If there’s one thing that can get you into the festive spirit, it’s a visit to some of the best Christmas markets in the UK! With towns and cities across the country lighting up with twinkling lights, offering delicious treats and unique gift-shopping opportunities, visiting a Christmas market is a must-do for anyone looking for an extra dose of festive cheer.
But what are Christmas markets, and why are they so popular in the UK? Here, the Christmas.co.uk team will answer these questions and give you some tips on where to find the best Christmas markets in the UK.
We have also been busy putting together a guide for the best European Christmas markets and the best places to enjoy Christmas lights.
Whatever you decide to do, and wherever you decide to go, we hope you enjoy your trip to enjoy a Christmas market.
What will people find at a Christmas market in the UK?
At all of the UK’s Christmas markets, visitors can expect to find a festive atmosphere with vendors offering handmade gifts and decorations, seasonal food and drink such as mulled wine and hot chocolate. Some markets may also have fairground rides or ice-skating rinks for visitors to enjoy. Many Christmas markets in the UK feature live entertainment and other fun festive-themed activities for the whole family to enjoy.
If you are looking for the perfect stocking-filler for your mum, to enjoying a boozy evening with friends filled with mulled-wine goodness and ice-skating, Christmas markets have it all.
In the UK, we are fortunate to have an abundance of dazzling destinations that come to life with festive cheer year after year, featuring everything from cosy grottoes and wholesome gift stalls to your favourite Christmas songs.
While London’s Christmas markets and Winter Wonderland are definitely worth a visit, other cities such as York and Edinburgh with their cobbled streets and majestic castle surroundings, offer an equally enchanting experience.
What are Christmas markets?
Christmas markets are outdoor events that take place during the festive season, usually from late November to late December.
They are typically set up in city centres, town squares, or historic venues, and feature wooden stalls or chalets that sell a variety of goods, such as handmade crafts, jewellery, toys, candles, ornaments and more.
Many Christmas markets also offer food and drink stalls, where you can sample traditional delicacies, such as mince pies, gingerbread, roasted chestnuts, mulled wine and hot chocolate.
Some of the UK’s Christmas markets also have entertainment on offer, such as live music, carol singers, ice skating rinks, fairground rides and Santa’s grotto.
How popular are Christmas markets in the UK?
Christmas markets in the UK are very popular and attract millions of visitors every year. Many cities and towns host markets and they have become a popular festive tradition for locals and tourists alike.
While there are no official statistics on the exact number of people who attend Christmas markets, it is estimated that millions of visitors attend these events each year.
For example, Manchester’s Christmas markets alone attract more than 9 million visitors annually, while London’s Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park also sees millions of visitors every year as well.
And Edinburgh’s Christmas markets see around 2 million visitors each year.
In the UK, Christmas markets started to appear in the late 20th century, inspired by the European model.
They quickly gained popularity among locals and tourists alike, as they offered a festive and fun way to shop, eat and socialise.
According to a survey by the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA), more than 14 million Britons visited a Christmas market in 2019, and the number is expected to grow in 2023.
Our top picks for the best Christmas markets
The UK has a wide range of Christmas markets to choose from, each with its own unique charm and character. Depending on your location, preferences and budget, you can find a Christmas market that suits your needs and expectations.
Here are some of the best Christmas markets in the UK for 2023, based on their size, variety and atmosphere.
And, who knows, you might even get lucky with a sprinkle of snow!
London’s Christmas markets are a sight to behold, with a variety of events being staged. The Christmas.co.uk team offers more information on the best ones, and they include:
The Southbank Market located between the Southbank Centre and the London Eye transforms the stretch along the Thames into a magical display of twinkling lights. The Southbank Christmas Market has become a favourite among locals looking for an abundance of festive treats and warm drinks, accompanied by a general atmosphere of merriment. This is a great market for those last-minute present buying sprees.
London’s Leicester Square Christmas Market is a must-visit destination for anyone looking for festive cheer in the heart of the city. With stalls offering everything from handmade Christmas ornaments to speciality hot drinks, there is something for everyone at this market. Visitors can also enjoy plenty of entertainment, including storytelling, carol singing, and live acts. Children can also take part in meet-and-greets with Santa Claus himself.
Covent Garden is the place to be during the Christmas season, with a 60ft-tall Christmas tree glowing with more than 115,000 lights. In addition to admiring the festive centrepiece, head over to the East Piazza to explore the enchanting Christmas Village. This area offers craft stalls perfect for checking some items off the festive shopping list, as well as 25 varieties of mulled wine to keep you warm and cheerful. Don’t miss the daily snow showers, guaranteed to bring some extra magic to your visit.
The London Bridge Christmas Market is a popular destination for anyone searching for festive cheer and unique gifts. Located alongside the River Thames, this market offers a stunning backdrop of Tower Bridge and The Tower of London. With more than 50 independent traders, the market has an array of Christmas gifts and decorations, including handmade crafts, jewellery, clothing and delicious food and drink.
Manchester’s award-winning Christmas markets draw millions of visitors each year. With more than 300 stalls spanning several locations in the city centre making this market one of the largest in the country. There’s a variety of food and drink stands, live music and handmade gifts, so Manchester’s Christmas markets are not to be missed. The festive spirit comes alive in the nine festive zones that are spread across the city.
Edinburgh’s Christmas markets draw visitors from around the world, and for good reason. The city’s picturesque streets and historic buildings provide a perfect backdrop for the ice-skating rink, Christmas tree maze, and European market stalls. Along with classic winter attractions, the sprawling market features independent vendors from Scotland and across Europe so there should be enough to satisfy all your shopping needs.
