The days are getting shorter, the telly's getting better and we've already had our first batch of mince pies in the office, which can only mean one thing: you can officially start getting excited about Christmas now.

Here's our pick of the best Yuletide festivities around Europe, where the chances of having a white Christmas are significantly higher than back at home...

Stockholm in Winter

Stockholm, Sweden

Festivities in Stockholm crank it up a gear on 13th December or St Lucia's Day when a girl is chosen to dress as St Lucia and bravely dons a crown of candles before leading a procession through the streets. There are several markets around the city, including one in the Old Town, and candlelit concerts in Stockholm's Gothic Storkyrkan cathedral. A cup of glögg - mulled wine to you and me - is just the thing to warm you up on a cold day and the hand-painted clogs and Dala Horses make wonderful gifts.

Tallinn Christmas Market

Tallinn, Estonia

Christmas celebrations in Estonia were severely curbed during the Soviet era, but they are now firmly back in fashion. The market on Reekoja square may have only been going since 2001 but it has quickly become one of the best Christmas markets in Europe, helped in large part by the fact that the Old Town looks ridiculously lovely covered in snow. Whilst Estonian festive specialities might not be to everyone's taste- blood pudding and head cheese- the hand-crafted toys and decorations surely would be. The ice rink on Harju Street is great fun, but not to be attempted after too many Vanna Tallinn coffees…

Christmas Decorations in Budapest

Budapest, Hungary

There can't be a cooler way of staying hot than taking a dip in Budapest's outdoor Szechenyi Baths; the pools are a toasty 38°C and look even more spectacular in the snow. If you prefer putting clothes on to taking them off, the ice rink in Városliget Park is the largest outdoor rink in Europe, and the Vörösmarty Christmas Fair sells all sorts of festive delights including delicious poppy seed rolls or 'beigli'. Look out for the specially decorated trams on lines 2A, 19 and 47- Rudolph may find himself out of a job soon!

Christmas Market in Berlin

Berlin, Germany

Everyone has heard of Germany's famous Christmas markets, so where better to experience them than in its capital city. There are over 60 markets in Berlin, but the best are at the Charlottenburg Palace and on the beautiful Gendarmen market Square where the stalls are overflowing with festive fare; glass ornaments and carved beeswax candles are eternally popular. Recover from all that shopping with a glass of Feuerzangenbowle, but just don't expect to be able to pronounce it after the first two or three.

Winter in St Petersburg

St Petersburg, Russia

Not only is Christmas in January in Russia (the Church follows a different calendar) but it's also refreshingly low key - New Year's Eve is the big celebration here, and the whole country has 10 days' holiday from January 1st. That being said, St Petersburg in the snow has to be one of the world's most romantic and beautiful cities, and the fact that snow is guaranteed makes everything feel more festive. Decorated matrioshka dolls are traditional Russian gifts and furry shapkas are perfect for keeping ears warm in the freezing weather. Hotels fill up and prices rise over New Year so take advantage of the calm before the storm and spend a few days pottering along St Petersburg's rivers and canals.

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