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Grab your bobble hat and set off on a wintry weekend getaway. 'Tis the season for traditional Christmas markets, so we've put together our favourite UK city breaks for making the most of this shopping opportunity. Foodies are well catered for, with stalls specialising in festive treats from around the world, plus plenty of local produce.
Pick up some artisan cheese or mince pies along with your handcrafted gifts and tree decorations – and, of course, a warming mug of spiced mulled wine. You can almost smell roasted chestnuts in the air...
Of course, you could do your Christmas shopping from home, if you prefer, with our ultimate foodie gift list, featuring exciting edible presents, kitchen gadgets and stylish homeware.
Taste of London
Taste of London is the perfect way to sample the best dishes from around the capital. For four days only, Taste returns to east London’s Tobacco Dock with winter cocktails, live music, special entertainment and exclusive dishes. The event is complete with dozens of foodie workshops, cocktail masterclasses and the famous warming fire pit.
18-21 November, Taste of London
Leeds Castle, Kent
Explore the great outdoors with a wintery walk exploring Leeds Castle. Spot the 12 unique artworks located across the estate, all themed to the twelve days of Christmas. Walk under the turtle dove arch, admire seven mirrored swans a-swimming on the Great Lake and bang the 12 drummer’s drums with your little ones.
27 November-2 January, Leeds Castle
Hampshire’s county town more than lives up to its title of ‘England’s Christmas capital’ with the Winchester Cathedral Christmas market a riot of festive food and gifts. Organisers ensure local businesses are given a fair crack at representation by rotating the traders year on year and keeping a strong emphasis on British artisan goods.With plenty of unique, creative wares on offer, this is the perfect place to get a spot of Christmas shopping done. The nativity scene and ice rink add a traditional feel to the experience, as do the old-fashioned costermonger carts selling roasted chestnuts.
19 November-22 December, Winchester Cathedral
Manchester’s award-winning market has been going from strength to strength, sprawling outwards from Albert Square and stretching further into side streets and nearby squares with each passing year – there are now 10 official sites in all. Visitors can browse more than 300 wooden chalets offering a tempting array of festive foods, including hog roasts, bratwurst and mince pies. The market’s many bars are licensed until 9pm and the glasses and mugs are now returnable as part of a drive towards a more environmentally friendly set-up.
12 November-22 December, Manchester Christmas Market
A towering Christmas tree, traditional carousel and sparkling lights create a thoroughly festive vibe at Glasgow's George Square, while nearby St Enoch Square promises a wide selection of food, drink and gifts. As well as the usual run of continental bites, beer and mulled wine, there’ll be stalls selling anything from noodles and arepas to local dishes such as haggis, neeps and tatties.
21 November-23 December, Glasgow Christmas Markets
Hyde Park Winter Wonderland, London
There’s plenty in store at Winter Wonderland, where the market stalls are just part of the attraction. Book ahead for a spot at Bar Ice, where everything from the glasses to the chairs are carved from ice, then head to The Fire Pit for a warming winter cocktail.Feeling continental? Check out the giant Bavarian beer hall. Alongside the usual offerings of sausages, waffles and doughnuts, you’ll find burgers, kebabs and every kind of caramelised nut imaginable, plus more adventurous dishes such as salmon fillets grilled on wooden planks.
19 November-3 January, Winter Wonderland
Broad Street’s annual market comes complete with gifts, decorations and an array of artisan chocolate. At the nearby Covered Market, open all year round, choose from rows of hung venison and pheasant, and stock up on local cheeses such as Oxford Blue at the Oxford Cheese Company.
9-19 December, Oxford Christmas Market
Wooden huts replete with ciders, cakes, chocolates, pastries and mulled wine line the city centre streets. Meanwhile, Christmas lights and decorations up the ante at Cardiff’s beautiful castle and arcades. Make sure to try warm Welsh cakes and bara brith while you're there. Find out what other foodie delights are on offer at Cardiff's Christmas market.
11 November-23 December, Cardiff Christmas Market
If Teutonic treats are your thing, the 180 stalls comprising Birmingham’s Frankfurt Christmas Market – pegged as the biggest outside Germany and Austria – are the place to find pretzels, stollen, schnitzels, spiced bratwurst and more varieties of sausage than we have English names for, plus plenty of local produce and handicrafts. Chow down on some knoblauchbrot (warm garlic and chive bread) to soak up the glühwein and weissbier.
4 November-23 December, Birmingham’s Frankfurt Christmas Market
Short and sugar-sweet, this focused four-day Christmas market lays out its 200-plus stalls around the medieval square between the Norman castle and the towering gothic cathedral. Seek out tangy Lincolnshire Poacher cheese, peppery, sage-flecked sausages, and local plum bread rich with dried fruit and cinnamon. Plus, pick up some stunning ceramics and handmade kitchen essentials at Lincoln Christmas Makers’ Market in St Martin's Square.
2-5 December, Lincoln Christmas Market
South Bank, London
This atmospheric riverside market outclasses the better-known Santa-thon in Hyde Park. The Southbank Centre's Winter Market offers seasonal performances (such as Christmas with King's College Choir at the Royal Festival Hall) plus arty street theatre, quirky crafts and festive food and drink. Don’t miss the purely food-focused Southbank Centre Food Market, open Friday to Sunday every weekend.
4 November-23 December, Southbank Winter Market
Edinburgh has no shortage of innovative festive spirit, with craft stalls and food markets alongside wacky circus acts and street performers. The European-style Christmas Market in East Princes Street Gardens offers the requisite continental fare, while the Johnnie Walker Bothy Bar is the place to go for whisky cocktails and hot toddies.
20 November-4 January, Edinburgh Christmas Market
While the physical Bath Christmas Market is cancelled for 2021, there are still plenty of celebrations to be found throughout the city. Shop the virtual Christmas market with more than 160 independent, sustainable retailers with anything from baked goods to drinks and more.
1 November-31 December, Bath Virtual Christmas Market
York’s Christmas festival, the St Nicholas Fair, includes alpine-style stalls on Parliament Street and an old-fashioned helter-skelter on Kings Square, while the best local producers can be found at Shambles Market and Food Court.
18 November-23 December, York Christmas Market
With its Roman walls, Tudor shopping arcade and the lovely red sandstone cathedral from which to view the River Dee, Chester is a pretty setting for a festive break. The Christmas market on Princess Street features more than 70 traditional chalets offering festive nibbles and gifts, plus local produce from Taste Cheshire farmers’ market. Visit the Gin & Ale Bar and sample some of more than 40 gins, cocktails and ales.
18 November-22 December, Chester Christmas Market
Which is your favourite Christmas market? Leave a comment below...