Tis the season to go shopping...
If you’re looking to book a Christmas market trip this year, then there’s no time like the present. Ho ho ho.
Trudging around the same shops every weekend can put a real strain on the Christmas spirit. Crammed retail stores and jam-packed shopping centres might just leave you longing for January.
So why not mix things up?
We’ve picked a few of the top markets across Europe that won’t break the bank...
Hop on a ferry or jump on the Eurostar and see what the French Christmas markets have to offer.
The Nord-Pas-de-Calais region has a scattering of great Christmas festivals, and Amiens is one of its best. The city transforms for more than five weeks every year for the largest Christmas Market in northern France, attracting over a million visitors.
There’s also Strasbourg. With half-timbered houses and snowflakes frosting the cobbled streets, the city looks like something straight out of a storybook. Winning “Best Christmas Market in Europe” for two years running, it dates back to 1570 and still holds many of its 400-year-old customs. Definitely not one to be missed!
When it comes to Christmas markets, Germany is the country that most people immediately think of. From handcrafted toys for the kids, to the over-18 markets for the more risqué tastes, there is so much to keep you entertained.
If it’s variety you want, then head to Hamburg.
For a traditional feel, try the square opposite the grandiose City Hall for sweet treats, and handmade leather bags.
There’s also the Spielzeuggasse, the Toy Street, which has toys from all over the world. Great for kids (and the big kids).
It only takes four-and-a-half hours to get to Cologne if you travel by train from London. In no time at all you’ll be chinking your glasses of Kölsch and walking round the largest Christmas market in Germany in the shadow of Cologne Cathedral.
The capital’s main market is held beneath the Gedächtniskirche (Memorial Church), but Berlin is home to over 60 markets. As well as great food, the Gendarmenmarkt also has tons of entertainment including jugglers, acrobats, fire artists, choirs, dance groups and music ensembles.
Just a short 30-minute walk away is Potsdamer Platz Market, which features Europe's largest mobile toboggan run.
But if you’re looking for nostalgia and tradition, then head across the city to the Staatsoper and Opernpalais Market. From here you can enjoy a horse-drawn carriage ride through the old centre of Berlin.
If you’d rather get your Christmas fix right here in the UK, then there are some great markets right on your doorstep.
London – Southbank
If you’re looking for a quick dose of Christmas magic, then the 50-chalet market along the Southbank is a must-visit. With anything from sheepskin rugs to hot wine on sale, there’s enough to keep you entertained along Queen’s Walk.
There are several markets throughout the city; from the German-themed market at St Ann's Square, to the world Christmas market at Brazennose Street. Visit the website for a full rundown on what’s going on.
This city’s German-themed Frankfurt Christmas Market has been going for more than a decade, and is the largest outdoor Christmas market in the UK with in excess of 180 stalls. So, whether you want to nibble on some schnitzel or sip weissbier, this is a taste of Deutschland in the West Midlands.
Right near the Roman Baths, this Christmas market has more than 170 chalets bursting with unique gifts. The city is also home to the UK’s only natural thermal spa, so you can relax after a hard day of shopping.
Head to Market Square where you’ll find the heart of Bruges Christmas Market. There’s a huge ice rink for family fun, delicious Belgian chocolate waffles and Nativity scenes with brass bands filling the air with festive carols.
There are a number of other small markets that spring up around the city’s winding streets that make the whole of Bruges feel like one big Christmas celebration.
Don’t overlook Ghent! The city’s main market is at the central Saint-Bavo Square, located between the historic Saint Bavo’s Cathedral and the Belfort. With 53 stalls and loads of boutiques, you won’t be strapped for Christmas present ideas.
We recommend you climb up the tall belfry tower (the tallest in Belgium) for fantastic views of the city. Plus, an ice skating rink is installed under the City Pavilion, and there’s a giant ferris wheel too.
If none of the markets mentioned pull your cracker, then Europe still has loads to offer. Austria (Vienna, Innsbruck), Switzerland (St Gallen), Italy (Rome, Bologna) and Poland (Gdansk and Wroclaw) are a few others to check out.