Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, copious amounts of mulled wine and some of the best hot chocolate you've ever had.
It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas across Europe as hundreds of yuletide markets set up their seasonal shops for 2022. While most popular in towns throughout Germany and Belgium, Christmas markets appear across the continent with a wide range of themes, specialty goods and local food traditions.
From Alpine summits to tiny island towns, go off the well-trodden Christmas market trail for these 10 European favorites that shine with their own unique yuletide culture.
Dates: November 15 - December 23, 2022
In the snowy Austrian Alps, Innsbruck hosts several enchanting Christmas markets. In the medieval old town, a huge tree glitters in front of the Golden Roof, folk bands play and chalets sell decorations, candles, gingerbread and mulled wine. Kids love the traditional fairground rides and puppet shows on riverside Marktplatz or take them to fairy-tale-themed Kiebachgasse. Market stalls and trees packed with twinkling lights light up Maria Theresien Street.
Austria's national parks are an Alpine playground
Mt Pilatus, Switzerland
Dates: November 18 - 20, 2022
For novelty value and sensational Alpine views, ride to Europe's highest Christmas market on the world's steepest cogwheel railway, which has been trundling up to 6995ft (2132m) Mt Pilatus since 1889. Perched above Lake Lucerne, the mountaintop Christkindlimärt has festive music and over 40 decorated market stalls selling beeswax candles, nativity figurines, gingerbread and other stocking fillers.
The 7 most scenic road trips in Switzerland
Schloss Hellbrunn, Austria
Dates: November 17 - December 24, 2022
Christmas markets glitter all over Austria come advent, but few are as magical as Hellbrunn Advent Magic held at Salzburg's Schloss Hellbrunn, with carollers, handicraft stalls, a Christmas train ride and petting zoo for kids, and the baroque palace's 24 windows transformed into a giant advent calendar. A Christmas parade, brass bands, Alphorn blowers, nativity scenes and a veritable forest of 400 twinkling trees make yuletide here special.
How to get around Austria's magnificent landscape
Dates: November 23 - December 28, 2022
For the true spirit of Christmas, you can't beat Colmar in Alsace, where the gingerbready, half-timbered old town hosts five different Christmas markets. Canal-woven Petite Venise hosts the children's market, keeping the kids entertained with its carousel, animated nativity scene and Santa's letterbox, while antique, art and craft shoppers roam the Ancienne Douane. Alsatian gingerbread, spicy Bredele cookies, anise-flavored Springerle biscuits and kirsch-laced Berawecka fruit cake make great foodie stocking fillers.
A reason to travel to Hauts-de-France in 2023: Europe’s new region of gastronomy
Dates: November 26 - December 23, 2022
Who needs Santa when you can have a grinning, present-pooping log called Caga Tió? You will find this Catalan Christmas oddity in miniature form alongside mistletoe, turrón nougat and a biblical wonderland of nativity figurines at Barcelona's Fira de Santa Llúcia, sprawling in front of the Gothic cathedral on Plaça de la Seu. And if you think Caga Tió is bizarre, wait until you see the irreverent Caganer, a defecating figurine hidden in the nativity scene for good fortune and fertile harvests.
Where to find Barcelona's most beautiful architecture
Dates: November 30 to December 23, 2022
Few towns look as Christmassy as Gengenbach in Germany's Black Forest. Its half-timbered old town is real snow globe stuff when the fairy lights are flicked on, timber chalets glow and carollers sing in front of the 18th-century, pink-and-cream Rathaus (Town Hall). Grab a spot here at 6 pm to see one of 24 windows open to reveal an advent calendar scene by famous artists and illustrators.
Road trip to the best of Germany’s Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg
Dates: November 25, 2022 - January 8, 2023
You're more or less guaranteed snow in Tallinn at Christmas. Festivities are spread throughout the Unesco-listed Old Town, with an enormous tree towering above quaint wooden chalets on Raekoja plats (Town Hall Square), its medieval centerpiece. Estonian crafts like hand-knitted hats, sea-grass animals, wickerwork and wood carvings are top buys. Santa Claus often stages an appearance in the evening. Find respite from sub-zero temperatures in candlelit cafes and warm up with hearty Estonian grub like sauerkraut and blood sausage.
St Helier, Jersey
Dates: November 24 - December 11, 2022
Supporting local artisans is central to the Genuine Jersey Simply Christmas Market held in St Helier, Jersey. Chestnut trees strung with lights illuminate Royal Square, and market stalls get shoppers into the festive spirit with mistletoe, real ales, minced pies and locally-made crafts. There'll be live music and entertainment too, bringing visitors all the Christmas spirit they need in one appealing parcel.
8 Christmas traditions from around the world
Dates: multiple markets with a variety of dates
Malmö dishes up a Swedish smorgasbord of Christmas markets, concerts and twinkling trees. Browse for handmade decorations, pausing to warm up over glögg (mulled wine) with pepparkakor (ginger biscuits) or lussekatter (saffron-flavored buns). Katrinetorp manor (December 3 to 5) is the go-to market for antiques, poinsettias and festive food, while the market in Gustav Adolf Square sells fairtrade, recycled and vintage gifts. Slip on skates to twirl around the open-air ice rinks at Raoul Wallenbergs and Folkets Park.
9 of the best road trips in Sweden: take a chance on these
Dates: December 1 - 4, 2022
On the blustery Cornish coast, Padstow's Christmas Festival is a cracker. Rick Stein, Paul Ainsworth and Nathan Outlaw are among a star-studded line-up of chefs giving cookery demos to spice up Christmas dinner. Jazz bands and carollers entertain crowds milling around quayside stalls selling Cornish chutneys, pies and mulled cider, wooden toys and decorations. For kids there's the reindeer enclosure and Santa Fun Run, where some 200 Father Christmas wannabes race for charity. Fireworks sparkle in the harbor at 8:30 pm on Friday.
Christmas desserts from around the world (and where to try them)