I am SO happy when Christmas comes around in the UK. I don’t know about you, but going to a Christmas market on a chilly night is one of my favorite ways to get into the holiday spirit, and some of the best ones in the world are in the UK.
All over the country, Christmas markets are popping up. The British love their Christmas markets, and it’s a fun experience, every year.
Some start at the end of November and last all the way until December 24th making it a month-long affair! Everyone is in high spirits, drinking high percentage spirits, and the vibe is just great.
The idea is generally the same everywhere: cobbled stones and grand buildings become backdrops of market stalls selling homemade Christmas crafts. There are guaranteed German-inspired eats (big sausages, yum) and best of all, hot, spicy mulled wine that get you into the spirit in a jiffy.
However, some Christmas markets in the UK are better than others. Every market in the UK brings something different to the Christmas season.
I spent years getting drunk in December in various cities around the country, so you don’t have to. Here are the best Christmas markets in the UK to check out this year.
Must-See Christmas Markets in the UK
What’s a December holiday without a good ol’ fashioned visit to a Christmas market? There’s nothing better than wrapping up and heading off around the UK to enjoy the season in this special atmosphere.
Whether you’re in search of gifts, festive food, or need a little extra something to get you in the holiday mood, here are my must-see Christmas markets in the UK.
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Edinburgh Christmas Market
As one of the most beautiful tourist destinations, it’s only right that Edinburgh also has one of the best Christmas markets in the UK. Every year, East Princes Street Garden in the New Town is transformed into Santa Land.
Set up right in front of Edinburgh Castle, walking through the stalls of handmade trinkets and tree ornaments with a mug of mulled wine has never felt more dreamy.
But as you can imagine, Santa Land is more than toys and trees… It’s also full of Christmas activities like The Big Wheel, Santa’s Grotto, and a Christmas tree maze to lose yourself in.
Where to Stay
Since the market is walkable from the Old Town, it makes sense to stay at The Inn on the Mile. The hotel is transformed into a winter wonderland, and you can have as much mulled wine as you want and still walk home!
Winter Wonderland, Hyde Park
I shouldn’t be biased, but I can’t help it. I love the Winter Wonderland Christmas Market in London so much. I know London is expensive, but it’s still a top contender and one of my yearly highlights.
In December, a section of Hyde Park is completely transformed into a Winter wonderland, full of carnival-style games, rides, and a huge mulled wine tent to escape the blistering wind. It’s also home to the biggest outdoor ice skating rink in the UK, but make sure to bring your mittens; that winter breeze takes no prisoners.
It’s the best family-friendly Christmas market in the UK. Whether you’re 5 or 85, you’re going to have an incredible time here. The glittering lights and warm mugs will warm any heart. And if you’re on a budget, it’s free to enter at non-peak hours.
Where to Stay
Wombat’s City Hostel London is an excellent option for travellers in the big city. Stay in a dorm, or grab a private room for cheap and head out and explore the Christmas market.
St. Nicholas Fair, York Christmas Market
York is one of the UK’s most unique cities, with an insanely cool history. From still retaining the medieval streets in The Shambles to a friggin castle that was occupied by Vikings, Christmas is next level.
For six weeks, the small city transforms and welcomes visitors from all over to sip on delicious hot chocolate while strolling downtown shopping for homemade Christmas decorations. York makes Christmas the most wonderful time of year.
You can eat at decked out independent restaurants and delve into York’s cool history. The St. Nicholas Fair takes place in the city centre, and it’s one of the largest holiday markets, with over 100 vendors.
Aside from it being a little pricey to stay in York, the markets are free. They wrap around the city, making it easy to walk through all of them one after the other.
Keep your eyes peeled for Father C. You know him: big guy, white beard, red coat. He’s been known to make an appearance or two around town.
Where to Stay
Get the countryside feeling while staying in the city centre at Galtres Lodge Hotel & Forest Restaurant. You’ll be within walking distance of all the holiday events while feeling like you’re in the English countryside.
Bath Christmas Market
For the best artisanal gifts and crafts, you have to visit the Bath Christmas Market. Set against the backdrop of the magnificent Bath Abbey, it’s a serious sight for sore eyes. The market is full to the brim with over 170 stalls, and they have a wide range of unique vendors selling handmade jewellery, ceramic homeware, and more.
What I find really charming about this market is that 60% of the items are handmade in the UK. It’s a one-stop shop for buying unique gifts while supporting local businesses. And, of course, you don’t want to leave out the yummy food stalls. You can’t leave a Bath Christmas Market without eating a Christmas pudding!
