Subject: Christmas Markets
I seem to remember someone asking about Christmas Markets recently. Here's a list from the Planet: Makes me want to go!! Anne in VA Austria Vienna November 18-December 24, Rathausplatz, 9am-9pm daily. This event has been held in front of the City Hall for the past 700 years. Underneath decorated trees wooden stalls are packed with toys, roasted chestnuts, baked apples and glhwein (mulled wine). Children make their own presents in Santa's Workshop, where they can paint glass and make candles. At weekends, choirs from around the world perform carols. Innsbruck November 24-December 29, in front of the Golden Roof, 11am-8pm. This picturesque market is held in the medieval old town where stalls display Tyrolean specialities such as handmade slippers, dolls and wooden and glass handicrafts. Watch out for St Nicholas on December 5 when he comes to the market to hand out presents to children. Children can also enjoy Punch and Judy shows, ice skating, pony rides and an animal petting corner.

Salzburg November 23-December 24, Domplatz and Residenzplatz, 10am-8pm. This lively market is spread over two of the cobbled squares in the old town, where stalls looking like miniature log cabins sell traditional toys, hand-painted glass ornaments, beeswax candles, fur-lined slippers, Advent wreaths and rocking chairs. Beware of Krampus on December 8, when he roams the streets dressed in black and wearing antlers, thwacking passers-by with a switch to punish them for the misdeeds of the past year. Fortunately, St Nicholas is also around to hand out presents.

Belgium Bruges December 1-January 1, Markt and Simon Stevin Plein, 11am-7pm. Bruges' two lively markets take place in the illuminated medieval centre of town. The chalet-style stalls sell Belgian chocolates, lace, candles, sheepskins, hand-painted textiles and jewellery. The food and drink on offer includes waffles, genievre (fruit gin), glhwein and Trappist beer.

France Strasbourg November 25-December 31, Place Broglie, 10am-8pm (until Dec 24), Place de la Cathedrale, 10am-8pm. There has been a market on Strasbourg's cathedral square for the past 500 years and it has now spread to the city's other main squares where wooden chalets sell spicy cakes and gingerbread, toffee apples, Christmas trees, traditional star- and heart-shaped tree decorations, mistletoe and foie gras. Festive attractions include an ice rink and classical concerts.

Germany Nuremberg December 1-23, Hauptmarkt, 9am-8pm. At the largest Christmas market in Europe, there are almost 200 stands lining the cobbled Hauptmarkt. A crib with wooden figures stands at the centre of the market square where handmade gifts include puppets and wooden musical boxes. Other German specialities are spicy Lebkuchen and Zwetchgenmánnle - prune figures with walnut heads.

Cologne November 25-December 23, Alter Markt, Neumarkt, Rudolfplatz and Roncalliplatz, 11am-9pm. Cologne's four markets are all within walking distance of each other and attract nearly two million visitors every year. The one at Neumarkt features demonstrations by glassblowers, wreath makers and silk painters. Traditionally dressed market traders in all the markets sell wooden toys, sheepskin slippers, mulled wine, gingerbread and sweet chestnuts. On December 6, St Nicholas comes to the market on stilts. Acrobats, magicians, puppet shows and a merry-go-round add to the atmosphere.

Dresden November 27-December 23, Altmarkt, 10am-9pm. Germany's oldest Christmas market takes place in the shadow of the Kreuzkirchechurch. On sale are traditional local handicrafts from woodcarvings to ceramics and indigo prints, while glass blowers, bakers and woodcarvers demonstrate their craft. The highlight of the market is the annual Stollen Festival on December 9 when bakers carry a giant fruit loaf weighing three tonnes from the baroque Zwinger area to the Altmarkt.

Italy Bolzano November 24-December 23, Piazza Walther, 10am-8pm. This small market in the Dolomites has an unmistakably Tyrolean atmosphere. Visitors shop to the sound of barrel organs and traditional songs and take a horse-drawn carriage through the streets. The stalls sell hand-decorated glass tiles, scented candles, felt slippers, sweets, cured ham and even bags of presents for pets. Don't miss the living Nativity scene on the last day of the market.

Netherlands Valkenburg December 2-19, Gemeentegrot Valkenburg, noon-10pm; today-December 19, Velvet Caves, noon-9pm. Valkenburg's caves turn into fairyland over Christmas when shoppers wind their way through the candlelit corridors and buy handmade wooden toys, decorations and handicrafts. This year, the Velvet Caves have a Charles Dickens theme, featuring scenes from A Christmas Carol.