The 10 best Christmas markets in Europe

The most festive way to do your xmas shopping

MOST POPULAR

BEST FOR; GUARANTEED SNOW

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Tallinn Christmas Market, Tallinn, Estonia

Tallinn’s unspoilt medieval town centre plays host to possibly the prettiest one on the map – not least because snow has blanketed the square for it since it started in 2001. There’s a cosy feel with just over 60 small wooden huts selling handcrafted wreaths, lamps and sheepskin rugs, plus plenty of gingerbread, local honeys and mulled wine to ward of the cold. Musicians and dancers weave through the crowds, while at the heart of it all – apart from the illuminated snow sculptures – lies Estonia’s most famous and largest Christmas tree. (christmasmarket.ee)

MOST POPULAR

When: 22 November 2013 – 8 January 2014

Go: Until December 28, Original Travel (originaltravel.co.uk) is offering two nights at the five-star boutique spa retreat Hotel Telegraaf, right in the heart of the Old Town with fabulous Russian-themed restaurant, from £245 pp including breakfast, spa facilities, afternoon tea and airport transfers. The price excludes flights, but you can fly direct to Tallinn with Easyjet, easyjet.com, for around £200 return.

Hotel Telegraaf,Vene 9, 10123 Tallinn, Estonia, +372 600 0600, telegraafhotel.com

BEST FOR: STAYING PUT

Manchester Christmas Markets, Manchester, UK

It started with a cluster of wooden stalls but now, 15 years later, Manchester’s Christmas market has snowballed into an award-winning festive fantasia attracting seven million visitors. Follow the 300 chalet-lined market trail across the city centre for all kinds of bespoke gifts from fine jewellery to bonsai trees, while stopping for cocktails at the new pop-up-style Christmas Vintage Lounge on Exchange Square. The real highlight is the street food on Albert Square. With every European delicacy, from Spanish paella to Hungarian goulash, we defy you to leave on an empty stomach. (visitmanchester.com)

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When: 15 November – 22 December 2013

Go: Stay in an individually designed King Room at the boudoir-styled from £99; room only.

Velvet Hotel, 2 Canal St, Manchester M1 3HE, 0161 236 9003, velvetmanchester.com

BEST FOR : A FAIRYTALE SETTING

Prague Christmas Markets, Prague, Czech Republic

Prague’s distinctively medieval backdrop of church domes, towers and magnificent ninth-century castle provides the ultimate festive skyline. Stroll through cobbled streets, past hidden courtyards and over pretty bridges to Starom?stské Nám?stí (the Old Town Square) or Wenceslas Square for the largest – and most magical – markets filled with atmospheric choirs, giant Christmas trees and fairy light festooned stalls selling locally made gifts including luxe ceramics and scented candles. (vanocevpraze.cz)

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When: 30 November 2013 – 12 January 2014

Go: British Airways, ba.com, flies to Prague from £122 return. Blow the budget and stay at the stunning five-star Augustine Hotel, created from several historic buildings, including a 13th-century monastery in which friars still live.

The Augustine, Letenská 12/33, 118 00 Prague, Czech Republic, +420 266 112 233, theaugustine.com. Doubles from around £276; B&B.

BEST FOR: FIRST-TIMERS

MOST POPULAR

Plaisirs D’Hiver, Brussels, Belgium

Stretching over a mile from Grand Place to Place Sainte-Catherine, Belgium’s Plaisirs d’Hiver (Winter Wonders) is perfect for first-time Christmas market pizazz. Thanks to Eurostar, you can be there in two hours – and it’s worth going for the sugar highs alone. Tuck into fluffy Belgian waffles, caramelised apples and seasonal croustillons (sugar doughnuts) while listening to the brass band. Beyond sweet treats, there’s an ice-skating rink, Ferris wheel, nightly ‘sounds-and-light’ show and the stalls offer all the usual stocking-fillers including nutcrackers and hand-blown glass decorations. (visitbrussels.be)

When: 29 November 2013 – 5 January 2014

Go: Take the Eurostar to Brussels from £69 (eurostar.com) and stay at Brussels’ first design boutique luxury hotel, Be Manos, decked out with 60s-style furnishings. Be Manos, Square de l'Aviation 23-27, 1070 Bruxelles Anderlecht, Belgium, +32 2 520 65 65, bemanos.com). Doubles from around £93, room only.

BEST FOR: DESIGNER DECORATIONS

Tivoli Christmas Market, Copenhagen, Denmark

When you’ve got the chief designer from Tiffany & Co. planning the design concept, you can bank on an exquisite spectacle. In 1997, John Loring set the cobbled streets sparkling and transformed the city’s famous Tivoli Gardens into a twinkling winter wonderland with more than 500,000 fairy lights. Now, this Scandi-chic market, along with welcoming scents of gløgg (mulled wine), exhilarating rides and brightly coloured stalls selling the type of sweaters made famous by Sofie Gråbøl in The Killing, attracts more than a million visitors a year. (tivoli.dk)

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When: 15 November – 31 December 2013

