Best Christmas markets in the UK

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Roll out the chalets and let the fake snow fall, Christmas markets are back. Following a couple of disappointing years, stalls that bring an after-dark buzz to the UK’s historic centres are again being set out.

As somewhere to show your support for local artisans and food producers, traditional markets are a great place to get cracking on your festive shopping lists. So treat yourself to a spiced wine and a slice of marzipan-moistened stollen at one of the UK’s best Christmas markets.

Bath Christmas Market

(Bath Christmas Market)

Returning to celebrate its 20th year, Bath’s market has the kind of atmosphere you could bottle and pour into a festive candle. The chalets (170 this year) stand on cobbled streets outside Georgian shop windows or have Bath Abbey as a backdrop. Pretend snowflakes fall, while shoppers can pop into the abbey to join in with “shoppers carols”. The city’s splendid architecture is bathed in purples and pinks as part of Bath’s city lights trail. If the mix of gin, cheese and handmade gifts doesn’t appeal, visit the Elves’ Swapshop (£5, 1 Abbeygate Street). This genius, sustainable “shop”, sees children bring in an old toy, which elves put into a big machine. They collect a voucher in return and can choose another pre-loved or upcycled toy to take home.

When?

Until 11 December 2022

More information

bathchristmasmarket.co.uk

Edinburgh Christmas Market

Edinburgh’s Christmas – Market

(Matt Beech)

Dominated by a sparkling big wheel at the top of East Princes Street Gardens, this market of 70 stalls has memorable views of Edinburgh Castle and the Scott Monument beyond its pointed chalet roofs. Pick from a selection of handmade decorations and gifts or tuck into something from the food stalls, with Scottish specialities available alongside Bavarian produce. Warming your hands around a hot toddy is essential. Children who want to burn off steam can visit the nearby Christmas tree maze, fairground and ice rink at West Princes Street Gardens.

When?

Until 3 January 2023

More information

showcatcher.com/edwinterfest

Exeter Cathedral Christmas Market

Exeter Christmas Market takes over the Cathedral square

(Exeter Christmas Market)

Exeter’s market is one of the UK’s most picturesque, located at Cathedral Green, beneath the city’s magnificent gothic building. Here, more than 100 chalets bear handcrafted goodies and Devon-made produce, from fudge to cheese. These stand alongside street food stalls that cater for all tastes – look out for Dickensian cocktails this year and locally-brewed craft beer. Notable shopping highlights include marine antiques, salvaged and restored from old ships. The Exeter Cathedral Choir will perform live and market visitors can look around the cathedral for free.

When?

Until 18 December 2022

More information

exeter-cathedral.org.uk

Padstow Christmas Festival

Padstow’s Christmas event is all about food

(James Ram)

Calling all foodies, Padstow’s market combines gift-worthy artisanal, Cornish products alongside a professional showcase of festive cooking. Run by Michelin-starred chef Nathan Outlaw, along with Rick Stein and Paul Ainsworth, they and a number of other celebrity chefs will perform cooking demos across two stages. Most of the shopping is done under a marquee, with arts and crafts, plus food and drink producers in attendance. The weekend kicks off with carol singers and fireworks over the harbour. For something new, try pairing local Sharp’s beer with food – while wearing headphones (to aid concentration) – in the Silent Bistro.

When?

From 1-4 December 2022

More information

padstowchristmasfestival.co.uk

Manchester

While the town hall is renovated, Manchester’s festive markets sprawl across the city and include a whopping 220 stalls in all. Traditional Alpine-style chalets can be found on the roads either side of Exchange Street and in Piccadilly Gardens, which becomes the Winter Gardens. This market hub has a stage for live music and DJs, a Nordic tipi bar that is new this year, plus food stalls and marquees. It will also be home to the festoon-lit Manchester windmill, a wooden icon of Manchester’s Christmas, with a gluhwein bar and terrace underneath.

When?

Until 22 December 2022

More information

visitmanchester.com

Cardiff Christmas Market

(Visit Cardiff)

With a focus on arts and crafts, this market in the pedestrianised centre of the Welsh capital has lots of space and is the place to find handmade marshmallows, rustic pottery or a concrete bowl, for example. The traditional market has been running for 30 years and the organisation behind it, Craft Folk, is committed to helping new makers get started, offering them advice and taster stalls. After you’ve perused the goods on offer, there is a Light Maze right beside St John’s Gardens, where you can have fun plotting a course between day-glo, transparent walls.

When?

Until 23 December 2022

More information

cardiffchristmasmarket.com

Winchester Cathedral Christmas Market

Winchester’s event has a historic feel, with wooden chalets adorned with boughs of holly and inspired by traditional German markets. The city’s cathedral is the market’s centrepiece and shoppers are never too far from the sounds of festive music, with carols and Christmas services close by. There is also a stage set up for performances from a steel band and a rock choir, among other local groups. The Maker’s Market features handcrafted gifts, as well as stalls laden with homeware, clothing, games and garden tools.

When?

Until 22 Dec 2022

More information

christmas.winchester-cathedral.org.uk

St Nicholas Fair, York

York’s Christmas market has been going for 30 years

(Charlotte Graham)

The grand old streets of York have staged a Christmas market for 30 years. The St Nicholas Fair, as it is known, runs along Parliament Street and around St Sampson’s Square. Browse gifts that include art prints, ceramics, jewellery, local sloe gin and Yorkshire Pudding Beer (made with real Yorkshire puddings). Food stalls will whip up treats like bao buns and Scandinavian-style sausages, while York’s traditional Shambles market – open year-round – also displays the wares of 70 independent traders. New to the fair is The Winter Hütte, a Swiss-style restaurant with a terrace overlooking the market, where shoppers can enjoy food from Michelin-star chef Andrew Pern.

When?

Until 23 December 2022

More information

visityork.org/christmas

Southbank Centre, London

Southbank Centre hosts a winter festival

(Southbank Centre)

Every Londoner knows not to venture into Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland if you want to keep your sanity. A good alternative is heading to the Winter Festival at Southbank Centre near Waterloo, where wooden Alpine-style chalets strewn with fairy lights bring an extensive range of street foods from around the world, from raclette and bratwurst to Greek and Asian cuisine. Pop-up bars and restaurants offer a different experience: Fire and Fromage from Jimmy’s offers unlimited raclette and toast-your-own s’mores in cosy igloos with fire pits; Beltane & Pop has mulled wine and cider plus hot whisky. There’s also a pop-up curling rink, and free carolling, dancing and DJ performances and workshops.

When?

Until 26 December 2022

More information

southbankcentre.co.uk

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