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Planning a trip to the United Kingdom during the holiday season, and looking for the best Christmas Markets in the UK? Well, you have clicked on the perfect post for this. While it may not have the same reputation for Christmas markets as some of its continental European neighbours, the UK still boasts quite a number of wonderful ones to get you in the holiday mood.
Wandering through the wooden chalets lit up with twinkling fairy lights, indulging in some hot chocolate, mulled wine and other festive treats, and buying lots of traditional handicrafts is a great way of taking your mind off the often dismal weather in the UK during the winter season, plus you get to experience the charming atmospheres of some of the most beautiful and vibrant cities the country has to offer.
If you are wondering where you should head to when planning on a festive trip to the UK, here is a guide to the top Christmas markets in the UK you must visit, written by our contributing writer, Ali. She is originally from the UK.
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Christmas Markets UK 2019: A list of the Top Christmas Markets in the UK
My absolute favourite of all the Christmas markets in the UK, York is an exceptionally beautiful city that becomes even more so when the festive season begins. St. Nicholas Fair – the name given to York Christmas market – won Best Large Speciality Market at the Great British Market Awards this year, a testament to how good this market really is. The main drag of the market runs down Parliament Street, but if you head off down the small backstreets you will also discover plenty of other stalls selling all kinds of handmade goods and tasty Christmas food.
My favourite part of the market is Thor’s Tipi, which opens on 13th November on Parliament Street. It is a really cool pop-up tipi bar in Scandinavian style with roaring fires, animal skin rugs and a great selection of Christmassy drinks. You should also take a wander down the Shambles, York’s most famous street, to see the shops there all decked out for Christmas.
In addition to the markets, there is also a wide variety of events that take place throughout the entire season, such as pantomimes, Christmas carol concerts, and theatre plays. If you head out of the city to York Designer Outlet, you can skate on the north’s largest ice rink.
York Christmas Festival takes place from 14th November to 22nd December 2019.
Manchester has long been known for having an absolutely splendid Christmas market, with thousands flocking here every year. Here you will find over 300 stalls and chalets spread across the city centre selling all kinds of items, from handmade toys and Christmas decorations to fine jewellery, leather goods and clothing.
The vendors are both local and from all over Europe, so there is a great variety in the products available. Because of the different nationalities which make their way to Manchester for the market, you can also find a huge diversity in the food and drink on offer; you can choose from the traditional favourite bratwurst, Hungarian goulash, a classic hog roast, and even Spanish paella.
If you look on the Visit Manchester website, you will see a number of Manchester Christmas markets listed. This might make it seem like there are lots of markets – which technically there are – but all the locations are within very short walks of each other, so it really is just like walking around one massive market.
The Manchester Christmas markets are taking place between 8th November and 21st December 2019, with the exception of the Albert Square market which will close on 22nd December.
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Very much like York, Bath’s beautiful cobbled streets and magnificent architecture are the perfect backdrop to its Christmas market. As you walk through the market you will be in the shadow of the UNESCO Roman Baths and 16th century abbey, both of which are absolutely stunning, especially when they are viewed among the sparkling lights of the market.
The market here is considered to be the biggest shopping event of the year in the South West, and the focus is very much on local artisan producers and businesses. There are over 170 stalls with 80% of them run by business holders either from Bath itself or the surrounding area, and 60% of the items sold are made within the UK.
On top of that, an impressive 99% of the products are made by hand, from knitted socks and hats to gingerbread and cheese. There is also plenty of entertainment in the form of musicians, carollers, and choirs; the full performance schedule is yet to be confirmed.
Bath’s Christmas market takes place from 28th November to 15th December 2019.
Check out the top things to in Bath here
Of course, there are plenty of Christmas markets in London; it is such a huge city that it would not make sense just to have one. However, the one that most people tend to head to is Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland. It is the biggest of the London markets and certainly the most spectacular.
When it comes to shopping, there are over 100 Bavarian-style chalets selling jewellery, clothing, accessories, handmade crafts, and traditional Christmas decorations. You can also indulge in some traditional Bavarian cuisine and there is even a cocktail bar where everything is carved out of ice.
However, Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland is not just about shopping, eating and drinking, as much as those things are reasons enough to visit. The main draw is the huge amusement park with over 100 rides and games, including the Munich Looping, a ride which also makes an appearance at the German city’s famous Oktoberfest, the Christmas Coaster, and Ice Mountain.
The Winter Wonderland is also home to the UK’s largest outdoor ice rink; it is best to book this online as it is extremely popular, and then you should arrive about 20 minutes before your timed session so you have time to collect your ice skates. There are two circus shows which you can visit – Zippos Christmas Circus and Cirque Berserk – but a cool thing which Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland has that no other UK market does is the Winter Wonderland Comedy Club which has a great schedule of high-profile comedy names.
As I mentioned previously, there are lots of Christmas markets which take place throughout the entire city during the winter season; if you are travelling to London during November and December, it is highly likely that you will come across a Christmas market wherever you go. Some of the best ones – apart from Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland – are Greenwich, the Southbank Centre, Leicester Square, and Christmas by the River at London Bridge City.
Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park takes place between 15th November 2019 and 5th January 2020.
While German Christmas markets are incredibly popular all over the UK during the Christmas season, there are not very many that are affiliated with a specific city. However, there is a very good reason why the Birmingham Christmas market is called the Frankfurt Christmas Market and Craft Market; the two cities are twinned with each other.
