Twinkling Christmas lights, mulled wine, a festive atmosphere and unique gifts: Christmas markets in the United Kingdom are bigger and more impressive than ever this year.
Located in some of the most beautiful cities in the UK, a visit to a Christmas market is a travel experience in itself.
South West England (November 15 – December 9)
The Bath Christmas market has a great historical background that matches the charming winter atmosphere at this time of year. Over 200 stalls are set up along Bath’s Georgian-style streets.
Visitors can find real treasures to take home, including jewellery, homeware and decorations. Last year over 80% of the market sellers came from Bath and south-west England, while 99% of the market products were handmade with Fairtrade certification and produced in either the United Kingdom or abroad, making it a sustainable shopping experience. In addition to the fixed stalls, there are always some surprises. Cuisine also has its place at The Lodge, located in the heart of the market.
Also recommended in Bath: Bath on Ice, a lively ice rink open from November 16, 2018 to January 6, 2019; Glow-in-the-dark mini golf; the Christmas Trail through the Prior Park gardens in December and the Christmas carol festival Shoppers’ Carols at Bath Abbey on a number of dates over the Christmas period.
The Midlands (November 15 – December 23)
This giant market is one of the biggest events on the Birmingham Christmas calendar. It is the biggest traditional German Christmas market outside Germany and Austria. The market offers a wide range of gifts and traditional products over 120 stands, as well as a great selection of German cuisine including schnitzels, bratwursts, glühwein and weissbier. As well as the chance to enjoy the best of Germany in Birmingham city centre, one of the market’s biggest attractions is its location in Victoria Square and the live music programme that is set up to fill everything with a Christmas atmosphere.
Also recommended in Birmingham: The Outdoor New Market at Birmingham cathedral, which offers a full programme of music and projections throughout the Christmas period. Outdoor ice skating at Birmingham Ice Rink, in addition to the Big Wheel Experience from 15 November 15, 2018 to January 27, 2019; and a new event for 2018 (December 14-22), Enchanted Weston, a light festival with live music and food.
Scotland (November 16 – January 5)
This large market is part of Edinburgh’s programme of activities organised over six weeks during the Christmas period. The market itself is set up in the East Princes Street Gardens, which means a backdrop of incredible views of the Edinburgh Castle is guaranteed. The market is also close to some of the city’s main tourist attractions.
We also recommend in Edinburgh: The Big Wheel and funfair rides in the East Princes Street gardens; performances by the award-winning troupe La Clique Noel Part Deux; and 24 Hours of Advent, a real-life advent calendar in Edinburgh that opens its doors from 1 to 24 December and shows off some of the city’s most iconic buildings.
Northern Ireland (November 17 – December 22)
Against a backdrop of one of the most iconic buildings in the Northern Ireland capital, Belfast City Hall, this seasonal market is back in 2018 with an enviable combination of artisan products and stalls selling traditional cuisine in the outdoor food court – options include pancakes, a hog roast, mulled wine and continental cheese.
You can get even more Irish flavour during your visit by spending an afternoon or evening at Lavery’s, a traditional pub with a great offer of live music. Children will love having a ride on the vintage carousel, sliding down the helter-skelter, and making a trip to visit Father Christmas in his secret grotto.
We also recommend in Belfast: Festive Fables at the Metropolitan Arts Centre (MAC) (December 16-24); Christmas Wonderland an outdoor adventure centre that opens in December, and The Music Box on the Belfast Waterfront, a musical Christmas show that is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year.
London (November 9 – December 27)
The popular Winter Market returns to the Southbank Centre in London, turning the shores of the Thames into a winter wonderland. Wooden cabins lined up in a row and decorated with Christmas lights sell Christmas gifts for all budgets and tastes, as well as cakes, spiced cider, traditional mulled wine and chocolate. And of course, you have to take a selfie with the giant Christmas tree!
We also recommend in Southbank: As you are already in one of the most important cultural centres in the country, the Southbank Centre, why not watch one of their great shows, including traditional Christmas concerts, a musical performance based on Rumpelstiltskin (December 13, 2018 – January 6, 2019) and the Belle Epoque circus (December 19, 2018 – January 5, 2019). There are also many other events, like the Winter Knees Up, a storyteller and songs for all ages.
South Wales (November 15 – December 23)
Located along five streets in Cardiff’s pedestrian city centre, this market, which starts in mid-November, gives you the chance to buy the perfect gift. Their philosophy is to provide a space for market stalls selling original handmade products and for artists and craftsmen to sell their work. There are numerous food and drink options available across nearly 200 stalls, in addition to music, lights and entertainment that transform the city streets.
We also recommend in Cardiff: One you have taken a look round the market, you will be in the perfect spot to visit Cardiff’s Winter Wonderland (November 15, 2018 – January 6, 2019), which includes a secret ice rink and Santa’s Grotto, all in the spectacular surroundings of Cardiff Castle. You can book a trip on the Santa Tours at Principality Stadium (dates to be confirmed) or go to the Christmas Ballet at St David’s Hall (December 19-31).
North East England (November 9 – December 22)
There are not one, not two, not three, but TEN locations for the award-winning Manchester Christmas markets, which means that wherever you are in the city, you are not far from gifts and delicious food stalls selling traditional sausages, hog roast, paella and much more. Over 300 stalls will be located throughout the city. Follow the path through the market and take a look at jewellery, toys, plants, bags, homeware and fun and extravagant gifts. They each have their own character; in addition to the traditional market, there is also a French market, a German market, a world Christmas market and a market dedicated to Arts & Crafts.
We also recommend in Manchester: The Winter Funland, which will be held indoors this year and will offer other attractions such as an ice rink, a circus and shows (December 7, 2018 – January 1, 2019). The renowned Manchester orchestra will perform Halle’s Christmas Music Extravaganza at Bridgewater Hall (21 December); and you can also visit Ice Village Manchester, the biggest ice installation in the history of the United Kingdom, which features an Arctic Bar, Santa Claus’ grotto and an ice rink (November 9, 2018 – January 5, 2019).