Kick off the season amid Europe’s holiday markets during a river cruise on the Rhine River. Stay two days in charming Interlaken in the Swiss Alps, then spend seven nights sailing through France and Germany, discovering Christkindlmarkts in historic towns from Strasbourg to Cologne.  

Starting at: $3,990 * Price includes special offer Make a Reservation Ask Us A Question or Call 855-330-1542
 Strasbourg's Petite France quarter in winter
Strasbourg's Petite France quarter in winter
 Interlaken in winter
Interlaken in winter
 Holiday decorations in Freiburg
Holiday decorations in Freiburg
 Lebkuchen in a  German Christmas market
Lebkuchen in a German Christmas market
 Festive holiday desserts Credit: Meghan Nash
Festive holiday desserts Credit: Meghan Nash
 Le Grand Sapin in Strasbourg's Place Kleber
Le Grand Sapin in Strasbourg's Place Kleber
 Half-timbered houses in Colmar, France
Half-timbered houses in Colmar, France
 Festive entrance to Strasbourg's historic Christmas market
Festive entrance to Strasbourg's historic Christmas market
 Traveler enjoying a pretzel in Strasbourg during the holidays
Traveler enjoying a pretzel in Strasbourg during the holidays
 Sailing through the Rhine Gorge Credit: Meghan Nash
Sailing through the Rhine Gorge Credit: Meghan Nash
 A Christmas market stall
A Christmas market stall
 A vendor ladles glühwein at a holiday market.
A vendor ladles glühwein at a holiday market.
 View of Cologne from the Rhine River
View of Cologne from the Rhine River
 Cologne's Christmas market, at the foot of the Dom cathedral
Cologne's Christmas market, at the foot of the Dom cathedral
 Holiday market treasures Credit: Meghan Nash
Holiday market treasures Credit: Meghan Nash
 A canal in snowy Interlaken
A canal in snowy Interlaken
 Holiday baubles in a Swiss shop
Holiday baubles in a Swiss shop

Holiday Markets: A Rhine River Cruise

Featuring a Stay in the Swiss Alps

11 days from $3,990

Kick off the season amid Europe’s holiday markets during a river cruise on the Rhine River. Stay two days in charming Interlaken in the Swiss Alps, then spend seven nights sailing through France and Germany, discovering Christkindlmarkts in historic towns from Strasbourg to Cologne.  

or Call 855-330-1542

Tour Details

TOUR BROCHURE

brochure

WHAT OUR TRAVELERS SAY

The Christmas markets along the Rhine are magical. Each one has a different look and feel, a different version of glühwein and schokolade, different crafts and ornaments and sweets, different fragrances and atmospheres. The holiday lights and decorations make one feel the wonder of the season, like being a child again. I would happily repeat this tour to refresh my holiday spirit.

- Valerie N.

JOURNEYS DISPATCHES

See All Journeys Dispatches ››

Overview

Expectations: River cruise that docks at each port for disembarkation. Morning, afternoon, or full-day excursions at a moderate pace. Ship gangway can have steep incline depending on docking location and water levels. Standing and walking for long periods of time during city tours, museum visits, and/or outdoor activities, including holiday markets. Walking over sometimes difficult terrain (e.g. cobblestones, city hills, stairs without handrails, absence of elevators). Winter conditions likely with colder temperatures, snow, and wind always possible. Travelers may encounter cold weather, icy and/or snowy streets, walkways, and steps, requiring more effort and time. Some longer walks to get to city centers where coaches are prohibited. Choice of excursions with varying activity expectations offered on some days. A winter hat and warm clothing that can be layered, comfortable sneakers or walking shoes or boots with a good tread, with warm socks are recommended.

Appropriate for: Travelers who are physically fit and comfortable with longer days of touring (both walking tours and coach time).

The Christmas markets along the Rhine are magical. Each one has a different look and feel, a different version of glühwein and schokolade, different crafts and ornaments and sweets, different fragrances and atmospheres. The holiday lights and decorations make one feel the wonder of the season, like being a child again. I would happily repeat this tour to refresh my holiday spirit.

- Valerie N.

2024 Itinerary - Zurich to Dusseldorf - December 2-12 & December 8-18

Day 1 & 2 – Depart the U.S. for Zurich, Switzerland

Depart the U.S. on an overnight flight to Zurich, and meet the group for your transfer to Interlaken in the Swiss Alps. Nestled between two lakes beneath the towering peak of the Jungfrau, Interlaken became a popular resort town in the 19th century, drawing artists and writers as well as Europe’s nobility.  After time to settle into your historic hotel, gather for a welcome reception. The remainder of the evening is yours to relax and dine independently. (Meals: R)

