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The weather may be at its gloomiest, but Christmas markets are full of lights and good cheer and delightful seasonal snacks to make everyone feel happier.

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Date: 22/11/2016

Some of the best Christmas markets in Europe

Rathaus and christmas market in Vienna, Austria

There are many wonderful Christmas markets where visitors can shop for gifts, ornaments or stock up on yuletide specialties while enjoying the festive atmosphere.

Vienna

With its Baroque castles and grand architecture, the Austrian capital is an imposing home to some wonderful Christmas markets. The largest of these is the Magic of Advent, which is located in front of the city hall. As if the cakes in Vienna are not reason enough to visit, Vienna is full of concerts and nativity displays in a romantic atmosphere during the Christmas season. Today's markets date from 1298, when the very first market was held in December. There are now around 20 different markets selling charming gifts and seasonal treats such as roast chestnuts and Christmas punch. The city is a joy to explore at this time of year, as it is decorated with elaborate chandeliers and there are beautifully decorated trees liberally dotted about. The city even smells delicious with the aromas of mulled wine and gingerbread wafting from the markets.

Cologne

This German city offers seven Christmas markets. These include four large markets held at the Neumarkt, the Alter Markt, the Rudolfplatz and Cologne Cathedral, which between them attract nearly two million people. Cologne Cathedral is always impressive; however, it is a compelling sight combined with the large Christmas market and probably the best-known market of the city. You will find the largest Christmas tree in the Rhineland at the cathedral, beneath which there are more than 160 pavilions constructed of traditional wood. Visitors can enjoy gluhwein (Christmas mulled wine) in these pavilions, buy sweets and local treats, and watch local craftsmen at work. Just 200 yards away, the Alter Markt Christmas market nestles at the front of the Old Cologne Town Hall in the middle of city's Old Town. Here visitors will find a special kind of nostalgia and lots of activities and attractions for children, such as a puppet theatre, a roundabout and a grotto for Santa Claus.

Prague

A stunning city at any time, the capital of the Czech Republic offers two big Christmas markets daily, one in Wenceslas Square and the other in the Old Town Square. Christmas spirit is important in the Czech Republic and both markets seek to create a winter wonderland for their visitors. These markets illuminate the city in the festive season, drawing tourists and locals together. There are also a number of small markets for those who really enjoy their seasonal treats. The markets largely consist of wooden huts with bright decorations selling all kinds of items for decorations and gifts, including traditional handicrafts such as embroidered lace, ceramics, wooden toys and jewellery. There are scarves and hats to keep the winter cold at bay, along with ornaments for trees and items such as scented candles to put in stockings. Then there is the food. Visitors can taste local delicacies and watch as dishes of the season are prepared. Among the temptations will be hot sugared pastries, barbecued sausages, and hams roasting on spits. Wash these down with some steaming mulled wine and shopping will proceed very smoothly; alternatively, there is always a selection of Czech beers if you don't want a hot drink. Children will probably enjoy the animal stable at Old Town Square, where they can stroke a donkey, goat or sheep.


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