Christmas Markets in the UK
One of my all time favourite things about Christmas has to be the Christmas Markets. When I was growing up, we would always spend a few days in Germany visiting friends and relatives over the festive period and naturally our short break coincided with a few visits to the various Christmas Markets within the Nordrhein Westfalen region. With the many lights, Christmas music and carols, as well as the festive stalls bursting with hand crafted goodies or appetizing eatables, the jolly Christmas Markets never failed to get me in a christmassy mood!
For me, Christmas is tightly linked with Germany, not only due to our annual Christmas trips but we also follow a number of the German traditions in our household at Christmas – the handsome Nutcracker decorations, the ‘traditional’ giving of the first present at 5pm on Christmas Eve and of course the background sounds of german carols. It is indisputable that the best and most authentic Christmas Markets take place in Germany, from those in majestic Munich, to the Christkindlesmarkt in Nuremberg and the absolutely wonderful all-year-round Christmas town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber, in the Franconia region of Bavaria. Obviously there are many many more, all slightly different but offering the same traditional Christmas atmosphere that I so love!
In recent years, much to my delight, Christmas Markets have been popping up throughout the UK, and although they aren’t quite the same, they at least give a taste of what Germany has to offer! There are still a number on my list waiting to be ticked off but I thought I’d share with you a few of my favourites!
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1. Bath Christmas Markets (bathchristmasmarket.co.uk)
Stated to be ‘the UK’s favourite Christmas Market’, the Markets in Bath run from the end of November to the middle of December each year and house over 170 wooden stalls. The Markets are primarily located in the square between the historic Bath Abbey and the famous Roman Baths but stalls are also scattered in and around the main shopping streets in the town centre. The stalls offer all sorts of unique handmade gifts ranging from crafted decorations to toys and tasty warming winter tipples. One of the Market’s unique selling points is that each and every stall is British, with the vast majority coming from the South-West.
In addition to the Market there are many more things to keep visitors occupied. Bath boasts a number of stylish boutiques as well as the big high street names, all of which are only a short walk from where the market is located. There is also an ice-skating rink, situated just below the world-famous Royal Crescent in Royal Victoria Park, a stunning Victorian Carousel in Stall street and it is also possible to bathe in the warm spa water whilst overlooking the city’s glimmering lights.
2. Frankfurt Christmas Market in Birmingham
Outside of Germany and Austria, the largest and most authentic market takes place in Birmingham for approximately five weeks beginning in mid November. The 180 stalls sell a variety of gifts as well as the tradition Glühwein and Bratwurst! The stalls stretch from Centenary Square, where you can also take a ride on the ferris wheel or skate on the ice-rink, watched over by the Three Wise Men (or Golden Boys), down past the Hall of Memory and through the Paradise Forum to the focal point of Chamberlain Square and the frontage of the Council Buildings. Here one starts to appreciate the true Christmas Market with the large seasonal chalet decorated with multiple Santas and of course a reindeer or two. In addition one can indulge the senses with the aromas, sights and sounds of Germany; the smell of cinnamon, cloves and citrus, the alpine chalets and stalls and the authentic sounds of the German Lieder (carols). All put together they guarantee a real sense of what is to come – the Christmas season.
Once in the mood it is time for a glass of Apfel– or Glühwein along with a freshly grilled Bratwurst to keep you going as you head down via Victoria Square and into New Street. Stretching out before you, the entire length of the street houses yet more stalls, large and small, with traditional offerings, both German and English. Take your pick from glassware, colourful toys, wooden carved figures, Lebkuchen and other assorted cakes and confectionary, Christmas ornaments, drinks stalls.. the list goes on!
As one nears the end of this Christmas experience and the end of New Street you need to push on that little bit farther to, past the Rotunda and on to the Bull Ring, where you will even find the Birmingham Bull dressed in festive attire ….
3. Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park, London (hydeparkwinterwonderland.com)
More of a Christmas themed fun fayre than a traditional Christmas Market, Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park is extremely popular with Londoners and visitors alike. Set in the eastern part of Hyde Park bordering Park Lane, the market is free to enter but should you fancy a ride on the Ferris wheel or other rides, tokens can be bought from a number of stands throughout the fayre. Attractions include an ice rink, circus shows, an Ice Bar, Santa Land with resident Father Christmas as well as more traditional Christmas Markets. My favourite part of Winter Wonderland was most definitely the Bavarian Village and I must admit, it felt quite authentic with traditional music playing, the warming smells of Glühwein and grilling Bratwurst, as well as open fires and an Alp Hut with a viewing gallery down onto the Ice Rink.
The main entrance to Winter Wonderland is at the north of the fayre, close to Marble Arch tube station, or alternatively by the Hyde Park Corner stop.
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If, after you’ve visited all three, you are still craving more, Winchester, Manchester, Leeds and of course Edinburgh host popular Markets each year. Suggestions for an early Christmas trip next year!