It’s the most wonderful time of the year…

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year…

There’s nothing quite like a stroll around a sparkly Christmas Market where you can browse colourful stalls for unusual gifts, sip mulled wine and fill yourself with festive spirit. Here are some of our favourite ones – and they’re all a hop, skip and a jump away from Southampton Airport.

AMSTERDAM
It’s all going on in Amsterdam in December with the Christmas Markets the place to buy food and trinkets – and enjoy some glühwein. Fill your Christmas stockings with local art and accessories at the Funky Xmas Market at the Westergas or explore the Kromhouthal in Amsterdam Noord where you’ll find Christmas gifts galore then maybe catch a live band.

Ice Village Amsterdam sees the city’s Museumplein transformed into a Christmas village, complete with an ice rink, live entertainment, market stalls and plenty of festive food and drink. Meanwhile, Amsterdam Rai gets a makeover and becomes a winter wonderland with indoor and outdoor ice-skating rinks plus a giant Ferris wheel that looks out over the city.

Or how about the Floating Christmas Market? The only one of its kind in the Netherlands, this large floating festival during Leiden’s winter wonder week is the perfect spot to get into the Christmas spirit, with about 100 winter chalets for shopping, snacks and drinks. It’s well worth the 35-minute drive from Amsterdam to enjoy the waterfront atmosphere while you sip on mulled wine or hot chocolate.

DUBLIN
Christmas in Dublin is the most magical time of year. From the moment the Christmas lights are switched on in Grafton Street in mid-November to the live busking by some of Ireland’s best musicians on Christmas Eve, Dublin turns into a bustling city full of colour, laughter, and sing-a-longs.

Popular markets include Ha’Penny Market which gets a festive makeover towards the end of November and is the place to come for quirky Christmas gifts. It takes place in the Grand Social, just over the famous Ha’Penny Bridge in Dublin city centre. Dun Laoghaire Christmas Market, meanwhile, is ideal if you want to escape the city and breath in some sea air in this beautiful town. The market is open at weekends for most of November and December then every day of the week in the final lead-up to Christmas Day. Also worth checking out is the MART Market at Rathmines, south of Dublin city centre. Held in an old fire station, it has lots of festive arts and crafts along with paintings by local artists plus fashion items and jewellery, also from local artisans.

EDINBURGH
Edinburgh’s Christmas grows in popularity every year, with a wide range of events taking place over a six-week celebration. With everything from Scottish and international food and gifts on offer at the popular Christmas Market in East Princes Street Gardens – and its famous Big Wheel – to the ice rink in St Andrew Square, there’s something for all members of the family to enjoy.

This year’s exciting programme has yet to be announced but it’s sure to go down a storm with visitors and residents alike as the Scotland’s capital comes alive with Christmas lights and general good times. And, of course, no other city anywhere in the world celebrates New Year quite like Edinburgh. It’s a great place to spend a few days in the run-up to New Year’s Eve – or Hogmanay as it’s known in Scotland. The Torchlight Procession on December 30 gets New Year under way when thousands of torch-bearers join Up Helly Aa’s Vikings, pipes and drums to march through the heart of Edinburgh with flaming torches, creating a river of fire down the historic Royal Mile to Holyrood Park for the finale and closing celebrations.

 

GENEVA
Find beautifully handcrafted, exclusive gifts along with traditional Swiss festive treats at Geneva’s Christmas Markets. Look out for the enchanting Christmas Village in the beautiful surroundings of Parc des Bastions in the city centre with wooden cabins selling local food and drink in a traditional Swiss yuletide setting.

Another market takes place in the lively Carouge area, the traditional Italian part of the city. Here you’ll find upmarket handmade crafts, stylish accessories such as scarves, hats and jewellery, decorations and delicious food.

GUERNSEY
Check out the Christmas Festivities in St Peter Port where the quaint cobbled streets are decorated with pretty Christmas lights and the market stalls overflowing with seasonal products. Christmas begins in St Peter Port when Father Christmas arrives by lifeboat, usually on the last Saturday in November, to switch on the Christmas lights, accompanied by parades and music. Look out for original gifts such as hand-painted plates, jewellery, handmade soaps and linen featuring the Guernsey lily motif at the Craft Market in Market Square every Saturday from the day the lights are switched on.