Forget what you know about Amsterdam. The famously liberal city transforms into a festive wonderland over the holiday period, revealing its traditional Dutch charm. Visit Amsterdam at Christmas and feast your eyes on fairy-lit canals, ice-skate around iconic buildings and mosey around some of the best Christmas markets in Europe. The Pure Winter Market is a festive affair full of unique gifts for friends and family, or top up on stocking fillers in the toasty Bijenkorf Shopping Centre

Antwerp at Christmas is a traditional affair, with festivities kicking off at the historical Grote Markt where over 90 stalls selling hand-crafted wooden treats and delicious gastronomical delights awaits. Be sure to catch the magical light show at the City Hall before heading to the ice skating rink and winter bar beneath under the stunning Rubens House museum. With events happening across the festive season, there's plenty of things to do for all the family.

Few places encapsulate a winter wonderland as well as Brussels at Christmas. Surrounded by elegant 17th century guildhouses and a Gothic town hall, the market square will feature a huge Christmas tree and a dazzling sound and light show. The enormous 2.5-kilometre market – which includes a huge ice rink – begins at the Ferris wheel in Place Sainte Catherine and stretches across the city. Boasting over 240 vendors this market will be bringing chilly visitors joy with sparkling trinkets, spiced wine and even a Swiss chalet where you can enjoy some cheese fondue.

Christmas in Bruges is like nowhere else in the world. Take to the ice rink underneath the city's magnificent belfry tower, then warm yourself up with a mug of gluhwein from one of the beautiful wooden chalet stalls of Grote Markt. It’s no secret that the cobbled stone streets of Bruges look magical over the winter period, so half the fun is wandering around the city streets and soaking up the festive cheer. You'll find Belgian chocolatiers by the dozen here too.

It might be celebrated for its thriving fashion industry, art culture and electro scene, but Düsseldorf takes on a whole new persona over the festive season. Divided by the Rhine River, Düsseldorf at Christmas offers plenty of reasons to be merry: bustling Christmas markets, illuminated courtyards and quaint gingerbread houses at every turn. The festive hub of this bustling city, head to Marktplatz, where countless stalls selling yuletide gifts and delectable treats await.

If you ever wanted to experience a true taste of Dutch culture, a visit to Dordrecht is an absolute must. This leafy green city in The Netherlands is surrounded by five rivers, making it perfect for moonlit winter walks. Dordrecht at Christmas is wonderfully picturesque, with chocolate-box windmills and beauty at every turn. Be sure to soak up the festive cheer with a walk past the harbour, where every year, traditional Dutch boats are decked out in twinkling lights. An annual three-day festival, the Dordrecht Christmas market holds over 200 stalls, making it the largest in Holland.

Café culture, fabulous shopping and legendary landmarks. No wonder the beating heart of France is considered to be the most romantic city in the world. Believe it or not, it is even more beautiful over the festive period. Visit Paris at Christmas and soak up the twinkling Eiffel Tower, curious Christmas markets and much more. If the market on the Champs-Elysées doesn’t fill your Christmas shopping bags, get out of the cold and browse goods in the dreamy Galeries Lafayette.

From the wooden chalets offering a range of festive food and gifts to the 50 metre high Ferris wheel that offers breath-taking best views of the city, Christmas in Lille is an unforgettable experience. Artisans, merchants and chefs travel from across France to sell their wares, so you can be sure to find something unique at the Lille Christmas Market. Take in the city’s magical lights from atop the Charles de Gaulle ferris wheel, before heading to a festive concert at the majestic Opera House.

Cologne at Christmas is like something from a fairy tale. The magic of the festive season is felt throughout the largest of Germany's cities - with traditional music and 160 stands full of festive wares, it makes for an unforgettable experience. According to Cologne legend, ‘Heinzelmännchen’ gnomes guard each market in the city, including the Angel's Market, ensuring that every item sold across each stall is authentic - so any gifts you do pick up will be truly unique. Breathe in the warming scent of cinnamon at one of the many themed Christmas markets in downtown Cologne, and be sure to stop by the spectacular Cathedral or the Chocolate Museum.

There's nothing quite like Christmas in Arras. As you tour the city's tree-lined avenues, you'll find astonishing architecture illuminated with colourful lights and lovingly decorated displays. With cosy wooden chalets, an ice rink and gourmet food demonstrations from local chefs, this Flemish city has something for everyone this Christmas. When you’re all done buying gifts at the Winter Forest and local markets, treat yourself to an early Christmas present at the prestigious L’hiver Musical festival.

Each Christmas in Ghent, the locals and tourists all flock to Gravensteen castle, which transforms into a winter palace of market stalls, lights and music. Ice skate and ride the Ferris wheel in the city pavilion then head out to enjoy the festive atmosphere at the many fantastic local bars. The oldest quarter of Ghent, a visit to The Patershol's mini market offers a less frenetic, more intimate setting, while all the family can enjoy night of The Nutcracker at the Opera Vlaanderen, performed by Royal Ballet Flanders.

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Antwerp, Belgium

Brussels, Belgium

Bruges, Belgium

Düsseldorf, Germany

Dordrecht, Netherlands

Paris, France

Lille, France

Cologne, Germany

Arras, France

Ghent, Belgium