Belgian chocolate and a three-tonne cake

The Connoisseur's guide to a gluttonous Christmas
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The Independent Travel

Forget Harrods and the high street and head instead to Europe's Christmas markets to meander among festive stalls, gorge yourself on traditional fare and get into the Christmas spirit.

Forget Harrods and the high street and head instead to Europe's Christmas markets to meander among festive stalls, gorge yourself on traditional fare and get into the Christmas spirit.

On Your Marks There are Christmas markets in almost every town in Germany (for details contact the German National Tourist Office on 020-7317 0908, www.germany-tourism.de). The Striezelmarkt in Dresden is the oldest in the country. During the second week of the market there is a Stollen Festival (the German version of Christmas cake, made with fruit and marzipan) and on 9 December local bakers carry the world's biggest Christmas cake, weighing up to three tonnes, to the Altmarkt. To keep festive spirits up, there are afternoon choral concerts in the market square and demonstrations by glass blowers and woodcarvers. Kirker Holidays (020-7231 3333) has three-night breaks to the 5-star Kempinski Hotel Taschenbergpalais, Dresden, from £443 per person.

Schillings Out Austrian Christmas is all about baked apples, roasted chestnuts and the obligatory gluhwein. Salzburg's market, in the cobbled squares of the old town, has stalls selling traditional toys, candles and hand-painted glass ornaments. Contact Austria Travel (www.austriatravel.co.uk; 01708 222000) for a Christmas break here leaving on 21 December, from £457 per person for five nights. The price includes a slap-up Christmas lunch and they can arrange for you to listen to Mozart serenades in Salzburg Castle on 22 December.

Franc Exchange Strasbourg has had a Christmas market for the last 500 years, with spicy cakes and gingerbread and foie gras on the menu. Thomson Breakaway (0870 606 1476, www.thomsonholidays.com) is offering two-night breaks here from £290 per person, including return flights as well as accommodation.

Crown Jewels If you fancy visiting the Tivoli Christmas markets and wandering beneath thousands of lights or skating to a waltz on Tivoli Lake, the Online Travel Company (0870 887 0100, www.otc-uk.com) has a special two-night package to Copenhagen for £245 per person, flying from Gatwick on Maersk Air, and staying at the Triton Hotel.

In Sweden, Christmas markets are held in towns and villages across the country. One of the largest is held at Skansen in Stockholm on the three Sundays before Christmas. Women are dressed in traditional costume and Christmas tables are laid with food representing the different regions. Craftsmen make garlands and other Swedish Christmas decorations. British Airways Holidays (0870 2424243, www.britishairways.com) has a two-night break to Stockholm, staying at the Scandic Hotel for £295 per person, departing from Heathrow 9 December. For a full list of Christmas markets around Sweden, contact the Swedish Travel and Tourism Council. To both Scandinavian capitals, SAS has some festive fares of just £91 from Stansted to Copenhagen, £2 more to Stockholm (08456 007 767, www.scandinavian.net).

Chocolate Money European capital of chocolate would seem to be Bruges, where there are 44 chocolate makers all vying to sell you chocolate Santas. The Belgian city's Christmas market runs from 1 December to 2 January and is centred on an ice rink in the medieval square. Chalet-style stalls sell gifts, from sheepskin and woollens, to candles and lace. Booths sell gluhwijn and hot waffles to keep you warm or you could nip inside one of Bruges' famous cafés to try a glass of the Stille Nacht beer.

A three-night trip with Eurobreak (020-8780 7700, www.inghams.co.uk) costs £151 per person if you can arrive on a Sunday, Monday or Tuesday. This includes return Eurostar travel and accommodation in the three-star Grand Oude Burg hotel.

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