By Nicola Cameron
Festive atmosphere, fabulous gifts and twinkling lights – Christmas markets are one of England’s fondest traditions. Set in some of the country’s most picturesque cities, a visit to a Christmas market is equal parts shopping experience, equal parts destination discovery. Start planning your ultimate winter getaway to some of the country’s best Christmas markets, as recommended by Visit England. all of which are ideal for a family day trip or a romantic night out.
Hyde Park, London
Transforming one of London’s most 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 thrilling fairground rides, along with the UK’s largest open air ice rink and plenty of bars and food stalls, there’s something for all the family to enjoy. Don’t miss jaw-dropping circus acts and creative ice sculpting workshops, and browse over 100 charming wooden chalets for unique gifts, festive decorations and culinary delights.
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
Abbey Churchyard, Bath
For historic-ambience-meets-winter-style, head to Bath Christmas Market, as 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. This year, due to staff shortages, there will be a smaller number of chalets setting up shop around Bath Abbey and Abbey Green, with the vast majority run by local suppliers from Bath and south-west England. On top of savvy shopping, you’ll find a festive fairground (with a Victorian carousel ride) and lots of street entertainment. If you can’t attend in person, the organisers will also be setting up a Virtual Market so you can grab some goodies online.
Also check out: Bath on Ice, the festive ice rink; the Christmas Trail at Prior Park Landscape Garden during December
Birmingham Frankfurt Christmas Market
Victoria Square, Birmingham
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 bring the party atmosphere to festive shopping.
Also check out: Outdoor skating at Ice Rink Birmingham plus the Big Wheel Experience, or head to Enchanted Weston – an illuminated, after-dark experience in stunning parkland with live music and food.
Southbank Winter Festival
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. 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. Make sure to 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 and circus entertainment with Circus 1903.
Leeds Christmas Market
Millennium Square, Leeds
Millennium Square in Leeds is transformed for the city’s annual 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.
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; and the Leeds Playhouse festive production of The Night Before Christmas.
Manchester Christmas Markets
Albert Square, Manchester
The latest 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.
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; 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.
Winchester Christmas Market
With its unique location in the shadow of a celebrated English icon, 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.
Also check out: Skate around the city’s covered Christmas Ice Rink 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
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.
Also check out: Mix up a treat as the Explosion Museum of Naval Firepower hosts two Christmas Cocktail Parties; Meet Father Christmas at the Royal Navy Submarine Museum and enjoy lashings of festive fun during the That’ll Be the Day Christmas Show at Kings Theatre.
Lincoln Christmas Market
Cathedral Quarter, Lincoln
This three-day market sets up shop for its fleeting run at Lincoln’s Cathedral Quarter. There will be 280 Bavarian-themed stalls selling a range of unique festive trinkets alongside a wide selection of hearty food, drink and fairground rides. Shops across the city stay open later when the market’s in town too, giving you plenty of time to get all your gifts. Got the kids in tow? Well make sure to stop by St Paul in the Bail where the little ones can write and decorate their letters to Santa, and even post them to him using the huge Christmas Postbox.
Also check out: The magical Illuminated Wall Walk at Lincoln Castle; the special advent services and concerts at Lincoln Cathedral; family-friendly days out at Rand Farm Park, with an enchanted forest and Santa himself; and the Lantern Parade and nativity play at Castle Hill.
York’s St Nicholas Christmas Fair
Parliament Street, York
Soak up medieval charm at York’s award-winning Christmas fair. Alpine-style chalets take pride of place at the centre of Parliament Street, offering up an array of festive decorations, foodie treats and traditional Christmas gifts. For local Yorkshire produce, head for the Make in Yorkshire Yuletide Village, and for all the fun of the fair, fly down the Victorian-style Helter Skelter at Kings Square. After all that excitement you’ll be in need of a tipple or two, so stop by the rustic barn in St Sampson’s Square for a glass of mulled wine and a cup of hot chestnuts.
