Nottingham Christmas market
Photograph: Jason Batterham

The best Christmas markets in the UK for magical festive shopping

Hot chocolate, twinkling grottoes, handmade gifts... you can’t beat a classic Christmas market. Check out our pick of the best outside of London for this festive season

Liv Kelly
Contributor: Liv Kelly
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There’s nothing more quintessentially Christmassy than a good ’ol festive market. Need to bulk buy stocking-fillers for your family? Christmas market. Fancy a boozy, mulled-wine-filled evening with your mates? Christmas market. Keen to show off your excellent ice-skating skills? Christmas market.

Dazzling destinations are dotted all over the UK. They come alive with the festive spirit once a year, glittering with everything from cosy grottoes and wholesome gift stalls to your favourite Christmas songs. We’re not just talking about London’s Christmas markets and Winter Wonderland, either (although they’re definitely worth a visit, too). We’re talking about the cobbled streets of York and the majestic castle surroundings of Edinburgh. Don’t know where to start? Here is our pick of the best Christmas markets in the UK. Hey, if you’re lucky, you might even get a bit of snow. 

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Best Christmas markets in the UK

Dig out the flower crown and eco-glitter you wore at Glasto – they’ll go down a storm at the Frost Fayre held in the pretty Somerset town. As well as outdoor stalls, a farmers’ market and a grotto, morris dancers, buskers and street performances will add to the jovial atmosphere.

When: Nov 25

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Tens of thousands of tourists flock to see Bath’s Christmas market which takes place over two weeks each year. It’s one of Europe’s most magical festive markets, with more than 150 craft and food stalls lining up around picturesque Georgian streets. And if all that shopping tires you out? Pay a visit to the steamy rooftop thermal baths for a soak instead.

When: Nov 23-Dec 10

Frankfurt Market, in the Brummie city centre, is one of the largest German Christmas markets held outside of Germany or Austria. How this came to be we’re not quite sure, but we’re glad it did because it’s pretty damn special. Taking place across Birmingham’s main squares, it’s the best place in Blighty to enjoy an authentic bratwurst, washed down with some gluhwein. Frohe weihnachten!

When: Nov 2-Dec 24

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If you want to escape the hustle and bustle of the high street, then Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire is the Christmas market spot for you. In the peaceful grounds of this magnificent country house are twinkling wooden chalets selling unique gifts, hot food and warming booze. Once you’re done perusing, wander along their Illuminated Light Trail – a fairy-light-lover’s heaven.

When: Nov 17-Dec 17

Nottingham, Robin Hood’s famous stomping ground, transforms into a Christmas Winter Wonderland every festive season, featuring a glowing ice rink, a helter-skelter and snowy alpine ski lodges. There’s also a sparkling Christmas market, with around 70 wooden stalls surrounding a huge glittering Christmas tree. You’ll feel like you’ve stepped into your very own festive fairytale.

When: Nov 7-Dec 31

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Wander along these cobbled, Victorian streets and you’ll stumble into St Nicholas Fair, York’s quintessential Christmas market. Softly lit huts sell Yorkshire produce, from cheeses and wines to handmade crafts, and there’s even Christmas-themed mini-golf, festive street food and gingerbread stalls. Go on – don’t pretend you’re not excited.

When: Nov 16-Dec 22

The majority of what’s on offer at Cardiff’s Christmas market is made locally by small Welsh businesses, so when browsing the stalls here, expect to come across hand-stitched red dragons, wooden love spoons and cushions with the word ‘cwtch’ (there’s no exact translation, but it basically means a cuddle) on them. But there’s all your textbook Christmas market content in there too, including mulled wine, fairy lights and even a Winter Wonderland, complete with an ice rink, down the road.

When: Nov 9-Dec 23

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Winchester Cathedral’s Christmas Market
Winchester Cathedral’s Christmas Market

On the grounds of Winchester’s medieval cathedral sits more than 100 chalet-style stalls selling all of your festive favourites. Trees are illuminated with colourful lights and there’s even an open-air ice rink in the grand cathedral courtyard if you want to don your skates and do your best Torvill and Dean impression. You can’t get much more jolly than that.

When: Nov 17-Dec 21

Edinburgh Christmas Market
Edinburgh Christmas Market

The Scottish capital is magical all year round, but a Yuletide visit is a must. Edinburgh’s Christmas markets take place at East Princes Street Gardens and are a spectacular setting to munch a hog roast and sip on hot cider. It’s pretty chilly up here come December, so you might even get a sprinkle of snow to make you feel extra Christmassy.

When: Nov 17-Jan 6

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