Europe boasts a whole variety of Christmas markets perfect for getting you in the festive spirit - whether you're going with a partner or the whole family. Here's my favourite five.
Vienna's Christmas market runs from the end of November to Christmas day, and as well as being one of Europe's most attractive winter destinations, it's also one of its oldest, dating back over 700 years. The 'Christkindlmarkt' sprawls in front of Vienna's Town Hall, and offers visitors rows of wooden huts bearing arts and crafts, fairground rides and plenty of Christmas punch and roasted chesnuts. There's even the Vokshalle, an area inside the Town Hall where kids can be dropped off to make presents and cookies while adults tend to bigger matters - the shopping!
Cologne has not one but four different Christmas markets taking over the city each December. Am Dom is one of the most popular, not least because it sits in front of Cologne's cathedral, the most visited monument in Germany. Over 150 stalls offer tree decorations, ceramics and arts and crafts, and street musicians are on hand to add a touch of Yuletide atmosphere. Hungry? Try one of the market's traditional sausages, washed down with wine or beer.
Copenhagen's festive offering is gathered around Europe's oldest amusement park - the Tivoli Gardens. Visitors can try out the outdoor skating rink (though watch out for the Danish professionals) before taking a look at 60 colourful stalls selling local arts, crafts and decorations. The chances are you've heard of glögg. This is Danish mulled wine mixed with spices, and is available here by the bucket-load. I recommend that you first line your stomach with Copenhagen's traditional apple dumplings before partaking. And no, it's not the drink talking, there really is a 'leprechaun tent' - a baffling
area filled with actors impersonating the mythical creatures.
Prague's Christmas markets - or Vanocni - are dotted all over the capital, but the largest can be found in the Old Town Square. A central stage plays host to carol singers and bands, and a petting zoo - complete with ponies, sheep and goats - is on hand to delight the children. In December it's not unusual for Prague to receive a fair bit of snow, and coupled with the city's cobbled streets and stalls selling local crafts, it creates the perfect festive day out.
Munich's Christmas market, beside its neo-gothic town hall, is launched as thousands gather in the square to watch as a 30-metre-high Christmas tree is lit with hundreds of lights. 140 stalls sell wooden decorations, jewellry and crafts, and the 'Heavenly workshop' is a free area for children interested in dressing up as angels and baking cookies. Enjoy with a mug of Glühwein and a hot potato cake.
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