Twinkling lights, mulled wine, a festive atmosphere and fabulous gifts – Britain’s Christmas markets are back this year and bigger and better than ever before. Set in some of Britain’s loveliest cities, a visit to a Christmas market is equal parts shopping experience, equal parts destination discovery.
Winter Wonderland, London
Transforming one of London’s spectacular parks, Hyde Park Winter Wonderland offers a festive paradise in the heart of the city. 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!
When? 21 November – 5 January
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
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. Visitors can expect a real treasure trove of gifts to take home, whether that’s jewellery, homewares or decorations. Last year more than 80% of stallholders came from Bath and south-west England, while 99% of all products were handmade in Britain or abroad with Fairtrade certification, so this is very much an eco-savvy shopping experience. There’s always new stalls to explore as well as the perennial favourites, while visitors can fill empty bellies with a range of festive food from The Lodge in the heart of the market.
When? 28 November – 15 December
Also check out: Bath on Ice, the festive ice rink that runs from 15 November to 5 January 2020, 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.
Birmingham Frankfurt Christmas Market, central England
A firm favourite on the city’s yuletide calendar, Birmingham Frankfurt Christmas Market is the largest authentic German Christmas market outside of Germany or Austria. Expect 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.
When? 7 November – 23 December 2019
Also check out: Outdoor skating at Ice Rink Birmingham plus the Big Wheel Experience from 7 November to 12 January 2020, or head to Enchanted Weston, an illuminated, after-dark experience in stunning parkland with live music and food, running from 13 to 21 December.
Edinburgh Christmas Market, Scotland
Even if paying a visit after Christmas, guests still get the chance to enjoy some festive treats as Edinburgh’s Christmas market continues 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.
When? 16 November 2019 – 4 January 2020
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 (28 November 2019 – 4 January 2020).
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 returns in 2019 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. Kids will love riding the vintage carousel or zipping down the helter skelter, as well as taking a trip to visit Santa in his magical grotto.
When? 16 November – 22 December 2019
South Bank Winter Festival, 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. All along the South Bank are 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 to grab a selfie by the huge Christmas tree!
When? 8 November 2019 – 5 January 2020
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 (14 December 2019 – 5 January 2020) and circus entertainment with Circus 1903 (19 December 2019 – 5 January 2020).
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, 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. There are plenty of food and drink options available among the 200+ stallholders and there’ll be music, festive lights and entertainment transforming the streets.
When? 14 November – 23 December 2019
Manchester Christmas Markets, north-west England
The 20th instalment of the Manchester Christmas Markets will take over locations across the city from mid-November, meaning visitors 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. Visitors can 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.
When? 8 November – 21 December 2019 (Albert Square stalls open until 22 December)
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 (6 December 2019 – 3 January 2020); 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 (8 November 2019 - 5 January 2020).
Leeds Christkindelmarkt, north England
Millennium Square in Leeds is transformed for the city’s annual Christkindelmarkt German Christmas Market, with the addition of more than 40 traditionally decorated wooden chalets. Browse through hand-crafted jewellery and festive decorations, tuck into authentic German food and feel extra festive with a ride on the popular Christmas Carousel. For those 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.
When? 8 November – 21 December 2019
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 (21 December 2019); and the Leeds Playhouse festive production of The Night Before Christmas (30 November - 28 December 2019).
Winchester 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. More than 100 chalets are home to hand-picked exhibitors offering exclusive gifts that visitors won’t find on the high street – from hand-crafted decorations and festive treats to craft beer and mulled wine.
When? 21 November – 22 December 2019
Also check out: Skate around the city’s covered Christmas Ice Rink (21 November 2019 – 2 January 2020) and marvel at the glittering Christmas tree in its centre; or visit the Ginchester Christmas Market (7 December 2019), a celebration of the region’s diverse spirits including local gin, whisky, vodka and rum.
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. This year marks 20 years of Christmas magic, with the festival home to 120 market stalls selling all sorts of festive treats, an array of Victorian street performers and the chance to meet Father Christmas.
When? 29 November – 1 December 2019
Also check out: Mix up a treat as the Explosion Museum of Naval Firepower hosts two Christmas Cocktail Parties (7 and 13 December 2019); Meet Father Christmas at the Royal Navy Submarine Museum (14 December 2019) and enjoy lashings of festive fun during the That’ll Be The Day Christmas Show at Kings Theatre (18 December 2019).
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