Enjoy a spot of Christmas shopping with festive food and drink on a city break close to home. Let us be your guide to Britain's best Christmas markets.
Grab your bobble hat! 'Tis the season when traditional Christmas markets are open for business, so we've put together our favourite seasonal 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 and often local produce, too.
Pick up some artisan cheese or mince pies along with your handcrafted gifts and tree decorations – and, of course, a warming cup of spiced mulled wine. You can almost smell roasted chestnuts in the air...
Best for… stylish seaside eats and festive treats
Jubilee Square in the heart of North Laine fills out with wooden huts selling seasonal food and handmade goodies. A snow-making machine adds sparkle with a carbon off-setting scheme to lower its impact – this is Brighton after all.
Must eat: Chimney cake – spun dough strips baked and filled with Christmas treats.
When: 17 Nov-23 Dec.
Best for… dreaming spires and traditional eats
Broad Street’s annual market comes with gifts, decorations and an array of artisan chocolate. At the nearby Covered Market, choose from rows of hung venison and pheasant, and stock up on local cheeses such as Oxford Blue at the Oxford Cheese Co.
Must buy: Dry-cured sausages and mussels from Charcuterie Board.
When: 7-17 Dec.
Best for… Welsh cakes and a twinkling castle
Over 80 wooden huts replete with ciders, cakes, chocolates, pastries and mulled wine line the city centre’s streets. Meanwhile, Christmas lights and decorations up the ante at Cardiff’s beautiful castle and arcades.
Must eat: Warm Welsh cakes and bara brith from the market’s Fresh as a Daisy stall.
When: 9 Nov-23 Dec.
Best for… quayside strolls and craft beers
The elegant facades of Grainger Town provide a suitably Dickensian backdrop to the International Christmas Market: 50 huts selling gifts from across the globe, plus waffles, Polish bigos and mulled wine. Elsewhere, the city’s oldest market goes festive (11-17 Dec), with local beers, turkeys, tinsel and more.
Must try: Legendary local microbrews like Wylam, Allendale, Magic Rock and Redchurch.
When: Markets are held on select dates from 17 Nov-17 Dec.
Best for… seasonal shopping and weissbier
If Teutonic treats are your thing, the 200 stalls comprising Birmingham’s Frankfurt Christmas Market – pegged as the biggest outside Germany and Austria – is the place to find pretzels, stollen wrapped up like decorations, schnitzels, spiced bratwurst and more varieties of sausage than we have English names for – plus plenty of local produce and handicrafts.
Must eat: Knoblauchbrot – warm garlic & chive bread to soak up the glühwein and weissbier.
When: 16 Nov-24 Dec.
Best for… carols and cathedral grandeur
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.
Must hear: La Nativité du Seigneur, the classic Christmas organ piece, will be performed at the cathedral on 10 Dec.
When: 7-10 Dec.
Best for… foodie families & arty attractions
This atmospheric riverside market outclasses the better-known Santa-a-thon in Hyde Park. The Southbank Winter Festival offers critically acclaimed holiday productions (such as Slava’s Snowshow at Royal Festival Hall) plus arty street theatre, quirky crafts and festive food and drink, including steaming glasses of cider (at Rekorderlig’s pop-up). Don’t miss the purely food-focused Southbank Centre Food Market (21-23 Dec).
Must try: Chilli hot chocolate from Jaz & Juls.
When: 10 Nov-4 Jan.
Best for… a marathon Christmas season
Edinburgh doesn’t lack innovative festive spirit with craft stalls, food markets and wacky street and circus performances. The European Christmas Market on East Princes Street Gardens (18 Nov-6 Jan) offers the requisite continental fare, while the central George Street market (17 Nov-24 Dec) comes with craft beers, Highland cheese and Hebridean smoked seafood, plus the Ice Adventure: a gallery of frozen sculptures such as Mary Queen of Scots and the Loch Ness Monster.
Must buy: Gin from one of Edinburgh’s many booming boutique distilleries.
When: 17 Nov-6 Jan.
Best for… a Georgian setting and olde worlde shops
With the Abbey as its backdrop, few Christmas markets are as beautifully located. Crafts and gifts dominate, but foodie finds include cloth-wrapped Georgie Porgie’s Christmas pudding and Potted Game Co potted venison. You can also pick up Keen’s cheddar and Ridgeview British sparkling wine in the city’s old-fashioned stores.
Must buy: Indulgent jars of duck pâté from Guildhall Market.
When: 23 Nov-10 Dec.
Best for… a city-wide Christmas party
York’s Christmas festival, the St Nicholas Fair, includes Scandi-style stalls on Parliament Street, while the best local producers can be found at Shambles Market and Food Court and the new Made in Yorkshire Yuletide Village. You can also have a cup of mead or pint of local ale at the Medieval Market (Barley Hall, 16 Nov-5 Jan).
Must eat: 10-hour pulled pork and Reuben sandwich at Shambles Kitchen.
When: 16 Nov-22 Dec.
Best for... Tudor shops & local produce
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 market on Princess Street (Monday-Saturday) includes a fine fishmonger and local produce from Taste Cheshire farmers’ market (outside the town hall, every third Saturday) including sausages and pies, cheeses and preserves.
Which is your favourite Christmas market? Leave a comment below...