Day 3 – Interlaken

Enjoy breakfast at the hotel before a full day at leisure to pursue activities that interest you. You might take a cogwheel train or cable car to an Alpine village; browse the holiday market; or simply meander through town, taking in views of the craggy peaks of the Bernese Oberland. Your Smithsonian Journeys Travel Director will have suggestions for sightseeing and restaurants and can help with your logistics. In the early evening, meet with your fellow travelers and your expert for an informal discussion in the Smithsonian Journeys Travelers Corner. (Meals: B)

Day 4 – Interlaken / Basel

After breakfast, travel by coach to Bern, the capital city of Switzerland, where you’ll have free time to explore and have lunch. Continue to Basel, poised on the Rhine River where Switzerland, France, and Germany meet.  Embark your river ship and toast your voyage at a welcome reception followed by dinner. (Meals: B,R,D)

Day 5 – Freiburg, Germany and Alsace, France

A generous breakfast buffet with made-to-order options is served each morning during your cruise. Dock in Breisach this morning and travel through the lovely Kaiserstulh region to Freiburg, set on the edge of Germany’s Black Forest. Venture into the picturesque Alstadt, or Old Town to see the remarkable Münster, a Romanesque and Gothic cathedral built of local red sandstone and known for its filigreed spire. There’s time for a short stroll through the town’s Christkindlmarkt, or holiday market, where vats of glühwein, stacks of cookies, handicrafts, and decoration fill festive stalls. Return to the ship for lunch.

In the afternoon, choose from two shore excursions in Alsace:  

Riquewihr and the Wines of Alsace: Set off on a scenic drive along the Alsace Wine Route. Stop at a winery for a tasting of the local wines, which include dry Rieslings, pinot blancs, and pinot noirs, to name a few. Arrive in the charming village of Riquewihr, and take a stroll through its cobbled lanes, lined with colorful half-timbered houses and little changed since the 16th century. 

Colmar Markets: The town of Colmar is magical during the holidays. Walk through the Old Town, where narrow canals cut between timeless half-timbered houses, and stop in at four different holiday markets. Dominating the main market is the Dominican Church, known for its 14th-century stained-glass windows. In the Place Jeanne d’Arc, wander amid stalls piled high with Alsatian holiday treats. Continue to Place de l’Ancienne Douane, a charming square with stalls arranged around the Schwendi Fountain. Then step into the Koifhus, the medieval customs house, where local artisans display their wares during the holidays.

Back on board, meet up in the Smithsonian Journeys Travelers Corner for a discussion with your expert before dinner. (Meals: B,L,D)

Day 6 – Strasbourg

Arrive in Strasbourg in the early morning and set out on your choice of excursion:

Strasbourg Panoramic Tour: The principal city of the Alsace region and the seat of the European Parliament, modern Strasbourg is built around the Grand-Île, a World Heritage-listed island that harbors its Old Town. On a city tour by coach, stop at the Notre Dame Cathedral, for years the world’s tallest building, as well as St. Thomas Church. At the sumptuous Palais Rohan, pay a visit to its fine arts museum to view works by Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Goya, and Renoir. Then delve further into Strasbourg’s historic lanes on a guided walking tour.

Culinary Strasbourg: Explore the culinary heritage of Alsace and the renowned cuisine of Strasbourg on a food tour. Walk through the historic center with a guide, stepping into gastronomic shops to taste local specialties such as charcuteries and bredeles (Christmas cookies). In weinstubs—small wine bars typical of Strasbourg—sample traditional dishes and fine Alsatian wines.

Take advantage of a free afternoon to explore Strasbourg and its Christmas markets at your own pace. A shuttle bus will be available to take travelers to and from the city center. In early evening, hear stories from a local speaker about holiday traditions in the region. (Meals: B,L,D)

Day 7 – Mannheim / Heidelberg

Dock in Mannheim and travel to nearby Heidelberg, a historic town set on the Neckar River that is home to Germany’s oldest university. In the company of a local guide, tour the sandstone castle, whose red walls are tucked among forests and gardens overlooking the Old Town.  Admire the 18th-century Great Vat, a 49,000-gallon wine cask, and enjoy panoramic views of the Neckar Valley and the town below. On a short walk, pass the Student Jail, the Old University, the Cathedral, and follow the Neckar River through the heart of Heidelberg. Sit down to lunch at a restaurant featuring German specialties. This afternoon, attend a musical performance, enjoying seasonal treats and refreshments as you listen to a lively mix of contemporary music, opera, operetta, and holiday songs. Return to the ship for dinner. (Meals: B,L,D)

Day 8 – Rüdesheim / Rhine Gorge

Enter the Upper Middle Rhine Valley, a World Heritage site where medieval villages and hilltop castles dot the riverbanks. Explore this stunning region on one of two excursions:

Rüdesheim Tour:  Walk into the Old Town of Rüdesheim, following the Drosselgasse, a street lined with wine taverns, cafes, and shops, to the Christmas Market of the Nations, which features traditions and goods from 15 countries. Visit the Siegfried Mechanical Music Museum, a truly unique museum dedicated to beautiful music boxes and self-playing instruments. Enjoy free time to stop for a typical Rüdesheimer Kaffee, a coffee drink made with flambéed brandy and topped with whipped cream.

