Europe's most beautiful Christmas markets

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Cologne, Germany

Every year some 4 million people visit the Christmas market by the Cologne Cathedral. It is regarded as one of Germany's most popular markets. Both the market stalls and the over 100 stage performances help to spread festive cheer. A Christmas market app helps visitors plan their time at the market and share their experiences on social media.

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Kraków, Poland

Kraków's Christmas market is located in the middle of the old city. Those who are not warmed by the romantic setting might find a bit of Polish vodka helpful. The main attraction is an annual competition for the best model nativity scene. The contest has been held on the first Thursday in December since 1937.

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Vienna, Austria

The Old Viennese Christmas Market held in front of the Schottenkirche in the city center is committed to tradition. Its main attraction is the 46-meter (151-foot) nativity, the longest in Austria. In 1987, the city decided to counter what it saw as the growing globalization of Christmas markets and put the focus back on handicrafts, glass decorations, traditional nativity scenes and ceramics.

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Basel, Switzerland

The Basel Christmas market at Barfüsserplatz is the largest in Switzerland and considered to be one of the prettiest, with the longest festively lit road in Europe. Some 180 market stalls are packed together on this road. Here you can find anything your heart desires, from wooden toys to vegan products and Indian handicrafts.

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Strasbourg, France

The "Christkindelsmärik," as the Christmas market is called in Strasbourg, will be held for the 448th time in 2017. That makes it the oldest Christmas market in France. It's made special by the typical wooden market stalls, not just located around Strasbourg Cathedral, but all around the old city center, each has its own specialty.

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Bruges, Belgium

Christmas market stalls in Bruges are located on the "Grote Markt" square, but the entire medieval city is also festively lit for the holidays. Christmas lights decorate house gables and make the town enchanting when darkness descends. Around the market place there are horse drawn carriages waiting to take you on a tour of the city.

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Madrid, Spain

Madrid holds its Christmas market on the Plaza Mayor. The height of the festive season in Spain is January 6th. That is when the "King's parade" is held. It is these three kings, also known as the three wise men, who bring gifts at Christmas in Spain. Every year thousands of tourists come to join the street festivities. The parade is broadcast live on television.

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London, Great Britain

German Christmas has been exported and the "Winter Wonderland" in London's Hyde Park is the best proof of it. Based on the German model, this Christmas market has a "Bayern Rutschi" fairground ride and "German Bratwurst" sausages. A Ferris wheel, rollercoaster and ice rink complete the Christmas show. Also popular is the "Magical Ice Kingdom" ice sculpture display.

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Gothenburg, Sweden

The "Jul pa Liseberg" Christmas market in Gothenburg is the largest in Sweden. In this magical place 5 million Christmas lights spread festive joy. Everything is on offer, from Swedish specialties to music and theater performances as well as rides on a reindeer drawn sleigh. As this is the location of a theme park in the summer, they are well equipped to make the market a pleasurable experience.

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Nuremberg, Germany

The Christkindlesmarkt, which could be literally translated as "Christ Child Market," in Nuremberg is opened with a prologue by the Christkind every year. This is one of the world's oldest Christmas markets as it was mentioned in official documents as far back as 1628. Christmas decorations are on offer here as well as the typical local Christmas specialty "Nürnberger Lebkuchen" ginger bread.

Winter weather might be lacking but Christmas Markets in many European cities are now open. There's still time to stroll through them and enjoy some mulled wine before the pre-Christmas shopping stress kicks in.