With more than 80 stalls, Birmingham’s Frankfurt Christmas Market is the largest authentic German market outside of Germany and Austria. Traditional bratwurst, glühwein and stollen can be enjoyed alongside handmade gifts and festive decorations. Festive huts and a massive tree drip with Christmas charm, providing the perfect setting for visitors – be sure to check out the famous animated singing moose above the service area.
The Bath Christmas Market is the ideal destination for anyone searching for unique, locally made gifts. With 150 stalls located on the quaint cobblestone streets surrounding the Roman Baths, this market showcases the best of the South West’s handmade artwork, jewellery, homeware and more. Be sure to grab a Christmas pudding from one of the specialist stalls!
Get ready for some family fun this Christmas in Leeds as the hugely popular outdoor skating rink. Held at Millennium Square, the outdoor skating rink headlines a host of festive attractions and stalls, with additional spots at nearby Victoria Gardens and Cookridge Street. Open every day, it promises to be Leeds’s coolest attraction. Don’t forget to check out the impressive Christmas market happening at the Corn Exchange as well!
The city’s medieval streets are transformed into a winter wonderland at the St Nicholas Fair, featuring more than 100 stalls offering everything from handmade gifts to hot mulled wine. Nestled along Parliament Street and Sampson’s Square, the fair offers a winter wonderland filled with Scandinavian-style wooden chalets decorated with festive lights and overflowing with toys gifts, and everything in between. St Nicholas Fair truly has everything you need to immerse yourself in the Christmas spirit!
The Cardiff Christmas Market is a must-visit destination for anyone in search of unique, handmade treasures. With a focus on traditional craftsmanship, this market boasts stalls selling everything from silver jewellery and glasswork to hand-thrown ceramics and quilts. There’s a ‘taster’ scheme for new artists and crafters to sell their wares for five, seven, or 10-day stints, offering visitors an ever-changing selection of goods.
Winchester’s Christmas market offers a unique and atmospheric location. The historic Close, the area surrounding the Cathedral, becomes a winter wonderland with more than 100 German-inspired wooden chalets selling handpicked gifts and crafts. There’s an open-air performance stage, a nativity scene and festive foods.
Winter Wonderland Nottingham is the ultimate destination for anyone looking to experience the joys of the festive season. There’s ice skating, rides and 60 chalet-style stalls offering a variety of wares, from artisan cheese to fudge, to make this a must-visit destination.
Exeter’s Christmas Market is the ideal destination for those seeking out unique small business experiences. Located on the Exeter Cathedral Green, the market is growing in size and showcases more than 100 vendors – and most of them are West Country-based businesses. Visitors can explore a variety of stalls offering a wide range of gifts and drinks and food – and traditional carols are sung by Exeter Cathedral Choir.
The Belfast Christmas Market is a foodie haven, with an outdoor food court serving up a range of international dishes from Belgian chocolates to Dutch mini-pancakes, and French crêpes. Located in the picturesque gardens of the 19th-century Belfast City Hall, the market boasts more than 100 chalets offering beautiful wreaths, garlands and artisan-made gifts.
The Chatsworth Christmas Market in Derbyshire is a festive wonderland that has been bringing holiday cheer to the area for years. Set amid the stunning grounds of the Chatsworth Estate, this market features more than 100 stalls offering everything from unique gifts and decorations to delicious food and drink. Visitors can browse the stalls, enjoy festive entertainment and even take part in workshops such as wreath-making and pottery sessions.
Chester Christmas Market is one of the most popular festive destinations in the north-west of England. Set against the backdrop of the city’s majestic cathedral and town hall, this market boasts more than 70 traditional wooden chalets. Visitors can enjoy mulled wine, hot chocolate and traditional German sausages while browsing unique gifts and handmade crafts. The market takes place in the ancient, cobbled streets of Chester city centre, offering a magical festive atmosphere with plenty of entertainment.
Set in the heart of the picturesque town of Harrogate, the Christmas Market is a festive extravaganza that brings the magic of Christmas to life. This market features more than 200 stalls with an array of handmade crafts, local food, and treats, perfect for Christmas presents and festive indulgences. Stalls are set up throughout the town centre, with the iconic St. Mary’s Church providing a backdrop to the festivity.
The Oxford Christmas Market is one of the most popular festive markets not just in Oxford but also in the south of England. Set in the heart of the city, this market truly captures the magic of the festive season with its picturesque wooden cabins, festive sounds and engaging entertainment. There are more than 60 different stalls and visitors can also enjoy traditional fairground rides, festive entertainment, and meet-and-greet activities with Santa.
The Stratford-upon-Avon Christmas Market is a delightful winter wonderland that takes place in the heart of Shakespeare’s hometown. With more than 200 stalls spread across the iconic town centre and riverside location, this market offers the perfect opportunity for visitors to enjoy a wide range of festive items such as handmade crafts, artisanal food, and drink plus unique gifts for your loved ones.
Bristol is home to a winter wonderland that brings the festive season to life in the heart of the city. Set in the picturesque Broadmead area, Bristol’s Christmas market offers a magical experience filled with festive cheer. With more than 50 wooden chalets, the market showcases a variety of local produce, handmade crafts and unique gifts. There are also live music performances, festive entertainment and regular appearances by Santa Claus.
Visiting Christmas markets in the UK
Christmas markets are a great way to celebrate the festive season as they offer a unique shopping, dining and entertainment experience that can appeal to people of all ages and backgrounds.
Whether you’re looking for a local or a European market, a large or a small one, a traditional or a modern one, you can find a Christmas market that matches your taste and mood in the UK.
So, why not plan a visit to one of these amazing Christmas markets in 2023 and make this Christmas a memorable one?