The market that takes place in Birmingham is the largest of its kind outside of Germany and Austria, which is reason enough to visit. However, this year marks the 20th anniversary of the Frankfurt Market’s visit to Birmingham, so it is set to be bigger than ever.
While the Frankfurt Market offers everything you may expect from a typical German market, including carved wooden toys, traditional handmade Christmas decorations, and lots of sausages, pretzels and beer, you should also check out the Craft market which takes place at the same time. Here you can buy lots of cute handmade products such as soaps and candles. There is also an ice rink and Ferris wheel to enjoy.
Birmingham Christmas market begins on 7th November 2019 and finishes on 23rd December. The locations are Victoria Square, Chamberlain Square, Centenary Square, and New Street.
Bristol is probably my favourite city in the UK, so of course I had to add the city’s Christmas market to this list. Located in the heart of the city centre, it is smaller than a lot of the other Christmas markets on this list, but all the more charming for it.
There are around 50 stalls selling all kinds of unique gifts and decorations as well as all the usual Christmassy food and drink. One of the most popular parts of Bristol Christmas market is the Jager Barn Bar, where you can get warmed up with a glass of mulled wine or hot cider while listening to live music.
It has also been confirmed that the curling station, which made its debut last year, will be making a return. If you want to make sure of your curling spot, bookings can be made online on the market’s website. There will also be reindeer visits during December.
Bristol Christmas market will run from 8th November to 23rd December 2019. There is also a smaller Christmas market down by the Harbourside which takes place at the weekends starting from 23rd November until 22nd December.
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Edinburgh might be the most beautiful of the Scottish cities, but everyone knows that Glasgow is where all the cool kids go. Glasgow’s Christmas markets are just as individual as the city itself with a variety of choices, from the traditional to the quirky.
Glasgow has two main traditional Christmas markets, St. Enoch Square and George Square markets. St. Enoch Square turns into a miniature Christmas village with over 50 chalets and lots of delicious food such as bratwurst, crispy duck, and hog roast.
George Square hosts a wide variety of vendors, both local and global, selling all kinds of interesting products such as Russian dolls, woollen jumpers made in Lapland, and Italian nougat. There are also vintage rides, such as a helter skelter and carousel, plus you can rest your feet in one of the many German-inspired bars that pop up in the square.
The market in St. Enoch Square runs from 9th November to 23rd December 2019, and the one in George Square from 25th November to 31st December 2019, although please be noted that this market is closed on Christmas Day. There are also a number of smaller markets dotted around other locations in the city, usually only open for one day or weekends; check the Glasgow Loves Christmas website for more details.
Set within the grounds of Belfast City Hall, the Christmas market in the capital of Northern Ireland has both festive cheer and stunning surroundings. When the city hall is all lit up, it really does add to the wonderful atmosphere that fills the grounds during the festive season.
It is one of the more international markets – hence the official name of Belfast Continental Christmas Market – with global delicacies such as churros, French crepes, and Belgian chocolates on offer. The market is also well-known for its stalls selling exotic meats; it is possible to try kangaroo, alligator, crocodile, and wild boar here.
As well as food, there is also the chance to pick up a number of individual and handcrafted gifts, and to also have unique experiences such as having your photo taken while standing inside a huge snow globe. The focal point of the market is the beer tent, where you can try lots of flavoured beers. It is a popular meeting place for locals, so it does become rather lively, especially in the evenings.
Belfast Continental Christmas market runs from 16th November to 22nd December 2019.
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If you want to step back in time to a Christmas of years gone by, head to Worcester Victorian Christmas market. It only runs for four days, but it makes a lovely long weekend if you happen to be visiting the city.
Everything at the market is Victorian-themed, from the street performers to the food which is sold. Despite Worcester being a fairly small city, the market actually has lots of stalls – over 200, in fact – selling arts and crafts, locally sourced food and drink, and plenty of Christmas gifts.
To add to the Victorian theme, you will see many people milling about in traditional dress from that period and there is a vintage funfair with rides and games that people would have enjoyed during the 19th century, including a carousel which will whisk you around to the sounds of a barrel organ. On every corner, you will encounter various types of entertainment, such as buskers, choirs, and jugglers on stilts.
Worcester Victorian Christmas Market takes place between 28th November to 1st December 2019.
As someone who used to live in Cardiff, Cardiff Christmas market is one that I know well and I certainly enjoyed visiting every festive period. Located in the pedestrian streets of St. John Street, Hills Street, Working Street, Trinity Street, and the Hayes, you can browse over 200 stalls selling a diverse range of arts and crafts, with a strong focus on local businesses who wish to promote and sell their work and products.
These products can include bespoke silver jewellery, handmade textiles such as quilts, products made from pewter and slate, traditionally woven Welsh tweed, and ceramics. While many of the Christmas markets on this list have stalls run by the same traders year after year, Cardiff Christmas market prides itself on encouraging new businesses to take on stalls. They even have taster stalls if traders wish to test the market. Of course, there are also lots of stalls serving all the traditional Christmas food and drink.
Cardiff Christmas market runs from 14th November to 23rd December 2019.
Obviously, the cities mentioned in this article are fantastic to visit at any time of year. But to really experience them at their finest, the Christmas season is definitely one of the best times to go. Despite the cold weather, you will feel warm to the heart with festive cheer and really get into the Christmas spirit.
Whether you decide to visit one of the more famous UK Christmas markets or one of the lesser-known ones, you can be sure you are going to start your Christmas period the best way possible.
This is a guest post by our guest contributor Allie. Allie is originally from The UK and enjoys traveling while housesitting around the world.
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