You could argue all day about where to find the best European Christmas Markets.
These markets are a distinctly German tradition, but they have spread across Europe.
If you're used to shopping in big malls and fighting for a parking spot...
These markets-in-the-middle-of-town will be a whole new shopping world for you....
They might just be worth a winter trip.
There are great Christmas markets across the continent.
Some have been around since the middle ages...
....some have only recently become traditions.
Even the newer Christmas Markets in Europe are fun to see.
They've taken lessons from the older ones.
At the biggest European Christmas markets, you'll see lots of Christmas cheer....
There will be many traditional Christmas decorations to buy from the area you're visiting...
...and lots of local food.
The shopping is for handmade ornaments, decorations, and children's toys.
The bigger cities may be easier to plan for, but don't neglect the smaller towns.
While the markets in the major cities may be among the best, keep in mind that bigger isn't always better...
...and the bigger European Christmas markets may be more crowded.
Choose a city that you would like to see anyway.
Maybe visit a big city and a small town nearby to get both experiences.
Remember, it's going to be cold... White Christmas anyone?
You're also going to run into short days, so it will be dark early, but the Christmas lights on the stalls in the squares will make it all festive and be fun.
Visit any of the great German Christmas Markets...
Cologne, Nuremberg, Dresden, Munich, Berlin, Stuttgart, or any of the smaller towns.
(The little town of Seiffen makes Christmas decorations year-round!)
Other countries with Germanic connections have great markets too.
In Austria, Vienna has had a market since the middle ages... some say it was the forerunner of the others.
Salzburg also has one of the oldest. It's smaller and more intimate than some, but what a romantic setting.
In Belgium, the Brussels Christmas Market hasn't been around all that long, but the Grand Place has been, and it makes a great setting. Look for the Fish Market transformed into an ice rink and lots of good food with the traditional arts and crafts.
In Denmark, Copenhagen's Christmas Market is set up in Tivoli Gardens, Europe's oldest amusement park, so you know you can expect a good time.
The Czech Republic has a beautiful market in Prague. It's a low key family affair. Look for good deals on Bohemian crystal as well as the wood carved puppets, toys and ornaments.
Tallinn, Estonia has one of the newcomers to the Christmas Market scene, but the medieval market square doesn't give that fact away. It's small but romantic. Hand knit sweaters, scarves and hats are specialties to look for here.
There is lots of Christmas cheer around London, but even here you can find a German-style Christmas market in Hyde Park.
Strasbourg's borders have changed several times through the centuries from France to Germany and back, so a Germanic style Christmas market has been a tradition here for over four hundred years.
In Rome, look for a totally different Christmas market experience with more traditional Italian handicrafts and lots of nativity scenes.
Winter is usually the "off season" for European travel, but you'd better book ahead for the most popular Christmas Markets.
For better prices on airfare, avoid peak Christmas travel dates.
Markets go from late-November through Christmas. (Advent on the Christian calendar - the four weeks before Christmas.) Some extend the festivities to the new year.
Never thought about this kind of holiday?
This is one of the most picturesque times of the year in some ways. It might be worth checking out European Christmas markets.