To some, Christmas shopping can be a stressful experience - a constant battle against the crowds in the hope of being able to get everyone the perfect gift. However, it doesn't have to be such an enduring time of year and can even become a part of your next relaxing getaway.
A number of lines including Cruise and Maritime Voyages, Cunard and Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines will all be operating cruises out of the UK throughout the winter period which can take you to the festivities of Europe's finest Christmas markets. You will soon be feeling the Christmas spirit as you dock in a range of festively-decorated cities in Belgium, France, Germany and the Netherlands. This week, we take a look at five of the best markets that you will be able to experience on board a winter cruise out of the UK in 2017.
There are several stalls set up throughout the Dutch capital, each offering a number of unique handmade crafts and edible goods that will make perfect gifts. One of the most appealing aspects of heading to Amsterdam, however, is the spectacular lights display that illuminates the city. A number of artists twist a series of brightly coloured neon pipes to create light displays of animals, flowers and an array of dazzling objects that will leave you feeling totally inspired.
With over 170 stalls available, the German city of Bremen is widely thought to one of the most atmospheric of the Christmas markets. The historical setting of the city offers a unique sense of authenticity to the proceedings and you are sure to be able to find a number of gifts to please your friends and family. You can enjoy a warm glass gluhwein while taking in your surroundings and you even be able to hear organ recitals or see a nativity play during your visit.
Bruges offers a cost Christmas atmosphere, with a number of stalls situated within the market square and a number of fun activities to enjoy. Try your hand at ice skating or enjoy a delicious hot chocolate as you wander through the cobbled streets and take in the medieval surroundings of the city. You can also enjoy a romantic stroll by the lake of love.
There are a number of markets to explore in the German city of Hamburg, each offering a differing sense of festive cheer. You can visit the nostalgic market of Rathausplatz, which sits beside the impressive Rathaus building (Town Hall). Another traditional style market can be found on Fleet Island, but there are plenty of alternative options also available. If you are looking for something completely different, you could head to Reeperbahn for the Santa Pauli festival - which offers the world's first erotic Christmas market.
Rouen is one of the most impressive cities in all of France, offering a wealth of medieval architecture that collectively makes for a pleasant stroll. The Christmas market can be found in and around Cathedral Square, where you will discover up to 70 chalets. In addition to the vast array of crafts edible goods and gifts available, you will also be able to try your hand at ice skating and enjoy a range of games, concerts, musical performances and much more.
If the Christmas markets don't take your fancy, there are plenty of other options available for a cruise this winter. The alluring warmth of the Canary Islands offer a fantastic alternative, with its golden beaches offers the perfect option for a spot of winter sun.