'Tis the season to be jolly - and nothing says jolly more than a visit to a Christmas market. The concept of this rather magical experience started in Germany as early as the Middle Ages, when traders gathered to sell their goods before the bleak midwinter set in, but these days most of the western world embraces them with warmth and passion.
And one of the best things about them is that they provide the perfect excuse for a Christmas a mini break. Prague, Bruges, Brussels and Germany are all popular places to pop to (and Eurostar run a number of short festive breaks to the continent). And closer to home, the UK is bursting with Christmas markets, many in scenic spots.
So what's all the fuss about? Christmas markets or Christkindlmarkts are all about celebrating everything traditional (albeit with a definite German tinge). Think gingerbread and stollen, bratwurst and candied fruit, as well as lots of local arts and crafts. While they provide a haven for shoppers, most people go simply to soak up the atmosphere: there's a certain joie de vivre here that warms the cockles of the heart (and yes, the mulled wine and eierpunsch definitely help).
And to see the best of the UK's Christmas markets, check out this selection. Tell us below if we've missed out any good ones!