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Who can resist a Christmas market?

That all-pervading atmosphere of anticipation, the spicy Christmas aromas that greet you as you approach along with that sense of relaxation and pure enjoyment makes Christmas shopping fun rather than a chore.

Started in Germany in the late Middle Ages, the oldest such market dates back to Dresden in 1434. Over the centuries, the sheer number of such markets has grown dramatically, appearing everywhere from Budapest to Malta, the UK to Austria.

We take a look at some of the best.

Cologne, Germany
This is a city of Christmas markets, with several held throughout the season. The largest is in the city centre; close to the cathedral and even hosts a massive carousel, which delights visitors of all ages. Each of the markets has a different ambiance, such as the Markt der Engel with hundreds of twinkling lights and angels flitting between gables, while the Nikolausdorf tells the story of St Nicholas.

Salzburg, Austria
Set among the mountains, Salzburg is the hometown of Mozart and the Sound of Music. The beautiful carol, Silent Night, was written and performed not far away. Shopping here is like stepping back into the past, as the market still has its fifteenth century appearance.

Valletta, Malta
Dominated by the great fortifications of the Knights Hospitallers, Valetta is home to a pretty Christmas market at Valletta Waterfront beside the Tritton Fountain. Take a break from shopping and meet our Santa & Elves.

Berlin, Germany
Around 80 markets are held across the city, even one purely for dogs! Weihnachtszauber, in the Gendarmenmarkt square specialises in arts & crafts or try tobogganing at Winter World.

Budapest, Hungary
Watch eyecatching Christmas laser projections on the great Basilica, try ice-skating and do some shopping in Budapest’s busy marketplace.

Prague, Czech Republic
A brilliant place to hunt for glass objects and intricate nativity scenes or enjoy delicious pancakes topped off with svarok, a citrusy mulled wine. Watch the figures move on the stunning fifteenth century astronomical clock overlooking the busy marketplace.

Strasbourg, France
Hand painted wooden decorations are a great buy at Strasbourg’s Christmas market held in the city’s central squares. With over 300 market stalls, this has often been described as France’s ‘Capital of Christmas’

Gothenburg, Sweden
Enjoy a stunning ice show as part of the Christmas offering while attending the market held in Lisberg’s popular amusement park. Pay to enter, but there is plenty of entertainment alongside the shopping and delicious food.

Bratislava, Slovakia
Wooden toys and beautiful decorations are perfect purchases at Bratislava’s wonderful fairy tale market held in the streets of this heritage city.

Vienna, Austria
A place of pure magic, with icicles dangling off the ornate buildings while light spills out from palace doorways. Stroll through the old town’s narrow streets to find countless stalls selling artisan products like handmade soaps and wooden toys. Stop off in the coffee shops for steaming hot chocolate and a slice of delicious cake.

Edinburgh, Scotland
Enjoy Hogmanay street parties, watch a torchlit procession through the Old Town, watch the illuminations in the Royal Botanic Gardens, discover an elves’ workshop hidden in a maze and shop for gifts including Harry Potter themed items in stalls tucked away along the Royal Mile.