Nothing beats a Christmas market for getting the holiday season underway. Original gifts, delicious foods, mulled wine and enertainment - what's not to like? Check out this new list of Christmas markets, including some newcomers and some old favorites that have grown bigger and better.
For even more Christmas markets or to find one closer to where you live or are visiting, don't forget to check Best Christmas Markets in the UK.
Whitefriar's Square in Canterbury's medieval heart is the scene of a small, but perfectly formed, traditional German Christmas Market. There are only 16 wooden chalets but the atmosphere is every bit as festive as many of the bigger markets, with stalls selling handmade toys, glass ornaments, hats and unusual jewelry. And of course there will be plenty of gluhwein and mulled cider, Continental sausages and handmade sweeties. Now in its 7th year, the market runs for a full month in 2012, from November 23 to December 23.
Why not linger a while and visit Canterbury Cathedral or explore the Cathedral precincts and the ruins of St. Augustine's Abbey.
Chester, in Northwest England, with its wealth of half-timbered medieval buildings and it's ancient "rows" of bi-level shops, seems just made for an Old English themed Christmas market and that's just what they have. While other towns have German-style chalets, Chester's stalls, in the town center and near the Cathedral, mimic the city's black and white buildings.
The goods, foods and drinks are English themed as well with roast chestnuts, grilled meats and mulled wine sharing space with all kinds of locally handmade jewelry, ornaments, fashions, toys and sweeties. In 2012, they're introducing "recycled, metal toy art structures"...hmmm, wonder what they are...and sheepskin, reindeer and bullskin footstools. The market lasts a little over a month, running right up to Christmas Eve.(In 2012 from Nov. 22 to Dec. 24.
Chichester, one of the Southeast's most interesting cities, invites more than 50 stalls to fill its busiest city center shopping streets with festive fun for nine days in December (from 8 to 16 December in 2012). The market fills East and North Streets with one-of-a-kind pressies. If you go as a family, one of you can shop while the other takes the kids on an hour-long boat trip with Santa on the Chichester Ship Canal. Boat trips, costing £10, run until Christmas Eve in 2012.
Exeter in Devon adds a big helping of Christmas sparkle in 2012 with its first ever Christmas Market in the grounds of Exeter Cathedral. The plan is to showcase small local producers, artisans and craftspeople together with with a selection of quality independent dealers. More than 50 dealers will be on hand, offering everything from roast hog to Belgian choccies. A local glassblower will add to the excitement with demonstrations of his craft. The market, on Cathedral Green, opens on November 23 and runs until December 16 (in 2012).
Glasgow goes global with its market in St. Enoch Square. Dealers, populating its 50 plus stalls in 2012 include traders from Ecuador and Russia as well as all over Europe. They're also boasting one very special visitor from Lapland (do you suppose he'll bring his reindeer?). The gluhvein promises to be pretty special too. It's being provided by Markus Kochems of the Mosel valley, considered one of the world's leading wine producers. In 2012, the market runs from November 16 to December 23.
Take the chill off a wintry Christmas by the North Sea with Newcastle's Continental Christmas Market. The market, around Grey's Monument on Grey and Grainger streets, focuses on gourmet foods from around Europe. Expect Dutch waffles, paella from Spain, crepes, German sausages and more. And of course, there will be plenty of mulled wine for warming frosty fingers. A selection of unusual handmade gifts will also be available. The market runs from mid November to early December (Nov. 19 to Dec. 1 in 2012).
Smithy Row, Albert Street and Lister Gate will be the scene of Nottingham's traditional Victorian market. Besides all the usual tasty treats and handcrafted items, carol singers and vocal harmonizers will be around to keep things lively. A family of reindeer will be there waiting to join Santa when no one is looking. Wander over to the Old Market Square where the Winter Wonderland will include a themed bar and an incredibly high swing ride towering over everything at 60 meters...that's 197 feet,gulp. In 2012 it all kicks off on Nov. 22 and runs until Christmas Eve.
Salisbury dips its toes in the Christmas Market pool between November 29 and December 16 (in 2012). It's the city's first ever Christmas market and they are aiming high, featuring genuine British arts and crafts from hand picked exhibitors. The organizers promise that the 55 "Tudor"-style chalets will be "tasteful" - make of that what you will.
While you shop and nosh on holiday goodies, local choirs and music groups will entertain daily. Keep a lookout for the famous Salibury Plain Military Wives Choir, who, in 2012, will be among the performers.
Skipton in Yorkshire hosts its Christmas Market and Yuletide Festival for only two Sundays in December (December 2 and 9 in 2012), but they've been doing it non-stop for nearly two decades and people from all over the country make their way to the Gateway to the Dales. The market runs the full length of the town's high street (named Best High Street in the UK in 2009) - but actually the whole town gets in on the act with festive entertainment and jolly good cheer all over the place. Each Festival ends with a procession to the church and a Christmas carol service on the church grounds. While you're there, drop in to visit Skipton Castle.
Swansea, original home of Catherine Zeta Jones and gateway to the fabulous Gower Peninsula, also hosts a three week Christmas market from the last week in November (in 2012 that's November 23 to December 16). Wooden cabins line Oxford Steet and a special food quarter is redolent of German sausages, liebkuchen and mulled wine.
In 2012, the city's main, indoor market in Swansea Center is also putting on special Christmas Events throughout the holiday season, including carol singers, a family fun day and a Christmas craft fair featuring local artisans. Check their website for the changing schedule of holiday events.