It’s just under 3 months to Christmas Day…. when it comes to Christmas, I revert to being the child I was 20 years ago….alright 30 years ago….shut up! 35 years ago…. Anyway, I love Christmas and am one of those annoying people who have already started doing their shopping but that’s mostly down to the fact that I like to eat in the 12th month of the year and not spend all of my November salary on gifts. I also hate the shops when they get crowded with people who have no idea what to buy and are frantically looking for inspiration or having to wait in a 30 minute queue for the till. Hurray for internet shopping!
However, for me, part of the appeal for this Yuletide period are all the Christmas markets that appear around the world. If you want to see what a particular country is all about, strolling around their Christmas market will soon tell you. The colourful displays of local – often handmade – gifts along with the smells of freshly cooking cuisine and the taste of beverages we wouldn’t entertain at any other time of year all contribute to making even the grinchiest person enjoy themselves. We’re lucky enough to have been to a few different markets and this year, we’re visiting Vienna which has come highly recommended. Watch out for our posts and blog on that one!
Closer to home, the UK has a number of Christmas markets that will shortly be making an appearance so here is our guide to some of the bigger ones along with dates to get you into the festive spirit. Starting in Scotland:
Edinburgh Christmas Markets (16th November – 24th December)
Events in Edinburgh start with East Princes Street Gardens being transformed into an outdoor kids paradise – Santa Land – from 16th November. Santa’s Elves’ Workshop can be found nestled in the heart of the Christmas Tree Maze while other family friendly attractions include the Santa Train, Race-a-Rama, Carousel, Helter Skelter, Ice Wall, Reindeer Rides, Crazy Cars and a Rollercoaster.
Christmas Markets can be found all over this historic and beautiful city. In St Andrews Square, an oval ice rink circles the Melville Monument while there is a Scottish Market located on George Street where you can enjoy delicious food and craft beers as well as picking up traditional crafted gifts. If you want to find something a little more exotic, visit the European Market on the Mound Precinct where you will find unique gifts and mulled wine.
Glasgow Christmas Markets (9th November – 31st December)
Glasgow has not one but two markets starting with stalls appearing on St Enoch Square from 9th November while the market on George Square opens on 25th November. 150 chalet-style stalls over both locations bring oodles of food, drink, crafts and activities from 32 countries but with a fabulous clause that at least 30% of the stall holders are Scottish ensuring a true Scottish flavour and theme to the markets.
George Square is where you will find a carousel, the Big Wheel and family friendly entertainment (pictured above) while St Enoch Square is the location of the more traditional market displaying wares of colourful gifts, handicrafts and food products including German gingerbread, intercontinental beers and Gluhwein as well as roasted almonds and hot chocolate. With only a 10 minute walk between the two, take your time enjoying the city too, popping into Princes Square Shopping Centre or maybe the Gallery of Modern Art en route.
Over to Ireland:
Galway City Continental Market (16th November – 22nd December)
One of Ireland’s most popular and longest running Christmas Markets hosted over 350,000 visitors last year enjoying the colourful and tasty displays in over 50 rustic chalets located on Eyre Square. The market has expanded and is a city wide event but Eyre Square remains the central focal point. Here, you will find Santa’s Grotto – run by a local charity – and the popular German Bier Keller along with masses of entertainment which as well as some of the usual fair-type attractions also includes a stage for live music performers, puppet shows, storytelling and choirs.
Food-wise, think bratwurst, pastries, pretzels, crepes and waffles washed down with a selection of traditional German beers, apple cider and/or mulled wine.
If all that walking gets too much, grab a seat on the Santa Express and take a train tour to discover the sights of the city and enjoy the atmosphere of the hustle and bustle in the cobbled streets.
Belfast Christmas Market (17th November – 22nd December)
A little bigger than the Galway City market with 90 stalls displaying the wares from 30 countries, the location of this market by the photogenic City Hall on Donegal Square adds to the delight of the market itself. Hog roasts, a variety of burgers (think kangaroo, crocodile, lobster or simple pulled pork), Belgian chocolates, baklava, crepes and speciality cheeses and meats from across the globe are all on offer to the hungry (or greedy in my case) visitor. Local producers make up over 40% of the market for a distinctive Irish feel.
Santa’s gingerbread themed grotto is open until late afternoon. If your children (or you, we’re not here to judge) wish to write to Santa, there is a special post box to the North Pole and if you sent your letter by 18th December, you will get a response from the Man in Red himself.
Find the giant snow globe and have your picture taken inside to capture memories in a unique and fun way.
If all this isn’t enough, you can visit the City Hall itself and join a free public tour to view the exhibits, stained glass windows and beautiful marble rotunda.
