Twinkling lights, mulled wine, a holiday atmosphere and fabulous gifts – Britain’s Christmas markets are back! Set in some of Britain’s loveliest cities, discover some of our favourites for an experience that’s both a perfect place for Christmas shopping and festive destination discovery!
A firm favourite on the yuletide calendar is the Birmingham Frankfurt Christmas Market, the largest authentic German Christmas market outside of Germany or Austria. In its 80+ stalls, not only will you find a fine range of traditional, personalised gifts but you'll also get the chance to channel the German spirit while feasting on schnitzels, bratwursts, glühwein, and weissbeer. The market is conveniently located in Victoria Square, and comes complete with a show-stopping 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 (details to be confirmed for 2021) or head to Enchanted Weston, an illuminated, after-dark experience in stunning parkland with live music and food.
Historic-ambience-meets-winter-style at Bath Christmas Market, where 150+ pop-up chalets usually set up on the city’s pretty Georgian streets. Set to return in 2022, you can expect a real treasure trove of gifts to take home, whether that’s jewellery, homewares, or decorations. In past years, more than 80% of stallholders have come from Bath and South West England and 99% of all products were handmade in Britain or abroad with Fair Trade certification. So, if you’re looking for an eco-savvy holiday shopping experience next year, this is the market for you! While exploring the new stalls and the perennial favourites, be sure to fill your empty belly with a range of festive food from The Lodge in the heart of the market.
The popular Winter Market at London’s Southbank Centre (details to be confirmed for 2021) is a seasonal pleasure that sits alongside a range of family shows and festive fun as the banks of the River Thames are usually transformed into a winter wonderland. Wander along the South Bank 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 often 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.
The Manchester Christmas Markets take over locations across the city, meaning you won’t be far from festive gifts and delicious food and drink stalls selling traditional bratwurst, hog roast and paella on a winter trip to the city. Typically there are more than 300 accessible stalls and chalets across the city, with jewellery, toys, plants, bags, homeware and quirky gifts to be found 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; and Halle’s (Manchester’s Orchestra’s) Christmas Concerts at Bridgewater Hall.
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. Numerous 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: The Christmas ice rink in the heart of the market and marvel at the glittering Christmas tree in its centre; or enjoy the Steam Illuminations aboard the Watercress Line heritage railway.
Set against the backdrop of one of the Northern Irish capital’s most iconic buildings, Belfast City Hall, the Belfast Christmas Market offers an 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.
Held across several streets of Cardiff’s pedestrianised city centre, Cardiff’s Christmas Market welcomes an array of vendors, giving you 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.
Millennium Square in Leeds is usually transformed for the city’s annual Christkindelmarkt German Christmas Market, with the addition of more than 40 traditionally decorated wooden chalets. Set to return in 2022, previosu versions have featured hand-crafted jewellery and festive decorations, authentic German food, and a popular Christmas Carousel, as well as 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 (details to be confirmed for 2021) and take a visit to Neverland for the Leeds Playhouse festive production of Wendy and Peter Pan.
The Victorian Christmas Festival, held in the impressive surroundings of the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, is three days of festive fun. Normally home to 120 market stalls selling all sorts of festive treats, an array of Victorian street performers and the chance to meet Father Christmas, details for this year are yet to be announced. For further information, visit Portsmouth Historic Dockyard's events page.
Also check out: Lashings of festive fun at the Jack and the Beanstalk Christmas Shows at Kings Theatre.
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 into early January as part of Edinburgh’s Christmas. While it’s not open on Christmas Day, it is open 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 markets take place in East Princes Street Gardens and West 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; the ice rink of George Street, and performances of Christmas Dinner at the Royal Lyceum Theatre.
Transforming one of London’s spectacular parks, Hyde Park Winter Wonderland offers a festive paradise in the heart of the city. The Wonderland is home to the world’s tallest transportable observation wheel, a Magical Ice Kingdom and an array of comedic acts at its own Comedy Club. Visitors of all ages can also discover Britain’s largest open air ice rink and plenty of bars and food stalls. Enjoy jaw-dropping circus acts and don’t miss the chance to ride the Munich Looping, the world’s largest transportable roller coaster! Pre-booking in 2021 is a must!
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.
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. Although exact details for 2021 are still to be confirmed, it usually features 70+ Bavarian-inspired stalls selling everything from plants, food, and jewellery to eco art and home accessories.
Previous markets have also included a 1,110-sq metre ice rink, Toboggan Slide and carousel. There's also been an Ice Bar, a magical, winter-themed venue filled with intricate ice sculptures, and Altitude Bar, a glass chalet-style bar offering panoramic views, a private DJ and those all-important Christmas cocktails.
Also check out: The magic of Christmas at Wollaton, an Elizabethan Hall that is illuminated as part of a multi-sensory trail and display.
Stratford-upon-Avon’s Victorian Christmas Market Festival brings the past to life, running throughout the world-renowned town centre. Festive cheer will be spread with hundreds of stalls selling a whole host of seasonal products and traders decked out in their finest Victorian costumes. Entertainment is hosted throughout the town, along with a stage in Henley Street hosting an array of performances for everyone to enjoy and a traditional funfair.
Also check out: Skating at the Warwick Castle Ice Rink, explore its outdoor light trail and tuck into Christmas Afternoon Tea, or check out Stratford Town Walk guided tours, including on Christmas Day.