Can you believe that it’s almost Christmas? It won’t be long until you’re erecting the Christmas tree, slinging up the mistletoe in the hope of some kisses, and, in good time, cleaning up the mess made both by your devilish elf-on-the-shelf and the booze-fuelled fracas you caused after too many ports.
Getting into the Christmas spirit is all about one thing. It’s not about the tree, the advent calendar or the auditory assault of Last Christmas in every supermarket. No, Christmas isn’t Christmas until you attend a Christmas market, get off your rocker on mulled wine and buy a whole host of trinkets you deem too tacky to gift anyone in the cold light of morning. Sometimes it can be a struggle to find the best ones. – who hasn’t read an article in the local paper about the scam Santa’s Grotto Adventure Park which turned out to be a portaloo?
With the help of Stagecoach, purveyor of cheap bus fares and efficient transit, we’ve travelled the length and breadth of the country to find the most festive, fun-fuelled markets around. So, here are England’s IDEAL Christmas markets.
NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE
Newcastle transforms into a winter wonderland at Christmas time, with decorations adorning the city’s narrow streets. The market is located at the top of Grey Street, just under Grey’s Monument, where you’ll find wooden huts that are built and decorated specially for the Christmas period. What makes it different? The Newcastle Christmas Market brings cultures together, celebrating difference and diversity, and is perfect for small children wanting to experience a glimpse of the big world. Tradesmen and women from across Europe come to bring a touch of their country to Newcastle – providing an education into the huge variety of festive traditions from the continent; much needed at a time when Britain seems to be looking inward. If you’re into Ice Skating, head down to the Centre for Life to show off your skills in Times Square.
The German Christmas Market in Birmingham has been a top attraction to those wanting to venture further afield and travel to a spectacular Christmas market. Located in Victoria Square, it makes for a beautiful setting; lights descend down the centred fountain and the iconic carousel at the top of the steps creates a unique, magical version of Santa Claus’ Village. With a collection of over 180 stalls, you’re bound to stumble across something individual; no generic gifts of socks or recipe books from you this year!
Exeter’s Christmas Market, on the West Front of the town’s illustrious Cathedral, does a fine job at creating an enchanted atmosphere. The spectacle of the Cathedral towering over proceedings, wooden huts in its shadow, is a joy. A first for this year, the Exeter Christmas Market will now have a bandstand which will host the entertainment for the evening – with local bands, singers and choirs spreading the gift of song via Christmas carols. If you can’t get enough of Christmas markets in Exeter, there’s two more – one on Castle Street and Fore Street. If you still haven’t had your fill, consider getting a hobby.
With almost 80% of chalets run by small businesses in the South West, the award-winning Bath Christmas Market is a very local, artisanal affair. Overlooked by the famous Bath Abbey, and with church services running concurrently to the market, there’s an opportunity to duck in for a moment’s contemplation or chorus; very atmospheric indeed. This year’s market has expanded, now also covering some of nearby Southgate and Union street, meaning the event is bigger and better than ever. In the Crypt of St. Michael’s there’s even festive storytelling – though booking in advance is recommended. Bath Market is one for the purists, and all the better for it.
The historic culture of Lincoln looms large at the city’s Christmas market. Over 280 stalls are given a an elegant frame by the iconic castle and cathedral. Local shops from along the cobbled streets also get in on the act, coming outdoors and setting up shop to peddle their wares. There’s also a big wheel and other fairground rides – once you get high enough, you might be able to spot one of Santa Claus’ elf in the crowd – so make sure you’re on your best behaviour to remain on this year’s good list. This is just a short event – just 4 days – but a sweet one, too.
If you’re heading to the capital this Christmas, why not take a trip to Winter Wonderland, situated in Hyde Park. Full of festivity, there’s nothing that you and your family can’t do at this market, from ice skating, to circus’ and even Cinderella on Ice, whatever your family desires is available here – although booking is strongly advised as there is high demand for certain activities and attractions.It remains open after Christmas has ended, providing the perfect excuse to extend the festivities after the 25th.
IDEAL Tip : Another all time favourite Christmas market of ours is at the South Bank Centre. It’s especially great for food where each trader brings their unique winter spin on popular streetfood staples.
The City of Salisbury is a place so suited to Christmas. The charming, Tudor facades overlooking the market square create a feeling of history. The smells of mulled wine, fried donuts and roasting chestnuts induce pure nostalgia. Food is the primary focus here, with local restaurant Charter 1227’s stall doing a roaring trade in hog roasts, the aforementioned mulled wine or hot chocolate, pastries and more. The market itself is tight and compact, with 75 stalls, which leads to a cosy, neighbourhood feel. Just lovely over the festive period.
So, what Christmas market will you be heading to this year?