Nothing gets us into a festive mood better than a visit to a Christmas market. From twinkling lights to picture-perfect presents, we round up some of Europe's best markets to visit this festive season.
With Germany alone hosting nearly 100 Christmas markets, it's clear that Europe certainly knows how to do Christmas markets. From mulled wine and twinkly lights to snow sculptures and giant Christmas trees, we take a look at some of Europe's prettiest Christmas markets to help you plan a winter break that will not only take care of the Christmas shopping, but will have you raking in the Instagram likes as well.
Town Hall Square, Tallinn
Tallinn's idyllic Christmas Market is the epitome of fairy tale charm. At the heart of the market is Estonia's most famous Christmas tree, surrounded by cabins selling a variety of Christmas-themed trinkets. The Christmas tree is dwarfed however by the Town Hall itself, which boasts the title of the oldest town hall in the Baltic Region. Snow sculptures make for the perfect photo opportunity, as they are created in front of visitors and then illuminated for all to see. Santa and his reindeer will also be on hand if you're looking for a festive selfie. Stay in the Tallink City Hotel for a short ten-minute walk to the markets.
2016 dates: 20 Nov 16 - 23 Dec 16
Famed for its unique, handmade products, Berlin's Gendarmenmarkt is held at one of the prettiest squares in Germany. The area is surrounded by two cathedrals (the Deutscher Dom and the Französischer Dom) and a concert hall (Konzerthaus), which offer a stunning setting for the Christmas market. The stalls themselves are lined with tinsel and more than1000 strings of lights, and offer trinkets from glassware to candles and jewellery. Besides the many food delights on offer at the market stalls, Michelin-starred chefs are on hand to provide a slightly superior culinary experience (in heated tents to shelter from the winter chill). There is also an indoor area to the market, so you can warm up as well as taking in the atmosphere. For great pictures of the Gendarmenmarkt, you can climb the stairs in the French Church before they close at 6 p.m. Berlin's COSMO Hotel is the perfect place to stay, with its close proximity to the Gendarmenmarkt and great transport links to the rest of the city.
2016 dates: 21 Nov 16 - 31 Dec 16
Old Town Square, Prague
Prague has many markets selling traditional crafts but without doubt, the Christmas market in the Old Town Square is the most photogenic of them all. Each year, a huge Christmas tree is shipped in from Česká Lípa and put on display with its lights switched on every evening at 5 p.m., creating an ambient glow over the square. Adding to the Christmas feel, there's also an animal stable with sheep, goats and a donkey, as well as a large Bethlehem scene. There are plenty of food stalls too, selling seasonal fare such as spit-roasted pigs and traditional cakes and pastries such as the famous trdelnik (a hot, sugar-coated pastry). If that wasn't enough to convince you that Prague's Old Town Square is worth a visit, the trinkets on offer are pretty enough by themselves; from jewellery and wooden toys to scented candles and Christmas tree ornaments. Famed for its walkability, you can stay pretty much anywhere in Prague and still be in the Old Town Square in less than 20 minutes. We recommend the Nice View Apartments, which are less than five minutes from the square and offer a modern twist on this historic city.
2016 dates: 03 Dec 16 - 04 Jan 17
Winter Wonderland, London
Celebrating its 10th anniversary this year is London's Winter Wonderland. Millions of Londoners and tourists descend on Hyde Park annually for not only the 200 plus Christmas markets, but for funfair attractions which range from a 1600 square metre ice rink to a giant Ferris wheel. Other activities include the Magical Ice Kingdom, which displays impressive ice sculptures around a certain theme (this year it's 'An Arctic Adventure') and Bar Ice, where you can sip cocktails to your heart's content in a pretty, arctic environment. You certainly won't be short of photo opportunities, with ice sculptures, giant Christmas trees and pretty Christmas markets spanning much of London's Hyde Park. Stay at the Cavendish Hotel. Located close to Hyde Park it's perfectly placed for a visit to Winter Wonderland, but it's also conveniently located nearby London's thriving theatre and shopping districts.
2016 dates: 18 Nov 16 - 02 Jan 17
Römerberg Square, Frankfurt
Stretching from the Zeil shopping mall to the Römerberg and down to the river, more than 200 stalls offer arts, crafts and traditional Christmas treats at Frankfurt's Christmas market. A 30-metre Christmas tree dominates the square, adding thousands of lights to the market's festive atmosphere. Entertainment in the form of concerts and trumpet fanfares take place from the balcony of St. Nicholas Church, which also provides stunning views of the market. The NH Collection is located just five minutes from the Zeil shopping mall, so would make a great place to stay if you're visiting the Römerberg Square market.
2016 dates: 25 Nov 16 - 22 Dec 16