It’s the dream of many people to wander around a traditional European Christmas market, warming themselves with gluhwein or a glass of schnapps whilst selecting gifts that had been made in the same way for centuries, such as lacework or wooden toys for the children, Christmas food and drink and maybe some traditional Christmas tree ornaments.
With budgets getting tighter and the cost of travel rising, many have now looked to recreate that experience without the expense of a trip to Germany or the Czech Republic, spending what they’ve saved on travel on their purchases. But is the UK experience as good?
Christmas markets have been a popular part of pre-Christmas entertainment in the UK for longer than people think and were revived after tourism and retail chiefs saw thousands head abroad to the traditional Christmas markets of Europe.
Some are merely glorified car boot sales whilst others really make the effort and, helped by their historic settings, set the scene for an enjoyable evening out whilst getting those last minute presents.
Seasonal weather always helps but whilst the UK is more likely to be damp and cold, the rose-tinted view of European markets is often spoiled by knowing that they regularly have the same weather conditions and that pre-Christmas snow is far from a certainty.
So where are the best UK Christmas markets and what do they offer?
Our favourite is Winchester’s, set in a beautiful location around the medieval cathedral and offering over a hundred stalls with traditional gifts from around the world including hand-made wooden Christmas tree decorations, continental food items and of course a mulled wine stall. There’s a chance for the little ones to meet Father Christmas and you can enjoy a romantic ice skate together in the cloisters of the cathedral.
Cirencester’s is great too with an extra European market touch being the dozens of ‘log cabins’ set up to house the stalls. With just a whiff of snow, it could be Bavaria and the historic setting in the old town adds to the wonderful atmosphere. Again, over a hundred stalls, which include entertainment for the little ones, offer a wide range of quality items.
Finally, if you want a real European market but without the travel, head for Edinburgh
who turn their Christmas market, located at the Mound, completely over to a German team to organise so all of the stalls sell continental goodies including the gluhwein and huge steins of beer. Once you’ve tired of the shopping, put your purchases back into your car and enjoy a skate around the ice rink with Edinburgh lit up around you.
Whilst in visiting these, you might not have the excitement of going abroad, trying a Christmas market out of your area can still be an adventure. Make a special time of it by booking an overnight stay and maybe rent an upmarket hire car to get you there.