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Southbank to Striezelmarkt: my guide to Europe’s best Christmas markets

photoLONDON: London’s Southbank- Winter festivals and markets

Explore Southbanks free Christmas markets selling delicious festive food, warming drinks, unique gifts and seasonal ingredients.

http://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/winter-festival/markets

Southbank Centre Christmas Market

80 wooden chalets filled with festive food, drink, gifts and treats run along the twinkling riverside.Enjoy mulled wine, bratwurst and ginger bread whilst taking in the lights, sights and sounds of London at Christmas time. Come along and get in the Christmas mood.Queen’s Walk:16 November – 24 December

Monday – Friday 11am – 10pm/ Saturday & Sunday 10am – 10pm

The Chocolate Festival

Discover the goodness of fine artisan chocolate. Indulge yourself or take home irresistible Christmas presents and treat someone else!Southbank Centre Square: 7 – 9 DecemberFriday & Saturday 12 noon – 8pm/ Sunday 12 noon – 6pm

Real Food Christmas Market

Buy mince pies, mulled wine, cheeses, chutneys, charcuterie and all manner of traditional and non-traditional festive bites, ingredients and gifts.Southbank Centre Square: 14 – 16 & 20 – 23 DecemberThursday 12pm – 8pm/ Friday & Saturday 11am – 8pm/ Sunday 12pm – 6pm

Designers/Makers Christmas Market

Fifty designers/makers from across the UK sell their bespoke design products. The event also includes affordable-gift workshops and demonstrations, plus festive food and drinks.Festival Village: 14 – 16 December 2012Friday 11am – 10pm /Saturday 11am – 8pm/ Sunday 11am – 8pm

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ACROSS THE UK

The South EastChoral Canterbury

A traditional German Christmas market selling steaming gluhwein and bratwurst in Whitefriars Square will get you in the festive spirit from November 23 to December 23.The grand finale is the show-stopping Norman cathedral’s rousing carol services on December 23 and 24; www.canterbury-cathedral.org

Christmas cracker: Catch Jack And The Beanstalk at the Marlowe Theatre from November 29 to January 12, www.marlowetheatre.com

Tickets cost from £11, call 01227 787 787.

The South WestJingle bells in Bath

The pretty city welcomes more than 150 wooden chalets selling decorations, sugared treats and gifts of every kind between 15th century Bath Abbey and the Roman Baths – from November 28 to December 15; www.bathchristmasmarket.co.uk

Wintery Winchester

Set in the cathedral’s atmospheric inner close, this market has the full array of festive ingredients. It runs from November 21 to December 22, with stalls around the open-air ice rink (in situ until January 5) so you can shop, skate and sing. Tickets for the ice rink cost from £9.50 for adults and £5 for children; www.christmasinwinchester.co.uk

The MidlandsThe Frankfurt Christmas Market

The Frankfurt Christmas Market runs from November 14 to December 22 and spans Victoria Street, New Street, Centenary Square and Chamberlain Square. Birmingham has been twinned with Frankfurt for more than 40 years, so this is the real, authentic deal.

The North WestMerry Manchester

Sample delicacies from around the world as the city hosts an array of markets with more than 300 stalls in nine locations, including Albert Square, the Corn Exchange and Brazennose Street from November 15 to December 22; www.visitmanchester.com

YorkshireIlluminating Leeds

Hansel and Gretel would feel right at home in Leeds Millennium Square this winter when it welcomes more than 40 wooden chalets. It starts tomorrow and lasts until December 18. Give the Christmas carousel a whirl, followed by a visit to the Alp Chalet, with its Bavarian food; www.visitleeds.co.uk

The North EastNewcastle Knees Up

Magical after-dark entertainment is on the cards with a series of events taking place in Saltwell Park, Gateshead from 11 to 15 December. Enchanted Parks, as it is called, welcomes art installations and performances that light up the leafy backdrop when night falls. Tickets cost £6 for adults, £1 for under-18’s, free for children 3 and under, www.enchantedparks.com

ScotlandAberdeen unwrapped

The Granite City banishes winter with a series of celebrations starting with the switching on of the lights on November 24 in Union Street. There’s music, including pipe bands; http://www.visitscotland.com.

Edinburgh Epiphany

A Scottish market, a children’s market and a European market will set the streets sparkling from November 22 to January 5. There’s also a stage performance of Bing Crosby’s White Christmas at the Festival Theatre from November 29 to January 4. Tickets cost from £16, http://www.edtheatres.com.

WalesCrafty Cardiff

The Welsh capital gets the seasons off to a sizzling start with over 80 arts and crafts stalls selling traditional Welsh creations – love spoons, slate products, quality yarns – and more.The market runs from 14 to 23 November in the Hayes, Trinity Street, Working Street and St John’s Church, www.cardiffchristmasmarket.com

Christmas cracker: Ride a star on a 60-metre-high spinning chair ride in the Winter Wonderland on City Hall Lawn – where there is also an open-air ice rink from 14 November to 5 January, as well as German-style wooden stalls, http://www.cardiffswinterwonderland.com.

