There are now more Christmas Markets to choose from than ever before – this year sees city centres, cathedrals, castles and, for the first time, beach huts hosting stalls selling everything from traditional wooden toys and handmade jewellery to gingerbread and mulled wine.
This year also sees bilingual butlers line the capital’s streets offering shoppers five-star service while the opulent Orient-Express trains will travel to Christmas Markets in cathedral cities. Here, our friends at VisitEngland highlight some of the best festive shopping experiences on offer:
Birmingham – twinned with Frankfurt, 15 November – 22 December: Taking inspiration from its twin city, Frankfurt, Birmingham’s Christmas Market (above) is the largest German-style Christmas market outside Germany. Showcasing some of the city’s finest craftsmen, these markets should be firmly at the top of anyone’s Christmas list. Birmingham’s markets comprise over 180 glowing wooden chalets sprawled across Victoria Square, Chamberlain Square and New Street, each one packed with treats from glistening handmade baubles to traditional wooden toys. You might stray from gift shopping though, as it’s rather difficult to resist the smells of marzipan, mulled wine and rich gingerbread. See www.birmingham.gov.uk/frankfurtmarket
Georgian Christmas in Bath, 22 November – 9 December: Each year, the quaint streets and square between the stunning Bath Abbey and the internationally-renowned Roman Baths are transformed into a Christmas shopper’s haven as more than 140 traditional wooden chalets (above) adorn the streets of Bath; each one offering unique, handmade and unusual gifts, decorations and food. Shop for locally-produced handcrafted items and sip on hot mulled wine as the sounds of Christmas carols fill the air.
Getting there: This year the British Pullman and Northern Bell are taking festive journeys to England’s finest cathedral cities and Christmas markets, including Bath, Lincoln, Canterbury and Salisbury. The vintage carriages, evoking the era of the golden age of travel, will be bedecked at Christmas time, setting the mood for festive celebrations. Liveried stewards will serve traditional Christmas lunch with all the trimmings as the trains wend their way through the English countryside. Prices start at £370 per person.
See www.orient-express.com/uktrains and www.bathchristmasmarket.co.uk
A beachside Christmas in Torquay, 23 November – 7 January: The English Riviera is set to be transformed into a winter wonderland as beach huts are draped in fairy lights and turned into festive market stalls for Devon’s first beach hut Christmas market. Soak up the atmosphere, breathe in the sea air and sip on a glass of mulled wine under the 30ft Christmas tree, after spinning around the ice rink or exploring a giant snow globe. See http://www.englishriviera.co.uk/whats-on/english-riviera-christmas-festival-p1589403
Manchester – the bigger, the better, 17 November – 23 December: Considered to be amongst the biggest in Europe, Manchester’s Christmas market (above) transforms the city centre with its charming wooden chalets. Get into the Christmas spirit by browsing hundreds of twinkling market stalls and soaking up the unique, bustling atmosphere across eight picturesque city centre locations. You’ll find an amazing selection of goods on offer from European and local producers, selling everything from fine amber jewellery, handcrafted leather bags, and top quality bonsai trees, to Dutch flower-bulbs, French soaps, and Spanish chorizo. Don’t miss the iconic giant Father Christmas perched on top of the town hall – perfect for a seasonal selfie! See www.visitmanchester.com/articles/shopping/christmas-markets
London – winter wonderland and bilingual butlers: A true family favourite, Winter Wonderland (23 November – 6 January) returns to London’s Hyde Park this November with big top shows, the observation wheel and of course it’s famous Christmas market. Enjoy hot cider, mulled wine and farmhouse foods alongside a spot of rustic revelry in the shape of an outdoor fire pit at the park’s heart. Elsewhere, from 11 – 14 December, Sloane Street will be lined with immaculately dressed multi–lingual butlers. The butlers, fluent in Mandarin, Russian, Portuguese and Arabic will be on hand to open car doors, offer insider info on the street and deliver a 5* concierge level of service to visitors. See www.hydeparkwinterwonderland.com and www.sloane-street.co.uk
Bavarian Bristol , 8 November – 22 December: The popular German-themed Christmas market will return in quaint wooden chalet-style stalls to Bristol’s Shopping Quarter at Broadmead this weekend. Unique gift ideas, original homemade crafts and German-themed food and drink like Glühwein, Bratwurst and Lebkuchen will be on offer. Between browsing the stalls, visitors can relax in the Bavarian beer garden and enjoy festive music from the Salvation Army band. See http://visitbristol.co.uk/discover-bristol/christmas-in-bristol
Winchester – Christmas in a cathedral city, 21 November – 22 December: Winchester Christmas market (above) is renowned for its unique location in the cathedral grounds, high quality exhibitors and bustling atmosphere. The Christmas Market is inspired by traditional German Christmas markets and attracts more than 350,000 visitors each year. The pretty wooden chalets are situated in the Cathedral’s historic Inner Close, set around an open-air ice rink. See http://winchester-cathedral.org.uk/christmas/christmas-market/
Ludlow – Christmas in a castle, 24 – 25 November: Get ready for two days of non-stop merriment and tomfoolery at the Ludlow medieval Christmas fayre, held in the ruins of Ludlow’s ancient castle. Expect chivalrous knights in full armour, dancing damsels, fire breathing jesters and impressive bird of prey displays. Plus, get your hands on one-of-a-kind knight helmets and fine silver earrings as gifts for loved ones (or for yourself). See www.ludlowmedievalchristmas.co.uk
Norwich – a Medieval Christmas, 1 – 2 December: Ditch the overcrowded high streets in favour of a little time travel at Dragon Hall’s medieval Christmas market in Norwich. Housed within a 900-year-old structure, with the largest cloisters in England, is a selection of atmospheric stalls dotted with pewter incense burners and roman-style mosaics. Mingle with medieval characters selling odd potions and discover jesters performing yester-year hits on their medieval instruments.See www.visitnorwich.co.uk/norwich-christmas-markets.aspx
York – Christmas in costume, 25 November: York’s St Nicholas Fayre kick-starts the city’s Christmas celebrations. It’s York’s biggest and most popular Christmas market and sees the city come alive with Victorian costumed traders, carol singers and the delicious smells of roasted chestnuts and hot chocolate laced with brandy. The market sells a mixture of arts and crafts, gifts and locally-produced food and drink. Tickle your taste-buds at the food court, where liveried chefs serve global flavours, or amble through the Christmas trees to find a festive plant from far away. See http://www.visityork.org/seeanddo/christmas/default.aspx
For more information see www.visitengland.com/en/Christmas-markets