Twinkling lights, mulled wine, a festive atmosphere and fabulous gifts – Christmas markets are one of England's fondest traditions. Set in some of the country’s most picturesque cities, a visit to a Christmas market is equal parts shopping experience, equal parts destination discovery. Start planning your ultimate winter getaway with our guide to some of the country's best christmas markets, all of which are ideal for a family day trip or a romantic night out.
With restrictions easing across England, please continue to follow government guidance and remember to plan ahead and check attraction websites before travelling. Take a look at our top tips on how to escape the everyday responsibly to see how you can make the most out of your day trips and breaks.
Winter Wonderland 2021
Hyde Park, London
Transforming one of London’s most spectacular parks, Hyde Park Winter Wonderland offers a festive paradise in the heart of the city. Home to the world’s tallest transportable observation wheel, a Magical Ice Kingdom and an array of thrilling fairground rides, along with the UK’s largest open air ice rink and plenty of bars and food stalls, there’s something for all the family to enjoy. Don't miss jaw-dropping circus acts and creative ice sculpting workshops, and browse over 100 charming wooden chalets for unique gifts, festive decorations and culinary delights.
Also check out: The festive window displays at Hamleys, Selfridge’s and Harrods, plus the capital’s festive lights around the shopping hubs of Regent’s Street and Oxford Street.
A firm favourite on the city’s yuletide calendar, Birmingham Frankfurt Christmas Market is the largest authentic German Christmas market outside of Germany or Austria. Expect a fine range of traditional, personalised gifts and products on its 80 stalls and get into the German spirit while feasting on schnitzels, bratwursts, glühwein and weissbeer. Another huge draw is its bandstand location in Victoria Square and the programme of live music and carol singers that bring the party atmosphere to festive shopping.
Also check out: Outdoor skating at Ice Rink Birmingham plus the Big Wheel Experience, or head to Enchanted Weston - an illuminated, after-dark experience in stunning parkland with live music and food.
The popular Winter Market returns to London’s Southbank Centre, a seasonal pleasure that sits alongside a range of family shows and festive fun as the banks of the River Thames become a winter wonderland. All along the South Bank are strings of decorations and cute illuminated wooden cabins selling Christmas gifts, from the quirky to the traditional, as well as mince pies, spiced cider and steaming mugs of mulled wine and hot chocolate. Make sure to grab a selfie by the huge Christmas tree!
Also check out: The fantastic performances available at the Southbank Centre, from NOW! That's What I Call Christmas concerts and choir performances to circus entertainment with Circus 1903.
Fun fact: you'll never be further than a six-minute walk from a festive activity in Leeds this Christmastime. Indulge at the Chow Down Winter Village packed with local street food vendors as well as a rooftop curling club and a heated ski lodge; bag Christmas presents at an independent Christmas market in the iconic Leeds Corn Exchange and check out the speciality markets at Kirkgate (one of the largest indoor markets in Europe). You'll also find festive events and markets taking place in Millennium Square, Briggate and Cookridge Street, where you can hop on a Christmas carousel.
Also check out: A special Santa Sleigh Trail dotted through the city centre; the Après Ski Bar for snow flurries and hot chocolate in Trinity Leeds Shopping Centre; and the Leeds Wheel of Light for the best views of the city.
The latest instalment of the Manchester Christmas Markets will take over locations across the city from mid-November, meaning visitors won’t be far from festive gifts and delicious food and drink stalls selling traditional bratwurst, hog roast, paella and much more. There will be more than 300 stalls and chalets across the city, with the heart of the markets found in Albert Square. Visitors can follow the trail and pick up jewellery, toys, plants, bags, homeware and fun, quirky gifts at a variety of markets, including a French market, a German market, a World Christmas market and a dedicated Arts & Crafts market.
Also check out: Winter Funland, which will be held at an indoor venue and include fairground attractions, an ice rink, a circus and other fun performances; and Halle’s (Manchester’s Orchestra’s) Christmas Concerts at Bridgewater Hall.
With its unique location in the shadow of a celebrated English icon, Winchester Cathedral’s Christmas Market is widely regarded as one of Europe’s best. More than 100 chalets are home to hand-picked exhibitors offering exclusive gifts that visitors won’t find on the high street – from hand-crafted decorations and festive treats to craft beer and mulled wine.
This four-day Christmas market sets up shop for its fleeting run at Lincoln’s Cathedral Quarter. There will be hundreds of wooden stalls selling a range of unique festive trinkets alongside a wide selection of hearty food, drink and fairground rides. Shops across the city stay open later when the market’s in town too, giving you plenty of time to get all your pressies. Stop by the Lincoln Christmas Maker's Market too to browse wares made by local artists and craftsmen.
Also check out: The Lincolnshire Food & Gift Fair for all things foodie; the Illuminated Wall Walk at Lincoln Castle and the special advent services and concerts taking place at Lincoln Cathedral.
Soak up medieval charm at York’s award-winning Christmas fair. Alpine-style chalets take pride of place at the centre of Parliament Street, offering up an array of festive decorations, foodie treats and traditional Christmas gifts. For local Yorkshire produce, head for the Make in Yorkshire Yuletide Village, and for all the fun of the fair, fly down the Victorian-style Helter Skelter at Kings Square. After all that excitement you’ll be in need of a tipple or two, so stop by the rustic barn in St Sampson’s Square for a glass of mulled wine and a cup of hot chestnuts.
Also check out: Book in for a Christmas-themed chocolate masterclass at York Chocolate Story, take your seat for a panto at Grand Opera House or York Theatre Royal, and skate around a 30-foot-high Christmas tree at the York Designer Outlet.
