"Fancy venturing further afield for your Christmas shopping?"

MARRAKESH

Seek out shopping bargains in a Moroccan souk

Why: If you're not afraid to haggle, and like whiling away the hours exploring, Marrakesh is the perfect place to find Christmas gifts. A true capital for traditional handicrafts, the city has everything; spices, shoes, snake charmers and jewels galore. And it's all set within an intoxicating social atmosphere. Buy saffron for mum, babouches (traditional leather slippers) for friends and a tagine dish for dads who wear the apron - or go searching deeper for even more unique finds. You won't be disappointed.

Stay: Strapped for cash? Try the Riad Slawi which offers quintessential Moroccan charm for around £63* a night. If you're feeling more flush, try thestunning Riad Noir d'Ivoire for nearer £150* per night.

Eat: There are an abundance of intriguing food stalls within the souks offering everything from sausages and salad to grilled snails on skewers! If you want to seek out a calmer bite, head to Terrace des Epices, a roof-top restaurant offering traditional Moroccan fare with a French twist.

Fly: Flights from Manchester airport to Marrakesh take 4 hours.

Info: manchesterairport.co.uk

MILAN

Discover designer labels in Italy's fashion capital

Why: Rome may be the place for history and culture, but if you're looking for that quintessential Italian style, head to Milan.  Jam-packed with top line fashion names, you can visit the flagship stores of the likes of Prada, Gucci and Armani at the Quadrilatero d'Oro or the 'golden quad'. It's not all obscene price tags, though - there are plenty of outlets selling last season's stock and sample items for those on a stricter budget. Head here to buy for the fashionista in your life - or better still, bring them along to choose their own Christmas couture!

Stay: If you're on a budget, the three star Piccolo Hotel has consistently good reviews and costs around £80* per night for a double room. Splashing out? Una Maison Milano offers sleek and chic surroundings for around £140* per night.

Eat: Not content with its fashion emporium, iconic Italian design house Dolce & Gabbana also runs GOLD Restaurant on the Piazza Risorgimento - which, as the name suggests, positively glitters with all things golden. There's a reasonably priced bistro café and bar downstairs, and a more expensive restaurant for dinner upstairs.

Fly: Flights from Liverpool John Lennon airport to Milan take 2.5 hours.

Info: liverpoolairport.com

COLOGNE

Visit a picturesque Christmas market in Cologne

Why: The arrival of continental Christmas markets in UK towns and cities was relatively recent, but the German markets which inspired them go back years - and positively dwarf their British counterparts. Cologne is one of the best-known cities for the Christmas market, and hosts not one but six of the festive affairs. From the Alter Markt, situated outside the town hall and packed full of treats for little ones like a puppet theatre and Santa Claus' quarter, to Rudolfplatz where fairytales are spectacularly brought to life, this is the place to come for concentrated seasonal cheer and unique gifts aplenty.

Stay: For a reasonably priced, well-located hotel, head to the Azimut Hotel Koln which costs around £60* per night. For those wanting something really special, the five star Meridian Dom will set you back around £130* a night.

Eat: The markets themselves are the perfect place to fill up on delicious German fare, from gluwein and gingerbread to bratwurst and roasted chestnuts.

Fly: Flights from Manchester airport to Cologne take 1.5 hours.

Info: manchesterairport.co.uk

*Prices based on rates for 16th October 2010

 

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