Twinkling lights, mulled wine, a holiday atmosphere and fabulous gifts – Britain’s Christmas markets are back and bigger and better than ever before. Set in some of Britain’s loveliest cities, discover some of our favourites for an experience that’s equal parts Christmas shopping, equal parts festive destination discovery!
1. Birmingham’s Frankfurt Christmas Market, central England
A firm favourite on the city’s yuletide calendar, Birmingham Frankfurt Christmas Market (November 7 to December 23) is the largest authentic German Christmas market outside of Germany or Austria. You’ll find a fine range of traditional, personalised gifts and products on its 80 stalls and get into the German spirit while feasting on schnitzels, bratwursts, glühwein and weissbeer. Another huge draw is its bandstand location in Victoria Square and the programme of live music and carol singers that’s set to bring the party atmosphere to festive shopping.
Also check out: Outdoor skating at Ice Rink Birmingham plus the Big Wheel Experience from November 7 to January 12, or head to Enchanted Weston, an illuminated, after-dark experience in stunning parkland with live music and food, running from December 13 to 21 .
2. Bath Christmas Market, south-west England
For historic-ambience-meets-winter-style, head to Bath Christmas Market, as more than 150 pop-up chalets set up on the city’s pretty Georgian streets. From 28 November to 15 December you can expect a real treasure trove of gifts to take home, whether that’s jewellery, homewares or decorations. More than 80% of stallholders come from Bath and south-west England, while 99% of all products are handmade in Britain or abroad with Fairtrade certification, so if you’re looking for an eco-savvy shopping experience, this is the market for you. There are always new stalls to explore as well as the perennial favourites, while you can fill empty bellies with a range of festive food from The Lodge in the heart of the market.
Also check out: Bath on Ice, the festive ice rink that runs from November 15 to January 5, and Glow in the Dark mini golf; the Christmas Trail at Prior Park Landscape Garden during December; and Shoppers’ Carols at Bath Abbey on various dates throughout the festive season.
3. Winter at Southbank Centre, London
The popular Winter Market returns to London’s Southbank Centre, a seasonal pleasure that sits alongside a range of family shows and festive fun as the banks of the River Thames become a winter wonderland. Wander along the South Bank from November 8 to January 5 and you’ll discover strings of decorations and cute illuminated wooden cabins selling Christmas gifts, from the quirky to the traditional, as well as mince pies, spiced cider and steaming mugs of mulled wine and hot chocolate. Global cuisines are available too, in the form of festive treats to gift or to eat there and then. Make sure you grab a selfie by the huge Christmas tree!
Also check out: The fantastic performances available at the Southbank Centre, from Christmas concerts and choir performances to a children’s retelling of Black Beauty (December 14 – January 5) and circus entertainment with Circus 1903 (December 19 – January 5).
4. Manchester Christmas Markets, north-west England
The 20th instalment of the Manchester Christmas Markets will take over locations across the city from mid-November to December 22, meaning you won’t be far from festive gifts and delicious food and drink stalls selling traditional bratwurst, hog roast, paella and much more. There will be more than 300 stalls and chalets across the city, with the heart of the markets found in Albert Square. Follow the trail and pick up jewellery, toys, plants, bags, homeware and fun, quirky gifts at a variety of markets, including a French market, a German market, a World Christmas market and a dedicated Arts & Crafts market.
Also check out: Winter Funland, which will be held at an indoor venue and include fairground attractions, an ice rink, a circus and other fun performances (December 6 – January 3); Halle’s (Manchester’s Orchestra’s) Christmas Concerts at Bridgewater Hall and Ice Village Manchester, the UK's biggest-ever ice attraction which includes an Arctic Tiki Bar, Santa's Grotto and an ice rink (November 8 – January 5).
5. Winchester Cathedral’s Christmas Market, south England
With its unique location in the shadow of Winchester’s great cathedral, Winchester Cathedral’s Christmas Market is widely regarded as one of Europe’s best. From November 21 to December 22 more than 100 chalets are home to hand-picked exhibitors offering exclusive gifts that you won’t find on the high street – from hand-crafted decorations and festive treats to craft beer and mulled wine.
Also check out: Skate around the city’s covered Christmas Ice Rink (November 21 – January 2) and marvel at the glittering Christmas tree in its centre; or visit the Ginchester Christmas Market (December 7), a celebration of the region’s diverse spirits including local gin, whisky, vodka and rum.
6. Belfast Christmas Market, Northern Ireland
Set against the backdrop of one of the Northern Irish capital’s most iconic buildings, Belfast City Hall, the Belfast Christmas Market (November 16 – December 22) returns with its enviable mix of artisan products and stalls groaning with tasty treats from international cuisines in its outdoor food court. Indulge in crepes, a hog roast, glühwein and continental cheeses, then make it a truly Northern Irish experience and visit Lavery’s traditional Irish bar for fantastic live music to really get in the Christmas spirit. Travelling with kids? They’ll love riding the vintage carousel or zipping down the helter skelter, as well as taking a trip to visit Santa in his magical grotto.
7. Cardiff Christmas Market, south Wales
Set across five streets of Cardiff’s pedestrianised city centre, Cardiff’s Christmas Market will be in full swing from mid-November to December 23, leaving plenty of time to find the perfect gift among its stalls. Its ethos is hosting stallholders selling original, hand-made products and artists and crafts people selling their work. You’ll find plenty of food and drink options available among the 200+ stallholders and there’ll be music, festive lights and entertainment transforming the streets.
