The best UK Christmas markets
The Christmas period is full of festive fun and cheer -- and no event captures the magic of the season like a Christmas market. Countries such as Germany and Austria might be renowned for their festive markets, but you really don’t have to travel that far to find a magical market this year. Mulled wine, great food and amazing gifts are waiting, so here’s our guide to the UK's best Christmas markets this year.
Kent, Leeds Castle
For a scenic Christmas market experience, visit Leeds Castle in Kent. This Victorian-style market is set right by the castle's moat. Bring the family to enjoy a ride at the fairground, and browse the many huts and stalls selling crafts, trinkets and decorations.
Head towards the bandstand to be treated to special live performances from local artists, choirs and bands. Sip a drink of your choice from a selection of mulled wine and mead, and fill up on festive street food. You can also book ahead to secure your place on one of their excellent wreath-making workshops. Leeds Castle's Christmas market is open on weekends from 23 November to 15 December.
Christkindelmarkt takes over Leeds’s Millennium Square each year. The square turns into a hive of wooden stalls, offering delicious food, handmade trinkets and festive entertainment. Cosy up in the Alp Chalet for traditional Bavarian-style food or head over to the Kuh Stall hideaway to warm up with some tasty snacks by the log fire. Ski Hutte is a large apres-ski-style bar where you can enjoy a drink while listening to live music -- look out for the Glockenspiel that serenades the market with 30 festive melodies. There's plenty of children's entertainment on offer, including face painting, interactive games, sing-alongs and appearances from the Winter Wonderland Princess. Every weekend morning from 23 November, you can bring the family to the Alp Chalet for Santa's Breakfast to enjoy a buffet-style spread and the chance to receive a small gift from Father Christmas himself. Leeds Christkindelmarkt is open 10:30am-9:30pm Monday-Saturday from 8 November to 2 December. Sunday hours are 10:30am-7:30pm.
Bath's Christmas market is set in streets and squares in the centre of Bath, close to the iconic Roman Baths and Bath Abbey, which provide a suitably picturesque backdrop. Crowned the best market of its kind in 2019 by The Daily Telegraph, Bath Christmas Market showcases great gifts from local traders. You’ll find unique ceramics, glassware, clothes, toys and souvenirs among the items on offer, with 80% of its 150 stalls showcasing goods made in the Southwest. Enjoy festive food and drink as well as carol singers and musical performances, making for a perfect family day out. Bath Christmas Market runs from 28 November-15 December. Its opening hours are 10am-7pm Monday-Wednesday, 10am-8pm Thursday-Saturday, and 10am-6pm on Sunday.
Winter Wonderland Nottingham has grown from a few stalls into a packed-out winter festival. Visit Old Market Square with the family for festive shopping, activities and entertainment. There are 70 diverse market stalls, where you can pick up artisan cheeses, mead, fair-trade snacks, plants, jewellery and artwork. There's also continental food on offer, including traditional bratwurst sausages and pulled pork, as well as sweet treats such as candy apples and waffles smothered in Belgian chocolate. You'll also fine a performance stage, hosting a programme of live music.
The popular Sur La Piste is a 2-storey ski-lodge-style venue with lots of seating, festive music, food and drink. Or, you can wrap up warm and head to the Alpine Ice Bar to enjoy schnapps in real ice shot glasses while viewing the intricately sculpted ice statues. There's also the snow-covered rooftop Attitude Bar, which not only provides a cosy spot to relax in, with blankets provided, but offers views across the whole market and the ever-popular ice rink. Enjoy the unique atmosphere, private DJ and table service. While the adults enjoy the flowing Bavarian-style beer, the children will love the ice rink and small fairground rides -- there's even a vintage carousel. Winter Wonderland runs from 15 November-31 December. Opening times are different for the market stalls, bars and ice rink.
Christmas at Blenheim Palace is a magical place, with themed staterooms, a fantastic festive market and an illuminated garden trail. Alice in the Palace is an immersive experience that will transport the whole family to the wonderful world of Lewis Carroll. As you walk through the lavish staterooms, which have been decorated in an Alice in Wonderland theme, you'll find illusions and surprises around every corner.
