(Recently published in the Independent)
It may be five weeks until Christmas, but Britain‘s festive markets have already started opening their doors. Here are some of the best options for mulled wine, traditional wooden toys, ice rinks and much more.
November 23 to December 10
This is a bumper market with over 200 stalls lining the streets of Bath around the wonderful Roman Baths and the Abbey. Nearly all the items and produce on sale are from the local area, or made by local suppliers. Ceramics and glasswear, clothes, toys and homeware are among the items on sale – as well as food and drink. When you’ve done enough shopping, head for the ice rink (open until January 2, 2018) and glow-in-the-dark crazy golf course at nearby Royal Victoria Park, take a tour of the Roman Baths, or watch a performance at the Theatre Royal.
November to January (various dates)
Visitors can take their pick from several markets throughout London, from the traditional Nordic inspired Southbank Centre Winter Market (November 14 to December 30) at Royal Festival Hall Riverside, to the festive extravagance of Hyde Park Winter Wonderland (November 18 to January 2), with its giant observation wheel, ice rink, circus shows and ice bar alongside the Christmas market. The pop-up town of Winterville will take over part of Clapham Common from November 23 to January 1, with an indoor market and entertainment including a Street Feast food area, big wheel, crazy golf and roller disco.
November 19 to January 7
Edinburgh has a host of festive markets and fairs taking place into New Year. Visitors can choose from the Christmas market in East Princes Street Gardens with a big wheel and Star Flyer chair ride (ends January 6) and another in George Street, with Santa’s Grotto and a new Ice Adventure feature (ends December 24).
November 16 to December 24
Frankfurt Christmas Market in Birmingham is the largest German market held outside Germany and Austria. Visitors can soak up the village atmosphere in Victoria Square while enjoying a range of German fare – from mulled wine and beers to meats and pastries. The Christmas Craft Fair next door extends onto Chamberlain Square, featuring various handmade gifts from local artists.
November 18 to December 23
Belfast‘s City Hall gardens are transformed into a village setting for its Christmas market. Visitors can wander around its stalls, sampling festive treats from Belgian chocolates and French tarts to various cheeses and German sausages. As well as authentic continental food, you’ll find clothing, arts crafts and decorations from across Europe and Santa’s Grotto for children.
November 10 to December 21
Manchester hosts several markets throughout the city, from a European market in Albert Square, a German-style market at St Ann’s Square and French-themed stalls at King Street. You’ll find boutiques and some great food outlets at Exchange Square, and arts and crafts at Brazennose Street with a globally-sourced selection of jewellery, leather goods and speciality foods. There are fairground rides in Cathedral Gardens and more stalls in New Cathedral Street and Market Street.
November 9 to December 22
The Glasgow Christmas Market continues at St Enoch Square, with an international array of goods on offer. Visitors can sample Bavarian beers and mulled wine as well as hog roasts and French crepes. The additional Christmas market at George Square (November 25 to December 29), features craft gifts as well as live entertaiment and funfair rides.
November 9 to December 23
There’s a great range of artwork on sale at this traditional market in the centre of Cardiff – from collage and photographic prints to posters and cards. Other stalls sell children’s toys and outfits, glassware and ceramics, knitwear, jewellery and much more. Beyond the market there’s a funfair and ice rink at Winter Wonderland and Santa’s Grotto in the atmospheric setting of Cardiff Castle.
November 16 to December 17
Devon‘s cathedral city hosts its Christmas market on the historic grounds of Cathedral Green. Locals showcase a variety of hand-crafted gifts and foods including roast hog, baklava, Belgian chocolates, crepes and speciality cheeses.
November 25 to December 10
Brighton does things slightly differently. Over three weekends in November and December, local artists will open their homes, studios and workshops to sell a range of arts and crafts direct to Christmas shoppers in the Artists Open Houses scheme. Openings – at around 60 venues – will take place on weekends between November 25 and December 10. Items for sale include paintings, prints, upcycled goods, knitwear, jewellery (pictured) and sculpture and textiles. Several artists will hold workshops with drawing classes, craft activities and puppet shows.
November 20 to December 22
The lovely medieval city of Winchester has one of the largest Christmas markets in the south of England, with around 100 wooden chalets in the Cathedral Close, alongside an open-air skating rink. Stalls sell a range of craft items, including Christmas decorations, jewellery, hats, belts, artwork and wooden toys and there’s a German theme to the food and drink offerings, with mulled wine and bratwurst.
If it gets too crowded (and it can do) wander beyond the Close into the centre of town; just a short walk away are The Square and Parchment Street, both with a range of interesting independent shops – and there’s more shopping and lots of cafes and restaurants in the surrounding streets.
December 2, December 16 and 17
This lovely Cotswolds town is full of Christmas activities and events, with the Sparkles Advent Festival and Market on December 2, when the festive lights are switched on, and a Christmas Market selling a range of food and gifts on December 16 and 17. Both will be held in the newly regenerated Market Place.
November 17 to December 24
Nottingham‘s Victorian-themed gift and craft market (ends December 24) is full of festive delights, from roasted chestnuts, cider and mulled wine to carol singing. The market is spread over Smithy Row, Albert Street and Lister Gate. Visitors can also enjoy Nottingham’s Winter Wonderland (to December 31) on the Old Market Square, with winter-themed bars, including a new ski lodge style bar, a traditional carousel, children’s rides, an ice rink and live music.
November 10 to December 24
Christkindelmarkt, a German Christmas market set in the heart of Leeds at Millennium Square, offers over 40 stalls and delicacies including bratwurst sausages, goulash and schnitzels and carousel rides. There are free children’s activities every Sunday between 11am and 1pm, including face painting and games. Look out for winter wonderland princesses and other costumed characters. The Ski Hutte bar in an alpine chalet-style setting aims to create an apres ski-inspired atmosphere with music.
November 23 to December 22
Held at Guildhall Square in this lovely medieval city, Salisbury’s Christmas market will host over 100 exhibitors this year. Look out for street entertainers, musical performances from choirs and local schools, as well as a colourful Christmas lantern parade on November 30. Take a break from the market to see the Magna Carta exhibition in Salisbury Cathedral Chapter House – one of only four remaining copies of the document is housed there.
November 28 to December 24
Visitors to Canterbury‘s small traditional market can enjoy the festive spirit in an intimate setting at Whitefriars Square, from German mulled wine and sausages to Christmas music and hand-crafted gifts from its colourful cabins.
Historic houses and castles
(November and December)
A Christmas Gift Fair is held in the grounds of atmospheric Leeds Castle, which has been decorated for Christmas with cinnamon and orange wreaths, pine trees and sparkling lights. The market will feature live music, children’s rides ,reindeer, a Victorian carousel and other fairground attractions. The market is open on November 25 and 26, December 2, 3, 9, 10, 16, 17. The Country Homes and Interiors Christmas Fair will take place on the lawns in front of Stonor Park in Oxfordshire from November 23-26 – and again the house itself has been decked out in festive style. A Christmas Fair and Fine Food Market will run at Burghley House in Lincolnshire from November 23-26.