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The Best Christmas Markets in the UK

Victorian, Dickensian or German Style - Holiday markets all over the UK


As November and December nights draw in, Christmas Markets spring up all over the UK. There is nothing better to lift winter spirits than flickering candlelight, the smell of evergreens, the aroma of holiday goodies and the glow of market booths and stalls filled to bursting with tempting, exotic goods. Here's where to find some of the best.

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Bath - Festivities in the Historic Center

Christmas Market Bath
Matt Cardy/Getty Images
Open well after dark, Bath's Christmas Market makes the most of the city's World Heritage Site, next to Bath Abbey and the Roman Baths. For 11 days, original crafts and goods are sold from wooden Christmas chalets. Baths Christmas lights, the aroma of mulled wine and pine needles, all make for storybook atmosphere. And there's a lively program of street entertainment too.

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Beverly Festival of Christmas

The East Yorkshire Cathedral city of Beverly, not far from Hull, has Christmas markets of various sorts all over the place from mid November onward. But the place goes really bonkers for its one day Festival of Christmas, usually on the second Sunday of the month. There are 100 stalls, music and dance all day, fairground rides, displays by Bernese Mountain Dogs, falconry, garland dancers and Victorian street entertainments. In fact, this festival is such a good one that Santa himself flies in with his very own reindeer (who then pulls Santa, in his sleigh, all through the town).

Bristol's German Christmas Market

Christmas Ornaments
Thirty wooden chalets sell a balance of food and craft goods including Christmas decorations, nativity scenes, wooden toys, baskets, gifts, soaps, and amber jewelry. There will be plenty of traditional, festive goods - gluhvein, bratwurst, waffles, crepes, apple rings, chocolates and cakes. Look out for the traditional German Christmas Pyramid. Other Christmas markets are usually scattered around Bristol at the same time.

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Bury St. Edmunds Christmas Fayre

Bury St. Edmunds Christmas Fayre
Courtesy of Choose Suffolk
The dramatic St. Edmundsbury Cathedral and precincts is the setting for the Bury St. Edmunds Christmas Fayre, five different Christmas markets on the last weekend in November. It's all very sparkly, with lots to eat and buy as well as street entertainment and a chance to see the historic core of this pretty East Anglian town in Suffolk in its holiday finery.

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Cheltenham Christmas Market

Present Wrapped in Gold
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In its eleventh year in 2013, the Cheltenham Christmas Market has newly designed chalets and a range of high quality goods in keeping with this upmarket town on the edge of the Cotsworld. Shop for wooly hats, felt bags and costume jewellry, award-winning fruit wines, freshwater pearls, handmade Christmas decorations, toys, fair trade knitwear, interesting historic foods- including Roman vinaigre, ostrich burgers, pashminas, wood carvings and loads more.

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Edinburgh Christmas Markets

Edinburgh's taste for festivals - possibly sharpened by its fabulous summer of arts festivals - means the city celebrates everything enormously. Christmas in Scotland is still not as big a holiday as Hogmanay, but things are catching up. Three Christmas markets offer visitors and locals a stellar choice of original shopping, good food and drink. Frankfurt stallholders bring food, drinka and handmade gifts to the German-style Christmas market in the Mound Precincts. The Edinburgh Wheel and the ice rink set off a Traditional Highland Village Market in East Princes Street Gardens. And the Ethical Christmas Fair on Castle and Princes Street features stylish fair trade gifts. Add to this Edinburgh's giant Christmas Snowglobe and The Great Edinburgh Santa Fun Run and you have quite a party.

Frankfurt Christmas Market in Birmingham

Leibkuchen at Birmingham's Christmas Market
Courtesy of Visit Birmingham
Birmingham stages the biggest and longest German Christmas Market outside of Germany. It spreads across most of the city's important squares and continues for more than a month. The fact that Birmingham's large Indian population has public Diwali celebrations - with fireworks, music and food in the streets - about a week before, turns Birmingham into a very festive place indeed for most of the winter.

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Gloucester Christmas Market - Very Victorian

Christmas at Feversham Arms
Courtesy of The Feversham Arms
Gloucester's Historic Docks form the backdrop for "A Very Victorian Christmas", Gloucester's Christmas market, new in 2010. Characters in Dickensian dress will be selling locally produced food, drink and gifts. Highlights include street entertainers, sideshows, traditional rides, family activities, a real ale tavern, choirs and brass bands.

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Leeds Christkindelmarkt

Leeds is such a great shopping city to begin with, a Christmas market seems like icing on the cake. Or on the German lebkuchen actually, because their are bound to be some of those traditional German Christmas cookies among the 40 genuine German stalls that fill Leeds Millennium Square for more than a month - from mid November onward. The market is organized by the City Council in partnership with Frankfurt am Main. Lots of crafty things to buy and plenty of good things to eat - including such German delicacies as Stollen, Gingerbread, Goulash, Soups, Schnitzels, Bratwurst and Gluhwein.

Lincoln - Where it All Began

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Lincoln started the tradition of German Christmas Markets in the UK 25 years ago, giving it the distinction of being the first. What started with 14 stalls has now grown to 350, filling this bijoux cathedral city to bursting. A very good place to get in the holiday spirit.

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