I’ve already expressed my shock at how quickly Christmas has come around, and after a short attempt at denial of 2014 coming to an end, I decided to embrace the festivities and begin to celebrate Christmas. One of my favourite things about this time of year is the variety of outdoor Christmas markets on offer, not just in London but all over the country. Not only do they offer amazing family days out and an excuse to drink some mulled-wine and buy a few presents, but you cannot go to a proper Christmas market without feeling that the festive season is really here.
Vida Vida originally started at a market and we now have around half a dozen stalls running in London (Portobello, Spitalfields), selling our whole range of leather satchels and handbags. Every Christmas we choose a few markets further afield where we can set up our stalls and it’s always a highlight of the year for us, allowing us to meet our customers which is always lovely.
With all that experience, I think I have become a bit of an expert and so have compiled this list of the top 10 Christmas Markets that I recommend you may want to visit while getting into the spirit of the season!
1. Winchester Cathedral Christmas Market, 20 November – 21 December
Founded in 2006, Winchester Christmas Market is probably my favourite place to visit at this time of year. For the fifth time, we will be bringing our own Vida Vida stall full of our leather satchels, travel bags and other vintage leather gift ideas to go alongside the amazing food, gifts and decorations you can buy in the German-inspired market. With its amazing location and atmosphere, with over 350,000 visitors each year and even an ice rink, you are guaranteed a great day out when you visit.
2. Bath Christmas Market, 27 November- 14 December
With over 180 traditional wooden chalets featuring unusual and unique gifts, as well as numerous products handmade in the area, Bath Christmas Market is the place to go if you are looking for a beautiful event with a British feel and great gifts. Not only is there a huge variety of products on offer, but each year pop-up businesses are given the chance to experience such a large event, meaning you will definitely find one-off gifts for all tastes.
3. Winter Wonderland, Hyde Park, 21 November – 4 January
For a fun day out, Winter Wonderland is the place to go with its countless rides and attractions surrounding the amazing market and ice rink. This year, two circus shows are also on offer: Zippos Circus for a family show or Cirque Beserk’s new thrill show ‘MECHANIKA’, full of dangerous feats, and with over 200 chalets in the market providing food and drink, crafts, decorations and gorgeous gifts, this is definitely a great place to go for a brilliant day out.
4. Lincoln Christmas Market, 4 – 7 December
With over 2000 years of history in this amazing city, it is possibly one of the most perfect locations for a traditional Christmas market. The medieval square in between the Norman Castle and gothic Cathedral is the beautiful backdrop to the brilliantly atmospheric market. The specialities seem to be roasted chestnuts and mulled wine, and also a slight obsession with silly hats. And although it is only on for three days, it is definitely not one to miss!
5. Cirencester Christmas Market, 6 – 16 December
I have been meaning to visit Cirencester’s German-style market for a while, having heard good things about the Bratwurst and gingerbread. It looks beautiful and this year some really interesting workshops and exhibitions are visiting. With Cirencester College’s textile exhibition opening and an adults only perfumery workshop also on offer, as well as a lantern making option for kids, it seems like the pretty town will be full of things to visit and do!
6. Edinburgh Christmas Markets, 21 November – 4 January
Edinburgh is always a busy place, but this Christmas there may be more hustle and bustle with three different Christmas markets opening in a few weeks. Firstly, there is a Scottish Market, celebrating local produce and culture – I’ve heard that the craft beer and local sausages are hard to beat. There is also a traditional (and very beautiful) Christmas Market in its 20th year just below the Mound, full of crafters, artists, gifts and food. Lastly, there is a market just for the kids; set in Santa Land, it is full of face-painting, crafts and shopping, and I am definitely hoping to visit with the boys!
7. Leeds Christkindelmarkt, 14 November – 20 December
This is one of the most established German Markets in the UK. With an amazing continental atmosphere and very good food and drink, for a truly European experience this is the best place to go. And, while visiting the traditional wooden chalets, you may even have to partake in some dancing and singing as the night goes on.
8. Belfast Christmas Market, 15 November – 21 December
For a great range of food, drink, craft and decorations from all over Europe, Belfast Christmas Market is the place to go. Not only that, but if you’ve come with kids, there’s loads for them to do, including actually sending Santa Claus himself a letter, and receiving a response from Father Christmas!
9. Hyper Japan, Kensington Olympia, 14 November – 16 November
For a slight twist on the traditional Christmas markets listed above, check out Hyper Japan, a busy market with endless entertainment and Christmas gifts and goods on offer. You can find fashion goods, toys, edible presents including exotic tea and chocolate and tableware in the main shopping area, as well as live food and drink demos, nail art and martial art displays. There is also live J-Pop music and a karaoke competition, alongside amazing costumes and gaming. For a different Christmas experience, this is somewhere to check out.
I have wanted to visit the amazing city of Prague for many years after hearing so much about it, and researching Christmas markets has made me want to go even more. Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square, the two main squares of the city, hold two amazing markets that are not only full of handicrafts and traditional food and wine, but within five minutes of each other. The Old Town Square transports you back 700 years with its ancient buildings and magnificent buildings, and Wenceslas is its vibrant, modern counterpart. Prague is definitely on my wishlist for a Christmas break this year!
So, whatever you are planning for the coming holidays, the list of Christmas markets above should keep you both busy and stocked up with some lovely Christmas presents for all the family. Have fun!