Come the festive season, Europe gets bedecked with a plethora of Christmas markets.
Nowadays, most cities want to muscle in on the magic that Christmas markets can bring, but it takes more than a few fairy lights and overpriced trinkets to make one truly special.
You want the right combination of fantastic food stalls, a few places to buy presents beyond the usual wooden toys on offer, and an atmosphere that will get even the grumpiest Grinches in a festive mood.
Here are 10 of the best options in Europe.
They like to kick off the Christmas season early in Budapest, where food and gift stalls pop up in Vorosmarty Square as early as Nov.8.
The square in front of St Stephen’s Basilica also joins in the fun, with ice-skating and more luscious Hungarian food and trinket stalls, along with smaller markets in Deak Square and Fovam Square.
Just follow the scent of cinnamon-heavy chimney cake mingled with mulled grape.
When: Nov.8 to Jan.1
Croatia’s capital goes into a six-week festive frenzy, when at least a dozen Christmas markets take over Zagreb.
They’re everywhere — in parks, along hilltop paths, in tunnels, in squares and pedestrianised streets.
Not surprisingly for Croatia, you’ll find many more food stalls than gifts, so let your nose be your guide.
Afterwards, join the ice skaters gliding around the rink that twists and turns in Ledeni Park.
When: Nov.30 to Jan.7
Rustic wooden chalets fill Lille’s Place Rihour, selling toys and gifts along with tempting vats of cheesy tartiflette and sweet waffles dripping with chocolate.
Around the corner in the stately Grand Place, go for a ride on the giant ferris wheel before checking out more stalls and the Christmas grotto.
When: Nov.22 to Dec.29
More than 70 Christmas markets spread across Berlin and its suburbs, giving you a mind-boggling choice.
The biggest is in the old town of Spandau, a historic suburb on the west of Berlin. For something more central, check out the stalls in Gendarmenmarkt for the classic German Christmas market experience.
Hop through the centuries at Alexanderplatz, where there’s a medieval market as well as a ferris wheel offering fabulous views.
When: 25 November to 29 December
Elegant Vienna gets a glittering makeover as 14 markets pop up around the city.
If you want a full-on traditional Christmas, stroll around the market in front of the Schönnbrunn Palace and the Christmas Village taking over Maria-Theresien-Platz.
Join the ice skaters on the rink at Vienna Christmas World in Rathausplatz after you’ve sampled all the Austrian culinary treats sold at the Advent pleasure market by the Opera House.
When: dates vary from Nov.15 to Jan.6
Bruges has decided to go a different shade of green this Christmas — the ice rink in front of the belfry has been replaced with an environmentally friendly artificial one in its new floating home on the Minnewater.
Back in the Markt, you’ll still find craft and food stalls, with more pop-up bars and stalls around the corner in Simon Stevinplein.
When: Nov.22 to Jan.5
The wonderfully over-the-top Tivoli Gardens gets even more delightfully kitsch when the Christmas market takes over.
As well as checking out the food and gift stalls, you can have a whirl on the ice skating rink.
And if you happen to be in Copenhagen on Dec.13, you can catch the Santa Lucia floating parade of light-festooned kayaks on the canals.
When: Nov.16 to Jan.5
Smaller in scale but full of charm, Basel’s Christmas market sets up 160 stalls from Münsterplatz to Barfüsserplatz, where the range of food stalls will tempt you with gooey raclette and chunky sausages.
If you haven’t had enough snacking, check out the food stalls along the right bank of the Rhine at Claraplatz.
When: Nov.28 to Dec.23
France’s oldest and biggest Christmas market turns this exquisitely pretty city into something quite extraordinary.
Once you’ve marvelled at the Christmassy scene in front of the towering cathedral, browse the 100 or so stalls in Place Broglie before tasting Alsatian delicacies in the market in Place du Marché-aux-Poissons.
Strasbourg also holds the OFF Market, a socially responsible way to celebrate the season, with second-hand stalls and fair-trade products.
When: Nov.22 to Dec.30
Germany comes to Britain when the Frankfurt Christmas Market takes over Victoria Square.
It’s the biggest German market outside Germany, and the place to fill up on bratwurst, glühwein, schnitzel and every other kind of winter comfort food.
Just next door is the Christmas Craft Market, with more than 80 stalls to browse.
When: Nov.7 to Dec.23
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