The Best Christmas Markets in the UK
by Anita on 12 November 2012
From mid-November, UK towns and city centres fill up with Christmas markets offering festive fare and gorgeous gifts. Here's our top picks to get you in the seasonal spirit.
South Bank and London Eye Christmas Market
16 November - 24 December
Southbank Christmas Markets @garryknight
Set in the shadow of the London Eye and with pretty views across the Thames, London’s Southbank is a magical place at the best of times. Come November, however, the space between the all-seeing Eye and Waterloo Bridge is transformed into a winter wonderland, with sparkling lights, festive fare and Christmas cheer in abundance.
This typical German style Christmas Market is comprised of approximately 80 wooden chalets offering handcrafted Christmas gifts, warming food and glasses of steaming Gluhwein. The kids can feast on gingerbread and take a twirl on the traditional carousel, while the adults can relax with a drink and catch up with friends. To add to the festive atmosphere, a choir performs cheery Christmas tunes each day at 1.30pm and 7pm.
Where to stay
Belle Cour Hotel & Spa
If you're not a London resident, but the market sounds too magical to miss, why not book a night at the Belle Cour Hotel & Spa and treat yourself to a pre-Christmas break. This boutique B&B is just minutes away from the markets, and offers stylish suites that have their own kitchenettes for a self-catering stay. Double rooms start at £150 per night.
Belfast Christmas Continental Market
17 November - 20 December
Belfast Christmas Markets @Burkazoid
Plan a visit to Northern Ireland this Christmas and pop into the Belfast Christmas Continental Market. Set on the front lawns of Belfast City Hall, the market is made up of a number of villages including German, Irish and European, each offering individually themed entertainment as well as gifts, crafts and food.
Sample a taste of Europe, with everything from German Bratwurst sausages to Spanish Paella and exotic meats on offer, as well as warming mulled wine and liquer coffees. The villages are packed with unique and unusual gift ideas, including French leather wallets and Kenyan carved furniture. The kids will also love the chance to visit Santa at his grotto or have a spin on the merry-go-round. The markets will be in place for over a month, leaving you lots of time to plan your Belfast break!
Where to stay
When in Belfast,stay at Camera House, where a warm welcome awaits after a day of exploring the markets. Situated in the leafy southern suburbs of the city, the guest house got its name from the international photographers who were frequent guests during the Irish Troubles. The hosts are two of the friendliest around and rooms start at an affordable £56 per night.
Frankfurt Christmas Market and Craft Fair, Birmingham
15 November - 22 December
Birmingham Markets @abrinsky
Birmingham’s Frankfurt Christmas Market is the largest of all of the outdoor Christmas markets in the UK. It is filled with traditional stalls offering handmade toys, decorations and other crafty offerings, as well as a carousel to entertain the kids and lots of indulgent sweet and savoury food, from marzipan treats to warm pretzels.
The market is twinned with the Christmas Craft Fair, which is situated nearby. Between them, there are over 180 stalls to browse, so visitors will want at least a day to make their way around. The Frankfurt Market is located at Victoria Square, while the Craft Fair is adjacent in Chamberlain Square. They run daily from 10am – 9pm.
Where to stay
Arden House Hotel
The Arden House Hotel makes a perfect Birmingham base for your market trip. This quintessential country house is brimming with character and charm, and has an oak-panelled library complete with a cosy fire, and rooms inspired by Shakespeare, whose former residence is nearby.
The rooms are impressively furnished and even include a complimentary mini bar filled with drinks and snacks. All of this is available from just £89 per night for a double.
Bath Christmas Market
22 November – 9 December
Bath Christmas Market @Ben Hatton
The beautiful streets of Bath are enhanced by festive frost and fairy lights, and for 18 days, the quaint square between the stunning Bath Abbey and the internationally renowned Roman Baths is transformed into a Christmas shopper's heaven. Over 140 charmingly traditional wooden chalets line the streets forming one of the best Christmas markets in the UK and leading Bath to become known as the Christmas Capital of the West.
Choose from unique handmade gifts and decorations to adorn your home, as well as food items to munch on or take home and enjoy as part of your Christmas feast. The market opens on 22 November with a children’s lantern procession starting at 5pm. Market visitors can also enjoy ice-skating.
Where to stay
The Holcombe Inn
Combine your market merriment with some rural rest and relaxation and book yourself into The Holcombe Inn. This charming 17th entury pub sits a half hour from the Bath's busy centre, and is a real romantic hideaway for couples seekng some quiet time.