Go: Fly to Copenhagen with British Airways, ba.com, from £104. Secret Escapes is offering B&B stays at the elegant Hotel Kong Arthur in a Junior Suite with access to the Ni'Mat Spa from £162 per room, per night (usually £220) (secretescapes.com) Hotel Kong Arthur, ?Nørre Søgade 11?DK-1370 Copenhagen K.?Denmark, +45 3311 1212, arthurhotels.dk

BEST FOR: SOMETHING DIFFERENT

Valkenburg Christmas Markets, Valkenburg, Holland

If you fancy a change from the well-trodden markets (and don’t mind the trek) head to the labyrinth of tunnels and caves at this quirky underground grotto, which sits beneath a pretty hilltop in Valkenburg. Packed with Instagram-worthy features, including mural carvings, an 18th century chapel and stalls selling everything from hand-blown glass to local artwork, visitors can even have a nose around Santa’s house. Don’t leave without trying some poffertjes (mini pancakes) at the Enchanted Garden café. (kerststadvalkenburg.nl)

When: 15 November – 23 December 2013

Go: KLM flies from to Amsterdam from £94 (klm.com). At the airport take the two and a half hour train ride to Maastricht – one of the most beautiful cities in The Netherlands – and stay at the urban-chic Designhotel Maastricht Hampshire Eden Designhotel Maastricht Hampshire Eden, Stationsstraat 40, 6221 BR Maastricht, Netherlands, +31 43 328 2525, edendesignhotel.com Doubles from around £107; B&B.

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BEST FOR: GETTING YOUR SKATES ON

MOST POPULAR

Winchester Cathedral Christmas Market & Ice-rink, Winchester, UK

Claiming title of England’s Christmas Capital, Winchester’s Christmas Market is set in the shadow of the town’s cathedral and welcomes over 100 German-style wooden chalet stalls, all handpicked for their quality products, most of which can’t be bought on the high street. Fuel up at the food court with tasty German sausages before enjoying the ultimate highlight: a romantic skate under the stars on the dazzling open-air ice rink. (christmasinwinchester.co.uk)

When: 21 November – 22 December 2013

Go: Hotel Du Vin Winchester is offering a Christmas Market Package with rooms at £94 per night, and includes a glass of mulled wine and £20 food voucher to spend at the market; room only.

Hotel Du Vin Winchester, Southgate Street, Winchester, SO23 9EF, 084474 89267, hotelduvin.com

BEST FOR: STEPPING BACK IN TIME

Christkindlmarkt, Vienna, Austria

With a market practically on every corner, where better to don your finest faux-fur than Vienna? Schoenbrunn Palace Christmas Market is best for stylish shopping, while the largest and gaudiest – Christkindlmarkt (christmas market) – dates back to 1294 and is bursting with atmosphere. Set in the Rathausplatz in front of the neo-Gothic City Hall, locals come to check out the festive window scenes painted by local artists, and stay for the glühwein (mulled wine). Take a stroll through Rathauspark for old-fashion carousel rides and a ‘Post Office in the Clouds’, where you can post your Christmas cards. Remember those? (christkindlmarkt.at)

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When: 16 November – 25 December 2013

Go: Flights to Vienna with British Airways, ba.com, start from £161 return Stay at the fabulously located Hotel Sans Souci Wien, Burggasse 2, 1070 Vienna, +43 1 5222520, sanssouci-wien.com) Doubles from around £198; B&B.

BEST FOR : A GERMAN SHOW-STOPPER

Christkindlesmarkt, Nuremberg, Germany

The Germans know a thing or two about Christmas markets. Over 2,500 are dotted around the country but Nuremberg’s 400-year-old Christkindlmarkt is arguably the most famous. Shining in the Bavarian city's old town, this festive gem has it all: twinkling lights, super-strong glühwein and delicious Bratwurst. Each of the 180 stalls sell genuine tat-free treasures, from handmade candles to enameled music boxes, and special wardens ensure all products are locally made. It all adds to the authentic flavour and the buzzing Bierkeller next to the ice-rink is a guaranteed Christmas spirit booster. ()

When: 29 November – December 24 2013

Go: Fly to Nuremberg from £129 return with City Jet (cityjet.co.uk) and stay at the elegant Le Méridien, housed in a gorgeous 19th century building; Le Méridien Grand Hotel Nürnberg Bahnhofstraße 1, 90402 Nuremberg, Germany, 49 911 23220, . Doubles from around £107; room only.

BEST FOR: SEEING IN THE NEW YEAR

Edinburgh Christmas Markets, Edinburgh, UK

Bringing traditional German flavour to the Scottish capital, stallholders at The European Market are from Frankfurt, while The Scottish Market serves up local delights. Treat your pooch to canine cookies from The Grassmarket on Saturdays, lose yourself in the fir tree maze and ride the Edinburgh wheel for fantastic city views. Once Christmas is wrapped up, it all kicks off again for Hogmanay: a legendary New Year’s party where 80,000 revelers come for music, fireworks and lashings of whisky. (edinburghchristmas.com)

When: 22 November 2013 – 5 January 2014

Go: Stay at The Caledonian, a luxurious former railway hotel;

The Caledonian, Princes St, Edinburgh EH1 2AB, 0131 222 8888, thecaledonian.waldorfastoria.com Doubles from £120; room only.

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