Nothing says ‘Christmas is coming’ like a wander around a festive market festooned with candy canes, crammed to the rafters with alpine chalets and swathed in spruce. Ah, we can almost smell the sauerkraut and gingerbread already. If you’re similarly giddy about the season of goodwill’s street-based galas, then don your best Yuletide jumper, take a warming glug of mulled wine and take a wintry stroll around some of the best Christmas markets in England…
The Venice of the North boasts a veritable glut of Christmas gatherings, with markets spread all over the city from Albert Square to The Corn Exchange. Over 300 stalls offer everything from mouthwatering delicacies from all over Europe to gifts, crafts, jewellery, clothes and toys. There are plenty of opportunities to indulge your palate with foodie treats from around the world too - what better time to treat yourself to delicious Dutch mini pancakes, Hungarian goulash or Spanish paella and to wash your global grub down with a seasonal tipple of French wine or German beer.
The magnificent Assembly House in Norwich once played host to such cultural luminaries as Franz Liszt, Niccolo Paganini and Madame Tussaud, so you’ll be in good company when you pop along for a festive fix at the end of November. The handsome venue’s Christmas Fair houses an abundance of twinkling attractions including stalls selling glassware, knitwear, festive food and decorations, plus there’s the ever-popular soundtrack of Christmas music to set the seasonal mood wafting through the courtyard.
Every year, the UNESCO World Heritage city is transformed into a festive haven for Christmas shoppers. More than 170 traditional wooden chalets, selling everything from handmade gifts to gourmet food, will sit in the shadow of Bath Abbey. Shop for locally-produced handcrafted items and sip on hot mulled wine as the sound of Christmas carols fill the air and fairy lights twinkle from every angle.
Chester’s iconic racecourse is the setting for an annual winter wonderland packed with more attractions than you can shake a cinnamon stick at – there’s a real ice ice-rink, a festive 3D Movie Room, an enchanted forest where little ones can meet Santa and his reindeers, plus tons of opportunities for Christmas shopping and a raft of fairground rides and amusements. And for those who wish to fully embrace the festive spirit in every way, there’s both an off-piste Alpine Bar and a vodka ice bar, complete with luge.
The beautiful, walled city of York is atmospheric at the best of times, but at Christmas, its ancient streets simply ooze Dickensian charm. St Nicholas Fayre offers festive delights in the form of bustling Victorian market stalls, selling everything from local produce to traditional gifts and crafts, all accompanied by the smell of roasting chestnuts and the sound of carol singers.
Ludlow’s annual fayre traditionally marks the start of the Christmas season in this most picturesque of Shropshire towns, and it boasts the most stunning venue as well - the medieval marvel that is Ludlow Castle. The castle’s ruined beauty provides the backdrop to over 100 stalls selling seasonal wares, crafts and historical goods, plus there’s food and drink, a full programme of entertainment and activities for all the family to enjoy.
Each year around November, Leeds’ Millennium Square becomes distinctly Bavarian as the city’s popular German Christmas Markets spring up and the area is transformed by an array of traditional wooden chalet stalls decorated with twinkling lights and festive greenery. The seasonal shebang also offers a Christmas carousel, stalls selling handcrafted toys, jewellery, festive decorations and speciality food and drink including the wonderfully-fragrant Stollen, guaranteed to tempt the tastebuds of any peckish passer-by…
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