Looking for the best UK Christmas Markets? Wondering which city has the best one? You're in the right place!
One of the best things about the run up to Christmas is visiting a Christmas Market. Something about the cute wooden chalets, thousands of fairy lights and the mouth watering smells of mulled wine, hog roast and chestnuts is just magical.
We've been lucky enough to enjoy many of the best and biggest Christmas Markets in Europe on our travels, but I pleased to say the UK has some wonderful ones too- well worth a visit.
A note on COVID: None of us really know what's going to happen next week, let alone over Christmas. I'm trying to keep this post as up-to-date as possible, but please do check with the relevant council website before travelling.
But there's no harm in planning! So grab a mug of spiced wine (it's Christmas!) and let's start our adventure into the best UK Christmas markets.
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Winchester- consistently voted one of the UK's best Christmas markets
If you’re looking for beautiful and unique UK Christmas market, look no further than Winchester.
Winchester is one of our favourite cities at any time of the year (I actually went to college here), but at Christmas time it really comes alive. Consistently voted one of the best in the UK, Winchester Christmas Market is definitely worth a visit.
The market is set in the grounds of the famous Winchester Cathedral and has everything you could wish for to get you in the festive spirit (including festive spritis! 😉 ) There are over 100 traditional wooden stalls, with exhibitors from all over the world. You can buy everything from personalised decorations, handmade signs, rugs, blankets, shawls, photos, jewellery, decorations, glassware and beautiful gifts for others and yourself!
There are also plenty of food stalls selling crepes, bratwurst, mince pies, chestnuts and many places to enjoy a mug of warm spiced wine or local beer. There's also a life-size nativity, often complete with live animals.
Another highlight is the fantastic open-air ice rink (booking tickets in advance is essential). Skating inside the Cathedral grounds looking at the incredible surroundings and the huge tree is definitely worth the money.
The market is open daily from the end of November until just before Christmas, from 10am until 6.30pm.
As well as the Christmas market, take time to explore the city of Winchester. There is plenty of mainstream shopping on the high street, plus delightfully unique shops and boutiques all over the city. Be sure to head inside the Cathedral as well, home to Jane Austen’s grave and one of the oldest Bibles in the world!
Where to stay
We highly recommend staying at the wonderful Winchester Hotel and Spa, which is close to the train station, at the top end of the city. However, it's about a 15-20 minute walk to the market from here, so if you want to stay closer, the Mercure overlooks the Cathedral.
If you've never been to one before, here are some tips for visiting a Christmas Market in the UK and Europe
Birmingham- one of the biggest UK Christmas Markets
Recommended by Karen | Marvellous Middle England
Predicted Dates for 2021: tbc
Birmingham is consistently one of the biggest Christmas markets in the UK. There are several markets around the city, but the most famous is the Frankfurt market- the biggest authentic German market outside of Austria or Germany.
Here, you'll find over 80 stalls selling traditional, hand-crafted gifts such as beautiful leatherwork and fragile glassware. The food stalls however have the biggest queues- and for good reason. You can try authentic German bratwurst, pretzels, schnitzels, and hot chestnuts. There’s even a stall selling half metre sausages. If you’re thirsty you can get four pint jugs of beer or sweet little mugs of flavoured gluhwein. Perfect for warming up on a cold evening.
The Frankfurt Market in Birmingham is free to enter. Food and drink are a little expensive but well worth it to enjoy the festive atmosphere.
The stalls open at 10am and close at 9pm everyday apart from 8th November when it is closed in the morning.
How to get to Birmingham Christmas Market
I recommend getting the train to the market, both New Street and Snow Hill stations are less than 5 minutes walk from the stalls. If you are driving then there is plenty of secure parking at the Mailbox. The Frankfurt market covers Victoria Square and stretches all the way down New Street towards the Bullring. You'll find it at Victoria Square, Birmingham, B3 3AA.
Where to stay
Book a room at Malmaison hotel in the Mailbox which is 5 minutes walk to the market and surrounded by plenty of bars and restaurants for a perfect festive mini-break.
Manchester- 9 UK Christmas Markets in one!
Recommended by Pauline | Bee Loved City
Predicted Dates for 2021: tbc
If you love Christmas lights and food, visiting Manchester Christmas markets should be at the top of your bucket list!
Unlike most cities in the UK, Manchester doesn't feature one big Winter Wonderland but 9 Christmas markets! They take over the entire city centre from the beginning of November until Christmas Eve.
The markets are located at: Albert Square, Cathedral Gardens, Piccadilly Gardens, Market Street, Exchange Square, New Cathedral Street, King Street and St Ann's Square and the atmosphere is different in each one of them.
