They have never been so popular – so pour the mulled wine and wrap yourself warm while Europe's cities shine with lights, stately trees and a million yuletide shopping.
From Strasbourg to York, we are choosing the best Christmas markets for 2018. , ,
Winter wonderland: Haumpmarkt in Nuremberg, pictured above
POLISHED IN POLAND
The 80s season of Krakow – with 80 stalls on the 13th-century market square – promises choral music, carriage rides and a competition for best nativity scenes. There are crisp knuckles and pieces of Tatra sheep's cheese. A snow dust usually rises to the festive O-meter.
BUY STAR: A small, blue and white Boleslawiec ceramic Christmas tree.
WHEN AND WHERE: November 30th to Boxing Day, Rynek Glowny (discovercracow.com).
BOOK IT: The double at the five-star Hotel Stary on December 14 cost £ 251 (hotelstary.com). Ryanair flies from £ 130 to Krakow (ryanair.com).
GO ON EXPERIENCE
The self-styled capital of Christmas, Strasbourg's 300-Chalet Tinsel Festival is so impressive that visitors often stay for three days. The centuries-old market has French and German influences in pretzels, foie gras, sauerkraut and tarte flambée.
BUY STAR: Tin cans, Alsace biscuits.
WHEN AND WHERE: 24th November to 30th December, across the city (noel.strasbourg.eu/de/accueil).
BOOK IT: Doubles at the four-star Le Moon from £ 171 (lemoon-strasbourg.com). Take the Eurostar from London to St. Pancras in December from £ 198 (Eurostar.com).
The medieval streets of York, which are surrounded by 13th-century walls, provide an atmospheric venue for the St. Nicholas Mass. Imaginative gifts abound; from handmade dolls to drinking horns in the Viking style, an allusion to the former inhabitants of the city. And York Minster is always in the field of vision.
BUY STAR: Crumbly Christmas Wensleydale.
WHEN AND WHERE: November 15 to December 23, Parliament Street (visityork.org).
BOK IT IT: Principal York with five stars from £ 179 per night on December 14 (phcompany.com, 01904 653 681).
Advent brings a village with small red huts to Gamla Stan, Stockholm's old town. Beat the cold with roasted Swedish dishes such as Lussekatter (saffron roll), Glogg (mulled wine) and – sip – reindeer meat with almond potatoes.
BUY STAR: Traditional hand-carved wooden Dala horses.
WHEN AND WHERE: November 24 to December 23, Gamla Stan (visitstockholm.com)
BOOK IT: Sunvil will spend three nights in Stockholm for £ 650 per person in December, based on two nights at Nobis Hotel. The price includes breakfast, flights, private transfers and a 48-hour Stockholm Pass (sunvil.co.uk, 020 8758 4722).
Winter warmer: At these Christmas markets you will definitely feel festive (image).
A happy clash of cultures takes place at the end of November, when the central square of Florence turns into a German Christmas market.
The 55-Hütten-Markt near the cathedral offers plenty of traditional Bavarian cuisine, but also Florence – and Italy – are well represented, including delicious Florentine and soap soaked with Tuscan herbs.
BUY STAR: A divinely packed panettone (festive Italian cake).
WHEN AND WHERE: November 28 to December 20 in Piazza Santa Croce (visit florence.com).
BOOK IT: Citalia makes three nights to Florence from £ 408 per person and flies with BA from London on December 1st. The price includes B & B at the 4-star plus Hotel Brunelleschi (citalia.com, 01293 831 970).
Bavaria shines with festive jubilation at the beginning of December and Nuremberg, with its Christkindlesmarkt on the historic main market, is at the forefront. Candy-striped huts serve rum mulled wine and little gingerbread mountains – soft, spicy gingerbread. Take a look at the international gift market.
BUY STAR: A three in the Weggla (festive snack of the city).
WHEN AND WHERE: November 30th to Christmas Eve, Hauptmarkt (christkindlesmarkt.de)
BOOK IT: Two nights at the five-star Meridien Grand Hotel Nuremberg cost £ 448, based on two participants, marriott.com. Flights to BA to Nuremberg in mid-December cost from £ 100, ba.com
The Basel market is one of the most visited Christmas attractions in Switzerland. At the 180 stands the processed cheese is strongly represented. Giant fondues and raclettes offer shoppers hot, bubbly food. Even for children, there is a fairytale forest attraction with candles and decorations.
BUY STAR: Tailored balls as you watch.
WHEN AND WHERE: November 22 to December 23 at Barfüsserplatz and Munsterplatz in the Old Town (basel.com).
BOOK IT: Stay at the five-star Hotel Hyperion Basel from £ 120 per night for a double room (h-hotels.com). Fly with Swiss from Heathrow to swiss.com for £ 207 from mid-December.
A CHILD DREAM
Merry: The traditional Christmas market takes place in Tallinn's Town Hall Square in Estonia
The Tallinn Town Hall Square in Estonia has been home to a Christmas tree since 1441, and the market is now forming a star shape, with rustic huts often covered in fresh snow. An authentic-looking Old Saint Nick welcomes children in its vault, and there are Baltic winter specialties, including hearty portions of steam pudding and cabbage.
BUY STAR: Pine fruit bowls, cozy felt slippers.
WHEN AND WHERE: 16 November to 7 January, Rathausplatz (visitestonia.com).
BOOK IT: Two nights at the five-star boutique hotel Three Sisters costs £ 339 including breakfast, relaischateaux.com. Air Baltic flies from £ 112, based on flights from December 11, to the Estonian capital, airbaltic.com.