GALLERY: Birmingham's German Christmas Market opens to crowds
Spiced wine, bratwurst sausages and lots of festive revellers – Christmas was officially launched in Birmingham last night with the arrival of the German Market.
Up to five million people are expected to visit over the next six weeks as one of the fixtures of the Yuletide season returns for its 20th year.
The market has arrived a week early this year, ahead of the annual Remembrance Day services when civic chiefs lead the city in commemorating those who gave their lives in the First and Second World Wars.
As a mark of respect, on Sunday the market will not open until 1pm , and on Monday, Armistice Day, stallholders will observe the two minutes’ silence.
It is the biggest outdoor Christmas market in the UK and the largest German market outside Germany and Austria.
The event remains smaller than at its height due to the adjoining Christmas Craft Market no longer being held due to the Paradise redevelopment
GALLERY: Highlights of this year's event
The annual attraction has become a highlight of the Midlands' Christmas calendar with thousands of people visiting the city in the festive build-up.
The market features food, drink and craft stalls housed in wooden chalet-style huts, with Christmas trees, giant Santa statues and a carousel outside the town hall in Victoria Square.
It has opened a week earlier than normal this year as city council officials look to bring it in line with other festive markets in Manchester and Leeds."
Big Wheel and ice rink back in square
The Big Wheel and ice rink are returning to Centenary Square for the first time in three years.
The attractions have been based in Eastside near the Thinktank while redevelopment work was carried out in the square and Paradise Circus.
People can jump onboard the wheel to see sights such as the Library of Birmingham, the Hall of Memory and Broad Street.
Ice Skate Birmingham also runs through to January 12th. It is open from 10am to 10pm daily.
Tickets are available both online or at the box office.
Police on patrol
With such large crowds attending, West Midlands Police have said their officers will be working closely with market security staff and stall holders to share information at daily briefings.
Police teams will also be patrolling buses, trains and trams going both in and out of the city, with plain-clothed officers working alongside those in uniform to identify trouble-makers, pickpockets and any other offenders.
Superintendent Jack Hadley responsible for policing at this year’s Frankfurt Christmas Market, said: "As always, we can’t wait to welcome the Frankfurt Christmas Market and the millions of visitors it attracts each year.
"I want to reassure the public that my officers will be in and around the market keeping the public safe and will also be on hand to help anybody who has any concerns.
"With such a vast amount of people visiting the market, we would encourage people to remain alert and to tuck away personal belongings. Mobile phones, wallets and purses are all potential targets for pickpockets."