Rhine Wine Tasting: Journey to the serene Abbey of St. Hildegard, set amid vineyards on a hillside overlooking the Rhine. On a tour of the site, learn the story of the remarkable St. Hildegard of Bingen, a 12th-century abbess, mystic, author, composer, poet, healer, theologian, and preacher. Continue to a family-owned winery and taste the renowned wines of the Rheingau in an old wine cellar.

Spend a relaxing afternoon taking in the scenery as you cruise through the magnificent Rhine Gorge, spotting castles steeped in legend and timeless villages sparkling with holiday decorations around every bend in the river. Pass Lorelei Rock, named for a siren whose song bewitched passing sailors and lured them to disaster on the rocks. Join fellow travelers for a conversation in the Smithsonian Journeys Travelers Corner, and later toast the holidays with a warm glass of glühwein at a festive reception. (Meals: B,L,R,D) 

Day 9 – Cologne

Set off on a walking tour of Cologne’s Old Town, crossing Cathedral Square to the Dom cathedral, a World Heritage site and one of the largest Gothic structures in the world. It is one of only a few buildings in the city that survived Allied bombing during WWII. The afternoon is yours to visit Cologne and its Christmas markets at your leisure. Shuttle service will be available from the ship to the city center. The ship will dock overnight in Cologne. (Meals: B,L,D)

Day 10 – Dusseldorf

Your final port of call is Dusseldorf, where you’ll have a choice of excursions.

Dusseldorf Tour and Holiday Markets: Discover the city’s intriguing riverfront architecture at the Medienhafen, a harbor that features the designs of world-class architects such as Frank Gehry. Then tour the Old Town, rebuilt along the historic city plan after being all but destroyed during World War II. The city is filled with holiday spirit this time of year.

Aachen–The City of Charlemagne: Explore the Old Town of Aachen, the hand-picked capital of Charlemagne’s Frankish empire from the eighth to the ninth century. Visit the Dom cathedral, another World Heritage site, and Emperor Charlemagne’s original throne, and learn about Aachen’s history as an ancient spa town. At the town’s Christkindlmarkt, taste Aachener Printen, a gingerbread recipe created when Napoleon’s trade blockades caused a sugar and honey shortage.

Take advantage of a final free afternoon to discover more of Dusseldorf and its uniquely delightful Christmas markets on your own. This evening, celebrate your holiday voyage at a festive farewell dinner on board. (Meals: B,L,D)

Day 11 – Return to the U.S.

After an early breakfast, disembark the ship and transfer to Dusseldorf International Airport for your flight to the U.S. (Meals: B)

Please note that the itineraries associated with this program may change due to operational or navigational considerations. 

Included meals are denoted as follows: Breakfast (B), Lunch (L), Reception (R), Dinner (D)

2024 Itinerary – Dusseldorf to Zurich - December 3-13

Day 1 & 2 - Depart the U.S. for Dusseldorf, Germany

Depart the U.S. on an overnight flight to Dusseldorf and transfer to the Amadeus Silver III upon arrival. Lunch will be served on board for early arrivals. Take advantage of free time to explore Dusseldorf on your own. Your Smithsonian Journeys Travel Director will be available to answer questions and provide suggestions for local activities. This evening, gather for a welcome reception and dinner aboard the ship. The ship will remain docked overnight in Dusseldorf. (Meals: L,R,D) 

Day 3 – Dusseldorf or Aachen

A generous breakfast buffet with made-to-order options is served each morning during your cruise. Today, set out to explore the region on one of the following excursions: 

Dusseldorf Tour and Holiday Markets: Discover the city’s intriguing riverfront architecture at the Medienhafen, a harbor that features the designs of world-class architects such as Frank Gehry. Then tour the Old Town, rebuilt along the historic city plan after being all but destroyed during World War II. The city is filled with holiday spirit this time of year.

Aachen–The City of Charlemagne: Explore the Old Town of Aachen, the hand-picked capital of Charlemagne’s Frankish empire from the eighth to the ninth century. Visit the Dom cathedral, another World Heritage site, and Emperor Charlemagne’s original throne, and learn about Aachen’s history as an ancient spa town. At the town’s Christkindlmarkt, taste Aachener Printen, a gingerbread recipe created when Napoleon’s trade blockades caused a sugar and honey shortage. (Meals: B,L,D)

Day 4 - Cologne

This morning, hear stories from a local speaker about holiday traditions in the region. Then embark on a walking tour of Cologne’s Old Town, crossing Cathedral Square to the Dom cathedral, a World Heritage site and one of the largest Gothic structures in the world. It is one of only a few buildings in the city that survived Allied bombing during WWII. The afternoon is yours to visit Cologne and its Christmas markets at your leisure. Shuttle service will be available from the ship to the city center. (Meals: B,L,D)

Day 5 – Rhine Gorge and Rüdesheim

Spend a relaxing morning taking in the scenery as you cruise the magnificent Rhine Gorge. Along this portion of the Upper Middle Rhine Valley, a World Heritage site—clifftop castles and medieval villages dot the riverbanks. A spectacular vista presents itself around every bend in the river and the landscape is steeped in legend. Pass Lorelei Rock, named for a siren whose song bewitched passing sailors and lured them to disaster on the rocks.

