It really doesn't get more festive than a Christmas market: hot spiced wine, carols, handcrafted gifts, the aroma of seasonal spices and roasting chestnuts, and gloriously decorated trees. Here's our line-up of five of the world's best Christmas markets, where you can pretend you're searching for gifts, or just soak up the atmosphere and feast! If you're thinking about booking a magical Christmas trip for the little ones this year, make sure you check out our UK School Holidays to find the best time to go away.
As home to our own traditional Victorian Christmas ideal, Germany knows how to celebrate the season to be jolly. Nuremberg's Christkindlesmarkt is one of the country's oldest and most authentic, with the Alps and Imperial Castle providing the stunning setting. Stallholders are only permitted to sell genuinely handcrafted goods on the 180 traditional red and white stalls, where you'll find bratwurst, gingerbread, roasted almonds, spicy mulled wine, rum punch, food and drink gifts, decorations, candles, handmade toys and lambskin shoes.
The opening ceremony features the Nuremberg Christkind, symbol of the market and a lovely lady with a gold and white dress, flowing blonde locks and golden crown. There's a programme of events including concerts, a lantern procession and traditional children's funfair.
Sitting in Innsbruck's Old Town in front of the Golden Roof, with an Alpine backdrop and surrounded by medieval buildings, this is the Christmas you imagined as a child. There are more than 70 glowing stalls brimming with Christmas decorations, handicrafts and winter food gifts. You can enjoy the festive scene from a viewing platform over the rooftops; and we expect you will also enjoy the kiachln - steaming hot doughnuts with added Sauerkraut - and the gluhwein (mulled wine).
Skansen, Stockholm, Sweden
Situated in the world's first open-air museum, this is a fantastic setting for a traditional and stylish Scandi Christmas.
Skansen's festive market has been going since 1903, and its stalls filled with sausages, smoked turkey, cheeses, spices, decorations, handicrafts, eclectic gifts and seasonal nibbles have a distinctly Swedish flavour. Visitors can see craft demonstrations, live music and the Christmas dinner tables set up around the museum house and farmstead exhibits. There's dancing around the tree and other traditional games and music, plus saffron buns and plenty of glogg, a hot savoury mulled wine.
Bruges does Christmas very well, from the gorgeous decorations around the city to the super-charged seasonal Belgian beers, so you know their yuletide market will deliver lashings of festive cheer. Located in the Market Square (Grote Markt) and Simon Stevinplein, you'll find pretty brightly-lit stalls piled high with seasonal goodies, funfair rides and an ice rink. Magical!
Union Square Holiday Market, New York City, USA
This is a festive market with an uber-cool NYC twist. Organised by UrbanSpace (a London-based firm devoted to transforming city spaces through pop-up markets in surprising locations), the Union Square market brings together Manhattan's up-and-coming chefs, artisans and makers every year. You can pick up jewellery and other fashion accessories, handcrafted goods and Christmas decorations, brew-your-own-beer kits and stylish dog leads among many other things. Heaps of festive fodder and drinks too.Top