As the days grow shorter and the nights grow longer, holiday markets spring up all across the United Kingdom as part of an age-old tradition featuring flickering candles, smells of evergreens, and rows of glowing booths bursting with tempting, exotic, and hard-to-find-anywhere-else gifts, toys, and decorations. In the United States, these winter favorite destinations have become hugely popular as well, where both young and old can sing along with Christmas carolers, gawk at sparkling lantern processions, warm up with mugs of mulled wine, or sample endless arrays of sweet and spicy treats—just as if they really were across the pond.
If you do happen to find yourself spending the holidays in Europe, avoid the hassles of high street this year by heading off to one of Great Britain’s best Christmas markets. Not only are they the perfect open-air bazaars to feel and savor the spirit of the season, but they also help make for a charming Christmas activity that’s definitely worth remembering. Here are nine of the best Christmas markets in the U.K.
U.K.'s Best Christmas Markets
1. London Christmas Markets – London, England
From the traditional Southbank Centre Christmas Market with its wooden chalet stalls to the more extravagant festivities at Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland, visitors can take their pick from several markets throughout the U.K’s capital. Along with phenomenally impressive Christmas markets boasting hundreds of goodies, there’s also a giant observation wheel, an ice rink, as well as a full-on circus.
London Christmas Markets are located along the Southbank of the River Thames from the London Eye to Waterloo Bridge and is open from November 20, 2015-January 6, 2016.
2. Birmingham’s Frankfurt Christmas Market & Craft Fair – Birmingham, England
Now in its 11th year, this is the largest German market held outside Germany and Austria. Visitors can soak in the village atmosphere in Victoria Square, while enjoying a range of German fare from mulled wine and beers to meats and pastries. There is a Christmas Craft Fair extending onto Chamberlain Square, which features various handmade gifts from local artists, as well of stretches of stalls offering traditional German treats like pretzels, schnitzels, bratwursts, gluhwein, and weissbeer. The additions of a ice skating rink, a big wheel, and a jewellery market further turn the community favorite into an even more festive place for the winter.
Birmingham’s Frankfurt Christmas Market & Craft Fair is spread out across Victoria Square, Centenery Square and New Street and is open from November 12-22, 2015. Hours are 10am-9pm.
3. Manchester Christmas Markets – Manchester, England
From a German-style market at St. Ann's Square and French-themed stalls at King Street to arts and crafts at Exchange Street and a world Christmas market at Brazennose Street, Manchester hosts several markets throughout the entire city, selling an international selection of jewelry, handcrafted goods, and specialty foods. The huge annual celebration is hard to top and is visited by about 9 million people each year. Birmingham may have the largest German market outside of Germany but Manchester sprinkles in 10 separate markets that offer even more holiday cheer—including a French Christmas Market, a family market, as well as a new German-style two-story indoor beer house.
Manchester Christmas Markets are in Manchester City Centre. Various markets can be found at: Albert Square, Brazennose Street, King Street, St. Ann's Square, Exchange Street, Market Street, New Cathedral Street, Exchange, Corn Exchange, and Cathedral Gardens. It is open from November 14-December 21, 2015 with various hours typically from 10am-8pm.
4. Leeds Christkindelmarkt – Leeds, England
Set in the heart of Leeds at Millennium Square, this Christmas market offers delicacies from bratwurst, gingerbread, and schnitzels to carousel rides, arts and crafts, a live Bavarian band, and over forty genuine-style German stalls to delight in. It is organized by the City Council in partnership with Frankfurt am Main.
Leeds Christkindelmarkt is located at Millennium Square and is open from November 13-December 20, 2015. Hours are Mon-Sat from 10:30am-9:30 pm, Sunday from 10:30am-6:30pm.
5. Edinburgh Christmas Markets – Edinburgh, Scotland
From the traditional German Christmas market or Scottish market to the entirely children’s themed St. Mary's Christmas Market, Edinburgh has a host of festive markets and fairs taking place well into the new year. It is arguably the event for the UK’s Yule lovers who can always expect to find six weeks of light shows, fireworks, Santa visits, funfairs, and Europe’s largest outdoor ice rink. The market itself comes with an added backdrop bonus – it’s got the majestic Edinburgh Castle as a setting.
Edinburgh Christmas Markets take place in various locations all throughout town including: The Mound, East Princes Street Terrace and Gardens, and St. Andrew Square. It is open from November 20, 2015-January 4, 2016 with hours from 10am-10pm.
6. Glasgow Christmas Market - Glasgow, Scotland
With continental bars and traders from Ecuador to Lapland, this is a real mix of market treats from all around the globe. Visitors can sample Bavarian beers and mulled wine, as well as gourmet foods including hog roast to French crepes.
Glasgow Christmas Market is located at St. Enoch Square, in front of St. Enoch's shopping complex at Glasgow City Centre, and is open from November 13-December 20, 2015. Hours are Mon-Wed 10am-8pm, Thurs-Sat 10am-9pm, Sun 10am-6pm.
7. Belfast Christmas Continental Market – Belfast, Northern Ireland
With Bratwurst and paella high on the menu, Belfast’s Christmas joyfest is particularly enamored of food. Visitors can wander its stalls sampling festive treats from Belgian chocolates and French tarts to various cheeses and German sausages. However, in addition to the loads of authentic continental edibles, there are also plenty of items on sale at the Christmas Continental Market. There is also plenty to offer the kids: Santa’s grotto is always something of a centerpiece.
Belfast Christmas Continental Market is located at Belfast City Hall in Donegall Square and is open from November 14-December 20, 2015. Hours are Mon-Wed 10am-8pm, Thurs-Sat 10am-10pm, Sun 1pm-6pm.
8. Bath Christmas Markets - Bath, England
As one of Britain’s World Heritage Sites, Bath offers the totally British-style Christmas Market. More than three quarters of the goods offered for sale at the market's 170 stalls are created by local Bath artisans, makers and producers. From clothing, glassware, and candles, to artwork and even goodies for Fido, anything worth gifting can most likely be found in this holiday shopper’s paradise. Plus, twinkly Christmas lights, the aroma of mulled wine, and fresh scents of pine needles all make for an even more storybook atmosphere.
Bath Christmas Market is located at the city’s center in streets and squares around Bath Abbey and the Roman Baths. It is open from November 26-December 13, 2015. Hours are Mon-Wed 10am-7pm, Thurs-Sat 10am-8:30pm, Sun 10pm-6pm.
9. Lincoln Christmas Market - Lincoln, England
Starting the tradition in Britain 33 years ago, Lincoln has the distinction of being the first and oldest German Christmas Market in the U.K. and was recently named the best of its kind by the DailyMail.co.uk. Initially housing a meagre 11 stalls, the traditionally styled market now hosts approximately 250 traders and caters to some 150,000 visitors each winter. What’s more is that the market sits on a cobbled square between the cathedral and the medieval castle-- a top-notch spot for getting into the Christmas mindset. Various attractions include a ukulele band, a dance act, and a ferris wheel alongside stalls selling regional produce.
Lincoln Christmas Market is located on Castle Hill between the Norman Castle and the Gothic Cathedral from Thursday, December 6- Sunday, December 9, 2015. Specific hours are: Thurs - noon to 9:30pm, Fri - Sat 10am to 9:30pm, Sun 10am to 7pm.
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This article was written by Pamela Chan.