After lunch you’ll have a choice of excursions:  

Rüdesheim Tour:  Walk into the Old Town of Rüdesheim, following the Drosselgasse, a street lined with wine taverns, cafes, and shops, to the Christmas Market of the Nations, which features traditions and goods from 15 countries. Visit the Siegfried Mechanical Music Museum, a truly unique museum dedicated to beautiful music boxes and self-playing instruments. Enjoy free time to stop for a typical Rüdesheimer Kaffee, a coffee drink made with flambéed brandy and topped with whipped cream.

Rhine Wine Tasting: Journey to the serene Abbey of St. Hildegard, set amid vineyards on a hillside overlooking the Rhine. On a tour of the site, learn the story of the remarkable St. Hildegard of Bingen, a 12th-century abbess, mystic, author, composer, poet, healer, theologian, and preacher. Continue to a family-owned winery and taste the renowned wines of the Rheingau in an old wine cellar.

This evening, enjoy free time to soak up the ambiance of Rüdesheim and its Christmas market on your own. You might stroll along the historic Drosselgasse to an inviting wine tavern or beer garden. (Meals: B,L,D) 

Day 6 – Mannheim / Heidelberg

Dock in Mannheim and travel to nearby Heidelberg, a historic town set on the Neckar River that is home to Germany’s oldest university. In the company of a local guide, tour the sandstone castle, whose red walls are tucked among forests and gardens overlooking the Old Town.  Admire the 18th-century Great Vat, a 49,000-gallon wine cask, and enjoy panoramic views of the Neckar Valley and the town below. On a short walk, pass the Student Jail, the Old University, the Cathedral, and follow the Neckar River through the heart of Heidelberg. Sit down to lunch at a restaurant featuring German specialties. This afternoon, attend a musical performance, enjoying seasonal treats and refreshments as you listen to a lively mix of contemporary music, opera, operetta, and holiday songs. Return to the ship for dinner. (Meals: B,L,D)

Day 7 – Strasbourg, France

Arrive in Strasbourg in the early morning and set out on your choice of excursion:

Strasbourg Panoramic Tour: The principal city of the Alsace region and the seat of the European Parliament, modern Strasbourg is built around the Grand-Île, a World Heritage-listed island that harbors its Old Town. On a city tour by coach, stop at the Notre Dame Cathedral, for years the world’s tallest building, as well as St. Thomas Church. At the sumptuous Palais Rohan, pay a visit to its fine arts museum to view works by Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Goya, and Renoir. Then delve further into Strasbourg’s historic lanes on a guided walking tour.

Culinary Strasbourg: Explore the culinary heritage of Alsace and the renowned cuisine of Strasbourg on a food tour. Walk through the historic center with a guide, stepping into gastronomic shops to taste local specialties such as charcuteries and bredeles (Christmas cookies). In weinstubs—small wine bars typical of Strasbourg—sample traditional dishes and fine Alsatian wines.

Take advantage of a free afternoon to explore Strasbourg and its Christmas markets at your own pace. A shuttle bus will be available to take travelers to and from the city center. Before dinner, toast the holidays with a warm glass of glühwein (known in France as vin chaud) at a reception on board. (Meals: B,L,R,D)

Day 8 – Freiburg, Germany and Alsace, France

Dock in Breisach this morning and travel through the lovely Kaiserstulh region to Freiburg, set on the edge of Germany’s Black Forest. Venture into the picturesque Alstadt, or Old Town to see the remarkable Münster, a Romanesque and Gothic cathedral built of local red sandstone and known for its filigreed spire. There’s time for a short stroll through the town’s Christkindlmarkt, where vats of glühwein, stacks of cookies, handicrafts, and decoration fill decorated stalls. Return to the ship for lunch.

In the afternoon, choose from two shore excursions in Alsace:  

Riquewihr and the Wines of Alsace: Set off on a scenic drive along the Alsace Wine Route. Stop at a winery for a tasting of the local wines, which include dry Rieslings, pinot blancs, and pinot noirs, to name a few. Arrive in the charming village of Riquewihr, and take a stroll through its cobbled lanes, lined with colorful half-timbered houses and little changed since the 16th century. 

