Christmas markets have become immensely popular in recent years and nowhere more so than in the UK. Inspired by the traditions of Germany, they have transformed into a festive and enjoyable occasion for families and friends, whether to look for Christmas gifts or just to enjoy a warm cup of Eggnog and roasted chestnuts.
In fact, Christmas markets have become so popular that they have inspired people to enjoy Christmas breaks, with winter cottages in the New Forest and other such locations that feature these markets booked months in advance. Here we have put together a list of the best around the UK to help your decision or plan your tour!
The stunning Blenheim Palace is popular at all times of year, but at Christmas the 18th Century work of Baroque architecture is truly magical. Hosting a range of events throughout the period, you can find the likes of Christmas stilt walkers, carols and brass bands throughout the building and pleasure gardens, and not forgetting that all-important Christmas market – Living Crafts for Christmas.
"Visitors can enjoy Christmas shopping in style this year at Living Crafts for Christmas, a highlight of the festive season at Blenheim Palace. With over 150 designer-makers showcasing the best of British craft, with everything from stocking fillers to specially commissioned pieces, shoppers are sure to find the perfect gifts for everyone."
- Blenheim Palace
After a visit to Blenheim Palace, there is another great market not too far away in Oxford city centre. Oxford is known for its beautiful shops and architecture throughout the year, but Oxford Christmas Market offers a great range of festive gifts and edible delights. Running from the 11th until the 21st December this year, there will be German Bratwurst, Churros with hot chocolate sauce and traditional Glühwein, a traditional German mulled wine, to enjoy, and local choirs and bands will perform throughout against the backdrop of a Victorian carousel. If that isn’t enough or you’re visiting in November, don’t worry, there is still plenty going on. Just see the Oxford Christmas website.
People travel from across the country and even further to see the traditional Bath Christmas Market. Taking place between the 27th November and 14th December 2014, this year’s market will feature a total of 170 decorated wooden chalets in the heart of Bath’s World Heritage Site, with a significant proportion of them selling products from local Bath businesses so that you can browse some truly unique gifts. The market surrounds the local icon that is Bath Abbey and boasts a warming festive atmosphere. In addition to the market this year, Bath on Ice will be returning to offer a spectacular ice skating opportunity on real ice, and the Theatre Royal will be putting on the Cinderella pantomime featuring Dani Harmer, Melanie Walters and Jon Monie.
For more information on things to see and do in Bath visit http://visitbath.co.uk or call 0906 711 2000 (50p/min)
“The medieval city of Salisbury comes alive every December with a truly wonderful Christmas Market held in the historic Guildhall Square. With over 100 exhibitors, the majority of who are local or regional artists, craftspeople and artisan food producers, the Salisbury Christmas Market is a wonderful place to shop for high quality, and genuinely unique, gifts.
Rated among the top 5 in the country by the Daily Telegraph the Salisbury Christmas Market is a must visit event if you are staying anywhere near the city. This year the Market runs from Thursday 27 November to Saturday 20 December and is open daily from 10am to 6pm. Late night opening is on Thursday, until 8pm and Friday and Saturday until 7pm.”
- Salisbury Christmas Market
Herefordshire and Shropshire
The traditional market town of Ludlow in Shropshire is not only famed for being home to Ludlow Castle and its high-quality restaurants, but also its spectacular Christmas Market with the Ludlow Medieval Christmas Fayre.
“The best medieval show in the land with knights in combat, giants and jesters, dancing and carolling, music, mummers, minstrels and medieval tales. Over 100 stalls selling seasonal wares, food and drink, crafts, historical goods and more; it’s the ideal chance to find the perfect, original gift or indulge in a unique treat.”
- Ludlow Medieval Christmas Fayre
Hampshire and the New Forest
Winchester Cathedral Christmas Market has an impressive reputation, attracting some 350,000 visitors every year. Running from the 20th November until the 21st December in 2014, there will be plenty of events and activities to get involved in throughout the period, just see the Christmas in Winchester website for details. From ice skating to theatrical delights, there is something for every family member to enjoy in Winchester.
