Christmas markets are becoming an important attraction for independent Chinese travelers looking for experiences that are different to those sought by mainstream tourists from China.
Such markets originated in German-speaking countries and have become popular throughout Northern Europe. They usually feature log cabins and a range of food and drink associated with winter and Christmas, as well as gift ideas that often include handmade local crafts.
Oliver Sedlinger, the China representative of the Historic Highlights of Germany alliance, said overnight visits of Chinese tourists to Germany, Austria and Switzerland during November and December have increased in recent years, and not only to ski resorts, but also to cities and towns.
"Christmas markets have received increasing coverage as a cultural experience and attraction," Sedlinger said. "It seems that this is now an important element of city trips, and visiting a Christmas market is increasingly seen as a special experience and an exotic cultural attraction."
Despite differences in history and culture, Sedlinger sees similarities between the Christmas markets and Miao Hui temple fairs in China.
The Austrian city of Innsbruck, which is in a broad valley surrounded by high mountains, offers six Christmas markets that are attracting large numbers of Chinese visitors.
Robert Neuner, chief executive officer of Innsbruck Christmas markets, said: "There is a rich and lively atmosphere at the Christmas markets here, decorated by a sparkling sea of modern Christmas lights against the backdrop of the snowy mountains, which is a real draw for the Chinese travelers."
The Innsbruck markets consists of 195 stalls offering traditional Austrian food, mulled wine, local handicrafts and Christmas decorations. They attract 1.2 million visitors a year.
With an increasing number of Chinese travelers looking for local authenticity on their holidays, Neuner believes Christmas markets will become even more attractive.
As well as the more traditional activities, spectators can also take in "Krampuslauf" parades, where people dressed as monsters chase away "evil spirits".
Xu Jingfang, a Chinese tour guide who has worked in Austria for 14 years, is seeing more individual Chinese travelers in the markets seeking out the festive spirit and interaction with local people.
"They will usually taste the mulled wine and get some local souvenirs, such as Christmas crystal balls and wooden artifacts," Xu said.
"More and more Chinese travelers are choosing to purchase local handicrafts to help them reminisce when they get back home."