As you walk through the rows of snow-covered log cabins, warm gingerbread and roasting chestnuts fill the air. Twinkling lights adorn the streets while choirs and brass bands perform carols, creating a cosy, magical atmosphere. It's also a great opportunity to find some unique gifts and traditional handicrafts such as wooden toys, handmade decorations and tasty local delicacies.
Europe's markets are particularly enchanting. So why not swap the crowds and hassle of the high street and go walking in a winter wonderland instead? Take a look at our picks of the best Christmas market break offers around…
Prague, Czech Republic
The main markets are held in the historic and gothic surroundings of Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square (until January 6) and consist of stalls selling goods such as crystal, scented candles and handmade toys.
Culinary delights include, waffles, traditional Czech pastries such as sugary trdelnik and comforting cups of beverages.
Highlights include the impressive Nativity scene and the animals' stable where you can stroke sheep, donkeys and goats. Also in the Old Town Square is a children's workshop, where youngsters can participate in making decorations and watch puppet shows.
An 18 metre-high Christmas tree and a giant Ferris wheel overlook Lille's Christmas market (until December 30) in the Place Rihour, where more than 80 chalets sell all manner of French delights.
A reproduction of a snow-covered village, including an ice rink, fills the square. There are appearances by Father Christmas and choral concerts, while the city's 3,900 shops compete for the best festive window display.
Festive markets have been held in Vienna since 1294. Wiener Christkindlmarkt (until December 24) is one of the biggest and boasts the beautiful backdrop of the Burgtheater and City Hall.
Carol singing and the aroma of chocolatey Sachertorte and maroni (roast chestnuts) add to the romance. The adjoining Rathauspark features the Christkindl Express train, pony rides and a merry-go-round. The Altwiener Christkindlmarkt (until December 23) at the Freyung is also worth a visit.
The Christmas market held at Liseberg Amusement Park (until December 23) is Scandinavia's largest. With nearly five million lights (not including the three-kilometre "Lane of Lights" that leads to the entrance gates), 700 Christmas trees and 80 market stalls, it's a seasonal spectacular.
Festive foods on offer include local treats such as marinated herring, roasted reindeer meat, cinammon buns, among others. There is also a variety of rides and attractions, including an ice rink, bumper cars, carousels and a chance to visit Santa Claus in his house.
Germany is renowned for its Christmas markets and Berlin holds more than 50 every year. They are dotted throughout the city, nestled among the impressive architectural landscape, and one of the most popular is WeihnachtsZauber market on the Gendarmenmarkt (open until December 31), which has an admission fee of one euro.
As well as stalls selling gifts, there are performances from musicians and actors. Stalls sell cinnamon stars and Feuerzangenbowle, where soaked sugarloaf is set alight and drips into special beverages.