Visiting a Christmas market is one of my must-do Christmas traditions – it’s one of the first fun festive things I do each year and it marks the start of the celebrations!
I love the lights, the atmosphere, the chance to buy Christmas decorations and gifts – and sampling some warming and delicious glühwein to warm up afterwards.
I’ve visited markets in both the UK and abroad, but in this post I’m highlighting some of the best Christmas markets in the UK.
Hopefully Christmas markets will go ahead this year, but with Covid-19 still around, it’s worth checking the local websites as well as the latest restrictions and travel rules before you travel.
But it’s fun to plan – and also a good idea to get in early and make arrangements with any family or friends you think might enjoy some Christmas market fun with you this year!
Belfast Christmas market, Northern Ireland
The Belfast Christmas market is situated in the grounds of Belfast City Hall, which has hosted the market since 2004.
There’s lots of international food stalls, live music, entertainment for kids and a Santa’s grotto.
Foodie treats include local and international dishes including crêpes and Belgian waffles – plus a German beer tent!
The market is always buzzing – I think this is a brilliant place to meet with friends for a pre-Christmas afternoon or evening out.
You can also wander through the many traditional wood chalets and browse the Christmas gifts and decorations for sale, glühwein (hot spiced wine) in hand.
If you haven’t been to Belfast before, it’s well-worth spending at least a few days exploring this fabulous city which is brimming with culture and history.
Birmingham Christmas market, England
Birmingham is one of the biggest Christmas markets in the UK, with several springing up around the city every winter.
The most famous of the Birmingham Christmas markets is the Frankfurt market, which is reportedly the largest authentic German market outside of Germany and Austria.
The Frankfurt market is located in Victoria Square and continues down New Street towards the Bullring.
There are more than 80 stalls selling traditional, hand-crafted gifts such as leather goods, glassware, toys, jewellery and decorations.
Most of the products are from Germany, but there are also stalls selling items made by Birmingham craftspeople.
If you’re mainly visiting a Christmas market to enjoy the food and drink on offer, Birmingham could be a good city to choose as there are lots of options here.
Admittedly it’s expensive, but you can enjoy live music while you eat – and take your pick from German bratwurst, pretzels, schnitzel, hot chestnuts, four pint jugs of beer and – of course – glühwein!
In previous years there’s also been small fairground rides suitable for children – plus an ice rink and big wheel to enjoy in Centenary Square.
Have you heard of Chris Moose?! He’s the Birmingham Christmas market’s ‘Christmas moose’ (naturally) who sings to the crowds in front of the Council House. Not to be missed!
If you have time, Christmas Organised follower Sally commented on Facebook that she would also recommend making a trip to nearby Cadbury World!
Great tip Sally, thank you!
Cardiff Christmas market, Wales
Cardiff Christmas market includes more than 200 stalls run by craftspeople and artists.
It’s been running for more than 20 years and is split between the main market which is located in the streets near St John’s Church and Cardiff Market and the Cardiff Winter Wonderland which is a short walk away, outside the City Hall.
The wide streets of Cardiff city centre help accommodate the crowds – plus you can explore the high street shops and restaurants at the same time.
The Cardiff Christmas market is the perfect place to find locally made goodies, including beautiful gifts made from Welsh slate, handmade Christmas stockings and delicious cheeses from Snowdonia.
Cardiff Winter Wonderland offers an ice rink, fairground rides and lots of food and drink stalls.
If you have time, Bute Park and Cardiff Castle are also brilliant places to visit while you’re in the city.
Edinburgh Christmas market, Scotland
The main Edinburgh Christmas market is held in Princes Street Gardens.
There are also smaller markets in St Andrew Square and George Street.
I visited in December 2021 and although it was crowded, there was an amazing atmosphere everywhere in the city – but particularly in Princes Street Gardens.
There were stalls selling gifts, handmade Scottish souvenirs and festive decorations, plus food and drink stalls.
If you’re an adrenaline fan, the star flyer and big wheel fairground rides offer amazing views of this spectacular city.
They were extremely popular, so there were queues – but I’d say it was worth the wait.
I highly recommend spending a long weekend (or more) in Edinburgh if you’re able to – there’s so much to see and do, whatever the weather.
You could enjoy a pantomime or Christmas concert, visit the Castle of Light event at Edinburgh Castle or – if you’re feeling energetic, hike up Arthur’s Seat for some more beautiful views.
Winchester Christmas market, England
This spectacular Christmas market attracts more than 400,000 visitors each winter and is regularly listed in the top 10 Christmas markets in Europe.
Inspired by traditional German Christmas markets, it was founded in 2006 and since then has grown from just 40 stalls to more than 100.
The market is located in the grounds of Winchester Cathedral and the high quality traders are hand selected by the cathedral’s team.
It’s a beautiful setting and the traditional wooden market chalets are decorated with fairy lights.
There’s even a section of the market that’s dedicated to unique products made by British craftspeople.
In previous years, products on sale have included glass, textiles, Christmas decorations, wood sculptures and jewellery.
The Winchester Christmas market also has amazing food on offer, including bratwurst, chestnuts, mince pies, crepes and raclette cheese – plus an excellent choice of beers and glühwein.
It’s worth bearing in mind that there are often a few stalls in front of the cathedral, but this isn’t the main market.
You need to walk through Curle’s Passage next to the cathedral. From there you’ll find the Inner Close and the centre of the Christmas market action!
The passageway is narrow and can get very busy, so be patient – in fact I recommend you visit Winchester Christmas market during the week in order to avoid the largest crowds.
It’s worth attending one of the cathedral’s choir services held during December if you can and/or booking in advance and going skating on the open-air ice rink in the Cathedral grounds (though this didn’t open in 2021 due to Covid-19, so do check before travelling this year).
If you still have some energy (and money) left after visiting the Christmas market, it’s well worth spending a day or two exploring Winchester.
There’s the usual high street shops, plus some one-off shops and boutiques for those who still have Christmas shopping to do.
Book fans can also see Jane Austen’s grave inside Winchester Cathedral – and one of the oldest bibles in the world.
York Christmas market, England
York’s magical St Nicholas Fair is well established – in fact this year marks its 30th anniversary!
I went to York Christmas market in 2019 and I recommend visiting the market both during the day and late afternoon or evening when it’s lit up with fairy lights.
It’s transformed into a Christmas wonderland and is so pretty!
More than 100 wooden chalets line Parliament Street and St Sampson’s Square, with artisans selling a wide range of arts and crafts and foodie treats.
The historic Shambles Market is home to local independent traders selling clothing, homemade cakes and handmade jewellery, and the food court is a brilliant place to sample a range of street food from around the world.
In previous years, there’s been a vintage carousel ride in King’s Square – and when you want to rest your weary legs, check out Thor’s Tipi for a hot drink…or something stronger!
I hope my recommendations help you choose which Christmas market (or markets!) to visit later in the year. Let me know if you have any other tips!