Piccadilly is located in the heart of Manchester city centre and features the most impressive lights. The one on King Street has wonderful stands with local craft products. But the main one to visit is on Albert Square. It features Manchester's big Santa and is a great place to eat and drink. There is also a big German bar where you can eat inside.
If you'd like to go ice-skating (to burn off the bratwurst), head to Cathedral Gardens.
Tips for visiting Manchester Christmas Markets
All Christmas Markets in Manchester are free, you can just swing by and have a wander around. Parking in Manchester can be expensive which is why it's recommended to park your car in Ancoats and walk from there.
No matter what, make sure to withdraw cash beforehand. Most places won't take cards and the queue to the ATMs is insane in town, so come prepared and save yourself a lot of time.
Where to stay
Pretty much anywhere in the city centre is near one of the markets, but if you want to enjoy some fun night life, stay near Canal Street. Hotel Brooklyn is a fabulous option.
Cardiff- biggest Christmas Market in Wales
Recommended by David | Delve into Europe
Predicted Dates for 2021: tbc
Cardiff is a bit of a hidden gem when it comes to the festive season, but it's one of the best Christmas cities in Europe.
It's spread over two locations in the city centre. The main market is spread around the streets close to 15th century St John's Church and Cardiff Market, including the popular Hayes shopping area. This is Christmas with a Welsh twist, where you can find gifts made from Welsh slate and some fantastic Snowdonia cheeses in the food stalls.
Then there's Cardiff Winter Wonderland, less than ten minutes' walk away, outside the splendid Edwardian City Hall and National Museum of Wales. This includes a popular ice rink and several fairground rides, as well as food and drink stalls.
The Market and Winter Wonderland run on different dates, the latter normally beginning in early November and continuing until around January 6th.
There is no entrance fee to the Christmas Market or Winter Wonderland, but you do need to reserve your time on the ice rink in advance.
Where to eat and stay in Cardiff
Hotel Indigo is consistently voted one of the best places to stay in Cardiff. If you're looking for somewhere yum to eat, head to Cafe Citta on Church Street, just a minute's walk from the Christmas Market.
Edinburgh- Scotland's famous Christmas Market
Explored by Anuradha from Country Hopping Couple
Predicted Dates for 2021: tbc
As a festival city, Edinburgh knows exactly how to put up a great show – be it the International Fringe Festival, or Christmas and New Year Celebrations. Visit the Christmas markets, buy handmade Scottish souvenirs, ride on the scariest rides or take a slow ride on Ferris wheel enjoying the panoramic views of old town and new town.
During Christmas, there are many events, pantomimes and shows that run across Edinburgh Theatres. For adrenaline seekers, head to Holyrood Park and hike the Salisbury Crag or Arthur’s seat and enjoy the 360 degree views of Edinburgh.
The main and biggest Christmas Market is held in the Princes Street Gardens (East side). You can also see relatively small Christmas market and rides in St.Andrew Square and George Street.
There are no entrance fee to enjoy Christmas Markets. But there are entry fees for Santa’s Grotto. It is advisable to buy tickets in advance for Santa’s Grotto, or rides, or theatre events. They do get booked up really quick. Check the Edinburgh Christmas website for latest information.
Tips for visiting Edinburgh Christmas Market
Christmas season is pretty busy time in Edinburgh, as tourists flock from all the world to experience the magic of this festival and to soak in the celebrations of Hogmanay. Keeping these in mind, we really do not advice taking cars to the city centres. Having lived in Edinburgh for 9 years, we usually prefer bus or tram to explore the Christmas Markets. Plus you can drink as many Gluhweins you want 🙂
Pay and display parking is available on Frederick Street, George Street, Hanover Street and Waterloo Place.
Recommended places to stay and eat in Edinburgh
Whether you want a fancy dine-in restaurant or a takeaway, Edinburgh has a plethora of restaurants in North Bridge and Rose Street, both of which are close to Edinburgh Christmas Markets. Our personal recommendations are Witchery by the Castle, Hendersons and David Bann, the last two being vegan restaurants.
Bury St. Edmunds Christmas Market
Recommended by Anisa | Two Traveling Texans
The Bury St. Edmunds Christmas Market is one of the biggest holiday events in East Anglia. While it usually only lasts four days, it has more than 300 stalls. They have a parade and fireworks on the opening night.
The market covers several streets in the city centre. There are also stages providing entertainment near the Cathedral and the Abbey Gardens. Children will enjoy the carnival rides.
You will find all kinds of food throughout the market as well. We had hog roasts. Alternatively, if you would like to have a more upscale meal, check out 1921 Angel Hill. They serve European and British fare and are vegetarian friendly.
Tips for visiting the Christmas Market
There is no admission charge to visit the Bury St. Edmunds Market. It's best to take the train to the Bury St. Edmunds train station, then walk to the market as there is limited parking nearby. Alternatively, there is a park and ride service from the Saxham Business Park.