Also check out: Meet Father Christmas on the Kirklees Light Railway; have a giggle at Scrooge The Musical, playing at the Grand Opera House, and skate around a 30-foot-high Christmas tree at Yorkshire’s Winter Wonderland.
Rochester Christmas Market
Attracting more than 130,000 visitors a year, this Kent-based market is sure to fill more than a few stockings. Nestled in Rochester’s Castle Gardens, you can browse a range of chalet-style stalls selling everything from Fairtrade clothing to dog toys and homemade jams. And head over to the Bavarian food village for some bratwurst or churros (very German, we know!) before letting loose on some good old-fashioned fairground rides. The market also happens to coincide with the Dickensian Christmas Festival, where you’ll be able to feast your eyes on Victorian delights, meet costumed characters and listen to some open-air carolling.
Also check out: Discover how the Victorians started our festive traditions at Eastgate House; or grab your nineteenth century ball gown and attend the Mistletoe Ball, part of the Dickensian Christmas Festival.
Norwich Christmas Markets and Events
Norwich isn’t content with just one Christmas market, so it hosts several. Taking place across the same weekend in December, three distinct fairs open for business across the city. The largest, Norwich Global Village Christmas Market, takes over The Forum, with indoor stalls selling the region’s finest crafts, paintings and gifts. And on Saturday, you’ll be able to tuck into French crêpes, mulled wine and posh hot dogs just outside The Forum’s doors. Over in the Cathedral, Norwich Christmas Fayre will be filled with more festive joy and goodies, while at Open Norwich, the Vegan Christmas Market will be in full swing with a range of cruelty-free products and delicious vegan food.
Also check out: The Tunnel of Light – Norwich’s most-visited Christmas attraction; the breath-taking Thursford Christmas Spectacular; A Circus Carol (an acrobatic reimagining of Dickens’ festive tale); and the community-organised Christmas Tree Festival.
Skipton Christmas Market
Head up, down or over to Yorkshire to check out an award-winning market home to over 100 fantastic stalls. Alongside the mass of goodies up for grabs along the High Street, there will be festive entertainment galore, including live brass bands and Christmas choirs. For the kids there will be hands-on craft activities and opportunities to say hello to Santa and his reindeer. And at the end of the day, once the traders have started packing away, there’ll be a chance to join the torchlight procession through the town.
Also check out: The one-of-a-kind winter hideaway at the Off Piste Pop-up Alpine Restaurant; The interactive Great Christmas Dig at The Richard Whiteley Theatre; and the Toddler Christmas Parties at Thornton Hall Country Park
Padstow Christmas Festival
Food is at the heart of Padstow’s Christmas Festival, championed by high-profile chefs like Rick Stein and Paul Ainsworth. Join them, and more than 60 culinary experts, at cooking demonstrations across the four-day event that showcases the best of British food and drink. The Christmas marquee market is also the best place to pick up some of the most celebrated West Country produce – from beers to beauty products and art. You can even stop by the festival’s literary talks and book signings – the perfect place to bag yourself an early Christmas pressie.
Also check out: Lantern making and festive feats at Bodmin’s Winter Wonderland; mince pies and carol singing at The Pickwick Inn’s Pickwick Christmas Carols.
Stratford-upon-Avon Victorian Christmas Market
Returning for its third year is Stratford-upon-Avon’s award-winning Victorian Christmas Market, taking place in the town centre once again. With over 100,000 visitors last year, the ever-popular event spreads festive cheer with masses of shopping, food and street entertainment.
Around 300 stalls, complete with Victorian outfit-clad tradespeople, will be selling a wide range of gifts and seasonal products, and over on Wood Street there’ll be a traditional funfair to keep the whole family entertained.
This year will also welcome the Community Craft Fair, located in Stratford Town Council’s Town Hall on Sheep Street.
Also check out: Traditional winter blooms and ‘Wassailing’ at Christmas at Shakespeare’s Birthplace; meet Father Christmas at the Jacobean Hall’s Croft.