There are so many little elements that make Christmas a special time of year - a good old Christmas dinner, snow, family gatherings, and Christmas music on the radio. It’s also a chance for all of us to come together at a local Christmas market and shuffle around eating mince pies and glugging down horns of gluhwein. Some might say, that’s what Christmas is all about.
As well as warm food and drink, Christmas markets these days are a chance for local traders and craftspeople to show off their wares. Many of them are a great opportunity to get handmade presents and cute stocking fillers for friends and family, and to support local businesses at the same time.
Which UK city has the best Christmas market? There’s a question that’ll divide opinion. Truth is, there are loads of great markets and festive events happening all over the UK. The likes of Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park, and Birmingham’s famous Frankfurt Christmas Market attract festive revellers from all over the country, and even from overseas. The former especially makes a fantastic way to spend a day - not only is Hyde Park packed with quality street food and snacks over the Christmas period, but Winter Wonderland also functions as a miniature amusement park in the middle of London.
Sometimes the best Christmas market isn’t necessarily the biggest. Something small happening in your home town can be just as magical - we often have a strong nostalgic connection with Christmas at home after all, and really, all you need is a glass of something warm in hand and some good company.
We’ve rounded up some of our favourite Christmas markets from across the UK, from the massive Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park to the magical after-dark illuminations of Blenheim Palace Gardens. Scroll down and take a look!
Best Christmas markets in London
Walk the streets of the capital and you'll find Christmas markets all over the city, from the funfair rides of Winter Wonderland, to dinky little neighbourhood food markets
Southbank Christmas Market
What: The twinkling lights of the Southbank festival are worth a visit for anyone in Central London, even if you’re just taking a stroll along the river. There are food and drink stalls all along the Thames - you can chomp on a few toasted marshmallows and warm yourself with a cup of mulled wine - or sign up for one of the many exhibitions, shows and pop-ups, like the alpine-themed Curling Club.
Where: Southbank, London
When: 4 November - 21 December
Where to eat nearby: OXO Tower; Spring; Skylon; Limin
Where to stay nearby: The Hoxton; Native Bankside; ibis Styles
Winter Wonderland Hyde Park
What: This list wouldn’t be complete without the enormous Winter Wonderland, which attracts hordes of festive revellers each year to Hyde Park in Central London. The sheer size of Winter Wonderland eclipses most other markets around the country, and Hyde Park hosts a load of rides and games over Christmas as well as a huge variety of food and drink and spectacular shows.
Where: Hyde Park, London
When: 17 November - 1 January
Where to eat nearby: Corrigan’s; The Lanesborough Grill; La Terrazza at Hotel Xenia; Park Restaurant; Bonzai
Where to stay nearby: The Capital Hotel; Royal Lancaster; Sheraton Grand London Park Lane
Christmas by the River
What: If you're lining up a little Christmas jaunt along the river, head on over to the little South Bank stretch between London Bridge and Tower Bridge and stroll under the fairy lights of Christmas by the River. As well as your usual Christmas market, there are also outdoor film screenings happening (of classic Christmas movies like Elf, Home Alone and Miracle on 34th Street) as well as choir performances and Christmas carols, all free to attend!
Where: London Bridge, London
When: 14 November - 1 January
Where to eat nearby: Legare; Le Pont de la Tour; Tavolino; Savage Garden
Where to stay nearby: The LaLit; The Dixon; Hilton Tower Bridge
What: Everyone’s favourite London food market is set to get even busier this festive period, with a Christmas programme centred around quality food. Borough Market’s iconic Victorian arches will echo with the sound of Christmas choirs and bands in the run up to the big day, and there’ll be plenty of eating and imbibing to do. The market’s popular free-to-attend ‘Evening of Cheese’ also returns on 13 December, with tastings led by the likes of Neal’s Yard, Heritage Cheese and Kappacasein.
Where: Borough Market, London
When: 15 November - 24 December
Where to eat nearby: BAO Borough; Turnips; Padella; TING; Oblix; Florattica Rooftop
Where to stay nearby: Shangri-La The Shard; London Bridge Hotel; CitySpace Borough
Canopy Christmas Market King’s Cross
What: You’ll find plenty of festive frivolity going down at Canopy Market in King’s Cross, as the famous canopy is strewn with star lights and tinsel. Stalls dole out everything from spiced mulled wine and sweet treats to handmade stocking fillers. There are also some good special events here, including carols in a candle-lit museum on 14 December.