Back to the mainland:
Birmingham Christmas Market (15th November – 23rd December)
(Source: bbc.co.uk – Edward Moss Photography)
Claiming to be the largest authentic German market in Europe outside of Germany and Austria, the Birmingham Frankfurt Christmas Market and Craft Market usually has 180 stalls covering New Street, Victoria Square and Centenary Square. The largest outdoor Christmas Market in the UK attracts more than 5.5 million visitors each year. This year however be warned that the Craft Market will not be part of this event due to an ongoing refurbishment of Centenary Square. Browse the large number of remaining stalls for Christmas decorations, handcrafted jewellery and toys as well as a variety of German food including bratwurst, beer and pretzels.
Normally part of the festivities on Centenary Square, the Big Wheel and Ice Rink are being relocated but at the time of writing, we are not able to confirm their final destination.
Enjoy live music on Victoria Square, a ride on the carousel or hunt down Chris Moose – a singing Christmas Moose – directly opposite the Council House entrance for singing fun whatever your age.
Manchester Christmas Market (9th November – 23rd December)
Manchester likes to mix things up and has a number of Christmas markets scattered over the city totalling nearly 350 festively festooned stalls and offering everything from bonsai trees to jewellery to handbags and soaps. The main market hub – watched over by what looks like a giant Zippy in a Santa outfit – is on Albert Square in front of the town hall and will stay open one day longer than the other markets. The Arts & Crafts Market will be based on Exchange Street; the French Market on King Street; German Market on St Ann’s Square and World Market on Brazennose Street.
Whatever food you enjoy – whether you are carnivorous, vegetarian, vegan or pescatarian, you will find something to enjoy while wandering through the city and soaking up the festive atmosphere.
This year, we understand that for the first time, there will be a designated family site showcasing fun rides and entertainment from LED light performers, magicians and street theatre.
London Christmas Markets
There are so many Christmas Markets in London that we can’t cover them all so here’s a just a few to whet your appetite:
Winter Wonderland – Hyde Park (23rd November – 6th January)
Two hundred stalls make up one of the biggest Christmas markets in London. Stroll around the wooden cabins then enjoy a skate on the open-air ice rink, see the view over London from the Giant Observation Wheel or enjoy the many rides and attractions of which there are over 100 to choose from. Take in one of Winter Wonderland’s Christmas shows which this year include Peter Pan on Ice and Teletubbies Christmas Show. Join in the artistry at the Ice Sculpting Workshops or journey into The Enchanted Forest in The Magical Ice Kingdom. They also have the Circus MegaDome which sounds intriguing!
Wintertime Christmas Market – Southbank Centre (8th December – 6th January)
Lining the banks of the River Thames, 30 brightly decorated chalets have a huge range of delicious Scandinavian street food to choose from. Enjoy the giant Christmas tree or puppetry and magic with Circus 1903. Other family friendly entertainment include the show, Rumpelstiltskin (showing from 13th December) and free performance workshops.
Christmas by the River – London Bridge City (30th November – 3rd January)
With a backdrop of the Tower Bridge and the Tower of London, could this market be any more British? Over 60 beautiful huts packed with crafts and snacks say not. New this year is the sub-zero Eis Haus ice bar ready to serve up festive drinks to the many visitors.
Christmas Market – Leicester Square (10th November – 6th January)
Better known for hosting film premieres, this is only the second year that Leicester Square will be transformed into a twinkling Christmas Market with more than 25 stalls and Santa’s Grotto. From here you can visit the Belgian Spiegeltent for comedic entertainment, burlesque and cabaret performances.
Last but not least….
Swansea Christmas Market (17th November – 21st December)
Launching the festivities with marching bands, colourful floats, giant inflatables, Santa and dancing elves parading through the centre, you can’t get much more in the spirit than this Welsh town. Waterfront Winterland at Museum Park on Oystermouth Road provides ice skating, Santa’s Grotto, a funfair and delicious food for all to enjoy. You will find 40 traders showing a selection of decorations, gifts, arts, crafts, food and drink over the four weeks with some of the chalets having different traders in from one week to the next.
So there you are – a quick summary of some of the Christmas Markets to get you into the Yuletide spirit. Have we missed one that you love? Is your local market so much better than any of these? Let us know in the comments! Cheers!
Sources: visitlondon.com, timeout.com, culturetrip.com, foodanddrink.scotsman.com, visitscotland.com, christmasmarkets.com, europeanbestdestinations.com, visitmanchester.com, birmingham.gov.uk, germanchristmasmarketbirmingham.com, visitbirmingham.com, blog.irishtourism.com, galwaytourism.ie, visitbelfast.com, marketplaceeurope.co.uk, visitwales.com, swanseachristmas.com, hydeparkwinterwonderland.com