Photograph Copyright 2012 courtesy of the Strasbourg Tourist Office.

Nothing gets us in the spirit of the holidays like the festivities, food and shopping of a Christmas market. We look at some of the world's best places to find them.

By Elizabeth Rogers

Shopping malls and big box stores may have good deals, but they can't compare to the rich tradition and history behind Christmas markets. These magical winter wonderlands aren't just about shopping for unique gifts. Lights, performances, music and merriment await -- not to mention some of the season's tastiest treats.

Here are some top markets around the world to add to your bucket list.

Nuremberg, Germany

The tradition of Christkindlesmarkt got its start in German-speaking parts of Europe during the Middle Ages, so it's only fitting that Germany still hosts some of the best. Nuremberg offers one of the largest and oldest markets in the country, adored by locals and tourists alike. On the Friday before Advent begins, crowds flock to the Old Town to see the Christkind open her market. This fair-haired, golden Christmas Angel is the bringer or gifts and the symbol of hope and good cheer -- though she evolved out of an early Protestant tradition aimed at ousting old St. Nick.

Today she presides over a market dedicated to all things Christmas. Here, you'll find nothing but ornaments, toys, mulled wine, crafts and traditional Christmas goodies at its more than 180 wooden booths (no non-Christmas distractions allowed!) If you've got a sweet tooth, don't even try to resist the gingerbread -- the city is famous for it.

For more information, visit http://www.christkindlesmarkt.de/en/.

Nuremberg Christmas Market

 

Image courtesy of the City of Nuremberg.

NEXT: Tempt your taste buds at a market named after a traditional sweet.

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