Attracting more than 130,000 visitors a year, this Kent-based market is sure to fill more than a few stockings. Nestled in Rochester’s Castle Gardens, you can browse a range of chalet-style stalls selling everything from Fairtrade clothing to dog toys and homemade jams. And head over to the Bavarian food village for some bratwurst or churros (very German, we know!) before letting loose on some good old-fashioned fairground rides. The market also happens to coincide with the Dickensian Christmas Festival, where you’ll be able to feast your eyes on Victorian delights, meet costumed characters and listen to some open-air carolling.
Also check out: Discover how the Victorians started our festive traditions at Eastgate House; or grab your nineteenth century ball gown and attend the Mistletoe Ball, part of the Dickensian Christmas Festival.
Norwich isn’t content with just one Christmas market, so it hosts several. With festive events taking place from 25 November, there is pretty much a Christmas market taking place each weekend up until the big day itself. The largest, Festive Fair at The Forum, spills onto the pedestrianised amphitheatre opposite Norwich’s most complete medieval church. Browse stalls selling handmade East Anglian crafts, art, food and drink to the soundtrack of live Christmas music and don’t miss the street food.
Another to add to your Christmas calendar is Fierce Babe Xmas Market at The Assembly House on 28 November. Find 25 independent makers and creators who identify as women, trans, or part of the LGBTQ+ community selling unique creations that make perfect stocking fillers. For more one of a kind gifts, check out Global Village Christmas Market at The Forum from 2 to 4 December. With a focus on fair-trade and eco-conscious products. Plus, there will be plenty of world food, mulled wine and festive music, courtesy of carol singers and brass bands on Saturday to enjoy too.
Also check out: The Tunnel of Light - Norwich’s most-visited Christmas attraction and, Clutter City on 12 December for the region's best local makers, artists, illustrators and designers.
Head up, down or over to Yorkshire to check out an award-winning market home to heaps of fantastic festive stalls. Alongside the mass of goodies up for grabs along the High Street, there will be festive entertainment galore, including live brass bands and Christmas choirs. For the kids, there will be hands-on craft activities and opportunities to say hello to Santa and his reindeer. And at the end of the day, once the traders have started packing away, there’ll be a chance to join the torchlight procession through the town.
Also check out: The one-of-a-kind winter hideaway at the Off Piste Pop-up Alpine Restaurant; and the Toddler Christmas Adventures at Thornton Hall Country Park.
Food is at the heart of Padstow’s Christmas Festival, championed by high-profile chefs like Rick Stein and Paul Ainsworth. Join them, and more than 60 culinary experts, at cooking demonstrations across the four-day event that showcases the best of British food and drink. The Christmas marquee market is also the best place to pick up some of the most celebrated West Country produce – from beers to beauty products and art. You can even stop by the festival’s literary talks and book signings – the perfect place to bag yourself an early Christmas pressie.
Also check out: Lantern making and festive feats at Bodmin’s Winter Wonderland; mince pies and carol singing at The Pickwick Inn’s Pickwick Christmas Carols.
Stratford-upon-Avon’s award-winning Victorian Christmas Market spreads plenty of traditional festive cheer with plenty of shopping, food and street entertainment to enjoy. Around 300 stalls, complete with Victorian outfit-clad tradespeople, will be selling a wide range of gifts and seasonal products, and over on Wood Street there’ll be a traditional funfair to keep the little ones entertained.
Also check out: Traditional winter blooms and ‘Wassailing’ at Christmas at Shakespeare’s Birthplace.
In addition to its world-famous annual light show, the seaside town of Blackpool has a few extra surprises for festive visitors this winter. Head to the Grade II-listed Winter Gardens to be transported to a Bavarian-style Christmas Market, jam-packed with charming wooden chalets selling their finest wares. As well as shopping, Winter Gardens Wonderland will also have a myriad of food and drink stalls (glühwein, anyone?) alongside fairground rides, live entertainment and the chance to meet the main man himself.
Also check out: Blackpool Illuminations, which will stay lit until the new year; the Festive Village complete with Ice Rink, Santa tram rides and a magical forest; the glamorous Gatsby Christmas Dinner Show at Blackpool Pleasure Beach.
A magical experience awaits you in Chester’s city centre this festive season. From late November to late December, go looking for the city’s sparkling Christmas tree (you won’t miss it, it’s huge!), and, surrounding it, you’ll find over 70 stalls selling everything from handmade gifts and arts and crafts goodies, to fudge, vodka and cute stocking fillers. When your shopping ventures have worked up an appetite, dig into a hearty hog roast and get well and truly into the Christmas spirit with a cup of hot mulled wine.
Also check out: The enchanting sparkle of The Lanterns at Chester Zoo; the flickering flames of the fire garden at Christmas at Delamere Forest; the much-anticipated annual 12 Days of Christmas Parade.
Explore Nottingham’s Winter Wonderland, with its traditional chalet-style market stalls and 60-foot Christmas tree lighting up Nottingham’s old market, before enjoying a hot chocolate or mulled wine at the Après Ski themed pop-up bar. And why not see the city's festive sights 60 metres above ground on the Wheel of Nottingham? Tower over the heart of the Christmas market, it'll be hard to miss it.
Also check out: The magical Outdoor Nutcracker Trail at Newstead Abbey; a jolly ol' breakfast with Santa at Newfield Dairy Ice Cream; and a selection of festive ensembles at Nottingham Trent University's Music Christmas Spectactular.