Wrap up warm. It’s Christmas market season.
Born in Germany, these delightful popup markets have become a mainstay in the UK. Offering mulled wine, mince pies and a beautiful array of gift ideas, there’s nowhere better to get in the festive spirit.
So if you’re on the lookout for gift inspiration or simply a slice of stollen, you’ve come to the right place. Here are my top five favourite Christmas markets in the UK.
Southbank Winter Festival
If you’re looking to embrace your inner Love Actually, look no further than London’s iconic Southbank. In the heart of the capital, this bustling market features Christmas gifts and festive goodies.
Foodies will love scoping out freshly baked mince pies and artisan Christmas puddings. Not to mention, some of the best street food from Thailand, India and Greece. And if you’re looking for unique Christmas gifts, you’re in luck. Some of London’s best designers will be showcasing their work.
There’ll be a great selection of entertainment too. As well as live appearances from Nadiya Hussain and folk star Kate Rusby, visitors can catch gigs, exhibitions and even a puppet musical rendition of Black Beauty. If that isn’t Christmassy, I don’t know what is.
Mulled wine and cider are guaranteed. Hugh Grant, unfortunately, is not.
When: 8th November – 26th January (10am-10pm)
Where: London’s Southbank Centre
Winchester Cathedral Christmas Market
This is one for the purists. Sitting in the shadow of Winchester’s spectacular cathedral, this Christmas market has been voted one of the best in Europe by the New York Post. And you can see why. Inspired by the traditional markets of Germany, Winchester’s Christmas fair is bursting with character.
Wander through over 100 chalets, each offering an array of Christmas gifts and seasonal produce. Discover the best in local crafts including handmade jewellery, apparel and homeware. And after all that perusing, treat yourself to some authentic German bratwurst or some gorgeous vegan treats.
The best part? These adorable chalets surround a picturesque ice rink for gliding those mince pies away. If you want my advice, go during the week to avoid the crowds. But with such a brilliant atmosphere to enjoy, Winchester is worth a visit at any time.
When: 21st November – 22nd December
Where: Winchester Cathedral grounds
Leeds Christkindlemarkt is so quintessentially German, it might as well have been dropped off from Dusseldorf. Each wooden stall is decorated by hand and boasts a bevy of traditional gifts and gifts and goodies.
This seasonal showpiece is full of festive gift ideas. Browse the best of local crafts or feast your eyes on authentic German treats including gluhwein, bratwurst and schnitzels. And if the weather takes a turn, there are plenty of places to seek shelter. Cosy up with a hot chocolate in the Kuh Stall chalet or enjoy a tipple in the Ski Hutte bar. With glockenspiels and pilsner aplenty, it’s full of apres-ski charm.
At the heart of Christkindlemarkt is a spectacular carousel. Perfect for children and big kids alike, it’s a great place to take the whole family. And with an array of live entertainment including face painting and balloon making, there’s nowhere better to get everyone together this Christmas.
When: 8th November – 21st December (10.30am – 7.30pm)
Where: Leeds’ Millenium Square
Edinburgh Christmas Market
Edinburgh’s Christmas market is undoubtedly one of the most picturesque around. Every year, this festive feast take over Edinburgh’s famous Princes Street Gardens with a huge selection of stalls, rides and events.
With over 150 stalls of Christmas goodies, there’s something for everyone. And the food on offer is second to none. Expect winter warmers from acclaimed local restaurants including Fox Hat, Alandas and the Mac Shack. Or for a wee dram, pop into the Johnnie Walker Bothy Bar.
But the biggest draw of this market is its rides. As well as bumper cars, carousels and a Christmas tree maze, visitors can soak up a sky-high view of the city in a stunning big wheel. There’s a great program of live entertainment too. Come along and find some of the biggest names in comedy, music and dance. Plus a special appearance by someone called Kris Kringle… whoever he is.
When: 16th November – 4th January (10am – 10pm)
Where: Edinburgh’s Princes Street Gardens
Cardiff Christmas Market
If you’re after something a little more sedate, Cardiff Christmas market is for you. This beautiful collection of wooden stalls gives local makers the chance to put their work in the spotlight. You’ll find everything from original artwork to handmade ceramics and decorations, all celebrating the best of Welsh culture.
All the food is local too. Tuck into freshly baked Welsh cakes and warming mulled cider. And top up your Christmas gift collection with handmade fudge, luxury chocolates and festive infused gins. Or treat yourself to some chestnuts (roasted on an open fire, of course).
One of the UK’s more peaceful Christmas markets, Cardiff is perfect for shoppers who like to take things at their own pace. And while there may be no helter skelters for the kids, don’t be surprised to see some familiar festive faces pop up around the town. So come along and explore the winding lanes of Wales’ capital.
When: 14th November – 23rd December (10am – 6pm)
Where: St John Street, Working Street, the Hayes, Hills Street and Trinity Street, Cardiff