If you plan on spending the night in Bury St. Edmunds, the Angel Hotel is a historic four-star hotel conveniently located in the city centre.
Belfast- one of Ireland's best Christmas Markets
Photo Courtesy of Ireland’s Content Pool
Recommended by Emer & Nils | Lets Go Ireland
2021 predicted dates: November 16 to December 22
Belfast in Northern Ireland is a marvelous city, brimming with culture and history. It is also a fantastic destination if you want to enjoy one of the UK's best Christmas Markets.
The Belfast Christmas market is situated in the grounds of Belfast City Hall right in the heart of Belfast. The opening times are Monday to Wednesday from 10am to 8pm, Thursday to Saturday from 10am to 10pm and Sunday from 1pm to 6pm. There is no entrance fee, so you can feel free just stop by Belfast City Hall, wander around and enjoy the illuminated spectacle as often as you would like.
There is a wide range of things on offer for all ages including international food stalls, children’s entertainment, a beer tent, live music events and Santa’s grotto. Enjoy the festive atmosphere and you may even find some extra special Christmas presents for your loved ones.
Tips for visiting the Belfast Christmas Market
As the weather in Ireland in December can be a little bit unpredictable, it is recommended to wear waterproof gear and to bring an umbrella. One of the best hotels only about 0.2 miles from Belfast City Hall is The Fitzwilliam Hotel– well worth a visit.
York Christmas Market
Recommended by Sinead | Best in York Guide
2021 dates still waiting
The centrepiece of the six week long festive St. Nicholas Fair in the historic city of York is the York Christmas market. The free-to-enter market starts on mid-November and runs until just before Christmas.
The market is open seven days a week from mid-morning till late at night. Visitors do not need to pre book or hold a ticket to enter. The market is easily reached on foot from several city centre car parks or is a twenty-minute walk from York railway station.
Over 100 alpine style wooden chalets line York's pedestrianised city centre focusing on the central Parliament Street near the famous cobbled Shambles. The stalls sell a variety of unique, locally made arts and crafts and a range of locally produced treats such as fudge, luxury chocolate and Yorkshire Gin. There are plenty of free samples on offer to tempt you and the market is also a great place to eat dinner.
Entertainment in York Christmas Market
Busy shoppers are entertained by bands and buskers and at night, the illuminated market looks magical. The focal point of the market is the specially erected enormous canvas bar, Thor's Tipi. Weary shoppers can recharge with a mulled wine or hot chocolate on sheepskin covered beaches in front of a warming open fire.
Where to stay in York for the Christmas Market
Lincoln – the UK's oldest Christmas Market
Recommended by Chris | 48 Hours Somewhere
Lincoln is widely considered the longest-running mainstream Christmas market in the UK, as it started in 1982. Attracting nearly 250,000 visitors over its 4 day period, there are around 200 stalls with all manner of home made crafts and food.
There is no entrance fee to the market which takes over the Lincoln Castle grounds and its surrounding area down to Steep Hill.
The best way to visit the Christmas Market, open between 10.00 and 21.30 daily, is to get a train in from just outside the city or use the park and ride facilities for a small charge. There is parking available in the city centre but plan to arrive early to avoid the crowds.
Whilst enjoying browsing the many stalls, a visit to the fairground area just behind the castle can give you spectacular views across the city, taking in the castle and Lincoln's Cathedral right down to the Brayford Wharf and River Witham.
When visiting the Christmas Market the White Hart Hotel puts you right at the centre of the action. Step out of the door and you are part of the market crowds. After strolling around all the Christmas Market has to offer Ole Ole Spanish Tapas (on the opposite side of the castle to the Hotel) is an inexpensive place to grab great food.
Cambridge Christmas Market
Recommended by Rai | A Rai of Light
Just when the winter chill sets in over the Cam River, the Christmas markets in and around Cambridge bring a festive atmosphere to the city. The city’s squares and streets are lit up and there’s no better way to get into the cheerful spirit than a visit to the market.
Here you will find over sixty lively, closely packed stalls that are a delight to wander through in your search for that perfect gift. Find everything from local arts and crafts to handmade jewellery, books and vinyl records.
I particularly enjoy the wide selection of good food and drink stalls, sampling cuisine from around the world. The market is frequented by a variety of people creating a good blend of diverse cultures and different languages.
Fortunately, there is no entrance fee and the market is open every day from the second week in December until the first week in January. The location adjacent to the St. Mary’s Church makes for a convenient stop as you are never too far from it no matter where in the city you find yourself. There's also one of the best places for coffee in Cambridge nearby.