8. Leeds Christkindlemarkt, north England
Millennium Square in Leeds is transformed for the city’s annual Christkindelmarkt German Christmas Market from November 8 to December 21, with the addition of more than 40 traditionally decorated wooden chalets. Browse through hand-crafted jewelry and festive decorations, tuck into authentic German food and feel extra festive with a ride on the popular Christmas Carousel. If you’re still feeling hungry, visit the Alp Chalet restaurant in the centre of the market, a Bavarian style eatery offering a delectable selection of traditional food and drink, alongside evening entertainment.
Also check out: Thor’s Tipi in Victoria Gardens, a pop-up tipi bar offering an array of winter warming drinks; the massed voices of Inspiration Choir as they join forces with the Orchestra of Opera North for Inspiration: A Christmas Extravaganza at Leeds Town Hall (December 21 ); and the Leeds Playhouse festive production of The Night Before Christmas (November 30 – December 28).
9. The Victorian Christmas Festival at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, south England
Travel back in time for three days of festive fun at the Victorian Christmas Festival, held in the impressive surroundings of the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. From November 29 to December 1 the festival is home to 120 market stalls selling all sorts of festive treats, an array of Victorian street performers and the chance to meet Father Christmas.
Also check out: Mix up a treat as the Explosion Museum of Naval Firepower hosts two Christmas Cocktail Parties (December 7 and 13); Meet Father Christmas at the Royal Navy Submarine Museum (December 14) and enjoy lashings of festive fun during the That’ll Be The Day Christmas Show at Kings Theatre (December 18 ).
10. Edinburgh Christmas Markets, Scotland
Even if you’re paying a visit to Edinburgh after Christmas, you’ll still get the chance to enjoy some festive treats as Edinburgh’s Christmas market continues from mid-November until early January as part of Edinburgh’s Christmas, a six-week programme of entertainment in the city centre. While it’s not open on Christmas Day, it is open until 8pm on Christmas Eve so bring plenty of bags to fill up with goodies such as arts and crafts, foodie treats and traditional or bespoke Christmas products. The market itself takes place in East Princes Street Gardens, guaranteeing some gorgeous views of Edinburgh Castle in the background and easy access to some of the city’s major attractions.
Also check out: The Big Wheel and funfair rides on East Princes Street Gardens; and an adaption of Charles Dickens classic An Edinburgh Christmas Carol at the Lyceum (November 28 – January 4).
11. Winter Wonderland, London
Transforming one of London’s spectacular parks, Hyde Park Winter Wonderland offers a festive paradise in the heart of the city from November 21 to January 5. Home to the world’s tallest transportable observation wheel, a Magical Ice Kingdom and an array of comedic acts at its own Comedy Club, in addition to Britain’s largest open air ice rink and plenty of bars and food stalls, there’s something for all the family to enjoy. Enjoy jaw-dropping circus acts and don’t miss the arrival of Paddington on Ice, a stunning show combining cutting-edge choreography, toe-tapping music and impressive costumes that is being performed in the UK for the first time!
Also check out: The festive window displays at Hamleys, Selfridge’s and Harrods, plus the capital’s festive lights around the shopping hubs of Regent’s Street and Oxford Street.
12. Nottingham Winter Wonderland, East Midlands
Short-listed as one of Europe's top 20 Christmas markets by European Best Destinations and voted second in Vogue’s round-up, Nottingham Winter Wonderland is the largest festive event in the East Midlands. Held in the Old Market Square, it's a font of festive fun and gift ideas, with more than 70 Bavarian-inspired stalls selling everything from plants, food and jewellery to eco art and home accessories. Glide along the 1,110-sq metre ice rink, celebrate the holiday season with an adrenaline rush on the Toboggan Slide or keep little ones amused on the carousel, Santa toy ride and the helter skelter. Afterwards, relax at the Ice Bar, a magical, winter-themed venue filled with intricate ice sculptures, or head to Altitude Bar, a glass chalet-style bar offering panoramic views, a private DJ and those all-important Christmas cocktails.
Also check out: A Storybook Christmas at Newstead Abbey, the former home of romantic poet Byron (30 November – 22 December) and Woodthorpe Christmas Family Fun Weekends, with the chance to meet live reindeers on 7-8 December.
13. Stratford-upon-Avon Victorian Christmas Market, West Midlands
The past will come to life as Stratford-upon-Avon’s Victorian Christmas Market Festival returns for the third year running throughout the world-renowned town centre. From 6-8 December, festive cheer will be spread with more than 300 stalls selling a whole host of seasonal products and traders decked out in their finest Victorian costumes. Entertainment will be hosted throughout the town, along with stage in Henley Street hosting an array of performances for all the family to enjoy, a traditional funfair, and a brand new Community Craft Fair in the Town Hall on Sheep Street.
Also check out: Warwick Castle Ice Rink until January 5, David Walliams’ comedy The Boy in the Dress at the Royal Shakespeare Company until March 2020, Stratford Butterfly Farm, which is hosting ‘Meet the Mini-Beasts’ sessions between December 27 and January 7, and Stratford Town Walk hosting strolls, including on Christmas Day.