Best for unusual gifts: Amsterdam
Looking for something more unique than wooden toys and scented candles? You’re sure to find it in Amsterdam, which hosts an amazing total of 26 Christmas markets every year. Perhaps your best bet for finding an alternative present is the Funky Christmas Market, which specialises in colourful creations in the fields of design, crafts, jewellery, illustration and fashion. Eco buffs should head to the Pure Winter Market, where green-minded stallholders sell an array of organic foodie treats and sustainable gifts. For something even more unusual, make a day trip to Valkenburg in the south of the Netherlands, where a stunning underground festive market takes place in a cave beneath the beautiful Valkenburg Castle.
Best for epic backdrops: Austria
If you prefer spectacular scenery to urban adventures then head for the ‘Christbaumwald im See’ on Austria’s Lake Millstatt. It’s set high in the Alps, a two-hour drive from Salzburg, and its position on a pier overlooking Lake Millstatt is unrivalled. There may be only a handful of stalls here, but you can still enjoy good food, fun present shopping and mulled wine served around open fires. Why not combine a visit to this unique market with a skiing trip to a resort such as Mayrhofen or Kühtai, packing both into a trip to Salzburg from Glasgow Airport?
Best for kids: Vilnius
Taking over the Lithuanian capital’s Odminiu Square from mid-December until the beginning of the New Year, find a magical network of wooden stalls selling local crafts and handmade gifts, sweets and local delicacies. This is one of Europe’s newest festive fairs and offers plenty to entertain younger members of the family. Children can meet Father Christmas and his reindeer, take a spin on the ice rink and be dazzled by the huge tree adorned with flashing lights. The young and young at heart can also hop on a little Christmas train festooned with decorations and chug around the city’s festivities.
Best for romantics: Germany
Wander hand in hand around historic cities glittering with lights in Germany – home of the traditional Christmas market. With a market spread over seven parts of the city and some seriously stylish boutiques to boot, Düsseldorf is a perfect place to treat your loved one to that unique gift. From 19 November to 23 December, the city’s sprawling Christmas market offers up a mesmerising array of festive cheer, while designer treats can be found in their masses at the Königsallee; the likes of Armani and Hermes twinkle amid the Christmas lights on this super glam street. Around an hour’s drive south of Düsseldorf, Cologne’s host of Christmas markets are also not to be missed.
Best for foodies: London
London’s foodie scene is fast surpassing other European capitals, and nowhere is that clearer than in the city’s Christmas markets. Chow down on gourmet mince pies at the Real Food Christmas Market behind the Royal Festival Hall, where you can also stock up on cheese, sweets and craft beer in time for Christmas. More London Christmas Market is famous for its cheese, chocolate and gingerbread houses, and even the fabulously kitsch Hyde Park Winter Wonderland serves excellent street food alongside gingerbread hearts and mulled wine.