Europe's best Christmas markets
Where to go to experience the Yuletide magic
Although the Brussels Christmas market has only been around since 2002, its Plaisirs d’Hiver (Winter Pret) festival is one of a kind with a spectacular sound-and-light show that takes place on the Grand Place. More than 200 wooden chalets house artisans from all over the world selling everything from Christmas ornaments and handicrafts to pots of mussels and Belgian waffles. There's also an ice-skating rink and a 55-metre Ferris wheel.
Dates: 30 November to 6 January 2013
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Bright lights and Danish delights
Russian Christmas meets Nordic Christmas in Copenhagen's famed Tivoli Gardens. The Nordic section extends towards the Main Entrance and the central Tivoli square has been transformed into a sugar-spun Russian fairy tale with St. Basil's Cathedral and a traditional village. The Russian Father Christmas and the Nordic Father Christmas listen to their young guests' wishes at the Pantomime Theatre. New rides and 50 special stalls selling crafts and delicious baked goods add to the seasonal spirit.
Dates: 16 November to 31 December
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One of the oldest markets in the world is Dresden's Striezelmarkt which was first mentioned in the 15th century. More than 200 stalls with artisans from all over the country gather to sell the best crafts Germany has to offer. Regional specialties include Dresden’s famous blue-and-white ceramics, crafts from the Ore Mountains, blown glass from Lauscha and much more. The highlight of the market is the arrival of the 3-ton stollen after it has been paraded through the streets.
Dates: 28 November to 24 December
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The plummest market
Dating back to 1628, Nuremberg’s Christmas market is one of the best known in Germany and attracts two million visitors annually to its candy-cane striped stalls. The aroma of gingerbread, glühwein, and bratwurst fills the Old Town while live music is performed well into the night. An unusual competition of tiny prune puppets takes place and the winner receives the "Gold Plum Person" prize.
Dates: 30 November to 24 December
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Centred on a giant Christmas tree in the Old Town Square, Prague’s two famous Christmas markets feature beautifully decorated stalls selling everything from Bohemian crystal and Czech marionettes to braided pastries and gingerbread. While shopping from stall to stall it’s customary to sip on svaree vino or sweet mulled wine.
Dates: 20 November to 24 December
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Three million visitors fly to Vienna from all over the world to experience its magical Christmas markets. The Christkindlmarkt on Rathausplatz starts earlier than most, in mid-November, and is among the biggest in Europe. More than 150 stalls dominate the square, selling traditional decorations and handicrafts as well as scrumptious Viennese pastries and Weihnachtspunsch (a spiced punch). Those in favour of a smaller market can head to courtyard of the baroque Schðnbrunn Palace. Don’t miss a weekend Advent concert in the Rathaus.
Dates: Mid-November to late December
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The grand dame
Occupying the most coveted area in the city - in front of the stunning Strasbourg Cathedral - is France’s largest and oldest Christmas market, Christkindelsmarik. For more than 400 years Strasbourg has welcomed visitors to its market where unique handmade Christmas decorations, Nativity figurines and traditional delicacies fill the stalls. While strolling around pick up a favourite speciality, the Flammekueche a thin pizza topped with bacon, onions and cream.
Dates: 24 November to 31 December
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Updated November 2012