Where to Stay
The Hill House brings all the charm of Bath under one roof. The rooms are cozy and will make you feel right at home during the holiday season. And it’s only a 13-minute walk from the Roman Baths!
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Chester Christmas Market
Ditch the commercialized Christmas markets and let the Chester Christmas markets take you back to when you were a kid trying to sleep on Christmas Eve.
The Chester Christmas Market revolves around the towering Christmas Tree in the centre of Town Hall Square, displaying the city’s Gothic architecture. It’s nothing too flashy or fancy, giving the perfect amount of nostalgia to everyone who visits.
At the 70+ stalls, there are incredible finds, from hand-carved nativity sets and handmade ornaments to handmade Christmas candles that smell of cinnamon and cranberry. (Yes – perfect Christmas gifts for the lovely lady in ya life.)
Walk through the chalets with a mug in one hand and a rib-sticking hog roast in the other, a must-have when you’re in Chester. And it makes the chilly night air feel a little warmer!
Where to Stay
The Hotel Chester is the cosiest place to come home to after a night perusing the Christmas market. It’s only a 5-minute walk from the centre, and the one-bedroom apartment has loads of space to store all the Christmas goodies you buy.
Manchester Christmas Markets
If you’re looking for a party, then you already know Manchester is going to top your list. What an icon, ladies and gentlemen, Manchester Christmas markets.
Sprinkled throughout the city, eight different markets pop up, and each one is better than the last. I have been on many “pub crawls” through these markets and every year was a blast. Start in Albert Square and follow through to St Ann’s Square.
The city has over 300 chalets selling everything from traditional Christmas ornaments to some unique gifts that you can only find in Manchester. It’s many of the locals’ favourite things to do in Manchester in December: go to German Village for some sausage and beers.
Throughout the markets are heaps of different international cuisines and flavours. So go with an empty stomach, you’ll want to try everything.
Where to Stay
You’ll find some of the cheaper accommodation options in Manchester, and the Motel One Manchester-Piccadilly is the perfect option for anyone with high-quality taste but a low budget. Located near Piccadilly, you can kick off your tour at Picadilly Gardens and then walk your way through.
Southbank Winter Festival
If you’re celebrating the winter season in London, then without a doubt, you’ll find yourself at the Southbank Winter Festival. It’s located right next to the London Eye, drawing in a huge crowd every day from the 17th of November all the way until the 1st of January.
The market, in true London fashion, is full of food from all over the world and will give you and your friends all kinds of options when it comes to eats and treats. At the centre of the market is a huge tented area to grab a picnic table.
I highly recommend everyone getting something different and then passing it around. Plate swapping is one of the best experiences to share at South Bank Winter Festival.
After you’re done eating, make sure to explore the rest of what Southbank has to offer. There are ice skating rinks, carol singers, and pop-up bars all over, making it a festive atmosphere like no other.
Where to Stay
Don’t let the Christmas fun stop at the Southbank Winter Festival. Stay at The Z Hotel Covent Garden. You’ll be right in the middle of all the Christmas shopping, and you can relax on the rooftop and have gorgeous views of the city.
Nottingham Christmas Market
Enjoy a European-styled holiday at the Nottingham Christmas Market. One of the best parts is that the market takes place in Old Market Square, where historic architecture provides a beautiful backdrop for the festivities.
This year, the market is downsizing a bit, but they’ll still have the traditional mulled wine and artisan stalls selling wares from all over the world. Along with the traditional stalls, they will also still have their famous ice rink, Santa’s grotto, and of course, everyone’s favorite—Alpine Ice Bar.
The ice bar serves all of their drinks in mugs made out of ice, so it gets chilly. Get snuggled down in the big coats and winter gloves so you can enjoy a literal ice-cold beer without getting frostbite.
Where to Stay
Cranbrook House Apartments is perfect for families visiting Nottingham this Christmas. It’s located right next to Ice Arena, and you’ll have plenty of space for everyone to spread out.
Winchester Christmas Market
If you’re looking for the perfect day trip from London this Christmas, then the Winchester Christmas Market needs to be on your radar. It’s one of the best Christmas markets in Europe during the holiday season just an hour and a half from London.
Over 100 chalets are set up inside the Winchester Cathedral, making this market one of the most unique places to spend a few hours. Of course, the market has all the traditional English Christmas fares like minced meat pies, roasted chestnuts, and different local gems being sold.
But (and bear with me here), the choir singing carols in the Cathedral is so amazing. Hearing silent night within the stone walls gave me real body shivers.
