Promising sparkling lights, wooden chalets, festive food and comfortingly hot mulled wine, the best Christmas markets in the UK are a surefire way to get you excited for the big day.
Sure, the Coca-Cola and John Lewis adverts as well as the first taste of a mince pie signal the start of the festive season, but nothing really screams Christmas quite like the installation of the local Christmas market.
While the best Christmas markets in Europe are unrivaled (after all, this is where the tradition started), you can easily enjoy a slice of the yuletide magic over here in the UK. Here are the best markets to visit this Christmas for artisan goods, gourmet treats, mulled wine, and garlanded trees aplenty.
The best Christmas markets in the UK
1. Bath Christmas market
When: November 24 to December 11, 2022
Best Christmas market for: Artisan stalls against a picturesque background
Celebrating its 20th year, the Bath Christmas market is back for 2022 after a two-year pause over the pandemic. With over 170 vendors selling seasonal food, drinks and homewares set against the backdrop of the historic city of Bath, this Christmas market looks like something straight from the set of one of the best Christmas movies.
2. Winter Wonderland, Hyde Park, London
When: November 18 to January 2, 2023
Best Christmas market for: Ticking off a bucket list experience
Winter Wonderland is big, bright, busy and confronting - but that's why you visit. A Christmas market of colossal scale, the event stretches across London's iconic Hyde Park. Expect dizzying rides, shows, games and every kind of food and drink from over 100 wooden huts. Entry is free during off-peak periods - the best time to visit with a family - and is £7.50 during peak hours. Steins at the ready!
3. Edinburgh Christmas market
When: November 19 to January 3, 2023
Best Christmas market for: A magical all-round festive experience
The traditional Christmas market in Edinburgh's Princess Street Gardens has all the trimmings you'd expect from a Christmas market, from wood cabins to free-flowing mulled wine and handcrafted gifts. But what makes this market really worth visiting is the city itself during the festive period; Edinburgh quite literally comes alight during Christmas time. The city's Winter Festival program includes the erection of an open-air ice rink and the 'Castle of Light' which sees its iconic castle lit up in an array of glittering colors. And of course, there's the city's famous Hogmanay Street party, where revelers can see the year out with a city-wide street party, which always includes a stellar lineup of world-famous music arts. If you forget the pursuit of winter sunshine, Edinburgh is one of the best places to visit in December.
4. Southbank winter festival, London
When: November 3 to January 8, 2023
Best Christmas market for: Arts and culture aficionados
Once again, the Christmas market at Southbank is part of a wider schedule of festive events, so it's worth combining the market with other activities. The market itself is packed with delicious street food, alpine-themed pop-ups and cozy cabins where you can warm the cockles with a hot spiced cider or wine. Once you've soaked up the atmosphere of the market, head to the area's outdoor Winter Light exhibition or check out their program of shows, which includes a fun twist on a classic Dickens tale, with Dolly Parton's Smoky Mountain Christmas Carol. And of course, no trip to the UK capital is complete without heading to one of the best spots for afternoon tea in London.
5. Blenheim Palace Christmas market, Oxfordshire
When: November 18 to January 2, 2023
Best Christmas market for: Mesmerizing lights against a palatial backdrop
Held at one of England's best stately homes, Christmas at Blenheim Palace is back with a new trail and Palace decor for 2022 after a two-year hiatus. Head to the Christmas market to browse the artisan products and treats and stay to tour the grand palace and drink in the after-dark light show, which takes place in the gardens. The magnificent World Heritage site, which has stood for over 300 years, takes on a theme every year and this year's theme is the Kingdom of the Snow Queen, which is reflected in the palace's exquisite decoration.
For the perfect day out, start with the market before heading to the Palace to tour its grand rooms which include the immersive 'The Land of the Snowflakes' and 'The Land of Ice'. Next, book tickets for the Christmas light trail where you can discover sparkling tunnels of light, jeweled lights, and impressive illuminations. The market is free but the other events are ticketed, so advance booking is required.
6. York Christmas market
When: November 17 to December 23, 2023
Best Christmas market for: Foodies
The St Nicholas Fair is returning in 2022 to celebrate its 30th year and it's fair to say that it's back with a bang. A firm favorite in the region, the market stretches between Parliament Street and St Sampson's Square, with festive stalls sprinkled into the normal offerings at the city's iconic Shambles Market. What sets this market apart from the crown (other than its rich historical backdrop) is the range of traders at the stalls. You can find the usual bavarian sausage and fondue on offer here but the wooden chalets are packed with local businesses selling artisan foods that you'll be pushed to find elsewhere. New for 2022 is the Winter Hütte, a two-storey traditional Swiss Chalet which contains, amongst other venues, a restaurant from the Michelin-starred Andrew Pern which will serve up Yorkshire produce with a 'Swiss twist.'