Where: King’s Cross, London
When: 23 November - 23 December
Where to eat nearby: German Gymnasium; Isla; Rails Restaurant and Little Bar; Midland Grand Dining Room; Magenta; Hoppers; BAO;
Where to stay nearby: Great Northern Hotel; Pullman London St Pancras; The Standard London
Greenwich Christmas Market
What: During the Christmas season, this historic spot changes from a regular market to a Christmas market, featuring festive parades, over 100 vendors and lots of food stalls to choose from. There's even a Santa's Grotto for kids to make any last minute present requests. As it’s not in Central London, this market is usually a little less crowded than the big markets so ideal if you aren’t one for hordes of people.
Where: Greenwich Market, London
When: 15 November - 23 December
Where to eat nearby: Sticks 'n' Sushi; Honest Burgers; Hullabaloo; Riverside Kawagashi Japanese
Where to stay nearby: Admiral Hardy; Novotel London Greenwich; The Mitre
Leicester Square Christmas Market
What: Located slap bang in the middle of Leicester Square, pay a visit to one of London’s most centrally located Christmas markets. With lots of glittering stalls filled with Christmas goodies to choose from, you can give this market a quick visit if you are passing by, as it's only small compared to others around the city. If you have kids, get some tickets for Santa's grotto too. The highlight as ever is the fabulous cabaret show La Clique, which runs for about two months through to early January.
Where: Leicester Square, London
When: 8 November - 7 January
Where to eat nearby: J Sheekey; Panton Yokocho; 64 Old Compton Street; Forty Dean Street; Bardo St James's; Gouqi; Maine Mayfair
Where to stay nearby: Leicester Square One; Flemings Mayfair; Hotel Café Royal
Best Christmas markets in the UK
Every town has it's Christmas traditions, and for many of them that includes a traditional Christmas market complete with wooden stalls, some traditional festive snacks and maybe even some carols and entertainment thrown in for good measure. Here are some of the best markets in the UK that are worth travelling to.
Birmingham German Christmas Market
What: Birmingham’s famous German Christmas Market is the largest of its kind outside of Germany or Austria - that means over 80 stalls of weissbier, crispy schnitzels, pretzels, bratwursts and some hot gluhwein or hot chocolate to wash it all down. There’s also the opportunity to buy lots of presents - the market is full of craftspeople making handcrafted wooden decorations, toys, as well as jewellery and leatherwork.
Where: Victoria Square & New Street, Birmingham
When: 2 November - 24 December
Where to eat nearby: Opheem; Adam’s; Orelle; Isaac's; Afternoon Tea at The Grand Hotel; Black & Green
Where to stay nearby: The Cube Hotel; Crowne Plaza; No.8 Waterloo Street
Leeds Christmas Market
What: Leeds comes to life over Christmas with a number of traditional Christmas markets all over the city. The best known of those is Kirkgate Market, which has a packed programme of Christmas performances to entertain the family, as well as 150 independent traders selling food and drink. The market itself is impressive too - this Grade 1 listed building dates back to 1875, and is the birthplace of Marks & Spencer.
Where: Various locations, Leeds
When: 24 November - 22 December
Where to eat nearby: Fleur Restaurant & Bar; Iberica; Tattu; Crafthouse; Angelica; Harvey Nicholsons
Where to stay nearby: Park Plaza Leeds; Jurys Inn Leeds; Novotel Leeds Centre
Manchester Christmas Market
What: 225 stalls across nine different markets - Manchester knows how to throw a good Christmas. Six weeks is almost not enough time to experience all the fun, from the ever-popular ski chalet market and giant Nordic tipi bar at Piccadilly Gardens, to the ice rink at Skate Manchester. As usual there are hot treats galore, from churros and pancakes to warm cherry gluhwein.
Where: Various locations, Manchester
When: 10 November - 21 December
Where to eat nearby: Adam Reid at The French; Wood Manchester; Erst; Kala Bistro; Tattu; Hawksmoor; Shoryu Ramen; 20 Stories; Namii Kitchen, Tast Catala, Zouk
Where to stay nearby: The Alan; Clayton Hotel; The Midland
Cardiff Christmas Market
What: Cardiff’s pleasant Christmas Market has been going for over 30 years now, showcasing the best work of local craftspeople as well as street food vendors. Over 200 stalls set up all over the city and offer a huge variety of diverse arts and crafts, with lots of in-action demonstrations to enjoy.
