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The Christmas market or -- Christkindlesmarkt -- in Nuremberg, Germany, launches for the season on Nov. 25.

The Christmas market or -- Christkindlesmarkt -- in Nuremberg, Germany, launches for the season on Nov. 25. (iStock)

Sometimes the best way to spend a weekend is making plans for an upcoming vacation or mini-break, and those fortunate enough to have conjured up a four-day weekend over the Thanksgiving holiday might be pondering how to make best use of those precious days off. It might be worth traveling the extra mile to see or take part in one of the following events and activities taking place not this weekend but over the last weekend of November.

Experience Christmas market magic: While there’s no set day of the year when all Christmas markets across Europe open their doors, by the last weekend of November, a good portion of them will already be up and running. Many of the continent’s most famed markets, including those in Salzburg and Vienna, Austria; Brussels, Belgium; Strasbourg, France and Basel, Switzerland, are already welcoming visitors. In Germany, the markets in Cologne, Dresden, Frankfurt and Munich and have thrown open their doors. And in London, the Winter Market at the Southbank Centre and the Leicester Square Christmas Market are spreading their Christmas cheer. Amongst the Christmas markets just getting started on the last weekend of November are those in Prague, Czech Republic (Nov. 26), Merano, Italy (Nov. 25) and Krakow, Poland (Nov. 25).

Nuremberg’s Christkindlesmarkt offers something special on its opening weekend. On the Friday before the first Advent Sunday (Nov. 25 in 2022), the market is ceremoniously opened by its namesake. The Christkind, a young woman dressed in white and gold and adorned with a golden crown, appears on the gallery of the Church of Our Lady at 5:30 p.m. To the fanfare of trumpets, she recites the famous lines that signal the Christkindlesmarkt’s official opening. Online: tinyurl.com/2kxbp8ka

Another Bavarian Christmas market with a remarkable setting is that of Frauenchiemsee. For two weekends only, visitors can hop aboard ships bound for a pretty island on Lake Chiemsee, where they’ll be tempted by a market offering quality handicrafts, mulled wine and tasty regional treats. The market can be visited Nov. 24-27 and Dec. 1-4. Hours of operation are 3 p.m.-8 p.m. on Thursdays and noon-7 p.m. Fridays through Sundays. Boats depart regularly from the harbor at Prien am Chiemsee. Online: christkindlmarkt-fraueninsel.de

Enjoy skiing and, on Nov. 26, a concert on the slopes in Ischgl, Austria.

Enjoy skiing and, on Nov. 26, a concert on the slopes in Ischgl, Austria. (iStock)

Kick off ski season: The start of the ski season in the Alps varies widely, with opening dates falling anywhere between October and December. Many resorts choose to kick off their seasons with parties, raves and festivals. One such place is Ischgl, Austria, which opens and closes the ski season with its Top of the Mountain Concerts. Starting at 6 p.m. Nov. 26 at the Silvrettabahn valley station, dancehall legend Sean Paul will be turning up the heat. Admission to the concert is included in the cost of a single day ski pass (80 euros for adults, 50 euros for children). Concert tickets cannot be purchased separately. Online: tinyurl.com/2p92cz6w

Play games: Milan Games Week, already considered one of Italy’s best events for gaming and esports, is set to attract an even more diverse crowd with its recent addition of Cartoomics, a deep-dive into the world of comics, manga, graphic novels and board games. Real-life heroes from films, TV series and the comic world will be on hand to greet their fans and Cosplayers will attempt to dazzle with their imaginative costumes. The event plays out at the Milano Fiera Rho Nov. 25-27. Single-day tickets go for 25 euros; tickets for those ages 6-10 go for 12 euros, and those ages 5 and under enter free. Online: milangamesweek.it

Rummage through antiques: While treasure can turn up even at the most humble of car boot sales, the chances of unearthing a true gem might be better at Art & Antiques for Everyone, billed as the UK’s largest vetted antiques and fine art fair. From Nov. 24-27 at the NEC in Birmingham, visitors can find items both quirky and coveted, from vintage fashion to fine art, silverware, jewelry, glassware and other treasures. Items are vetted for quality, date and condition by a team of experts. The fair takes place in Hall 12. Download and print the complimentary ticket for entry for two persons in advance of visiting. Online: antiquesforeveryone.co.uk

Beware the scary Krampus: Not all Christmas characters are goodness and light. In many Alpine regions, naughty children live in fear of Saint Nicolas’ frightful counterpart, the Krampus. Dressed in shaggy fur robes and wearing carved wooden masks, these fearsome beasts tend to travel in packs. As scary as they may appear, they pose to no real threat to spectators in search of dark thrills. A chance to encounter a group of Krampus is offered from 7 p.m. Nov. 26, when some 900 of the beasts take the streets of Salzburg, Austria. The course will take them along Turnerstr., Linzergasse and Schillinghofstr. Online: tinyurl.com/dafm7pv2

Explore the world of wine in Paris: Le Grand Tasting, a trade show featuring French and international exhibitors from all sectors of the wine industry, is held at the Carrousel du Louvre Paris Nov. 25-26. The choice of wines to be featured is made by the bettane + desseauve wine guide, which aims to facilitate the tasting of legendary wines and promote the products of talented young winemakers. Visitors can take part in expert-led tasting sessions or gourmet workshops focusing on wine and food pairings. Single-day tickets go for 35 euros at the door. Online: grandtasting.com

Attend a Thanksgiving ceremony: On Thanksgiving Day each year, approximately 2,000 Americans gather at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London to remember their homeland’s holiday. The service, organized in partnership with the U.S. Embassy, consists of welcoming remarks from the U.S. Ambassador, preaching, prayers of gratitude and no shortage of upbeat music. The service, which is free and open to the public, takes place at 11 a.m. Doors open an hour earlier. Online: amchurch.co.uk/thanksgivingservice

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