As the Festive Season rolls in, Christmas Markets will be popping up all across Europe and the UK. From sunny Barcelona to snowglobe-perfect Vienna and back on home soil at some of the UK's most picturesque cities - stalls will be brimming over with Christmas cheer. So if you're looking for gifts, gorgeous settings or goblets of gluhwein, look no further than the best of the best below.
With so many incredible Christmas markets to choose from, narrowing down our Top 10 was no easy task. If you think we've left out any particularly memorable ones, drop us a comment on facebook or in the pop-up box below.
For hundreds of years people have sought out Winchester Cathedral for its beautiful architecture, holiness and heritage. Since 2006, the Cathedral’s historic Inner Close, which surrounds an open-air ice rink, has also played host to a Christmas Market. This unique setting, with its magically-lit wooden chalets offering everything from mulled wine to a wide range of high quality wares, attracts more than 350,000 visitors each year. Winchester Christmas Market may not be as old as some of the others across Europe, but it’s fast becoming renowned for being one of the best.
Dates: 22 November - 23 December
For more information: www.winchester-cathedral.org.uk/christmas
The World Heritage City of Bath has also been referred to as "the Christmas Capital of the West". As the Festive Season creeps up, the quaint streets and square between Bath Abbey and the famous Roman Baths come alive with as much festive cheer as can be contained in the gift-filled stalls. And this year that magic spills a little further afield with even more wooden chalets lining Bath Street and Milson Place. Go for the shopping, the entertainment, the carols and the food - whatever takes your fancy, but just make sure to go.
Dates: 22 November - 9 December
For more information: www.bathchristmasmarket.co.uk
Portsmouth’s 2012 Victorian Festival of Christmas is the 13th of its kind and this year celebrates the 200 year anniversary of the birth of Charles Dickens. As a tribute to the great British author and times gone by, the annual festival brings the magic of a Victorian Christmas to life with traditional characters, 18th century dances and games as well as a variety of stalls selling gifts and Christmas treats, all throughout the atmospheric Historic Dockyard.
This year there’ll also be drink demonstrations and tastings - what’s better than walking through snowy streets, full of Christmas cheer and sipping on mulled wine or a hot toddy? You’ll only have one weekend for the opportunity to be transported into a Dickensian Christmas, so don’t miss out.
Dates: 30 November - 2 December
For more information: www.christmasfestival.co.uk
One of the UK’s most popular Christmas destinations, Edinburgh really gets it right when it comes to festive cheer. Aesthetically pleasing all year round, the city seems to almost burst with beauty as it gears up for Christmas. From the magically illuminated streets and ice rink to parades and fireworks, Edinburgh really brings true Christmas spirit to life. For a memorable market experience this festive season, head to the Highland Village Christmas Market to enjoy the locally produced wares, food and high-spirited drinks.
Dates: 29 November - 6 January
For more information: www.edinburghschristmas.com
The bustling atmosphere of Albert Square is an experience all year round, but never more so than over the Christmas Season. Lined with stalls, it calls for visitors to spend a good few hours soaking up the Christmas cheer to really make the most of it. The beautifully decorated stalls boast a variety of produce; from bonsais and birdhouses to jewellery and clothing, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. And when you’re ready to refuel, indulge in some of the gatstronic treats - such as hog roast, cheesy potatoes, macaroons and gingerbread - or head to the Beer Hall, Gluhwein House or for some Christmas punch to get you into the festive spirit.
Dates: 17 November - 23 December
For more information: www.manchester.gov.uk
Berlin has been referred to as "the capital of traditional Christmas markets". Although there are over 50 festive markets across the city come December, by far the most popular is at Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächtniskirche, which over 4 million people visited last year. If that’s not enough to pique your interest - the location is a memorial church that was bombed in WW2 and only partially restored - imagine browsing through stalls selling cutting-edge work of some of Europe’s leading artists, while sipping on mulled wine and snacking on roasted chestnuts - all the while soaking up bygone architecture and Germany’s rich cultural heritage.
Dates: 21 November - 24 December
For more information: www.visitberlin.de
For a fairytale Christmas, head to Prague’s Christmas Market at the Old Town Square. The Old Town, with its beautiful Gothic architecture, is transformed into a mid-winter wonderland with charming wooden huts boasting everything from Bohemian crystal to trdlo, traditional sugared bread. Centre stage of the market is an enormous Christmas Tree, which is imported from the mountains in the north each year - the annual lighting of the tree is a truly memorable experience. Other activities include an open-air ice rink and a petting zoo, or wander around the stalls sipping on Medovina, made from honey or Becherovka, a warmly-spiced liquor that locals say tastes exactly like Christmas.
Dates: 26 November - 8 January
For more information: www.czechtourism.com
The Christkindlmarkt, held outside Vienna’s famous City Hall, is one of the oldest Christmas Markets in Europe, as well as one of the most visited. Dating back to 1294, it’s so much of what makes a quintessential Austrian Christmas. With over 150 stalls prompting visitors to buy their festive decorations or traditional treats, such as toasted almonds and gingerbread, it really is something of a Viennese wonderland. When you’re almost brimming over with Christmas cheer, take a stroll over to Freyung and enjoy your gluhwein to the musical masterings of the daily (16:30) advent concert.
Dates: 17 November - 24 December
For more information: www.wien.info
Germany is the birthplace of traditional Christmas markets, so it’s no surprise that another German market makes it into the Top 10. The 400-year-old Christkindlmarkt has become one of the best known in Europe. Perhaps it’s because it dates back to 1628 or perhaps because it’s set in the cobbled square of Nuremberg’s Old Town and adorned with decorations and hundreds of tiny lights. All we know is that the food is incredible, particularly the bratwurst (traditional sausage) and the lebkuchen (gingerbread with honey) and there’s nothing like enjoying that old familiar gluhwein while being serenaded by live bands in this beautiful European city.
Dates: 26 November - 24 December
For more information: www.christkindlesmarkt.de
While the coast of Spain may not be what comes to mind when imagining a traditional Christmas, Barcelona nonetheless boasts one of Europe's best Christmas markets. Fira de Santa Llucia has over 300 festive stalls selling nativity scenes, mistletoe and traditional Catalan gifts. It also entertains visitors with parades, musical shows and 30 miles of Christmas lights. If you’re inclined to have a sweet tooth, make sure to try out torron, Catalonia’s famous nougat or Pa de Nadal, special Christmas bread. Barcelona is always up for a party, so getting into the festive spirit shouldn’t be too tough - here’s to abandoning gluhwein in favour of sangria and enjoying Christmas in the sun.
Dates: 27 November - 23 December
For more information: Fira de Santa Llúcia 2012
Last Updated: November 2012