Colmar Markets: The town of Colmar is magical during the holidays. Walk through the Old Town, where narrow canals cut between timeless half-timbered houses, and stop in at four different holiday markets. Dominating the main market is the Dominican Church, known for its 14th-century stained-glass windows. In the Place Jeanne d’Arc, wander amid stalls piled high with Alsatian holiday treats. Continue to Place de l’Ancienne Douane, a charming square with stalls arranged around the Schwendi Fountain. Then step into the Koifhus, the medieval customs house, where local artisans display their wares during the holidays.

This evening, celebrate your holiday voyage at a festive farewell reception and dinner on board. (Meals: B,L,R,D)

Day 9 – Basel and Interlaken, Switzerland

After breakfast, disembark in Basel and travel by coach to InterlakenSwitzerland. Along the way stop in Bern, the vibrant capital city of Switzerland, for a walking tour of the Old Town, a World Heritage site. Enjoy free time for lunch and independent exploration before continuing to Interlaken, in the heart of the Swiss Alps. Nestled between two lakes beneath the towering peak of the Jungfrau, Interlaken became a popular resort town in the 19th century, drawing artists and writers as well as Europe’s nobility.  Your Smithsonian Journeys Travel Director will guide you on a short orientation walk through town after checking in. Dinner is at leisure this evening. (Meals: B)

Day 10 - Interlaken

Enjoy breakfast at the hotel before a full day at leisure to pursue activities that interest you. You might take a cogwheel train to an Alpine village; browse the holiday market; or simply meander through town, taking in views of the craggy peaks of the Bernese Oberland. Your Smithsonian Journeys Travel Director will have suggestions for sightseeing and restaurants and can help with your logistics. (Meals: B)

Day 11 – Zurich/Return to the U.S.

After breakfast, transfer to Zurich’s Kloten International Airport to catch your flight home. (Meals: B)

Included meals are denoted as follows: Breakfast (B), Lunch (L), Reception (R), Dinner (D)

2025 Itinerary - Dusseldorf to Zurich - November 28 - December 8

Day 1 & 2 - Depart the U.S. for Dusseldorf, Germany

Depart the U.S. on an overnight flight to Dusseldorf and transfer to the Amadeus Imperial upon arrival. Lunch will be served on board for early arrivals. Take advantage of free time to explore Dusseldorf on your own. Your Smithsonian Journeys Travel Director will be available to answer questions and provide suggestions for local activities. This evening, gather for a welcome reception and dinner aboard the ship. The ship will remain docked overnight in Dusseldorf. (Meals: L,R,D) 

Day 3 – Dusseldorf or Aachen

A generous breakfast buffet with made-to-order options is served each morning during your cruise. Today, set out to explore the region on one of the following excursions: 

Dusseldorf Tour and Holiday Markets: Discover the city’s intriguing riverfront architecture at the Medienhafen, a harbor that features the designs of world-class architects such as Frank Gehry. Then tour the Old Town, rebuilt along the historic city plan after being all but destroyed during World War II. The city is filled with holiday spirit this time of year.

Aachen–The City of Charlemagne: Explore the Old Town of Aachen, the hand-picked capital of Charlemagne’s Frankish empire from the eighth to the ninth century. Visit the Dom cathedral, another World Heritage site, and Emperor Charlemagne’s original throne, and learn about Aachen’s history as an ancient spa town. At the town’s Christkindlmarkt, taste Aachener Printen, a gingerbread recipe created when Napoleon’s trade blockades caused a sugar and honey shortage. Before dinner, gather in the Smithsonian Travelers Corner for an informal discussion with your expert and fellow travelers. (Meals: B,L,D)

Day 4 - Cologne

This morning, hear stories from a local speaker about holiday traditions in the region. Then embark on a walking tour of Cologne’s Old Town, crossing Cathedral Square to the Dom cathedral, a World Heritage site and one of the largest Gothic structures in the world. It is one of only a few buildings in the city that survived Allied bombing during WWII. The afternoon is yours to visit Cologne and its Christmas markets at your leisure. Shuttle service will be available from the ship to the city center. Early this evening, join fellow Smithsonian travelers for some holiday cheer at an exclusive Smithsonian Journeys reception. (Meals: B,L,R,D)

Day 5 – Rhine Gorge and Rüdesheim

Spend a relaxing morning taking in the scenery as you cruise the magnificent Rhine Gorge. Along this portion of the Upper Middle Rhine Valley, a World Heritage site—clifftop castles and medieval villages dot the riverbanks. A spectacular vista presents itself around every bend in the river and the landscape is steeped in legend. Pass Lorelei Rock, named for a siren whose song bewitched passing sailors and lured them to disaster on the rocks.