7. Winchester Cathedral Christmas market, Winchester
When: November 18 to December 22, 2023
Best Christmas market for: A truly traditional Christmas market
Winchester Cathedral's Christmas market offers everything you'd want from a Christmas market: streets lined with wooden chalets, the ever-present smell of spiced wine and cinnamon and the jolly buzz of carol singers permeating the air. It may not be the most obvious choice when you think of the best UK staycations, but a weekend in Winchester is one well spent.
Also taking place from Tuesday 13 to Sunday 18 December is the 'Star of Wonder' light show - an impressive show by Luxmuralis which transforms the Winchester Cathedral into a spectacle of mesmerizing sounds and lights. Walking underneath the 'stars' and drinking in the sound and light installations is a truly magical, other-worldly way to start the festive season.
8. Canterbury Christmas market
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When: November 10 to December 24, 2022
Best Christmas market for: Sipping hot chocolate in picturesque cobbled streets
One of the first Christmas markets to open up its shutters in 2022, Canterbury Christmas market is open for business from mid-November. From November 11, shoppers can peruse the stalls selling homemade gifts, jewelry, and artisan food - all against the picturesque backdrop of Canterbury's cobbled streets and historical buildings. This market is especially family-friendly, as it's really well contained and in addition to the free stalls, there is a packed schedule of children's activities which you can book at an extra cost, including a 'breakfast with Santa' event.
9. Cardiff Christmas market
When: November 10 to December 24, 2022
Best Christmas market for: Festive fun with a Welsh twist
The biggest Christmas market in Wales, Cardiff Christmas market is home to a dizzying array of stalls packed with local Welsh cheeses, meats and other gastronomic treats. With its focus on artists, craftspeople and artisan food and drink producers, the Cardiff Christmas Market is a must-visit for all things handcrafted and high quality. Enjoy browsing a unique array of stalls offering everything from Christmas decorations to ceramics, jewelry and textiles, and finding those perfect presents for your loved ones. Once you've perused to your heart's content, finish your day by walking over to Cardiff's own Winter Wonderland, located less than ten minutes away. Here, you can continue the foodie trail by sampling more local wares - or you can hit the pop-up ice rink for a refreshing way to close the day. As you might expect, Cardiff is home to some of the best spa hotels in Wales so it's worth extending your stay a little so you can check into one.
10. Lincoln Christmas market, Lincoln
When: December 1 to December 4
Best Christmas market for: A truly festive experience in a medieval square
Lincoln city center is transformed every December into a chocolate box winter wonderland for one weekend when over 200 stalls take over the city's cultural quarter, nestled between the iconic landmarks of the Norman castle and Gothic cathedral.
The market has a strong German presence (Lincoln is twinned with Neustadt), and you’ll find goods from all over Europe, as well as local sellers, offering everything from art, toys and games to hand-painted glass. What we really like about this market, though, is that it only runs for one weekend so you really feel a sense of occasion when you go.
11. Belfast Christmas market
When: November 19 to December 22
Best Christmas market for: International foods
Often overlooked, Belfast's continental Christmas market isn't quite as traditional as the other markets, but still packs in a festive punch. You can expect all the usual continental treats like sausages, mulled wine and hog roast, but the outdoor food court features cuisines from over 30 countries, meaning you can also sample international cuisine. More adventurous diners can also try some fairly unusual meats, like ostrich, wild boar and kangaroo. That's not to say traditionalists won't love the market - it has all the usual wooden chalets, and handcrafted goods that you'd expect from a Christmas market. They've even thrown in a vintage pinstripe Helter Skelter if you're feeling brave.
Anna is an editor and journalist, specializing in SEO and digital content production. First carving her career in communications and advertising agencies in Berlin and Barcelona, Anna's former life saw her work for film studios and inside a fashion house, before she moved to Metro.co.uk (opens in new tab) where her career highlights include heading up the SEO desk during the Covid-19 pandemic. Anna's published work ranges from culture and films to human interest features and live news coverage.
In her spare time, she enjoys watching movies, discovering the next big thing in music, traveling, online shopping, and poring over poetry and magazines. When she's not consuming those things, she's probably writing about them.
Originally from Glasgow, Anna has lived in Berlin, Barcelona, and London, not to mention stints in Guernsey and Athens. When she's not struggling to navigate a new language, she's always chasing the next hot trend and perfect black dress (you can never have too many).
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