Christmas markets herald the festive season perfectly: stalls of Christmas gift ideas and fabulous food and drink, set in Instagram-pretty locations.

So whether you’re after Glühwein in Cologne, barbecued sausage in Prague, honey cakes in Budapest or the ideal Christmas gift in Copenhagen, here are the five best Christmas markets in Europe to help you get into the festive spirit.  

1 Cologne, Germany
Boasting possibly the most beautiful backdrop of any Christmas market, festivities in Cologne are dominated by the city’s magnificent Gothic cathedral. The Am Dom market is located in the square directly in front of the Cathedral and has a massive Christmas tree. As well as the traditional German food and drink, there’s an ice rink on Heumarket. And the Markt der Engel (Angel Market) on Neumarkt and the Nikolausdorf (St. Nick’s Village) on Rudolfplatz are also recommended.

2 Salzburg, Austria
Salzburg’s Christkindl market boasts 100 light-filled stalls in the city’s Cathedral Square in the city’s Altstadt. Around 95 stalls are colour-coded according to their wares, including: Christmas decorations, candles and incense, alongside spicy Austrian festive delicacies such as mulled wine and pastries.

In addition, the stalls sell local crafts, toys, clothing and jewellery making Salzburg Christmas market the perfect gift shopping destination.

3 Prague, Czech Republic
Soak up the festive atmosphere, share delicious local food and drink, listen to the carols and browse the stalls at Prague Christmas Market. The stalls are located in the Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square, both lit up at night there’s nowhere quite like Prague for a medieval festive atmosphere.

Watch the astronomical clock chime the hour, while school choirs in traditional dress sing carols. Make time to visit the smaller markets at Republic Square, on Kampa Island and in front of St George’s Basilica. And try tasty barbecued sausage or the sugar-coated pastry known as Trdelnik, accompanied by some of the best beer in the world.

4 Budapest, Hungary
Budapest’s Christmas Fair and Winter Festival is just as popular with locals as it is for tourists. Located on Vörösmarty Square, also the site of the famous Gerbeaud Coffee House, the wooden chalet stalls sell a variety of Christmas fayre, including delicious Hungarian honey cakes, mulled wine, salamis and other local foods as well as tourist souvenirs and gift ideas.

Head for the Hütte Bistro in front of the Gerbeaud – it serves traditional Magyar food such as venison, wild boar, fisherman’s soup, game dishes and stuffed cabbage. There are also sound stages with a variety of musical entertainment.

5 Copenhagen, Denmark
The Tivoli Gardens Christmas Market is one of the best in Copenhagen. Fun fairground rides, decorated wooden stalls, a visit from Santa and his reindeer, plus gifts, delicious festive food and drink in an historic garden atmosphere.

Head down to Nyhaven harbour, where festive stalls offer traditional Danish Christmas specialities along the harbour wall. The Renaissance Castle Kronborg opens up its courtyard and ballrooms for a majestic Christmas market, while the Hans Christian Anderson Christmas Market is themed around the fables from the much-loved Danish storyteller.