After lunch you’ll have a choice of excursions:  

Rüdesheim Tour:  Walk into the Old Town of Rüdesheim, following the Drosselgasse, a street lined with wine taverns, cafes, and shops, to the Christmas Market of the Nations, which features traditions and goods from 15 countries. Visit the Siegfried Mechanical Music Museum, a truly unique museum dedicated to beautiful music boxes and self-playing instruments. Enjoy free time to stop for a typical Rüdesheimer Kaffee, a coffee drink made with flambéed brandy and topped with whipped cream.

Rhine Wine Tasting: Journey to the serene Abbey of St. Hildegard, set amid vineyards on a hillside overlooking the Rhine. On a tour of the site, learn the story of the remarkable St. Hildegard of Bingen, a 12th-century abbess, mystic, author, composer, poet, healer, theologian, and preacher. Continue to a family-owned winery and taste the renowned wines of the Rheingau in an old wine cellar.

This evening, enjoy free time to soak up the ambiance of Rüdesheim and its Christmas market on your own. You might stroll along the historic Drosselgasse to an inviting wine tavern or beer garden. (Meals: B,L,D) 

Day 6 – Mannheim / Heidelberg

Dock in Mannheim and travel to nearby Heidelberg, a historic town set on the Neckar River that is home to Germany’s oldest university. In the company of a local guide, tour the sandstone castle, whose red walls are tucked among forests and gardens overlooking the Old Town.  Admire the 18th-century Great Vat, a 49,000-gallon wine cask, and enjoy panoramic views of the Neckar Valley and the town below. On a short walk, pass the Student Jail, the Old University, the Cathedral, and follow the Neckar River through the heart of Heidelberg. Sit down to lunch at a restaurant featuring German specialties. This afternoon, attend a musical performance, enjoying seasonal treats and refreshments as you listen to a lively mix of contemporary music, opera, operetta, and holiday songs. Return to the ship for dinner. (Meals: B,L,D)

Day 7 – Strasbourg, France

Arrive in Strasbourg in the early morning and set out on your choice of excursion:

Strasbourg Panoramic Tour: The principal city of the Alsace region and the seat of the European Parliament, modern Strasbourg is built around the Grand-Île, a World Heritage-listed island that harbors its Old Town. On a city tour by coach, stop at the Notre Dame Cathedral, for years the world’s tallest building, as well as St. Thomas Church. At the sumptuous Palais Rohan, pay a visit to its fine arts museum to view works by Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Goya, and Renoir. Then delve further into Strasbourg’s historic lanes on a guided walking tour.

Culinary Strasbourg: Explore the culinary heritage of Alsace and the renowned cuisine of Strasbourg on a food tour. Walk through the historic center with a guide, stepping into gastronomic shops to taste local specialties such as charcuteries and bredeles (Christmas cookies). In weinstubs—small wine bars typical of Strasbourg—sample traditional dishes and fine Alsatian wines.

Take advantage of a free afternoon to explore Strasbourg and its Christmas markets at your own pace. A shuttle bus will be available to take travelers to and from the city center. Before dinner, toast the holidays with a warm glass of glühwein (known in France as vin chaud) at a reception on board. (Meals: B,L,R,D)

Day 8 – Freiburg, Germany and Alsace, France

Dock in Breisach this morning and travel through the lovely Kaiserstulh region to Freiburg, set on the edge of Germany’s Black Forest. Venture into the picturesque Alstadt, or Old Town to see the remarkable Münster, a Romanesque and Gothic cathedral built of local red sandstone and known for its filigreed spire. There’s time for a short stroll through the town’s Christkindlmarkt, where vats of glühwein, stacks of cookies, handicrafts, and decoration fill decorated stalls. Return to the ship for lunch.

In the afternoon, choose from two shore excursions in Alsace:  

Riquewihr and the Wines of Alsace: Set off on a scenic drive along the Alsace Wine Route. Stop at a winery for a tasting of the local wines, which include dry Rieslings, pinot blancs, and pinot noirs, to name a few. Arrive in the charming village of Riquewihr, and take a stroll through its cobbled lanes, lined with colorful half-timbered houses and little changed since the 16th century. 

Colmar Markets: The town of Colmar is magical during the holidays. Walk through the Old Town, where narrow canals cut between timeless half-timbered houses, and stop in at four different holiday markets. Dominating the main market is the Dominican Church, known for its 14th-century stained-glass windows. In the Place Jeanne d’Arc, wander amid stalls piled high with Alsatian holiday treats. Continue to Place de l’Ancienne Douane, a charming square with stalls arranged around the Schwendi Fountain. Then step into the Koifhus, the medieval customs house, where local artisans display their wares during the holidays.

