
A special Captain’s Farewell Reception and Dinner will be prepared for you this evening.
Day 8: Budapest (Disembark)
Disembark the ship in Budapest. If your cruise package includes a group departure transfer, or if you have purchased a private departure transfer, you will be transferred to Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport for your flight home.