The Best Christmas Markets For Christmas Shopping

Oliver Cromwell banned them – always a sign that something must be fun – but Christmas markets, which date from medieval times, are flourishing once more in the UK. Browsing stalls and sipping a glühwein or hot chocolate is a lovely way to add some sparkle to your festive shopping. Yes, you could face the high street or sit by a computer going 'click, click and proceed to shopping basket'; but why not take a trip to find unusual gifts and give yourself a treat.





Homeaway.co.uk says: “A visit to a Christmas market is a magical experience, and there’s no better way to get yourself into the festive mood. Since they’re mainly based in urban areas, you have all the benefits of a city break plus some extra shopping and a visit from Santa. You’re sure to find something to keep everyone in the family happy, including parents, teens and the youngest of children”.

Here are eleven of the best markets for 2013, both in the UK and abroad...

Lincoln, UK

The Cathedral City is now well established for its winter fairs. As lincoln-christmasmarket.co.uk reports: “Lincoln brought the first traditional German Christmas market to the UK as part of its friendship and twinning with the town of Neustadt in Germany. The market grows annually, constantly adding new attractions to excite the senses of visitors from near and far. From its beginnings in 1982 with just 11 stalls in Castle Square, the market now takes over most of the cultural quarter of the city, with well over 250 stalls”. Stallholders from the twin town still bring German crafts, food and drink for more than 150,000 visitors to Lincoln. Specialities from the event include wooden toys, photographs, hand-painted glass, handmade candles, ceramics and art, plus fresh produce from the area.

Runs: December 5 to 8, 2013

Portsmouth, UK

Find food, glorious food (and hopefully no pickpockets) in Fagin’s Tavern, a wonderful Spiegeltent with a traditional oompah band at the Victorian Festival of Christmas at Portsmouth's Historic Dockyard. Charles Dickens was born in the city so it’s a great excuse for Dickensian celebration – and the biggest Christmas market on the south coast.

Christmasfestival.co.uk says: “You will be entertained by a whole host of musicians, street entertainers and theatre groups at no extra charge to your entrance fee. Say hello to our traditional Father Christmas and his fairy helpers, watch out for Oliver, curtsey for Queen Victoria and of course follow the clues which lead to Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson”. A great destination in its own right, Portsmouth Historic Dockyard boasts the Mary Rose Museum, Nelson’s Victory, HMS Warrior and other maritime wonders. The shopping includes a strong vintage element and retro collectables as well as clothing, jewellery, arts and homewares; there really is something for everybody. Hampshire Fare food market will be offer local goodies.

Runs: November 29 to December 1, 2013

Cardiff, UK

In the heart of the buzzing Welsh capital, this is the perfect place to hear superb choir and carol singers as you browse the atmospheric street scene. As cardiffchristmasmarket.com says: “Visitors will be tempted by a diverse range of high quality products such as pewter work, Welsh slate products, carved Welsh lovespoons, metalwork, photography, hand built and thrown pottery, silver and precious stone jewellery, quality yarns with accessories, traditional wooden items and toys”.

Runs: November 14 to December 23, 2013

Bleinham Palace, Oxfordshire, UK

It’s not actually a Christmas market as such but it is a chance to combine history with your shopping with a visit to a beautiful stately home, possibly England’s finest.

Blenheim Palace says: “The Great Hall will be adorned with grand Christmas trees decorated in candles, baubles, lanterns in traditional reds, greens and golds. Dickensian scenes will be brought to life with ‘Ye Olde Curiosity Shoppe' windows for Victorian passers-by to peer into from the blistering winter outside. Lanterns and street lamps will lead the way past the Victorian shop windows; a grocer’s, a candle maker’s and glove shop, all set within the archways of the Great Hall, decked with swathes of holly and ivy”. This is all in the great house from November 9 to December 13 but the Christmas market is called Living Crafts for Christmas and the palace courtyards of Blenheim Palace will be turned into a winter wonderland. Organisers promise: “Over 130 British designer-makers will be showcasing high quality, contemporary craft, from individual gifts and special commissions to simple stocking fillers; ceramics, millinery, toys, fashions, designer jewellery, hand-made soaps, studio glass, decorations, wreaths and many more”.