This evening, celebrate your holiday voyage at a festive farewell reception and dinner on board. (B,L,R,D)

Day 9 – Basel and Interlaken, Switzerland

After breakfast, disembark in Basel and travel by coach to InterlakenSwitzerland. Along the way stop in Bern, the vibrant capital city of Switzerland, for a walking tour of the Old Town, a World Heritage site. Enjoy free time for lunch and independent exploration before continuing to Interlaken, in the heart of the Swiss Alps. Nestled between two lakes beneath the towering peak of the Jungfrau, Interlaken became a popular resort town in the 19th century, drawing artists and writers as well as Europe’s nobility.  Your Smithsonian Journeys Travel Director will guide you on a short orientation walk through town after checking in. Dinner is at leisure this evening. (B)

Day 10 - Interlaken

Enjoy breakfast at the hotel before a full day at leisure to pursue activities that interest you. You might take a cogwheel train to an Alpine village; browse the holiday market; or simply meander through town, taking in views of the craggy peaks of the Bernese Oberland. Your Smithsonian Journeys Travel Director will have suggestions for sightseeing and restaurants and can help with your logistics. (Meals: B)

Day 11 – Zurich/Return to the U.S.

After breakfast, transfer to Zurich’s Kloten International Airport to catch your flight home. (B)

Included meals are denoted as follows: Breakfast (B), Lunch (L), Reception (R), Dinner (D)

2025 Itinerary - Zurich to Dusseldorf - December 3-13 & December 10-20

Day 1 & 2 – Depart the U.S. for Zurich, Switzerland

Depart the U.S. on an overnight flight to Zurich, and meet the group for your transfer to Interlaken in the Swiss Alps. Nestled between two lakes beneath the towering peak of the Jungfrau, Interlaken became a popular resort town in the 19th century, drawing artists and writers as well as Europe’s nobility.  After time to settle into your historic hotel, gather for a welcome reception. The remainder of the evening is yours to relax and dine independently. (Meals: R)

Day 3 – Interlaken

Enjoy breakfast at the hotel before a full day at leisure to pursue activities that interest you. You might take a cogwheel train or cable car to an Alpine village; browse the holiday market; or simply meander through town, taking in views of the craggy peaks of the Bernese Oberland. Your Smithsonian Journeys Travel Director will have suggestions for sightseeing and restaurants and can help with your logistics. In the early evening, meet with your fellow travelers and your expert for an informal discussion in the Smithsonian Journeys Travelers Corner. (Meals: B)

Day 4 – Interlaken / Basel

After breakfast, travel by coach to Bern, the capital city of Switzerland, where you’ll have free time to explore and have lunch. Continue to Basel, poised on the Rhine River where Switzerland, France, and Germany meet.  Embark your river ship and toast your voyage at a welcome reception followed by dinner. (Meals: B,R,D)

Day 5 – Freiburg, Germany and Alsace, France

A generous breakfast buffet with made-to-order options is served each morning during your cruise. Dock in Breisach this morning and travel through the lovely Kaiserstulh region to Freiburg, set on the edge of Germany’s Black Forest. Venture into the picturesque Alstadt, or Old Town to see the remarkable Münster, a Romanesque and Gothic cathedral built of local red sandstone and known for its filigreed spire. There’s time for a short stroll through the town’s Christkindlmarkt, or holiday market, where vats of glühwein, stacks of cookies, handicrafts, and decoration fill festive stalls. Return to the ship for lunch.

In the afternoon, choose from two shore excursions in Alsace:  

Riquewihr and the Wines of Alsace: Set off on a scenic drive along the Alsace Wine Route. Stop at a winery for a tasting of the local wines, which include dry Rieslings, pinot blancs, and pinot noirs, to name a few. Arrive in the charming village of Riquewihr, and take a stroll through its cobbled lanes, lined with colorful half-timbered houses and little changed since the 16th century. 

Colmar Markets: The town of Colmar is magical during the holidays. Walk through the Old Town, where narrow canals cut between timeless half-timbered houses, and stop in at four different holiday markets. Dominating the main market is the Dominican Church, known for its 14th-century stained-glass windows. In the Place Jeanne d’Arc, wander amid stalls piled high with Alsatian holiday treats. Continue to Place de l’Ancienne Douane, a charming square with stalls arranged around the Schwendi Fountain. Then step into the Koifhus, the medieval customs house, where local artisans display their wares during the holidays.

Back on board, meet up in the Smithsonian Journeys Travelers Corner for a discussion with your expert before dinner. (Meals: B,L,D)

Day 6 – Strasbourg

Arrive in Strasbourg in the early morning and set out on your choice of excursion:

Strasbourg Panoramic Tour: The principal city of the Alsace region and the seat of the European Parliament, modern Strasbourg is built around the Grand-Île, a World Heritage-listed island that harbors its Old Town. On a city tour by coach, stop at the Notre Dame Cathedral, for years the world’s tallest building, as well as St. Thomas Church. At the sumptuous Palais Rohan, pay a visit to its fine arts museum to view works by Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Goya, and Renoir. Then delve further into Strasbourg’s historic lanes on a guided walking tour.

