If you're not quite ready for the thought of Christmas, cheer yourself up with a visit to one of the traditional Christmas markets – perfect for present shopping with a glass of mulled wine.
The Perfect 10: Christmas Markets
Dating back to 1434, Germany's oldest Christmas market in Dresden is also one of the first recorded ones to have taken place – and the Striezelmarkt still continues today across the city's historical centre. It was named after a traditional sweet delicacy, Hefestriezel, now known as Christstollen, so don't leave without trying some. Some bakers even offer guided tours during Advent to see how the cake is produced.
The gifts on sale have an equally long pedigree, with many being invented in the Erzgebirge mountains not far from the city, which are still sold across Germany, including other famous markets like Cologne. It runs from November 25 to December 24, with the Stollen festival on December 4. Visit www.dresden-tourist.de for more information.
From the oldest market to the youngest – Tallinn in Estonia revived its Christmas market in 2000 after regaining independent following Soviet rule. But the country has plenty of history to draw on, boasting (along with Latvia) that its home to the first ever Christmas tree, with www.tourism.tallinn.ee displaying one in the square as far back as 1441. Wrap up warm – temperatures drop to around zero as you wander through the snow past medieval houses, to buy traditional felt hats, ceramics, quilts, glassware and candles.
Making up for lost time, the city holds one market in the medieval Town Hall square, from November 27 to January 9, 2011, while there's a second in the Rotermann Square in the former industrial quarter, starting a week earlier on November 19. Go to www.visitestonia.com for more information.
There's nothing more Christmassy than a market which takes place on December 25 itself. So why not swap your turkey and sprouts and head to Ecuador, to the village of Otavalo, which is famous for its handicraft market, the largest in South America.
Villagers travel from the surrounding countryside every week to sell their handmade goods, so you can treat yourself to a unique stocking-filler. Gap Adventures' eight day Essential Ecuador trip, departing on December 19, costs £441 and visits the town on Christmas Day. Go to www.gapadventures.co.uk for more information.
You needn't book your flight if you want the full Christmas market experience. With over 300 stalls, Lincoln's Christmas market is one of the biggest in the UK, including Scandinavian crafts, carved wooden toys, hand-tooled leather and candles, plus mulled wine and roasted chestnuts to keep you going.
Set in Castle Square, with the cathedral and castle in the background, you can browse to the sound of cathedral bells and carolers in Victorian costume, with millions of twinkling lights brightening up the winter nights. It runs from December 2-5. Go to www.visitlincolnshire.com for more information.
Finland's oldest city Turku is known as the Christmas city, so it's an ideal time to visit while the traditional market is in full swing. European Capital of Culture for 2011, Turku traditionally celebrates Christmas on St Knut's Day on January 13, so you get extra time to keep the festive spirit alive.
As well as Finnish crafts and food on sale – look out for star-shaped pastries filled with plum jam and spicy mulled wine glögi - there's art exhibitions, concerts and theatre performances during the six week extravaganza, opening on November 27. Go to www.VisitFinland.com/uk for more information.
Why settle for a single Christmas market when you can pack five in as part of a five star river cruise along the Danube? Calling at the world's largest Christmas market in Nuremberg, as well as Regensberg in Germany, Linz and Vienna in Austria, before finishing in Budapest, you can have your fill of handmade toys and gingerbread as well as enjoying the winter scenery.
The seven-night AMA Waterways cruise leaves on November 29 and December 6, priced from £1,149 per person including flights, all meals, wine with dinner and daily excursions.
America might not be as obvious a choice as Germany when it comes to Christmas markets, but the Chicago Christkindlmarket was inspired by the famous Nuremberg one, so you can indulge in some European tradition even if you're in another continent.
Focusing on handmade gifts and ornaments, as well as textiles, there's goulash and potato pancakes to keep out the Chicago chill, as well as the ubiquitous Gluhwein. The market runs from November 24 to December 24. Visit www.gochicago.com for more information.
Banish the dark evenings with the illuminated Christmas market in Copenhagen's Tivoli Gardens, using 3,300 light chains. With a light and laser show above the lake at the end of the evening, the painted wooden stalls are also lit up as you wander past Nisseland, the Land of Elves, and the carousels to pick up some hot chocolate and traditional klejne pastry.
The market runs from November 12 to December 30. Go to www.visitcopenhagen.com for more information.
For some festive bargains, Hungary is outside the Eurozone so you can still pick up traditional arts and crafts without blowing the Christmas budget. Head to the capital Budapest where the Cafe Gerbeaud, overlooking the main market in Vörösmarty Square, turns its windows into a giant advent calendar.
Designed to introduce visitors to traditional Hungarian culture and food, the stalls sell kürtőskalács – a type of conical pastry covered in sugar and cinnamon – to keep you fuelled as you wander, and there's folk music and dance. The market runs from November 19 to December 29. For more information visit www.gotohungary.co.uk.
The Christmas market in Lille might be larger, but for a real taste of tradition you shouldn't miss Strasbourg, one of the oldest Christmas markets in Europe, dating from 1570. Known as the Christkindelsmarik, its set in the pedestrianised streets around the cathedral, with music from live concerts filling the air as you shop.
If that isn't enough, the region of Alsace is home to over 100 Christmas markets - and even boasts of inventing the Christmas bauble. The market runs from November 27 to December 31. Visit www.tourisme-alsace.com for more information.