Northern IrelandBelfast baubles

Feast and frolic at the city’s continental Christmas market, from November 16 to December 22 in the attractive grounds of Belfast City Hall. You can post a list to Santa or drop into his grotto. There’s an Irish bar with live music, too; http://www.belfastcity.gov.uk.Christmas cracker: Hot-foot it to a traditional Punjana tea dance in Ulster Hall on December 3 and 4. Tickets are free, call 028 9033 4455.

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ACROSS EUROPE

BERLIN

If the range of markets in Berlin threatens to overwhelm you, head instead to Dresden, where one of the country’s oldest fairs, Striezelmarkt, takes place on Altmarkt square. The hand-made goods are said to be excellent, but we all know most people go to enjoy a warming cup of glühwein.November 26-December 24.

GERMANY

If theme parks aren’t your thing, why not head to one of Europe’s lesser-known markets in Heidelberg, Germany? Set against the beautiful backdrop of an illuminated castle, the market is nowhere near the scale of Cologne’s or Dresden’s, but is much loved by locals and those in the know.Heidelberg market opens on November 24 and runs until the end of December.

ESTONIA

The weather can be pretty chilly in Tallinn, Estonia at Christmas, but it’s worth braving the cold for the sight of its Christmas market, where there are 50 festive stalls to browse around. Even Father Christmas has been known to make an appearance. It is traditionally held in Raekoja plats, pictured.Till January 9

FRANCE

Lille’s Christmas market is undeniably geared towards luring in British tourists, but who can blame them; it’s only an hour or so away from London on the Eurostar. The market takes place at Place Rihour, and is said to be the largest in northern France.November 24-December 30.

COPENHAGEN

Copenhagen certainly takes Christmas seriously: up to a million people descend on the Christmas fair in Tivoli Gardens, Europe’s oldest amusement park, every year. Wooden huts selling food and gifts sit alongside rollercoasters and an ice rink, while hundreds of trees are decked with glittering lights. Make sure you sample glögg, a Nordic spin on mulled wine, featuring a generous splash of spirits.The market is on until Dec 30.

ITALY

Italy isn’t as well-known as Germany for its Christmas markets, but the historic city of Trento, hidden away in a glacial valley at the foot of the Alps, provides a beautiful background for a fair. The city’s old walls are decked out in lights, and the food and drink is said to be fantastic, though that’s only to be expected in Italy.The market is now open, and runs until January.

SWEDEN

Christmas markets have been happening in Stockholm for hundreds of years, with one of the best being the Skansen market on the park island of Djurgården. Its old-fashioned stalls sell gingerbread, cheese, sweets and craftware – not to mention that Christmas market requisite, mulled wine.Most markets in Stockholm are now open, and will close at the end of December.

BARCELONA

The Christmas market in front of Barcelona’s cathedral dates as far back to the 18th century, and is the place to go for nativity scene and tree decorations. Children will love the caga tió or “pooping log” – a smiling log which plops out presents when your little darlings hit it with a stick.Fira de Santa Lucia will be open until Christmas Eve.

CHRISTMAS MARKET: PARISChristmas Market on the Avenue des Champs-Elysées

This is the largest Christmas market within Paris’s city limits. The market stretches from the Champs-Elysées roundabout (Metro Champs Elysées-Clémenceau) to the Place de la Concorde (Metro Concorde). Also visit the Maison de l’Alsace at 39 avenue des Champs-Elysees, a temporary boutique offering traditional Alsatian Christmas goodies.

  • Open: From November 15th, 2013 through January 5th, 2014
  • Location: Avenue des Champs-Elysées to the Place de la Concorde
  • Metro: Passy, Champs Elysées-Clemenceau or Concorde
  • Open: Daily from 10:00 am to 11:00 pm; Fridays and Saturdays until midnight.

Christmas Market at La Défense

With 350 stands, this is one of the largest and most festive holiday markets around– in the surreal setting of high-rise buildings and the looming white structure of the Grande Arche.

  • Open: From November 27th through December 28th, 2013
  • Location: Parvis de la Défense (near the Grand Arche)
  • Metro/RER: La Défense

Christmas Market and Ice Rink at Trocadero

Featuring some 100 stands peddling gifts and goods perfect for the Christmas season, in addition to an ice-skating rink and “snow villages”. This one’s ideal for the kids, who’ll find plenty to keep busy.

  • Open: Daily from December 12th, 2013 to January 5th, 2014
  • Location: Place de la Trocadero, across from the Eiffel Tower
  • Metro: Trocadero

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