Sussex, Surrey and Kent
The Chichester Christmas Market runs from the 6th to 14th December and features 50 stalls selling top quality crafts and gifts. In addition to the popular market there are plenty of other events taking place in the city throughout the festive period, including tree dressing, workshops (for adults and kids!) and festive trails. See the Visit Chichester website for details of all of these great events.
Perhaps one of the longest running Christmas markets that you can visit is the Churchill Square Christmas Market in Brighton, perfect to make sure everyone gets a chance to visit their fantastic event. Running from the 31st October until Christmas Eve, in 2014 this German-style market located at Brighton’s popular Churchill Square shopping centre will feature delicious Glühwein, German bratwurst and traditional crepes to sample. As for shopping, you can purchase glass ornaments, jewellery, hand-knitted hats, gloves and scarves, Christmas decorations and many more great gift ideas.
Moving onto Devon, Exeter Christmas Market offers a fantastic event from the Cathedral. Set in the Cathedral Green, the market will run from the 20th November until 20th December this year and offers great food, gifts, crafts and decorations.
Shaftesbury Christmas Fair will run this year from the 14th December and boasts a status as the biggest of its kind in the county. The High Street from Angel Square to the Commons will be alive with festivities and offers a great range of produce and gifts to buy. For those on holiday in Shaftesbury before this date, the Christmas lights switch on promises to be an event not to miss this year, with patron of Breast Cancer Campaign Dame Zandra Rhodes CBE turning on the lights for a pink Christmas as they support the Breast Cancer Campaign.
- Shaftesbury Snowdrops
For those just missing Christmas in Shaftesbury, all is not lost, there is still the Shaftesbury Snowdrops festival in February 2015. The event acts as the backdrop for the town’s project to create Britain’s first ‘Snowdrop Town’, as well as becoming increasingly popular for its Dutch and German market.
Truro – Victorian Market
Heading further west is the start of the many fantastic Christmas markets dotted around Cornwall. The Truro Victorian Market is among the most unusual, with, as the name may suggest, a great lot of fancy dress in period clothing. Taking place between the 9th and 14th December this year, this unique market located at Lemon Quay Piazza in the centre of the city will feature 70 traders, producers and exhibitors, and will feature both a Food Hall and an Arts, Crafts and Gifts Hall for visitors to browse.
Further along in Penzance is the Trereife Christmas Fair held at Trereife House. Running over the weekend of the 22nd – 23rd November, the event will feature crafts, fine foods and drinks, and with local suppliers in abundance it is a great way to get a taste for Cornwall, and Penzance!
Truro – Made in Cornwall
Cornwall is known for its crafty and artistic nature, spawning a great number of artists and creative types in its history. The Made in Cornwall Christmas Fair includes an impressive selection of local food and crafts ranging from real ales and cakes to photographs and toys. Taking place between the 26th and 30th November on the Piazza in Truro, this year is expected to be even bigger and better than ever; 80 quality local businesses will be exhibiting their produce and goods, from as far afield as Callington to Liskeard and The Lizard.
“If you’re having problems organising Christmas and are looking for something that little bit different for your friends and family, then look no further than the Made in Cornwall Christmas Fair”
- Liz Rickard from the Made in Cornwall Scheme
The Fowey Christmas Market takes place over a weekend, so be sure to get in there quick! Taking place over the 6th and 7th December this year, it thrives off its stunning location, offering visitors a great range of produce and crafts. With traders coming from Cornwall, Devon and beyond there’s no telling what you might find.
…and the rest!
If that wasn’t enough choice or reason to make a trip to one of Britain’s many great Christmas markets this year then be sure to check out the ChristmasMarkets.com website. Acting as the ultimate Christmas market directory, the website has plenty of information on Christmas markets both near and far.
Image Credits: Blenheim Palace, Oxford Christmas Market, Visit Bath, Simon Ward, (c) Abigail Dakin, Winchester Cathedral, David Wilson, Churchill Square, Shaftesbury Christmas Market, PR4Photos, Trereife Christmas Market, Made in Cornwall Christmas Fair, Barnacle & Bird