With festivities all but cancelled last year, it’s a delight to see that Christmas markets have already begun returning to cities, stately homes and village halls across the UK. Who can resist the aroma of mulled cider, roasted chestnuts and Bratwurst sizzling on hot plates? Wrap up in your warmest hats and gloves, and prepare to be romanced out of your petty cash by cheery wooden Nutcracker soldiers, artisan crafts and dangling candy canes. If online shopping bores you (as it does us all, eventually) then a Christmas market is the antidote. You may even find the big man himself puts in an appearance to entertain the youngest members of your family.
Here is our guide to the best traditional Christmas markets to visit in the UK in 2021.
Sip on mulled wine, listen to carols and explore the historic minster in this festive medieval city.
The hugely popular St Nicholas Fair is back this year, spreading seasonal cheer and magic to the streets of York. Browse the chalets lining Parliament Street and St Sampson’s Square to find unique and exciting gifts as well as delicious local food and drink. The kids will love a turn on the vintage carousel in Kings Square, too. Find a wide range of traders in Shambles Market then take your tastebuds on a global adventure in the Shambles Food Court, where international street food is on the menu.
If you can’t make it to York this year, you can still browse the stalls at the virtual Christmas Market.
Try traditional seasonal treats from around the world and fairground rides in the grounds of Belfast City Hall.
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Dine on delicious fare at the Scottish Market, ride the big wheel or get lost in the Christmas tree maze with the twinkling city as your backdrop.
Get your Christmas shopping off to a good start at Sissinghurst Castle Garden’s festive market, with local food, drink, crafts and produce on offer. Enjoy live entertainment as you wander the stalls in this world-renowned garden. The market is free to browse, and you can complete your visit by wandering through the gardens for the price of normal admission.
This fantastic fair, with more than 100 chalets, is set at the foot of the Cathedral in Winchester’s stunning historic centre. With pretty decorated stalls, a festive food court and a Christmas Grotto, there is even an Alpine Café full of warming treats. Make sure you make a return visit as there will be a new raft of exhibitors half way through the market’s run, to keep things interesting.
This year, Blenheim Palace’s Great Court will be home to over 70 wooden chalets filled with the artisan handmade works of designer/maker craft traders in its wonderful Christmas market. Browse homewares, textiles and ceramics and find gifts for foodies, too. It’s free to enter but a £12 car park charge applies. Book a ticket for the Illuminated Trail for an extra festive treat (£22.50 for an adult).
Blenheim Palace Christmas market
The physical festive market in beautiful Georgian Bath is not going ahead this year, but don’t despair – it’s going online. The virtual market of independent sustainable retailers is a celebration of over 160 artisan makers from the South West and beyond, selling everything from fine foods to artisan jewellery.
Hopetoun House Christmas Shopping Fair, South Queensferry: 10 to 12 December
Visit the Christmas market at Hopetoun House for a welcome relief from the stresses of the high street chaos. With festive entertainment and over 60 stalls selling unique and charming gifts and crafts, you can settle and take in the beautiful surroundings and Scottish hospitality. Be sure not to miss the State Dining room, decorated beautifully for the Christmas season. You’ll need to pre-book your ticket in advance (£7 + a booking fee per adult).
Make a beeline for Yorkshire’s food capital for this special festive market with a foodie twist. Check everything off your Christmas list and stock up the pantry with seasonal treats, too, including figgy puddings, turkey and goose, award-winning macarons, mulled wine, gin and beers. With fairground rides, brass bands and choirs as well as top street food, this promises to be Malton’s shopping event of the year.
Head to the iconic beacon of Souter Lighthouse for its popular Christmas craft fair. Browse handmade crafts, gifts, cards, jewellery and much more, all made by local craftspeople. Santa will even pay a visit and you can design your own Christmas stocking, too.
Cirencester will be the place to be on 27 November when the supersized Advent Market comes to the town centre. Between 11am and 6pm, over 100 stalls featuring local traders will line Cricklade Street, Castle Street and Market Place. With entertainment and light displays it promises to be a fun and festive family day out.
Caerphilly Castle provides the magnificent backdrop to this bustling food and craft fair, with funfair rides, mulled wine, street theatre, more than 50 food, craft and gift stalls. Make a day of it and book a visit to explore Caerphilly Castle.