Spicy gingerbread, fragrant mulled wine, peppermint candy canes and piping hot winter stew. Christmas markets are known for their delicious wares and we've picked out a few of the best for hungry travellers.
Sticky, crunchy nougat in Bologna, Italy
Visit the Santa Maria dei Servi church for Bologna's Christmas Market
The aroma of roasting chestnuts draws you into the cloisters at Santa Maria dei Servi church. Stalls are piled with nativity figures, leatherware and the pick of Italy’s larder. Torrone – nougat with crunchy almonds and honey – is the classic Christmas treat. Leave room for bittersweet, chocolate-dipped lemons, another local delicacy. Looking for somewhere to stay? The Michelin-starred restaurant at I Portici serves rustic Italian flavours with a fine-dining finish.
Toffee apples in Angers, France
Sample the sweet treats on sale at the Château d’Angers Christmas Market
The best food from the Loire Valley ends up at the Château d’Angers Christmas Market and a highlight are the French toffee apples (pommes d’amour), freshly dipped in glistening caramel, these sticky treats are a bite of joyeux noel. Sticklers for quality, the locals use only the best vintages for their vin chaud and the boutique Hotel du Mail, set in a converted convent, is within walking distance of the city's best restaurants.
Boozy fondue in Bruges, Belgium
Fuel your Christmas shopping with a pot of wine-laced Savoyarde fondue
You only have to take a look at the local cuisine to know that the residents of Bruges love winter. The Bruges Christmas Market features garlicky, wine-laced Savoyarde fondue and jenever juniper gin (check out Bacchus Cornelius’ home-brewed chocolate version), a potent combination that will keep even the coldest temperatures at bay. Bistro Dukes is part of the converted ducal palace that’s now home to the Dukes Palace hotel, and it's where we go for hearty Belgian food with a modern twist.
Sugar and spice in Budapest, Hungary
Keep an eye out for chimney cake at Budapest Christmas Market
Cinnamon, pine needles and spiced wine – Budapest Christmas Market smells every bit like Christmas. Grab a piping hot chimney cake to keep out the cold as you explore the Old Town, and make sure to pop into Café Gerbeaud. This iconic 19th-century coffeehouse transforms into a giant advent calendar every year and you can stock up on gifts from the inhouse artisan chocolatier. The High Note Skybar terrace topping the Aria Hotel is a striking dining spot.
Churros, pestiños and polvorón in Madrid, Spain
Try some melt-in-the-mouth polvorón shortbread at Feria Dulces de Navidad
The Plaza Mayor market is the best-known in Madrid but we prefer the Feria Dulces de Navidad, when the square outside the Opera House is transformed into a Willy Wonka-style festival. Stalls groan under bubbling urns of molten chocolate and golden churros. Local classics include candied fruits and pestiños – aniseed cakes fried in olive oil and drenched in honey – to melt-in-the-mouth polvorón shortbread. Take it all in from the rooftop restaurant at The Principal Madrid.