Winter Wonderland: Europe's best Christmas markets uncovered
What better way to get in the festive spirit − and start your Christmas shopping − than with a visit to some of Europe's best Christmas markets? This month we will be focusing on the best markets to visit on your travels, while next month we will spill the beans on some of the best markets closer to home in the UK.
Striezelmarkt, Dresden - 26th November to 24th December
This market takes its name from hefe striezel, a sweet treat now known as Dresden Christstollen. First held in 1434, today’s market is a great place to find some more unusual Christmas gifts or sample some cake.
Wenceslas Square and Old Town Square markets, Prague - 28th November to 6th January Christmas is a beautiful time of year to visit Prague and enjoy a glass of svarene vino (mulled wine) at the best Christmas markets in the city.
The giant Christmas tree, which is shipped in from mountains in the north of the Czech Republic, is quite a sight to behold. Stalls sell garnet jewellery, crystal, carved toys and traditional decorations.
Altstadt Market, Innsbruck, Austria - 15th November to 6th January
Of all the markets in Innsbruck, of which there are about half a dozen to choose from, the one in the Altstadt is by far the most romantic, selling hand-blown glass ornaments, spiced gingerbread and handmade wooden toys. Carols are played as dusk falls and you can snack on hot doughnuts served with cranberry sauce to get you in the festive spirit.
City Hall Market, Vienna - 14th November to 24th December
You are sure to find the perfect Christmas gift at the 150-stall market in the Rathausplatz. Gingerbread, knitted hats, leather clothing and wooden puppets are all available to buy for reasonable prices, or head for Spittelberg Market for ceramics, silverware and hand-blown glass trinkets.
Stockholm Market, Sweden - 21st November to 23rd December
The Christmas market here has been a tradition for almost a century and the colourful stalls close to the Royal Palace are packed with handmade Swedish crafts including jewellery, pottery and glass.
Everything is surprisingly affordable and this is a great place to hunt down some quirky gifts. Refuel with pepparkakor (ginger biscuits) and glogg (mulled wine), or pick up some reindeer sausages to take home with you. Just don't tell the children.
Vilnius Market, Lithuania - 29th November to 11th January
The 550-foot high Vilnius TV Tower is transformed into a Christmas tree with billions of lights to mark the start of the festive season, so why not shop for regional handicrafts, knitted hats, gloves and woollen slippers at this beautiful Christmas market?
Once you have finished shopping, warm up with a mug of karstas vynas (mulled wine) and a slice of poppy seed cake or a local pastry, or check out the homemade cakes and gifts at the International Christmas Charity Fair.