Runs: November 15 to 17

Leeds Castle, Kent, UK

The stunning fortress is hosting its first Christmas market this year with German market-style chalets and traditional carousels. There’s a strong emphasis on traditional crafts and organisers are whetting the appetites of potential visitors by revealing: "Many local suppliers will be offering home-made pies, meats, cheeses, fudge, chutneys, spirits and liqueurs, ideal for the Christmas dinner table”. You do need to pay to get in, either on a full ticket if you want to visit the castle as well, or you can get a £7 grounds and market only ticket. Open daily from 11am to 6pm with late night shopping until 9pm on December 12, 13, 19 and 20.

Runs: December 7 to 22
Edinburgh, UK

Take your pick of two markets under the shadow of the castle. Watch the skaters on the ice rink at Princes Street Gardens and there are plenty of splendid Scottish pubs nearby where you can head for a whisky to warm you up for more shopping. The Traditional German Christmas Market on the Mound will have classic and contemporary gifts plus filling sausages, fried potato cakes, crepes, German beer and glühwein.

Runs: November 29 to December 24

And the Traditional Highland Village just below in East Princes Street Gardens is, you’ve guessed it, the place to fulfill your tartan dreams. Christmas-markets.org says: “From Scottish foodie treats to woolly hats and Scottish teddy bears, this market is eclectic, vibrant and fun. Scottish produce is on sale from a range of food producers and retailers including venison burgers from Well Hung and Tender, as well as candles gifts, jewellery and quirky clothes”.

Runs: November 29, 2013 to January 6, 2014

Hamburg, Germany

One of the biggest and best, the city actually has several Christmas markets but head to the town hall for perfect Christmassy vistas. Roncalli's Circus hosts the event and the warm spiced wine is served by clowns and circus artists. Admire gingerbread houses, decorations carved by Tyrolean craftsmen, exquisite ‘printen’ biscuits and beautiful gifts. You can see a fairytale-themed ship at the Jungfernstieg promenade and a Christmas parade takes place from Mönckebergstraße every Saturday in December before Christmas.
Germany-christmas-market.org.uk says: “Every day at 4pm, 6pm and 8pm Santa Claus will be flying his reindeer sleigh up to the sky high above the roofs of the Christmas Market cottages telling the story of Rudolph the red nosed reindeer. Overlapping the start of advent is the Hamburg Dom at the Heiligengeistfeld. The Dom is the largest funfair in the north of Germany, promising lots of fun for everyone”.

Barcelona

The Fira de Santa Lucia is more than 200 years old and adds a festive brio to the splendid city. Time Out reports: “The most popular figure on sale for Nativity scenes is the curious Catalan figure of the caganer, a small figure crouching over a steaming turd with his trousers around his ankles. Kids line up for a go on the giant caga tió, a huge, smiley-faced ‘log’ that poops out pressies upon being beaten viciously by a stick; smaller versions are on sale in the stalls. There’s also a Nativity scene contest, musical parades and exhibitions, including the popular life-size Nativity scene in Plaça Sant Jaume”. Unusual!

Runs: November 25 to December 23

Dublin, Ireland

The 12 Days of Christmas is the name of Ireland’s largest Christmas fair. Find celtic jewellery, artwork, stained glass, amazing Aran knits and handcrafted wooden toys in the vibrant surroundings of Dublin Docklands. Enjoy the carols, carousel and German-themed bar before you move on to a proper Dublin pub for a Guinness.

Runs: December 7 to 23

Jersey, Channel Islands

Head to St Helier, capital of the Channel Islands, for La Fête dé Noué. There is a strong emphasis on location and heritage here with night walks, history talks and storytelling events as well carol singing and art festivals under the twinkling fairylights of the fair.

Runs: December 11 to 16

New York, USA

A fairytale of New York awaits you in the city that never sleeps. It’s like being in the movies here, we’ve all seen couples ice skating at the Rockefeller Center or strolling through a snowy Central Park so enjoy the whole Christmassy city as well as its markets. The essential-new-york-city-guide.com recommends Bryant Park: “Holiday gift shops are located in cozy glass huts that surround the picturesque Bryant Park skating rink. There are wonderful food stands, mostly clustered around the park's fountain, that sell a variety of treats including hot drinks, kettle corn, grits, and cupcakes”.

Runs: November 1, 2013 - January 5, 2014


Photo Credit: -12°C via photopin cc

Self-confessed lover of all things Christmassy, Sarah Thompson loves to share her tips on shopping and the best holiday breaks. An experienced travel writer based in London, Sarah uses and recommends Tuxedo Prepaid, a leading currency card for pre-loading your spending money, for easier shopping on your holidays.

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