Our 15 Favourite UK Christmas Markets
Steaming mulled wine, twinkling lights, gifts galore, carols to get you in the festive mood, and the occasional singing moose; Christmas markets brighten up the shortest days of the year and offer the chance to buy some special presents.
Here’s a rundown of our favourite Christmas markets around the UK.
Hyde Park Winter Wonderland, London
From cosy neighbourhood events to sprawling festive theme parks, London plays host to a multitude of Christmas markets each year. Among the most popular is Hyde Park Winter Wonderland. Much more than just a market, it features a rollercoaster, an ice slide, and a giant observation wheel among its rides, while there's also the Magical Ice Kingdom full of spectacular ice sculptures, plus an ice rink, live music, and comedy, circus performances, and an ice bar. Meanwhile, a hundred wooden chalets offer you the chance to buy Christmas gifts and festive food.
Another favourite London Christmas market takes place on the banks of the Thames: the Southbank Centre Winter Festival. You can grab a German sausage and a mug of spiced cider, and stroll along the riverside, past stalls, bars, and plenty of family events including a pop-up cinema showing classic movies.
Atmospheric Greenwich Market is open year-round, but in the run-up to Christmas its 150 stalls and shops are transformed, and it's a great place to pick up all kinds of gifts. Travel there by boat and combine shopping with a stroll around historic Maritime Greenwich to make it an even more special day out.
Cobbled streets, Georgian architecture, and the historic abbey make the city of Bath one of the prettiest venues in the country for a Christmas market. Southwest England is a hotbed of creativity, and among the more than 150 chalets, you’ll find plenty from local producers, including cheeses, aromatherapy oils, clothes and accessories, fudge, pottery, and jewellery. There's also a multitude of food stalls. The streets echo to the sounds of choirs and brass bands, and because the market takes place next to the abbey, it's easy to head inside the magnificent building to listen to carol concerts. *The Bath market will not go forward in 2021, but we expect it to return in 2022.
Manchester Christmas markets
From early November, Manchester transforms into a festive utopia when more than 300 market stalls set up shop on seemingly every street of the city. The hub of the action is Albert Square, which is watched over by the famous Zippy Claus — head there for some of the best food stalls and shopping. For a seriously cool experience, check out the Ice Village in the Cathedral Gardens, where you'll find the Ice Cavern (a family-friendly interactive ice sculpture experience), Santa's Grotto, and an ice rink. Almost as famous as the markets themselves are the souvenir mugs that drinks are served in, and you'll probably find at least one or two from previous years in every Mancunian's home. Spending an evening getting lost among the mini alpine lodges with the smell of glühwein and bratwurst in the air is the perfect way to get into the Christmas spirit.
Glasgow Christmas markets
Among the many Christmas markets Scotland has to offer, the ones taking place in Glasgow’s George and St Enoch squares are well worth visiting. In George Square, there's a German-themed bar serving up glühwein and beer, as well as a big wheel, family street entertainment, a vintage helter skelter and carousel, and the chance to meet Santa. More than 50 traders from across the globe, as well as closer to home, sell artisan products and crafts, and there's also a stunning 15-metre-tall Christmas tree. St Enoch Square is home to a Christmas village featuring more than 50 seasonal chalets offering tasty treats like rotisserie duck, bratwurst, crêpes, hog roast, and much more.
Edinburgh's Christmas takes one of the most beautiful cities in the world and makes it even more magical. The days may be short, but there's no shortage of twinkling lights all around the city, with the illuminated Edinburgh Castle the crowning glory. Princes Street Garden plays host to a big wheel and a carousel, and is also home to Santa Land, with its fun rides, Christmas tree maze, Santa's grotto, and children's market. There's an ice rink in St Andrew Square, a festive market with food, drink (we've even heard of mulled Irn Bru being served), and traditional crafts in George Street, and the European Market on the Mound Precinct.
Cardiff Christmas Market
The Welsh capital dusts off the tinsel and coloured lights each November, when its central pedestrianised streets including St John Street, Working Street, Trinity Street, and the Hayes play host to stalls selling food, arts, and crafts from local producers, so there's plenty of scope to buy some highly original Christmas presents. Cardiff is a gift-buyer's paradise — the Christmas market is surrounded by big-name stores, as well as Victorian and Edwardian arcades, Cardiff Market, and unique venues like Jacobs Antiques Centre.