The floral gardens are illuminated with more than 100,000 twinkling lights. Follow the trail into the woodland, through the lit-up archways and into the decorative gardens. Enjoy the vintage fairground rides, the light show and light art on display. You can also enjoy the quaint Christmas market in the palace grounds, which is the perfect place to get gifts for your loved ones. The wooden chalets sell everything from ceramics and textiles to toys, stationery and trinkets. The market runs from 22 November-1 January, so you'll have plenty of time to visit to enjoy the show.
The Birmingham Frankfurt Christmas Market is the largest authentic German Christmas market outside Austria and Germany. Visit the Second City for more than 80 market stalls and wooden chalets set out across the whole city centre, many manned by traders who come over from Germany for the festive period. You'll be able to pick up hand-crafted presents such as delicate glass baubles, hand-crafted wooden decorations and crystal lamps, and see the whole city come alive with a feelgood festive atmosphere. For family fun, grab some delicious German street food and head to Victoria Square for the live music performances. There's nothing like listening to carol singers performing Christmas classics as you enjoy a warming glass of spicy glühwein and sample tasty stollen cake to get you in a Christmas mood. The market runs from 7 November-23 December and has a range of musical performances throughout from the Dream Sounds programme.
Manchester Christmas Market will take over several locations around the city this winter. Filling up Albert Square, for example, will be more than 300 market stalls selling everything from hog-roast sandwiches and German sausages to glühwein, frosted cookies and stollen. Other locations include the Corn Exchange and Exchange Street, as well as the Cathedral Gardens. The Ice Village will take on a mythical-beast theme, with detailed ice sculptures of dragons and unicorns, as well as a grand frozen castle. With themed games and attractions across Manchester, and shops selling Yuletide souvenirs and decorations, there is something for the whole family. Manchester Christmas Market will run from 8 November-22 December.
Edinburgh's popular Christmas market is brimming with festive activities that are great for a family day or evening out. With carol concerts, light displays and market stalls just next to Edinburgh Castle, it’s a magical setting to experience at Christmastime. There will be several traditional fairground rides, including a Cars-themed carousel, a big wheel and a helter-skelter. You can take the kids to get lost in the tree maze, ride the Santa train and visit Santa's Grotto to meet the big man himself.
Away from the city centre, from 11-22 December 12 different buildings will be illuminated in a spectacular art show. At approximately 7pm each night of its schedule, local choirs will perform Christmas favourites to accompany the shows at locations including Broomhouse Hub, Sandu's Community Centre in Craigmillar and The Crag Centre in Holyrood Park. The festivities in Edinburgh run from 16 November-4 January, with some winter art exhibitions running until the end of the month.
The Welsh capital is home to its own fantastic Christmas market. More than 200 businesses set up shop in the pedestrianised areas such as St John Street, Trinity Street and the Hayes. They'll bring with them festive cheer, delicious homemade treats, seasonal food and lots of Yuletide-themed drinks. A big selection of crafts and gifts will be available from the wooden stalls set out alongside the Victorian and Edwardian shopping arcades.
Cardiff also has its very own Winter Wonderland outside the City Hall. Bring the family to the covered ice rink and the funfair, where there's a host of rides and games. If you're visiting with friends, you can enjoy a cup of warming mulled wine from the Alpine Village or the Sur La Piste Bar and a plate of crepes with tasty toppings. Cardiff Winter Wonderland and Christmas market will take place from 14 November-23 December.
London has several excellent Christmas markets all over the city but Winter Wonderland is a firm favourite for families. Hyde Park comes alive in the winter with this free event. There are plenty of activities for the whole family to enjoy -- skate on real ice, see a festive show, visit the comedy club or take an ice-sculpting workshop. There are more than 100 rides and games on offer, from the big wheel and roller-coaster to immersive VR experiences and the knee-trembling Star Flyer ride. Younger children will enjoy the smaller rides, and seeing if they can catch sight of Santa in his Christmas grotto. There are also hundreds of Bavarian market chalets selling crafts, trinkets and decorations.. Pick up handmade gifts, buy traditional treats and spread some festive cheer.
There's a large Bavarian Village where you can tuck into traditional dishes including bratwurst and flame-grilled salmon, and enjoy a warming hot chocolate or mulled wine, or a cooling Bavarian Gold Beer. With live music, DJs and dancers, there's plenty of opportunity for singalong moments. Winter Wonderland is open from 21 November-5 January.