Culinary Strasbourg: Explore the culinary heritage of Alsace and the renowned cuisine of Strasbourg on a food tour. Walk through the historic center with a guide, stepping into gastronomic shops to taste local specialties such as charcuteries and bredeles (Christmas cookies). In weinstubs—small wine bars typical of Strasbourg—sample traditional dishes and fine Alsatian wines.

Take advantage of a free afternoon to explore Strasbourg and its Christmas markets at your own pace. A shuttle bus will be available to take travelers to and from the city center. (Meals: B,L,D)

Day 7 – Mannheim / Heidelberg

Dock in Mannheim and travel to nearby Heidelberg, a historic town set on the Neckar River that is home to Germany’s oldest university. In the company of a local guide, tour the sandstone castle, whose red walls are tucked among forests and gardens overlooking the Old Town.  Admire the 18th-century Great Vat, a 49,000-gallon wine cask, and enjoy panoramic views of the Neckar Valley and the town below. On a short walk, pass the Student Jail, the Old University, the Cathedral, and follow the Neckar River through the heart of Heidelberg. Sit down to lunch at a restaurant featuring German specialties. This afternoon, attend a musical performance, enjoying seasonal treats and refreshments as you listen to a lively mix of contemporary music, opera, operetta, and holiday songs. Return to the ship for dinner. (Meals: B,L,D)

Day 8 – Rüdesheim / Rhine Gorge

villages and hilltop castles dot the riverbanks. Explore this stunning region on one of two excursions:

Rüdesheim Tour:  Walk into the Old Town of Rüdesheim, following the Drosselgasse, a street lined with wine taverns, cafes, and shops, to the Christmas Market of the Nations, which features traditions and goods from 15 countries. Visit the Siegfried Mechanical Music Museum, a truly unique museum dedicated to beautiful music boxes and self-playing instruments. Enjoy free time to stop for a typical Rüdesheimer Kaffee, a coffee drink made with flambéed brandy and topped with whipped cream.

Rhine Wine Tasting: Journey to the serene Abbey of St. Hildegard, set amid vineyards on a hillside overlooking the Rhine. On a tour of the site, learn the story of the remarkable St. Hildegard of Bingen, a 12th-century abbess, mystic, author, composer, poet, healer, theologian, and preacher. Continue to a family-owned winery and taste the renowned wines of the Rheingau in an old wine cellar.

Back on board, a local speaker joins you to share stories and insights about holiday traditions in the region. Spend a relaxing afternoon taking in the scenery as you cruise through the magnificent Rhine Gorge, spotting castles steeped in legend and timeless villages sparkling with holiday decorations around every bend in the river. Pass Lorelei Rock, named for a siren whose song bewitched passing sailors and lured them to disaster on the rocks. Join fellow travelers for a conversation in the Smithsonian Journeys Travelers Corner, and later toast the holidays with a warm glass of glühwein at a festive reception. (Meals: B,L,R,D) 

Day 9 – Cologne

Set off on a walking tour of Cologne’s Old Town, crossing Cathedral Square to the Dom cathedral, a World Heritage site and one of the largest Gothic structures in the world. It is one of only a few buildings in the city that survived Allied bombing during WWII. The afternoon is yours to visit Cologne and its Christmas markets at your leisure. Shuttle service will be available from the ship to the city center. The ship sails for Dusseldorf tonight. (Meals: B,L,D)

Day 10 – Dusseldorf

After breakfast, set out the excursion of your choice.

Dusseldorf Tour and Holiday Markets: Discover the city’s intriguing riverfront architecture at the Medienhafen, a harbor that features the designs of world-class architects such as Frank Gehry. Then tour the Old Town, rebuilt along the historic city plan after being all but destroyed during World War II. The city is filled with holiday spirit this time of year.

Aachen–The City of Charlemagne: Explore the Old Town of Aachen, the hand-picked capital of Charlemagne’s Frankish empire from the eighth to the ninth century. Visit the Dom cathedral, another World Heritage site, and Emperor Charlemagne’s original throne, and learn about Aachen’s history as an ancient spa town. At the town’s Christkindlmarkt, taste Aachener Printen, a gingerbread recipe created when Napoleon’s trade blockades caused a sugar and honey shortage.

Take advantage of a final free afternoon to discover more of Dusseldorf and its uniquely delightful Christmas markets on your own. This evening, celebrate your holiday voyage at a festive farewell dinner on board. (Meals: B,L,D)

Day 11 – Return to the U.S.

After an early breakfast, disembark the ship and transfer to Dusseldorf International Airport for your flight to the U.S. (Meals: B)

Please note that the itineraries associated with this program may change due to operational or navigational considerations. 

Included meals are denoted as follows: Breakfast (B), Lunch (L), Reception (R), Dinner (D)

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