If you’re able to stay through the evening, you’ll be surrounded by a flurry of lights and entertainment throughout downtown Winchester. There’s warm apple cider and live music playing in the squares. It really is one of those winter scenes that needs to be experienced.
Where to Stay
Stay in YHA London Earl’s Court is a cheaper way to stay in Chelsea and make friends from all around the world. They also host weekly pub quizzes and walking tours through London. Plus, it’s only a short train ride to Winchester!
Birmingham Frankfurt Christmas Market
For the best currywurst and gluhwein outside of Germany, you have to hit up the Birmingham Christmas market. It’s the largest authentic German Market in all of Europe outside of Germany and Austria.
I’ve had the pleasure of going to both Christmas markets in Austria and Germany, and I think Birmingham do the best job of honouring this tradition. From the big German sausages (I’m loving how much I’m typing sausages in this post by the way) and pretzels to the artisanal trinkets being sold, it’s like being back in Deutschland.
The market is free to enter and, along with all of the German traditions, are also your typical Winter festivities like ice skating and going for a ride on the Giant Wheel. It gets crazy busy on the weekends, so I recommend heading here on a weekday.
Where to Stay
I stayed in this Airbnb apartment in Birmingham. It was great to have free parking as it’s usually a nightmare with a car in Birmingham during the Christmas markets and it’s walking distance from there.
Leeds Christmas Market
If you know Yorkshire, you don’t forget Yorkshire. The people of Leeds, obviously, deep-rooted in their veins, bleed good times during the winter.
The Leeds Christkindlemarket takes everything from family fun to hanging out with your mates and blends it like no one else. Packed full of kids’ rides, face paintings, balloon animals, Christmas caroling, and everyone’s favorite—breakfast with the big man.
Every Saturday and Sunday, kids can enjoy a traditional German breakfast with Santa at the Leeds Christmas Market. It’s 2024 so we don’t sit in Santa’s lap anymore, but they can read him their wishlist anyway. You’ll need to make reservations, but it’s the perfect opportunity to make this time of year special for your little one.
Where to Stay
This two-bedroom apartment in Leeds is big enough for families or big groups for making a special Christmas break. With two bedrooms, you will have your space, and they’ll have theirs.
Belfast Christmas Market
Head to Northern Ireland for one of the most beautiful Christmas markets in the UK at an affordable price. Belfast is a pretty affordable city in the UK, so planning a holiday here is fantastic for those on a budget.
The Christmas market is located right in front of the Belfast City Hall, and it’s a gorgeous background for drinking cold beer and warm, hot wine from one of their large heated tents.
But of course, that’s not all. The market also has all of the traditional Christmas spirit, with booths selling traditional gifts like pottery, woodwork, and handmade ornaments for the tree.
Where to Stay
Having a place to stay downtown is a necessity at the Belfast Christmas Market, and this penthouse close to the markets is the perfect option for you and a group of friends. It sleeps six, and you’ll have some of the most beautiful views of the market.
Norwich Christmas Market
For only three days at the end of November, the Norwich Christmas market brings a sparkling energy to the UK that you have to experience.
Ooo and you can bring your dogs. You’ll find plenty of treats for your furry friend. And I don’t know about you, but a Christmas market with dogs just sounds better!
The Forum is transformed into a Festive Fair, and every year, it delivers bigger and better. You’ll find everything from handmade decorations and jewellery to beautiful art and clothing. There are also delicious treats like mulled wine, roasted chestnuts, and crepes right in front of the historic City Hall.
Where to Stay
Located just 200 meters from the centre, The Assembly House brings together countryside charm and chicness. The rooms are eclectic and full of personality, while the breakfast and afternoon tea are as English as they come.
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FAQs about the UK’s Xmas Markets
The Best Christmas Markets in the UK
Are you in the Christmas spirit yet, or what? With so many Christmas Markets all over the UK, choosing which one to go to isn’t the easiest job in the world, but with all of these options being a train ride away from one another, why not check out a few?
Hopefully, you’ve got a better idea of the best Christmas markets in the UK to spend your winter holidays. If there is one must-see market, then I have to recommend the Edinburgh Christmas Market. The markets and the castle on the cliff, it’s just a magical atmosphere.
But, regardless if you’re heading to Scotland, London, or even Leeds, every Christmas market in the UK brings about its own charm and sparkle. With twinkling lights, wooden chalets, and plenty of Christmas goodies for sale, pick any. Spend the weekend!
There is no going wrong. Sometimes it comes down to the cheapest train ticket. But I guarantee, after having a glass of mulled wine and spinning around the ice rink, you’ll be having a ball wherever you are!
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