Thursday, December 16, 2010

Exploring the Christmas Markets (England)

guest post by David Collins of

Each year, cities in the UK play host to continental markets, bringing with them delicious food, warming drinks and a whole host of gifts and knick-knacks for the festive season. City centres seem to sprout wooden shacks, which sell everything from wooden toys, glassware and quirky little gifts that can make perfect stocking fillers.

As well as the trinket shops, the smell of freshly cooked food and mulled wine emanating from the food stands is enough to draw you in with the promise of something to warm you up against the cold winter air. Christmas markets can be a perfect opportunity to try new things and stock up on gifts for your friends and family.

Many of the Christmas markets are open from 10am to 9pm, although this can vary from place to place, so it’s always best to double check before you travel. Here are just a few location ideas to help you decide which one to visit:

London (mid-November – Christmas Eve)

There are a number of market areas around the capital, from the bustling streets of Camden to the banks of the River Thames, where you can stop by on a shopping trip to London and enjoy some food and drink and even pick up a gift or two along the way.

The Cologne Christmas Market runs from the Southbank Centre to the iconic London Eye, and is also located a short walk away from some of the main tourist draws in London – including the Houses Of Parliament and Tower Bridge.

So why not spend a festive weekend in the capital? Be wary that hotels in London (as well as the other cities on this list) can get busy over the Christmas period, so book as early as you can to ensure you get the most out of your visit, and may be look into getting an Oyster card for the duration of your stay, to make travelling around the city by bus and Tube that little bit cheaper.

Lincoln (early December)

Lincoln plays host to one of the oldest and most established UK Christmas markets, and whilst it may not be the longest, the Lincoln market is one of the most popular. Set in and around the grounds of the city’s cathedral and within the walls of Lincoln Castle, which comes alive with stalls selling everything from wooden trinkets to tasty foodstuffs from the continent, as well as a host of live entertainment to help get you into the festive mood.

Most of the market takes place at the top of Steep Hill, but there are also a few stalls in the city centre, allowing you an excellent chance to do some Christmas shopping. The nearest train station is at Lincoln Central and there is also a Park’n’Ride service available from the Lincoln Showground on the outskirts of the city, which will drop you off in the vicinity of the main market.

Birmingham (mid-November – Christmas Eve)

Being twinned with Frankfurt, Birmingham is home to the largest German Christmas market outside of Austria and Germany, and has become a favourite for UK tourists. From New Street station you can step straight into the festivities and enjoy perusing the festive gifts and foods on offer, why not combine your visit to the Bullring shopping centre, with a stroll around the market this holiday season?

Manchester (mid-November – few days before Christmas)

There are eight market sites spread around the city of Manchester, including outside the town hall at Albert Square and Exchange Square, where you’ll find a number of big name brands and the famous Manchester Wheel – a ferris wheel which gives you spectacular views of the city from above.

To make the most of a visit to Manchester, take the train to Manchester Victoria station and begin your journey around the market stalls at the Manchester Wheel, where you’ll also find shopping centres such as the Triangle and the Arndale Centre as well as the entertainment centre at Printworks, where you’ll find a selection of restaurants and an IMAX cinema.

You’ll find wooden market shacks along the way as you head towards the main market at Albert Square, where you’ll find the majority of the food stalls and a sheltered bar area where you can enjoy some mulled wine and continental beers and ales to finish off a busy day of shopping.

Liverpool (late November – few days before December)

Liverpool’s Christmas market has grown from year to year, and this year promises to be one of the biggest in the UK. With stalls selling crafts and foodstuffs from all over the world, present at locations all around the city centre, giving you the chance to make a day of it and explore the stalls along with a visit to the Liverpool One shopping centre.

So why not make the most of a seasonal city break with a visit to a Christmas market as part of your trip? Take in the sights, do a bit of shopping before warming up with some hot food and drink from the continent.

Photo Credits: London, Lincoln, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool Santa Dash


Anonymous said...

I will be in the UK next winter and I plan on hitting up most of these markets. Thanks for this!

Barbara Weibel said...

I'd love to go to these just to eat my way through the stalls!

Sherry Ott said...

These types of holiday markets are also starting to show up in America too. I was just in Chicago and they had a whole German holiday market there with the same type of feel.

Heather on her travels said...

It seems that almost all UK cities now have a Christmas market of some kind along the German model. I really enjoyed the one at Bath near me which is in the lovely surroundings of the Bath Abbey square

Bude Hotel said...

I love Christmas in Britain, it's a very warm and friendly atmosphere.

It would be intereting to see if other countries have English Christmas markets, and if they do, what things are on offer.

Mark H said...

@alexis: Good on you.


@sherry: They seem to be spreading - a good thing.

@heather: It all seems to be based on a German model but good to see such a great idea spreading.

@bude travel: Germany certianly does as do a number of South American countries, Canada and USA.

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