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Gifts, glühwein and good vibes: get that festive feeling with our pick of Europe’s best winter markets

Hamburg, Germany

Hamburg Germany

For all the festivity, all of the time

Father Christmas et al. may inhabit the North Pole, but the home of the Christmas market has got to be Hamburg. With more markets than Santa has reindeer (the maritime city has at least nine), revellers and shoppers of every ilk will find one that meets their merry needs – from a classical Christmas scene outside the town hall and a winter woodland in the main shopping streets to arts and crafts stalls in the St. Michaelis Church’s crypts or the strictly adults-only St Pauli. A particular treat for all ages is the Christmas Parade, held on the last four Saturdays before Christmas – a bright, atmospheric procession setting off from Galeria Kaufhof/Saturn three times a day.

Come between 23 November 2015, when most of the city’s markets open, and 23 December – although several remain open until the new year
Stay at the Atlantic Kempinski, the grande dame of Hamburg’s hotels, and the perfect retreat from the Christmas crowds

Vienna, Austria

Vienna Austria

For enchanting architecture

Set against a backdrop of imperial and baroque buildings, the twinkling lights, traditional nativity displays and picture-perfect wooden huts of Vienna’s many markets make for a true fairytale scene come Christmas-time. The Viennese Market at City Hall is held on the magnificent Rathausplatz, with its neon-lit stalls selling handicrafts and decorations, and attracting three million visitors each year. After dark, join the locals who flock to the stalls in the Museums Quartier to enjoy countless varieties of glühwein, or team up with the active types at the Christmas Village in the Old AKH to play ice stock, a game similar to curling. Children, meanwhile, will find entertainment at the winter market on Riesenradplatz, where fairground rides and musical performances take place.

Come from 13 November 2015 up to two days before Christmas, to get the best of them
Stay at Do&Co for a break from tradition – a boutique hotel that oozes contemporary chic

Lille, France

Lille France

For festive feasting

The first of the French Christmas markets to open each year, Lille’s is held on Place Rihour. Heady with the scent of roasting chestnuts and Nutella crêpes, here you’ll find a charming faux-snow-capped village with over 80 stalls selling handicrafts and French, German, Polish and Canadian speciality foodstuffs, making it the perfect place to stock up on gourmet gifts – or keep your energy up. For a captivating view of market and Renaissance old town, jump on the 50m Ferris wheel – Santa himself has been known to hop on board for a ride.

Come 18 November to 30 December 2015
Stay at the historic L’Hermitage Gantois, a fifteenth-century beauty close to both the market and main train station

Valkenburg, Holland 

Valkenburg Holland

For an immersive experience

This sleepy town on the Dutch-Belgian borders fires into life when the Christmas markets open (and into song – the town has its very own Christmas Song). Beyond the tunefulness, what really sets these markets apart is their layout: galleries of stalls are set up in a series of caves around town, including the largest and oldest underground Christmas market in Europe. While caving (or browsing for artisanal handicrafts), shoppers are entertained by a series of ingenious installations; last year, the undulating belly of a sleeping Santa was a highlight. Explore the Velvet, Municipal and Wilhelmina Caves – then take the chairlift up the Wilhelmina Tower for exceptional views of the Geuldal region’s rolling hills.

Come from 13 November to 23 December, making sure to catch the parade on Wednesday evenings at 7pm or Saturdays at 7.30pm
Stay at the Hotel Kasteel Geulzicht. A stone’s throw from the town, it’s the idea base for exploring the area

Copenhagen, Denmark

Copenhagen Denmark

For letting it snow, letting it snow etc…

A dusting of snow makes an already merry scene feel altogether magical. For the best chance of a white Christmas, head to one of the Nordic countries. The Tivoli Gardens – one of the oldest amusement parks in the world – provides a fantastical setting for Copenhagen’s most popular Christmas market, where wooden stalls selling gifts, food (sweets are a particular speciality) and drinks are spread across 1,200 square metres. There are plenty of other festive attractions elsewhere in town, too, whether you choose to visit St. Nick at the Pantomime Theatre, pet reindeer in the park, watch a festive show in the Tivoli Concert Hall, or go in for a snowball fight.

Come 13 November 2015 to 3 January 2016
Stay at Hotel sp34 – serious Scandi design an easy walk from the main attractions

Once you’ve chosen your winter wonderland, find your flights and book your trip

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