Never mind the turkey and tinsel (though where would we be without those?), Christmas wouldn’t be the same without a trip to a festive market or two. Whether you’re hoping to track down the foodie stocking filler of the year or you want to do your present-shopping with a side order of carol singers, mulled cider and freshly roasted chestnuts, here are five of our favourite Christmas markets across the country for 2015.
A caber’s toss from Edinburgh’s Waverley station, the Scottish capital’s Christmas market isn’t the biggest in the UK but it’s one of the most atmospheric. With the Scott monument, the Christmas tree on the Mound and Edinburgh Castle as backdrops, the 100 or so stalls in East Princes Street Gardens come sprinkled with a little architectural magic dust. The focus is on European-style spoils but walk five minutes north, to St Andrew Square, and an accompanying Scottish Market runs from 20 November to 4 January selling sausages, seafood, chocolate, gin and other foods produced closer to home.
Another great market for those who like to shop with their eyes as much as their wallets, this one, in the Georgian city of Bath, is arguably the prettiest in England. Dominated by the city’s floodlit Abbey the 175 stalls setting up here between 26 November and 13 December will be housed within a village of nativity scene-like wooden cabins. Over 70% of foods and crafts on sale here are made by producers from the South West; this year’s crop hasn’t been announced yet but our best buys from last year included Tea People’s single estate teas, Somerset Pomona, Bath Gin and pungent Wyfe of Bath cheese from the Bath Soft Cheese Company.
For gourmet gifts a little more exciting than a bottom-of-the-stocking satsuma, Padstow is a safe bet. Alongside a wider Christmas festival that ranges from demos by Nathan Outlaw and Rick Stein to fireworks and carols the small Cornish town plays host to a festive food market from 3 to 6 December. Art and craft are also represented but this is essentially one for foodies: graze on everything from steak and Cornish Blue pasties to Cornish honey marshmallows, local dukkah mixes and artisan breads and pastries.
More intimate than the larger Christmas markets, with around 100 stalls based in fairylit cabins clustered around the city’s Norman cathedral, this Hampshire fair focuses on products from small, independent British and European companies. Running from 19 November to 22 December, this year is the market’s 10th anniversary. Stallholders have yet to be confirmed but last year’s best buys included gooey Cotswolds honey and beautiful hand-thrown pottery serving dishes.
Among a throng of seasonal ‘German’ markets that now have more to do with factories in Dongguan than Dortmund, Cardiff’s Christmas Market stands out for its range of locally produced, handcrafted gifts (over 90% of exhibitors last year were independent businesses, 75% of them from Wales). Taking place from 12 November to 23 December, this year’s event is set to continue that focus. Stallholders haven’t been announced yet but chocolate is usually a big seller here, from Sarah Bunton’s handmade florentines to Coco Caravan’s beautifully packaged raw chocolate.
And much, much more…
Want to see an interactive map of all the UK’s Christmas markets? Of course you do! Just click here. (With thanks to our friends at idealo.co.uk)
You might also like…
London food halls: the ultimate guide
Five of the best gourmet Christmas breaks
Best British Isles weekend breaks 2015: Hampshire
Bordeaux, France: best food and drink guide
Best English vineyard breaks: 2015
The five best food festivals in November 2015