The North Pole Cambridge festival, which takes place at the same time, also features a pop-up ice rink, fairground rides, and an alpine bar. Prepare to get into some serious festive cheer all while sipping on hot chocolate or hot-spiced wine well into the night.
Oxford Christmas Market
Recommended by Rose | Where Goes Rose
A lesser-known UK Christmas market that is well worth visiting is in the city of Oxford, just a 1-hour journey from London. While there are plenty of things to see and do in Oxford, if you’re just keen to visit the market, you can easily take an Oxford day trip from London or any other UK city, fitting in a few other Oxford attractions as well as some Christmassy food and drink at the market.
Like many of the best UK Christmas Markets, there is no entrance fee and no need to purchase tickets in advance. The market can be found on Broad Street, stretching all the way from the corner of Cornmarket to the famous Sheldonian Theatre. You are free to wander the market between its opening hours of 10am to 8pm Thursday to Saturday and 10am-6.30pm Sunday to Wednesday.
The best things to eat and drink at the market including mulled wine, bratwurst sausages, local cheeses, crepes and waffles. You can shop for Christmas decorations and trinkets as well as goods from local Oxford businesses like soaps and jewellery.
Tips for visiting the Oxford Christmas Market
Central Oxford is limited in terms of parking but there are three Park & Rides around the outskirts of the city where you can park your car and jump on a quick bus into the city centre. One of the best places to stay is the Malmaison Oxford, a refurbished jail with luxury suites! There are countless places to eat in Oxford like the White Rabbit Pub known for its wood-fired pizzas and craft ales.
Nottingham Christmas Market
Recommended by Amy | The Travel Fairies
2021 predicted dates: 14th of November until the 31st of December
Nottingham is another of the best Christmas markets in the UK. What I love most about it is that every stall is different and there are many small, independent businesses selling unique products instead of the usual Christmas knickknacks that you can find anywhere. With stalls selling everything from genuine drinking horns to home-brewed mead to local cheese and handcrafted gifts, there’s something for everyone.
There is live entertainment on the weekends, an open-air ice skating rink, a helter-skelter (which also doubles as a bar), various fairground attractions, a ski lodge bar and even an ice bar with a different theme each year.
Tips for visiting Nottingham Christmas Market
The Christmas market takes place in the Old Market Square (NG1 2DT) and is open from 10am until 10pm on Sundays, 11pm on Mondays – Thursdays and midnight on Fridays and Saturdays. There is no admission fee for the market itself but you do need to book online and pay in advance to visit the Ice Bar or ice skating rink.
There are several pay and display car parks near to the market square with the closest being the Lace Market car park (NG1 1QE) but it's often much easier to use one of the park and ride car parks just outside of Nottingham and catch the tram into the city centre.
Where to eat when you visit the Nottingham Christmas Market
There are many food options at the market itself from bratwurst sausages, to pulled pork burgers, bubble waffles and grilled cheese sandwiches but there is also the nearby Street Food Club located in the Intu Victoria Centre which features Christmas themed food options.
If you fancy something a bit more substantial, Nottingham is renowned as a foodie heaven and home to some great independent restaurants like Annie's Burger Shack, Oscar and Rosie's and George's Great British Kitchen. And you can't forget to visit Doughnotts for dessert!
To be in the heart of the action, stay at the Lace Market Hotel and make a weekend of it! Don't forget to visit the Robin Hood statue just down the road!
London Winter Wonderland
Recommended by Caroline | CK Travels
2021 dates are still to be confirmed
Christmas in London is a great time of year with many decorative lights and markets dotted around the capital. The most well-known market to visit during the run-up to Christmas is located inside Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park – a large open-air festival with heaps of attractions.
Here you will find a large traditional German style market where you can shop for handmade crafts and gifts and enjoy delicious street food including raclette, bratwurst and mulled wine (glühwein). As well as the market there are other festive things to do including an ice skating rink, Santa’s grotto, a giant observation wheel, fairground rides, shows/circuses and themed indoor and outdoor bars serving large steins of beer with live music. There is also a huge outdoor area called the Ice Kingdom with children’s film character ice sculptures along with ice sculpting workshops.
How to get to London's Winter Wonderland
Winter Wonderland is open 10am – 10pm every day from around mid-November to the beginning of January. The best way to visit is by public transport – there are many buses that stop near the entrance- or take the London Underground tube to either Knightsbridge, Green Park, Marble Arch or Hyde Park Corner stations.
Try to visit the venue outside of peak hours (evenings and weekends) as winter wonderland is extremely popular with both locals and visitors. Entry is free but some of the attractions inside need to be booked in advance so check their website before you visit.
There are, of course, MANY other UK Christmas Markets, but these are some of the best. I hope that, whichever you choose, you have a wonderful and fun festive trip.