The Best and Most Festive Christmas Markets in the UK
Let us help you get into the Christmas spirit with our guide to the best seasonal markets across the UK.
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, everywhere you go... and what better way to celebrate the season of cheer and goodwill than at a Christmas market? Whether Christmas to you means copious amounts of mulled wine and snifters of brandy, glittery wrapping paper and plastic toys or carols at midnight and gathering mistletoe from the garden, spending some time enjoying a Christmas market can deliver on your loftiest festive dreams. Plum Guide is an expert on both accommodation and the best Christmas markets in the UK, and we’ve compiled our picks of the most dizzyingly joyous places to visit to get into the yuletide spirit.
The Bath Christmas Market is one of the most popular in the country, and for good reason –Bath is a beautiful city, and to see it lit up and festooned with festive decorations is a thing of beauty. The market itself is held against the backdrop of the 16th century abbey and the famous Roman baths, which makes for a postcard-perfect vignette.
There are around 150 chalets annually, stocking everything from jewellery and knitwear by local artisans, handmade gingerbread, delicious cheeses, jams and preserves, plus of course the standard Christmas offerings of decorations, cards and foodstuffs. It can get packed here at the weekends, so for a quieter experience visit midweek. Whatever time you visit, you can be sure that there’ll be carolers and musicians serenading you as you shop.
For gifts with a difference, Glasgow Christmas market is the place to go. There are actually two markets, George Square Market and St Enoch Square Christmas Market, with around 50 stalls apiece. They’re stocked with items sourced from as far afield as Ecuador and Kenya, so if your relatives are bored of the same stocking fillers year after year (who really needs another pair of socks, after all?), think about stocking up here.
For those who can’t conceive of Christmas without a beverage or two, you’ll be thrilled to hear that there’s a Bavarian beer house and a Glühwein House run by Markus Kochems, who hails from the Mosel valley and is one of the world’s top wine producers. These drinking dens are just waiting to pour you a drink and warm you up – Glasgow winters can be nippy.
Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire
While this Oxfordshire offering is undoubtedly one of the best Christmas markets in the UK, it does end in mid-December rather than running right up until Christmas, so you’ll want to make sure that you pre book your free ticketed slot to visit sooner rather than later. Once you’re there, however, you’ll understand why we recommended it.
The impressive Blenheim Palace is dressed in its illuminated Christmas best and the market itself is spacious and well laid out, making it easy to find your way around when you're two mulled wines in. Expect handmade gifts, leather accessories, unique stationery and of course a selection of temptingly delicious street food that will make you promise yourself you’ll start that diet next week.
If your Christmas day sees the Queen’s speech as unmissable and you are so adamant about the wearing of cracker hats that you keep them on until you climb into bed, York Christmas Market will receive your seal of approval. A traditional offering, the level of classically British cheer found here places it firmly on the list of our recommended Christmas markets in the UK.
A large part of that is the emphasis of sourcing of local artisans to run the many stalls here. Local breweries, confectioners and crafts make it an ideal place to source presents for awkward work colleagues who you don’t know that well. Keep an eye out for the stall selling toffee vodka. It’s so tasty you can’t tell quite how strong it is. Dangerous.
We recommend visiting at an off-peak time, as York is a small city and the high street where the market is located can get very crowded at the weekends and weeknights close to the big day itself.
There’s nowhere quite like London in December. The twinkling lights, bustling streets and merry-faced shoppers make England’s capital the place to be during the festive season. The Southbank is great for strolling along at any time of year, boasting many buskers, street food stalls and excellent museums, and it truly comes alive at Christmas.
The lines of wooden stalls at Southbank Winter Market make for a pretty picture, with the Thames and London Eye sparkling in the background (don’t forget your camera – you’ll kick yourself if you do). Once you’ve finished your shopping, grab a mince pie and head over to the nearby Southbank Centre to catch a Christmas show or choir performance.