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The best of Europe’s Christmas markets

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1. Plaisirs D'Hiver (Brussels)
28th November 2014 - 4th January 2015

Translated as "Winter Wonders", the Plaisirs D'Hiver Christmas market covers over 1.2 miles of Brussels, starting from the Place de la Monnaie and continuing all the way along to the Vismet, the Grand-Place, the Bourse and the Place Sainte Catherine. It features stalls from over 230 local business owners who offer a cacophony of pan-European food products, drinks, arts and crafts. As well as these traditional stalls, guests can also enjoy the thrills of a 35 metre toboggan slope, a 200 foot ice skating rink and a Ferris wheel that is illuminated by over 18,000 lights. 

This year marks the Plaisirs D'Hiver Christmas market's 14th annual event. The organisers have devised a celebratory theme that pays homage to a wealth of foreign cultures. From the awe-inspiring 22 metre high fir tree that was donated to the event by the City of Riga, to the art installation Boule de Neige (Snowball) that commemorates Quebec City, the Plaisirs D'Hiver Christmas market in Brussels offers cultural indulgences, local delicacies and festive entertainment for visitors of all ages.

2. St Stephen's Green Christmas Market (Dublin)
13th December 2014 - 23rd December 2014

For many years Dublin has hosted a series of successful Christmas markets. This year the start of the St Stephen's Green Christmas market coincides with the illumination of the Grafton Street Christmas lights. Given that the market stretches along the exterior of St Stephen's Green Park between Grafton Street and Merrion Row, the entire event will be illuminated by the lights and transformed into a festive masterpiece.

The market itself consists of over 60 wooden chalets run by local businesses. Here you can enjoy traditional Irish festive gifts, from handcrafted presents, woodcrafts and accessories to decadent jams, preserves and prints. Visitors can also sample bratwurst, gluhwein, crepes and charcoal grills, all of which are synonymous with traditional German Christmas markets. What's more, visitors will be serenaded by local choirs and carollers as they travel throughout the market; thus completing the festive atmosphere.

3. Winter Wonderland (London)
21st November - 4th January

Situated in the midst of Hyde Park in London, Winter Wonderland is one of the UK's most famous Christmas markets. Throughout this event you will find over 200 Bavarian style wooden chalets; all of which are gilded with fairy lights and serve various festive delights. Furthermore, the Winter Wonderland also hosts a variety of attractions. These include the Lycamobile ice rink, which is set around the park's Victorian bandstand and illuminated by over 100,000 lights. Additionally you can joy winter themed rides for all ages at the Arctic Circle, visit Santa, or even take in the sights atop the 60 metre high Giant Observation Wheel which offers awe-inspiring 360˚ panoramic views over Winter Wonderland and the rest of London.

Visitors can also marvel at the Magical Ice Kingdom; an attraction which is constructed entirely out of ice and snow. Gaze upon snow fairies and ice queens or even sit with Merlin and his knights at an ice Round Table! The Wonderland also has an ice bar, where you can enjoy delicious festive cocktails in a mesmerising sub zero environment. Alternatively, enjoy a circus spectacular in the Winter Wonderland's Mega Dome; here you can watch Zippos Christmas Circus as well as the thrilling Cirque Berserk's Mechanika show inside the newest and biggest circus tent in the UK. The vast number of Christmas market stalls and attractions at Hyde Park's Winter Wonderland promise a thrilling and thoroughly entertaining day for all involved!

4. Lille Christmas Market (France)
19th November - 30th December 2014

With over 80 stalls to visit, the Lille Christmas market at the Place Rihour serves as a tremendous seasonal spectacle for all who visit. As well as festive gifts and seasonal treats, the market also hosts a 50 metre high Ferris wheel known as the Le Grand Roue, which is situated on the Grand Place. Traverse along the 17th century cobblestone streets and you will find that the market hosts events for visitors of all ages: meet and greets with Santa for the children, festive foods, and craft gifts for adults. Moreover, due to the fact that the market takes place in Lille, you can enjoy the festivities all the whilst completing your Christmas shopping in the 3900 shops and boutiques which populate the city.

5. Munich Christmas Market (Germany)
27th November – 24th December 2014

Since the 14th century the Munich Christmas market has taken place on the Marienplatz in the centre of the city. Here you can visit traditional Bavarian market stalls which sell gluhwein, bratwurst, reiber-datschi (potato pancakes), lebkuchen (gingerbread) handcrafted wooden ornaments from Oberammergau and opulent Bavarian glassware. All of these market stalls surround an awe-inspiring 100 foot Christmas tree. If you are travelling with children you can visit the Heavenly Workshop in the Rathaus (Town Hall), where there are angel costumes for dressing up and arts and crafts events. Kids can also help to bake traditional Christmas cookies. Late afternoon visitors will be treated to the musical delights of a brass band and the carolling of the Alpine choir who sing from the balcony of the Town Hall at 5.30pm.

Additionally, over 20 small Christmas markets are scattered throughout Munich. Amongst these are a medieval Christmas market held at the Wittelsbacher Platz, as well as the Kripperlmarkt and Rindermarkt, which sell Bavarian and Tyrolean nativity figures. There is even a Christmas tram service that traverses the city selling spiced wine and gingerbread. Such an abundance of festive delights make Munich one of the must-see Christmas markets in Europe.

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Emma Wortley is a freelance writer from Kent. Her well honed creative streak enables her to write across a diverse range of topics including travel, automotive and technology. Her favourite place to visit in Europe is Brussels because of its exquisite historic architecture, local culture and unique cuisine.

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