Add a little festive flavour to your ski holiday this year, visit a traditional Christmas market on your way to the slopes.
It just so happens that many of Europe's most popular Christmas markets are located in cities you're likely to fly to on route to the ski resorts. Extend your holiday by a day and explore the festive atmosphere and merriment of a traditional Christmas market.
Here's our pick of the best Christmas markets in Europe:
Edinburgh hosts two Christmas markets. The Traditional German Christmas Market (Nov. 24 to Dec. 24) is located on Mound Precinct and is actually set up by stallholders from Frankfurt. Here you'll find a mix of classic and contemporary gifts as well as a range of German food and drink including hearty sausages, fried potato cakes, crepes and German beer, as well as the now famous Glühwein (hot spicy wine). The Highland Village Christmas Market (Nov. 24 to Jan. 4) in East Princes Street Gardens offers everything from Scottish foodie treats to woolly hats and Scottish teddy bears. Scottish produce is on sale from a range of food producers and retailers including venison burgers from Well Hung and Tender, as well as candles, gifts, jewellery and quirky clothes. Ediburgh also features Christmas fair rides and an outdoor ice skating rink.
Edinburgh's Traditional German Christmas Market
Munich's 'Christkindlmarkt' (Nov. 25 to Dec. 24) dates back to the 14th century. It is located in the heart of the city, in Marienplatz. You can find traditional Bavarian Christmas gifts, like wood carvings, gingerbread, beeswax candles, religious figurines for the manger, plum-almond chimney sweeps and handmade children's toys. Each day a concert is held on the balcony of Munich's town hall. Children aged 6-12 can enjoy arts, crafts and baking Christmas cookies in the Town Hall's Heavenly Workshop.
Christkindlmarkt in Munich
Salzburg's most famous Christmas market 'Christkindlemarkt' (Nov. 17 to Dec. 26) dates back to the 15th century. It is set in Dom Square and Residenz Square. The wooden market stalls are filled with arts, toys and traditional delicacies like roasted almonds, Glühwein and gingerbread. Each year, visitors can enjoy festive choirs, musicians and nativity plays. You'll find other Christmas markets in Salzburg's Hellbrunn Castle, Mirabell Square, at the Salzburg Fortress and in front of the railway station.
Innsbruck is home to four Christmas markets held in the Old Town, Marktplatz, Maria-Theresien-Strasse and Hungerburg Christmas Market. The Old Town Christmas Market (Nov. 15 to Dec. 23) is a very traditional affair set in the heart of the historic centre, right in front of the Golden Roof and surrounded by medieval facades. Stalls sell traditional foods, drinks, souvenirs, Tyrolean handicrafts and Christmas decorations. Warm up with a mug of Glühwein and taste traditional delicacies like Kiachlns (doughnuts) and Spatzlns (small cheesy dumplings). The Christmas Market Maria-Theresien-Strasse (Nov. 25 to Jan. 6) is set on Innsbruck's main shopping street and is a more modern market decorated with dazzling lights, selling glass and crystal products. The Christmas Market Marktplatz (Nov. 15 to Dec. 23) features beautifully handcrafted gifts and families will enjoy the carousel and petting zoo. Take the Hungerburgbahn funicular railway up to the Hungerburg Christmas Market (open weekends until Dec. 18). Here you'll find plenty of culinary delights and Christmas souvenirs.
Innsbruck's Old Town Christmas Market
Lille's Christmas market (Nov. 19 to Dec. 30) is held in Place Rihour every day except Dec. 25. The square is filled with 80 stalls and dominated by a giant Christmas tree 18 metres high. The market is full of gift ideas, figurines, decorations for the Christmas tree and festive food such as gingerbread and mulled wine. Besides French stalls, you'll find Russian, Canadian and Lithuanian. In the background you'll see the Great Wheel which turns to the sound of Christmas music. At 50 meters, its 36 gondolas offer superb views over the city.
Bern's Christmas markets take place Dec. 3-29. Münsterplatz is devoted mainly to arts and crafts where you'll find decorative candles, gifts and handmade toys. Traditional market fare can be found on Waisenhausplatz, just a 10-minute walk away. Glühwein will help to warm you up and there are plenty of stalls offering snacks or meals. After browsing the stalls, step into one of the legendary restaurants in the Old Town - either the 350-year-old Klötzlikeller or the Kornhauskeller.
Bolzano's Christmas market is held in Walther Square (Nov. 24 to Dec. 23). The 80 stalls offer handmade wooden gifts and toys as well as delicate Christmas tree decorations made of glass and ceramic. You'll find plenty of food, including seasonal pastries and cauldrons of mulled wine. There is also a craftsmen's market as well as children's attractions and horse-drawn coach rides in the Campofranco Palace courtyard.