The best Christmas markets to visit this winter

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A horse-drawn carriage at the Krakow market.

We’re all going to be tightening our belts a little more this year, but that doesn’t mean missing out on a trip to the Christmas market.

From twirling on ice rinks to nativity scenes in horse-drawn carts, these festive outings promise a fun, thrilling and original shopping experience, without breaking the bank.

Christmas market in Toulouse

When: November 25 to December 25

The pink city lights up with a multitude of multicolored lights at Christmas, when the city’s annual market is held in Place du Capitole.

The town hall serves as a setting for a Christmas village and chalets with more than 100 traders, selling local crafts, regional products, pottery, jewellery, candles, clothing and leather goods.

Between races, skate on a 200m² ice rink (£4 for 45 minutes, skate hire included) and warm up with a local dish, Aveyron aligot, cheese and garlic mashed potatoes .

Comment: The four-star Le Grand Balcon (grandbalconhotel.com) is located near Place du Capitole and offers an excellent buffet breakfast in modern rooms.

Doubles from £95 per night with breakfast.

Eurostar (eurostar.com) from London St Pancras to Toulouse Matabiau via Paris with one-way tickets available from £72.

When: Various dates in November and December

Several markets are held in villages on the shores of the Wolfgangsee in the Austrian Lake District. Each is distinctive: at St Gilgen, the theme is Baroque-style art; in St Wolfgang, the focus is on the lanterns; while Strobl takes great pride in its old-fashioned stalls with wooden tiled roofs.

To make this trip a real Christmas nugget, go to the famous Salzburg market, less than an hour by bus.

But save time for snowshoeing, sledding or horse-drawn sleigh rides.

How: The four-star Hotel Seerose offers a charming view of Lake Fuschl. Inntravel (inntravel.co.uk) offers three nights half-board from £585 pp (two sharing), including flights and transfers.

Returning to a historic era of grand banquets and elegant attire, Stratford’s award-winning Victorian-themed market offers visitors the chance to feel like a character in a Charles Dickens novel.

Dressed in beautiful costumes, shopkeepers sell gifts and seasonal produce, while a stage in Henley Street also hosts a program of festive performances.

A new way to experience the event is on a riverboat, traveling on a six-hour cruise from Drifters’ riverboat charter base on the Stratford Canal in Wootton Wawen, to moorings in Bancroft Basin in the center of Stratford upon Avon.

All boats are equipped with hot water and stoves for warming up.

How: The 48ft Teddington barge (sleeps four) is available for a four-day weekend for £572.

Fuel charges are based on usage, approximately £15-£20 per day. Visit drifters.co.uk.

When: November 25 to December 26

Spread across the central Rynek Glowny Square, Krakow’s Christmas Market is the oldest in Poland. If you’ve never had pierogi (a type of fried dumpling) before, this is the place to do it – complete with treats such as brightly decorated piernik gingerbread.

Have a warming cup of grzane (mulled wine) while browsing for decorations and handmade toys, then take a horse-drawn carriage ride through the city to see the Krakow Szopki, a collection of miniature nativity scenes displayed in windows.

How: The Metropolitan Boutique Hotel (hotelmetropolitan.pl) is housed in a renovated 19th-century building, perfectly located between Old Town Square and the trendy Kazimierz district.

Doubles from £53 per night with breakfast. WizzAir (wizzair.com) offers flights from London Luton to Krakow from £26.

When: November 18 to January 6

It’s not the obvious choice for mistletoe and snowflakes, but Portugal’s bustling capital is ideal for a festive shopping break in milder temperatures.

Wooden chalets are dotted around Rossio Square selling Portuguese seasonal gifts and treats, including salt cod, rabanadas (similar to French toast), porco preto (black pig) sandwiches, dried fruit and cheese. hot wine.

A Christmas train provides entertainment for children, although even bigger rides can be found at Wonderland Lisboa in Parque Eduardo VII, which includes a Ferris wheel, ice rink, carousel and trampolines, plus stalls selling crafts, jewelry and local products.

How: Find Avani Avenida Liberdade (avanihotels.com/en/lisbon) on Lisbon’s main shopping street, within walking distance of both fairs.

Doubles from £82 per night with breakfast.

Guests can also use the rooftop bar at sister hotel Tivoli Avenida Liberdade next door, which offers stunning views of Lisbon.

Flights with easyjet (easyjet.com) from Gatwick start at around £66 one way.

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