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The tradition of the Christmas market which has its origins in Germany, Austria and Alsace has now spread throughout Europe to become a very popular tradition and is fast replicating to other destinations. They normally commence about four weeks before Christmas, the ‘Christkindlmarkt’ celebrates everything festive and is guaranteed to get you into the spirit of Christmas cheer, evoking images of unique arts and crafts, gift inspiration and copious amounts of mulled wine, gingerbread and other local specialties. Below are our top picks from one of the  oldest German markets in Nuremberg to perhaps the not so obvious Christmas market destinations in Barcelona and London.

1. STRASBOURG, FRANCE

Established since 1570, the ‘Christkindelsmärik’ in Strasbourg is France’s oldest Christmas market, with a 31 metre Christmas tree as its focal point. Visitors can choose from a selection of arts, crafts, Christmas decorations and traditional Alsatian delicacies such as Bredele’ (traditional biscuits from Alsace) and the famous chocolate Yule log. Opening dates: 29 November to 31 December 2014

2. NUREMBERG, GERMANY

The Nuremberg Christmas market claims to be one of the oldest in Germany and takes place annually in the city’s central market square since the 16th Century. You can savor the grilled sausage, mulled wine and fresh gingerbread aswell as Nuremberg’s famous ‘Zwetschgenmännle’, a small doll made from dried plums, nuts, raisins, and figs, which makes a popular souvenir. Opening dates: 29 November to 24 December 2014

3. VIENNA, AUSTRIA

Dating from 1294, the Viennese Christmas market is held against the majestic backdrop of the City Hall. The market is named the ‘Vienna Magic of Advent’ due to the festive lights adorning the stalls, the City Hall and the trees of the adjoining Rathauspark. Visitors are drawn by the sound of international choirs singing carols and the smell of crystallised fruit, candy floss and mulled wine. Some 150 wooden stalls sell Christmas gifts and tree decorations, while children can enjoy pony riding in the park and arts and crafts in the City Hall. Opening dates: 16 November to 23 December 2014

 4. GOTHENBURG, SWEDEN

Sweden’s largest Christmas market boasts an impressive 5 million Christmas lights, transforming the area into a winter wonderland. Guests can walk through the themed areas, including a medieval camp and a recreated Lapland, complete with Santa, reindeers and northern lights. Besides the 80 traditional Christmas shops and stalls, there is a ‘Designtornet’ arts and crafts market perfect for finding unique Christmas presents. Culinary highlights include Swedish candy cane (‘polkagrisar’), smoked fish and an array of baked goods. Opening dates: 14 November 2014 to 01 January 2015 

5. BRUSSELS, BELGIUM 

The Brussels Christmas Market will delight locals and visitors alike again. The festivities and displays create the magic whilst the numerous live animations and illuminations bring a unique atmosphere.  Opening dates: 28 November 2014 until 4 January 2015

6. PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC

Some cities are made for Christmas and Prague is one of those cities and Christmas markets are a key ingredient of the festive magic here. Prague Christmas markets are the country’s most impressive, lighting up the city, bringing locals and tourists together to share in the spirit in a ‘winter wonderland’ setting. The main Christmas markets can be found at the Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square. There is also a permanent market at Havel’s Market. Opening dates:28 November 2014 until 4 January 2015

7. LONDON, UK

If you want that something different and unique for a loved one, you’ll find plenty to choose from amongst the 50 wooden chalets that make up the Southbank Centre Christmas Market in London;  sheepskin rugs, local mead, door wreaths and even lobster mac ‘n’ cheese will all be among the goodies on sale along Queen’s Walk. Opening dates: 11 November 2014 until 4 January 2015

8. BARCELONA, SPAIN 

Fira de Santa Lucia – The largest outdoor Christmas market in Barcelona celebrates this year its 228 anniversary (1786-2014). A very popular and traditional figurine is “el Caganer” (the pooper), to be found hidden in Catalan nativity scenes or the Christmas Caga Tio (a smiley face log) from which the children receive their presents. Opening dates:30th November to 23rd December 2014

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