We often associate Christmas markets with the Continent, but there are many fantastic festive markets to enjoy closer to home here in Britain. What better way to get into the Christmas spirit, whilst supporting local traders, than to take time out and soak in the atmosphere, sights and often wonderful smells of a great British Christmas market.
So we are going to take a look at five of our favourites…
5. Truro, Cornwall
Christmas comes early to Cornwall and in Truro the season starts with a spectacular ‘festival of lights’ procession which signals the beginning of festivities in the county’s capital. This year’s event is on the 14th of November, and if previous years are anything to go by, this is a ‘not to be missed’ evening where elaborate and beautiful lanterns will light up the centre of Truro. This precedes a series of Christmas markets every Wednesday from the 21st of November to the 19th of December. The cobbled streets of Truro are closed to traffic and in the place of cars, market stalls spring up selling local festive wares and of course traditional mulled wine and a wide range of market food. Brass bands and carol singers create the Christmas ambience and in the shadow of Truro’s beautiful imposing cathedral there cannot be many better ways to enjoy an early winter evening in Cornwall.
4. Edinburgh, Scotland
Perennially associated with the New Year celebration, Edinburgh embraces the Christmas spirit and is a fantastic venue in the month leading up to the special day. A world class and truly stunning city, Edinburgh hosts a series of events to immerse yourself and enjoy in one of the most atmospheric and historic locations in Europe. Edinburgh’s iconic castle looks over the beautiful ‘New town’ where the city’s Christmas lights are switched on during the evening of Thursday the 29th of November. Children will be delighted with the festive ice rink set in the heart of the city at East Princes Street Gardens, and what better way to take in the Christmas lights than a trip on the Edinburgh Wheel. The Christmas market itself runs from the 29th of November to the 24th of December and, like many, takes the flavour of a traditional German Christmas market, with an enticing range of traditional food and German beer. With beautifully lit wooden cabins and the smell of Gluhwein (German mulled wine) wafting in the air, there is a truly continental flavour to the festivities in the heart of the city, and with some of Britain’s best shopping on offer Edinburgh rightly is one of the premier destinations in the lead up to Christmas.
3. Caerphilly, South Wales
Caerphilly is a historic fort town located just 7.5 miles from Cardiff in South Wales. Caerphilly draws on this history to capture the essence of a medieval Christmas market and will transport you to a world gone by. Street entertainers help create the atmosphere in a colourful backdrop with Christmas stalls selling a range of replica medieval goods and modern arts and crafts. The town’s medieval castle is illuminated with music and themed historic graphics to represent the town’s past, running twice a night at the weekends the ‘Illuminata’ is a fantastic addition to the Christmas festivities. Caerphilly is of course famous for its cheese and the market, running on the December 8th and 9th for 2012, offers a range of local produce accompanied by cookery demonstrations and why not top off the day with a pint of medieval ale!
2. Lincoln, Lincolnshire
From a relatively recent beginning, Lincoln Christmas Market has established itself as one of Europe’s largest and best organised Christmas markets. The inspiration for this annual event came from Lincoln’s twin city in Neustadt in Germany. Lincoln itself provides a spectacular backdrop with is Gothic cathedral and Norman castle creating a unique atmosphere in a historic setting which has helped the market to develop rapidly since its origins in 1982. This year the market will run from the 6th to the 9th of December transforming one of England’s most charming cities into a Christmas wonderland. The traditional character is enhanced with stall holders dressed up in Victorian outfits and with the smell of roasting chestnuts in the air it is not hard to understand why satisfied visitors leave with that special Christmas glow.
Manchester in England’s post industrial North West has enjoyed a renaissance in recent years. The city centre has seen a significant make over since the early Nineties and today boasts a fine array of some of Britain’s best shops, and smartest bars and cafes. During the Christmas season the city embraces its European influences and now boasts a world famous Christmas market across multiple themed venues in the city centre. The origins of the modern Manchester Christmas markets date back to as recent as 1998 but has quickly established itself as one of Britain’s finest, attracting half a million visitors in 2011 alone. This year beginning on November the 17th, the focal point will be Albert Square in the backdrop of the dramatic Town Hall. Decked out in Christmas trees and twinkling lights, stalls will offer a wide choice of many hand made festive goods along the chalet lined square, now a familiar and welcome part of the city’s winter schedule. A short walk down to St Ann’s Square and you will find a German market, whilst the nearby King’s Street offers a French flavour to proceedings. You will not need to look far to find Spanish, Dutch or even Hungarian food on offer throughout this vibrant and fun Christmas market.