Top Christmas market mini-breaks in Europe

Five of the best European Christmas markets for a festive escape

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France, Bas Rhin, Strasbourg, Christmas market stalls Place de la Cathedrale

The Christmas countdown has begun and it's the perfect excuse for a short break to visit one of Europe's fabulous Christmas markets for some festive shopping.

With a plethora of atmospheric markets across the continent, you can explore Europe's beautiful cities, mountains and even lakeside destinations on a wonderful winter holiday.

Warm apple cider and mulled wine, fun ice skating and carol singing around the tree are great ways to get into the festive spirit.

From the enchanting architecture in Cologne to the quaint and cobbled streets of Strasbourg, we've picked some of the best Christmas market mini-breaks for 2016...

Strasbourg, France (25 November - 31 December 2016)

Strasbourg boasts the oldest Christmas market in France dating back to the 1570s. It is also Europe's largest, with 300 chalets spread over 12 sites. In the 'capital of Christmas,' visitors can ramble through the city's narrow, historic streets and squares to discover Christmas concerts, shows, activities and exhibitions. At the Christmas market, you will find arts and crafts, food and typical Alsatian Christmas decorations. A trip to Strasbourg also offers the chance to take an atmospheric tour at night with the watchman or visit Strasbourg's impressive gothic cathedral for a Christmas service. Hilton Strasbourg offers stays for £112 per room per night.

Krakow, Poland

Copenhagen, Denmark (19 November - 31 December 2016)

Denmark's picturesque capital city boasts one of Europe's most iconic Christmas markets at the world-famous Tivoli Gardens. The gardens provide a beautiful backdrop with colourful stores selling traditional handicrafts and festive food and drink such as apple dumplings and glogg, a warming Scandinavian mulled wine, as well as a spectacular light show over the beautiful Tivoli Lake. Visitors can also explore Christmas markets in the Nyhavn district along the banks of the famous Nyhavn canal and in Freetown Christiania, the city's bohemian district. Wexas Travel offers a three-night stay at 71 Nyhavn from £370 per person, including return flights and a Christmas at Tivoli Garden Tour (valid from 19 November to 31 December 2016).

Krakow, Poland (25 November - 26 December 2016)

The famous festive market in Krakow's Rynek Central Square is set within a baroque gothic wonderland with the Cloth Hall, one of the city's most recognisable buildings, providing an iconic backdrop. Grab a glass of mulled wine and explore surrounding streets where unusual Christmas gifts made by local artists and craftsmen can be found alongside edible souvenirs, coloured candies, spiced nuts and traditional cherry vodka. Hotel Indigo Krakow Old Town is set in the heart of the city's vibrant Old Town where the past and present meet. A stone's throw away from Old Kleparz Market, Florianska's shops and the vibrant nightlife of the Kazimierz district, the hotel offers stays from £93 per room per night.

traditional gingerbread hearts...

Innsbruck, Austria (15 November 2016 - 6 January 2017)

For a Christmas market break the kids will love, head for Innsbruck's Family Christmas Market at Marktplatz, which has a petting zoo and a big carousel. You can take the Hungerburg funicular to the unique Panorama Christmas Market on Hungerburg which boasts spectacular views of the snow-capped mountains and Innsbruck city while browsing the market stalls for a huge range of gifts and culinary delights. British Airways' new Heathrow to Innsbruck route starts from 4 December 2016, with return fares starting from £88. Book a two-night Advent package from 159 euros per person, which includes a 48-hour Innsbruck guest card.

Cologne, Germany (21 November - 23 December 2016)

Striking Cologne is a wonderful place to soak up the festive cheer in no time when you catch the Eurostar (just over four hours, via Brussels). Enjoy the currywurst, glühwein and pretzels on offer, while browsing the seven Christmas markets in this enchanting city, with the largest set against the backdrop of Cologne's magnificent gothic Cathedral and the tallest Christmas tree in the Rhineland. Eurostar offers return tickets from London to Cologne from £45 each way.

The UK's best Christmas markets

The UK's best Christmas markets