UK’s best Christmas markets | The Independent

Christmas markets may traditionally be the preserve of Germany, Austria, Switzerland et al, but these days you can find wooden stalls hawking mulled wine, roasted chestnuts and a range of gifts much closer to home.

Here are 10 markets in the UK to give you all the festive feels.

Bath

Already picturesque, this Georgian spa town is even prettier when filled with more than 150 stalls selling food, drink, presents and decorations. Far from offering the ubiquitous festive tat, Bath’s market has everything from bespoke glassware to artisanal soaps and scents. On the sustenance side, there’s craft beer and local cider, plus home-made brownies, sausage rolls and charcuterie to get your chops around. For those looking for a little extra luxe, there’s also the Bath Christmas Market Experience, where £88 gets you a two-course lunch with a glass of champagne, a wreath-making or bauble-blowing workshop, and two hours at the Thermae Bath Spa to complement a shopping trip.

Have a very Georgian experience in Bath (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

When: Thursday 28 November to Sunday 15 December 

bathchristmasmarket.co.uk

Birmingham

Birmingham offers a Midlands take on German festivities with its Frankfurt Christmas Market. It claims to be the “largest authentic German Christmas market outside of Germany or Austria”, which in practice means pretzels, schnitzels, bratwursts, gluhwein and weissbeer are all on offer among the 80 or so stalls. Gifts are what you might expect from a traditional German market: think wooden toys and decorations, glass baubles and hand-crafted leatherwork. On weekends there’s also live music performed on the main stage in Victoria Square.

Birmingham has the UK’s biggest German Christmas Market (Getty Images)

When: 7 November to 23 December

thebfcm.co.uk

Leeds

It may not be the biggest German market in the UK, but Leeds’ Christkindelmarkt nevertheless transforms the city centre into a wintry village, complete with wooden chalets and a carousel. There are around 40 stalls, many of them selling European treats such as mini Dutch pancakes, frankfurters, potato fritters, roasted almonds, crepes, pork steaks and gluhwein. Come hungry. Gift-wise, there are wooden toys, jewellery, snow globes, honeywine and woollen clothes to peruse. A daily programme of musical performances takes place on the stage in Millennium Square, plus there’s a weekly children’s show and buffet breakfast with Santa.

Head to Millennium Square in Leeds for festive cheer (Getty Images)

When: 8 November to 21 December

millsqleeds.com/christmasmarket

Edinburgh

Edinburgh’s market is so popular, it goes on past Christmas and right into early January. Located in East Princes Street Gardens, the market of European-looking stalls selling all the usual wooden knick-knacks and vittles one could ask for is only one piece of the Edinburgh Christmas puzzle. There’s also a range of funfair rides (including candy cane bungees), a Yuletide silent disco and a Scottish Norwegian advent concert. 

Princes Street Gardens serve up Edinburgh’s Christmas market (Getty Images)

When: 16 November to 4 January

edinburghschristmas.com

Southbank Centre, London

Every Londoner knows not to venture into Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland if you want to keep your sanity. A good alternative is heading to the Southbank Centre near Waterloo, where wooden chalets strewn with fairy lights bring an extensive range of streetfoods from around the world, from raclette and bratwurst to Greek and Asian cuisine. Pop-up bars and restaurants offer a different experience: choose from fondue and venison hot dogs in a private igloo overlooking the Thames, freshly shucked oysters at Applebee’s, or hot cider and seasonal cocktails at Bar Under the Bridge. Festive entertainment comes in the form of a pop-up cinema plus shows including Circus 1903, which features acrobats, contortionists, jugglers, trapeze artists and high-wire performers.

The Southbank Centre has a pop-up cinema and shows as well as stalls (Getty Images)

When: 8 November to 27 January

southbankcentre.co.uk

Swansea

One of the biggest covered Christmas markets in Wales can be found in Swansea, where around 30 stalls give the full range of Yuletide products: roasted nuts, Bavarian beer, Yorkshire pudding wraps and Snowdonia cheese alongside sheepskin slippers, personalised wooden puzzles, bath bombs and hand-made leather bags. Tired of shopping? The Waterfront Winterland has a 33m Observation Wheel, funfair attractions and a covered ice-rink.

When: 15 November to 22 December 

visitswanseabay.com/swansea-christmas

Belfast

Visit the Belfast Christmas Market in the City Hall grounds for more than 30 stalls. Food has a European flavour, with French crêpes, Dutch pancakes, Belgian chocolates and giant bratwursts and Schwenkgrill (a grilled pork speciality) from Germany. Non-foodie fun consists of a vintage helter skelter and carousel, Santa’s grotto and plenty of spots to grab a gluhwein.

Belfast Christmas Market (Getty Images)

When: 16 November to 22 December

visitbelfast.com/event/belfast-christmas-market-2019

Aberdeen Christmas Village

The Granite City’s Christmas includes an open-air ice rink, fairground rides, a silent disco, Christmas crazy golf and a Santa’s Grotto. All of it revolves around the Christmas in the Quad market, where shoppers can pick up artisanal candles, clothing, jewellery and homewares along with gourmet food and drink, premium Scottish gin, handcrafted preserves and art prints.

When: 21 November to 22 December

aberdeeninspired.com/festival/aberdeen-christmas-village

York

There are myriad ways to get your Christmas on in York, from a Christmas gala ball to a candlelit procession and carol service based on the traditional Swedish Lucia celebration. The York Winter Wonderland has the North of England’s largest outdoor ice rink, with a 30ft-high Christmas tree as its centrepiece. And the St Nicholas Christmas Fair features a Made in Yorkshire Yuletide Village showcasing Yorkshire produce from crafters and makers, plus more traditional Christmas gifts can be found in the alpine chalets lining Parliament Street.

York’s medieval streets look even prettier at Christmas (Getty Images)

When: 14 November to 22 December 2019

visityork.org/whats-on/christmas​

Padstow

Padstow Christmas Festival is all about food (Padstow Christmas Festival)

Padstow’s Christmas market sits as just one part of the Cornish town’s Christmas festival. As you might expect from Rick Stein’s adopted home, much of the market and festival revolves around food, with a particular highlight being the Big Cornish Breakfast: on 8 December, renowned chefs including Rick Stein, Paul Ainsworth, Mitch Tonks, Brian Turner and Angela Hartnett will cook and serve breakfast to 70 people (tickets £45). Chefs will also be doing cooking demonstrations, while the market itself features local food and drink producers – think Cornish cheeses, sausages and pudding alongside craft gin, beer and even local wine – to complement artisan crafts, such as locally made blankets, skincare, sustainable wooden chopping boards and beach robes.

When: 5 to 8 December

padstowchristmasfestival.co.uk

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