From gold painted roll top baths to cosy log fires and views across the Mendips Hills, the inn has everything you could wish for in a weekend escape. Double rooms are available from £75 per night.
Edinburgh’s Christmas Markets
29 November 2012 – 6 January 2013
Edinburgh Markets @hockadilly
The crisp Scottish air provides the perfect excuse for a wander around and a warming glass of mulled wine. Edinburgh is filled with festive delight, with two Christmas Markets to enjoy. The traditional German Christmas Market is completely authentic, with stalls run by stallholders from Frankfurt. Wrap up warm agains the Scottish chill and get yoursself along for a wander. You will find a mix of classic and contemporary gifts, as well as a range of German food and drink. This year it will run from 29 November – 24 December.
The eclectic Highland Village Christmas Market focuses on local produce and homegrown crafty talent and includes offerings sucuh as warm woolly hats, Scottish fare and locally made teddy bears.
Where to stay
Just 15 minutes from the centre of Edinburgh you will find the fabulous Fraoch House. Set within a beautiful Victorian building, the B&B offers contemporary comforts and beautifully designed bedrooms, with ornate wallpaper adorning the walls and big brass beds adding an echo of its period past.
Lucky guests are practically force-fed complimentary cakes and are also given their own keys so they can come and go as they please. A double room will cost you £80 per night.
Canterbury's Traditional Christmas Market
23 November - 23 December
Whitefriars Square, right in the heart of the picturesque, medieval city of Canterbury, is transformed into a traditional Christmas Market. Wander the medieval streets and browse the stalls, where you can pick up traditional festive gifts like tin toys and Christmas ornaments.
The food has a German slant with Bratwurst, gingerbread, roasted almonds and much more. Whilst you shop you can enjoy the traditional festive music that will get you in the seasonal spirit in no time!
Where to stay
The Grove Ferry Inn
Situated a few miles outside of Canterbury, but well worth the journey, is the Grove Ferry Inn. Covered in ivy, the inn has an air of the old world about it. Downstairs, the cosy pub is filled with crackling fires that will draw you in on a wintry evening and make you never want to leave.
Upstairs, the surprisingly modern rooms are spacious and bright, featuring all the mod cons you could wish for. Make sure you stick around for a bite to eat in the oub, which serves great local fare. Doubles at the inn start at £55 per night.
Cardiff Christmas Market
15 November – 23 December 2012
Cardiff Christmas Markets @Mark Turner
Cardiff also has not one, but two Christmas Markets. Cardiff Christmas Market has stalls set up around St John's Street and the Hayes from 10th November, offering Welsh art & crafts, jewellery and homemade gifts as well as festive food and drink. Beautifully decked in colourful festive lights against the backdrop of St John’s Church, traditional wooden chalets will house artists, crafters, food and drink purveyors all offering a diverse range of high quality, original products.
Cardiff Waterfront Christmas Market, on the Roald Dahl Plass, Cardiff Bay from 7th – 9th December, will offer you all the ingredients necessary for the perfect Christmas celebration. As well as stalls selling gifts and the usual market fare, there is a Father Christmas letter writing workshop and a Santas grotto for the kids, as well a live music and entertainment every day.
Where to stay
Beaufort Guest House
Beautiful Beaufort Guest House is situated in Cardiff's Victorian conservation area, just 10 minutes away from the city centre. Step back in time when you walk through the doors of this period home, which has an elegant dining room, a charming outdoor space and sumptuous bedrooms decked out in rich bed linen and heavy drapes to fend off the winter chill. Double en-suite rooms start at £79 per night.
Berwick Upon Tweed Dickensian Xmas Market
It’s hard to imagine a more authentic setting for a Dickensian Christmas Market than the historic town of Berwick Upon Tweed. Quite a bit different from your average German market, the locals get in the spirit and dress up in Victorian attire to enchant both young and old. There will be over 50 stalls this year, as well as a hog roast, lots of local produce and an ice rink for visitors to enjoy. The event takes place between 11am and 4pm.
Where to stay
If you're eager to join in the Dickensian fun, make a weekend of it and plan a weekend away at Northumbrian House. Set in a Grade II listed Georgian home, the guest house has an intimate and homely atmosphere, with original period features in each of the rooms and beds draped in Egyptian cottton linen. A night in one of these stylish rooms will cost you £70 for a double.
Cover image London Eye Christmas @SPIngram