Birmingham Frankfurt Christmas Market
Birmingham's Christmas market attracts visitors from all over the UK and Europe. Taking place in Victoria Square and the pedestrianised New Street, it features more than 80 stalls, and is the largest authentic German market outside Germany and Austria. You can pick up handcrafted gifts including wooden toys, chocolates, leatherwork, and jewellery, and then refuel on bratwurst, brezel, glühwein, and German beer. There are carols and bands on the Christmas market stage, plus a carousel. The market even has a singing moose called, you've guessed it, Chris Moose.
Winchester Cathedral Christmas Market
The historic Hampshire city of Winchester is home to the Great Hall and a Gothic cathedral, so it's no surprise its Christmas market is well loved for its unique and beautiful location. The market's more than 100 chalets are arranged around a covered ice rink within the Cathedral's Inner Close, and organisers hand-pick exhibitors including jewellers, painters, glass makers, textile artists, clothing designers, and food producers. When it's time to refuel, festive treats on offer include mulled wine, bratwurst, mince pies, and stollen. One of the most popular — and photographed — features of the market is the Nativity scene designed by local schoolchildren.
Cambridge's historic centre has bags of atmosphere, and the city's market is a great place to soak it up, especially when it's decked in Christmas lights. Taking place in the market square outside the 15th-century St Mary's Church, the market offers a wide selection of gift ideas including arts and crafts, books, vintage clothing, and jewellery, plus there's cuisine from all over the world on the food and drink stalls. Also taking place in the run-up to Christmas, the North Pole festival brings an ice rink, rides, and festive food and drink to Cambridge.
Christkindelmarkt, Leeds Christmas Market
Leeds's Christkindelmarkt is a traditional German Christmas market that runs for six weeks in the Yorkshire city. Millennium Square transforms into a winter scene, with more than 40 wooden chalets selling all kinds of gifts, plus German food and drink such as glühwein, bratwurst, and schnitzel. Alpine-themed bars, carousel rides, colourful lights, and family entertainment including children's shows and activities add to the festive atmosphere.
Chester Christmas Market
Chester's Christmas market takes place in Town Hall Square, between the city's cathedral and Victorian town hall. More than 70 wooden chalets offer gifts including arts and crafts, plus refreshments including mulled wine, real ale, hog roast, and hot dogs — all watched over by the city's big Christmas tree and pretty lights.
Belfast Christmas markets
The grounds of Belfast City Hall are transformed for six weeks from mid-November, with more than 90 wooden chalets offering products including food and crafts from the region and all over the world. There's a vintage helter skelter, a big wheel, a carousel, a Santa train, bars, and a food court serving all kinds of fare. Other Christmas markets in Belfast include St George's Market Christmas Craft Fair, where local artisans sell food and crafts, and Hillsborough Christmas Market, in the village of Hillsborough, 20 minutes' drive south of Belfast.
Nottingham Christmas Market
Nottingham Christmas Market welcomes 40 chalet-style stalls to Old Market Square, the second-largest public space in the UK after London’s Trafalgar Square. There's a large selection of artisan gift ideas and food, plus an observation wheel and the city's 18-metre-tall Christmas tree. It's also hoped that Nottingham's Winter Wonderland will return, adding more stalls, bars, and an ice rink to the city centre's Christmas celebrations.
Lincoln Christmas Market
Lincoln's Christmas market — said to be the oldest in the UK — has been going for nearly 40 years, but that's nothing compared to the city itself, which has more than 2000 years of history. The market does have a prime setting that allows visitors to take in some of that history: in the Medieval square between the Norman castle and the Gothic cathedral. More than 200 stalls are set up on the cobbles, and preference is given to local stallholders offering unique, high-quality, handcrafted products. You can also take in magical views over the city and surrounding countryside from the big wheel, and listen to live music.
Blackpool Christmas markets
With its famous illuminations, Blackpool is a colourful place during winter. But the seaside town gets even more festive around Christmas, with a number of events taking place. Winter Gardens Wonderland brings a Bavarian-style Christmas market to the Winter Gardens, with plenty of stalls plus Santa's grotto and live entertainment. Then there's Christmas by the Sea, during which Tower Festival Headland is transformed into a festive village, with an ice rink, log cabins, a magical forest, Santa Special tram rides, and more. Why not take in a panto at the Grand Theatre or Blackpool Pleasure Beach to complete a festive day out to remember?
Grab yourself a mulled wine and read about Christmas markets around Europe, with our picks of the best Christmas markets in Europe, our favourite Christmas markets in Austria, the top Christmas markets in Eastern Europe, and Germany's favourite Christmas markets.
Nick Elvin, Ceri Garnett, and Amy Lindsay contributed to this post.