It wasn't until a few years ago that I visited my first Christmas Market in Manchester. Many cities in Europe play host to their own versions of the annual tradition every November and December.
So when we planned our latest trip to Austria and Slovakia and were passing through three cities which hosted their own version, we made it our mission to discover them.
Graz, AustriaThe difference with Graz's Christmas Market is that there are over a dozen separate parts to the Advent celebration. We headed straight for the main market outside the city hall and at the end of the main street of Graz.
The sizzling smells of burgers and bratwurst drifted through the air from the food stalls but we were tempted by the waffle stall where we tucked into waffles covered in chocolate.
As we wandered the streets we'd turn a corner and another set of stalls would pop up. We had a browse around the Arts and Crafts Market on Färberplatz where I impressed Angie by putting three German words together to ask for "Zwei Gluwein bitte"
The girls just managed to get in a ten minute skating session before the ice skating rink closed at 7pm after we struggled to find it until we asked the information booth at the city hall.
Unfortunately we arrived a day before the unveiling of the ice sculpture in the renaissance courtyard of Landhaushof, where a nativity scene is carved out of ice. Next time we'll plan a trip a little later to make sure we catch a glimpse!
Bratislava, SlovakiaThe Christmas Market of Bratislava lies in in the Main Square the shadow of the city hall. The markets aren't very big but also not very busy which gave us more room and time to have a look around the stalls.
Most stalls are food based so the choice was really tough but I ended up ordering a Sausage and Mustard dish which I quickly devoured to warm myself up in the cold evening air.
Hot wine and chocolate pancakes followed for dessert as we listened to a local band on stage who were actually terrible but we had a good laugh and there was a good atmosphere around.
Though not as well publicised as other European Christmas Markets, I really enjoyed the food on offer in Bratislava which more than made up for the lack of stalls.
Vienna, AustriaBy far the largest Christmas Market we went to on our trip it was also the busiest.
We guessed that the markets would be outside the city hall (as they all seem to be) so as we left the underground station at Rathaus we expected to be directed in the general direction. However the markets aren't well signposted so we wandered down the street until we saw some bright lights at the end of an adjoining street.
As we stepped into the main entrance we got swept away with the crowds and popped out when we saw a stall with bratwurst baguettes and hot beer.
We dove back into the stream of people and browsed around the hundreds of stalls selling crafts and Christmas decorations. On a tight budget we kept to feeding ourselves rather than being tempted by their offerings.
Where should you go?All the markets were really good for their own reasons and I would happily go back to any of them.
If you're looking for the spectacular then definitely head for Vienna, if you want good food, opt for Bratislava and if you want somewhere in the middle with the extras such as ice skating I'd recommend Graz.
We're already planning next years Christmas Market visit. Where would you recommend? What makes it so special?
Return flights to Vienna were courtesy of airbnb.com