Europe has long had a tradition of wonderful festive markets and it seems that the UK is really beginning to catch up. With the Christmas season starting to kick in fully from early November onwards in Britain, it’s time to grab a glass of mulled wine and explore some locally crafted treats and inspiring gift ideas.
1. Hyde Park Winter Wonderland
With some stiff competition amongst London Christmas markets, it’s still hard to beat the scale, ambition and spectacle of Hyde Park’s annual winter extravaganza. The German Christmas market has over 200 picturesque stalls to choose from, with a dazzling array of tempting products and delicious foodstuffs. The market benefits, of course, from being situated in the epicentre of a theme park with over 100 attractions. The ice dancing and circus dome offer world class entertainment and it is open twelve hours a day for partying well into the evening. It is also perfectly placed for a combined trip with the legendary Christmas lights in London’s West End, and some shopping on Bond Street if there is anything left in your wallet when you’ve been tempted by the German market stalls.
2. Princes Street Market, Edinburgh
The beautiful, historic and walker-friendly Scottish city of Edinburgh has a festive feeling year-round, which ratchets up for Christmas and Hogmanay celebrations. This year sees and ambitious and innovative revamp of the iconic market, with the addition of twenty new stalls, new community initiatives, and even a silent disco. Many visitors to the market choose to combine it with a night walk, where, coming to life in the chill darkness, an audio tour enlivens the extraordinary history of Edinburgh. Some of the theatrical events are a closely kept secret until very near the event launch itself, but they always offering stimulating and very Scottish culture.
3. Royal Welsh Winter Fair
Offering a slightly different experience to any other market attraction, the Welsh winter fair offers a compelling showcase of the regional, unique produce that Wales is famous for. Taking place over two days in late November, and celebrating its thirtieth anniversary this year, it combines a vibrant Christmas market with a major livestock event, allowing visitors to experience many of the most authentic aspects of Welsh rural culture at first hand. There are plenty of goodies to browse but the food is a stand-out feature, with wonderful breads, cheeses and meats.
4. Winchester Cathedral Christmas Market
Few places can make you feel more like you are walking into a movie set than the cathedral close in Winchester. The stunning setting could not be more perfect for a Christmas market. There are over 100 individual chalets to browse through, a food court and crafts village. With an emphasis on interactivity, there are so many activities to choose from and ways to engage with the event. The crafts market is very important support to the incredible local artistic talent in this part of the world, showcasing jewellers, painters, textile artists and glass artisans, amongst many other creative and special goods.
5. Blenheim Palace Illuminated Trail
Christmas markets are perhaps traditionally associated with town and village centres rather than stately homes, but the truly spectacular light display at Blenheim Palace has put it squarely on the map. The Illuminated Light Trail makes clever use of a combination of countless light with lasers and projections to set the Oxfordshire countryside ablaze with seasonal colour. The market itself has lovely children’s toys, pottery, textiles and tempting edible treats too. Though it only started in 2016, it is already astonishingly popular. Exploring the light tunnels across the beautiful grounds can work up quite an appetite, so it is just as well that there are plenty of stops along the way for toasted marshmallows and wine.
There are so many other Christmas markets to choose from, but this list of five of the best should be the start of a marvellous exploration of this tradition.
Paola Fiocchi Van den Brande is Director of Passepartout Homes Ltd. Passepartout Homes Ltd. offers an exclusive portfolio of luxury villa rentals in Italy, France, Greece, Croatia, Thailand and worldwide.