Where: Various locations, Cardiff
When: 9 November - 23 December
Where to eat nearby: Heaneys; The Sorting Room; The Potted Pig; Silures
Where to stay nearby: Citrus Hotel; Cardiff Marriott; voco St. David's Cardiff
York Christmas Market
What: York is a picturesque old city at the best of times, but it really comes into its own at Christmas, especially if there’s a bit of snow around. From the picturesque alpine ski chalets that line Parliament Street, to the stalls in St Sampson’s Square, there’s something for everyone here.
Where: Parliament Street and St Sampson’s Square, York
When: 16 November - 22 December
Where to eat nearby: Skosh; Roots;
Where to stay nearby: Hampton by Hilton York; Staycity Aparthotels; The Grand
Bath Christmas Market
What: Often ranked as one of the UK’s most beautiful cities, Bath only gets more picturesque when covered in snow and lit up with fairy lights. Bath Christmas Market isn’t the biggest, but there’s still plenty to see and taste among the 268 stalls, which sell everything from local produce, gin, clothing and chocolates to handmade pots and candles. Bath Christmas Market strives to be ultra-sustainable too, supporting a number of charities and working towards a goal of being single-use plastic-free.
Where: Queen Square, Bath
When: 23 November - 10 December
Where to eat nearby: Sotto Sotto; Beckford Bottle Shop; Upstairs at Landrace; Olive Tree; Coppa Club; The Circus Restaurant, Montagu Mews at Royal Crescent; Henry's
Where to stay nearby: The Z Hotel; Henrietta House; Francis Hotel
Cambridge Christmas Market
What: You'll find the main Christmas market in the aptly-named Market Square, but there are lots of little markets dotted all over Cambridge and the surrounding area. The main square is home to over 60 arts and crafts stalls as well as hot food and drink, vintage clothing and more. Or, head to nearby All Saints Garden Arts and Crafts Market, which appears every Saturday in the run up to Christmas and makes a great place for last minute present hunting! Down at Parker's Piece, the usual North Pole ice rink is back for another year, so perhaps make a day of it and plan a bit of ice skating to work off the mince pies.
Where: Various locations, Cambridge
When: 19 November - 3 January
Where to eat nearby: The Tickell Arms; The Oak Bistro; The Old Bicycle Shop
Where to stay nearby: Hotel du Vin & Bistro; Graduate; The Regent
Edinburgh Christmas Market
What: Whether it’s special Christmas events on the Royal Mile, or Santa Land at East Princes Street Gardens, there is so much going on in Edinburgh during Christmas that it can be hard to keep up with all of it! Wherever you are in the Scottish capital you’ll find something exciting to do, see or eat - no wonder Edinburgh is such a popular Christmas holiday destination.
Where: Various locations, Edinburgh
When: 17 November - 6 December
Where to eat nearby: Eleanore; Noto; Fhior; Duck & Waffle; Hawksmoor
Where to stay nearby: YOTEL Edinburgh; Native Edinburgh; Point A Hotel Edinburgh
Winchester Christmas Market
What: Renowned for having a particularly quaint and beautiful Christmas market, Winchester’s wooden chalets are set up right in front of the stunning gothic Cathedral. Cram in all the mulled wine, bratwurst, mince pies and stollen you can, and make sure to catch a few of the Christmas services and carol concerts.
Where: Winchester Cathedral, Winchester
When: 17 November - 21 December
Where to eat nearby: Chesil Rectory; Wykeham Arms; Pi Pizza
Where to stay nearby: The Winchester Hotel and Spa; Mercure Winchester Wessex; Lainston House
Chester Christmas Market
What: Chester Christmas Market isn’t quite the size of some of the bigger festivities around the UK, but what it lacks in size it more than makes up for with a much more close-knit, traditional experience. About 70 traders gather in little wooden chalets in the square, right in front of Chester’s handsome town hall, selling everything from food and drink to handmade gifts and stocking fillers.
Where: Town Hall Square, Chester
When: 17 November - 21 December
Where to eat nearby: Covino; Sticky Walnut
Where to stay nearby: Leonardo Hotel; Hotel Indigo; Maison Claire
Christmas at Blenheim Palace
What: Where better to revel in festivities than in the grounds of one of Britain’s most famous palaces? The Duke of Marlborough gets increasingly festive with his gardens each year, sprinkling the grounds with ski chalets, plenty of food and drink, and a magical after-dark illuminated trail through the most beautiful parts of the gardens..
Where: Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire
When: 17 November - 1 January
Where to eat nearby: The Orangery at Blenheim Palace; The Killingworth Castle; Restaurant at Macdonald Bear Hotel; Cygnet at the Swan Inn,
Where to stay nearby: The Crown; The Feathers; Macdonald Bear Hotel
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