Give a short break some festive sparkle with a visit to one of the UK’s best German-style Christmas markets and festive fairs…
Christmas markets are more popular than ever in the UK, with German-style markets in Birmingham, Oxford and other cities becoming a fixture of the festive calendar since the early 2000s. But did you know that they’ve been held in Northern Europe since the Middle Ages?
Frankfurt’s famous market, for example, was first held in 1393. A classic German-style market usually has wooden chalet-style stalls and sells traditional foods like bratwurst and Christmas biscuits, drinks and crafts.
At smaller Christmas fairs in the UK, local crafts and foods are also popular, and many of the best markets and fairs offer a blend of the two – Continental-style chalets and traditions, with the best of British produce and wares…
1. Visit: Salisbury Christmas Market
(24 Nov – 18 Dec 2016.)
Market Square in Salisbury is having a German makeover, with the arrival of its Christmas Market. The square will be transformed into a traditional German-style market, complete with wooden chalets selling local produce, wooden ornaments, ceramics and glassware. Highlights of the market season include an evening lantern parade with carols on 3rd December.
Where to stay: Milford Hall Hotel & Spa, Salisbury
(In the heart of this historic city, a short walk from its iconic medieval cathedral.)
2. Visit: Stoke by Nayland Christmas Fayre
(17 Nov 2016.)
Book a stay at the Stoke by Nayland Hotel and you don’t have to travel far to get into the festive spirit. The hotel’s popular annual Christmas fayre is taking place on 17th November. Expect quality gifts including toys, crafts and local produce, with 10% of all sales going to a local hospice.
Where to stay: Stoke by Nayland Hotel, Golf & Spa, Sudbury, Suffolk/Essex
(In the Dedham Vale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, made famous by landscape master John Constable.)
3. Visit: Birmingham Frankfurt Christmas Market & Craft Fayre
(17 Nov – 29 Dec 2016.)
Birmingham’s Christmas Market is the largest authentic German market outside of Germany and Austria and boasts more than 120 stalls. Ride the ferris wheel or carousel, watch a live act on bandstand, then warm up with a hot chocolate or a slug of glühwein and try stolen, pretzels, bratwurst and other traditional treats. The adjacent craft market sells beautiful hand-made items such as wooden nutcracker dolls and musical instruments.
Where to stay: Lea Marston Hotel, Golf & Spa, Birmingham
(In Sutton Coldfield, north-east of central Birmingham, set amid 54 acres of rolling Warwickshire countryside.)
4. Visit: Ross Christmas Fayre
(20 Nov 2016.)
The charming market town of Ross-on-Wye in Herefordshire holds a popular annual Christmas fair. This year the fair is taking place on 20th November, when festival stalls will line the town’s High Street. There’ll also be a chance to meet Father Christmas and some real-life reindeer, as well as see the town’s Christmas lights switched on at dusk.
Where to stay: Chase Hotel, Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire
(In the Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, at the gateway to the ancient Royal Forest of Dean.)
5. Visit: Llandudno Christmas Fayre
(17-20 Nov 2016.)
Llandudno Christmas Fayre is the largest festive fair in Wales, attracting more than 35,000 visitors to the Victorian seaside resort in 2015. Taking place over four days, the fayre features dozens of stalls selling crafts and locally-produced food and drink, including chocolates, fruit preserves and vinegars, liqueurs and more foodie gifts. There’s also live entertainment, craft demos and Santa’s grotto.
Where to stay: Imperial Hotel, Llandudno, North Wales
(On the promenade of the ‘Queen of the Welsh Resorts,’ at the northernmost tip of Snowdonia.)
6. Visit: Dartington Christmas Fayre
(17-18 Dec 2016.)
Book a stay at Dartington Hall for a chance to really get into the Christmas spirit. There’s a Christmas Fayre at the Shops at Dartington on 17th-18th November, with live jazz, carols and local food producers. Devon Drinks will be hosting their famous mulled cider bar and advising on the perfect festive tipple. There is also a series of Christmas crafting workshops at Dartington in November and December, including a Christmas wreath session, card making and a class on festive ice-creams and sorbets.
Where to stay: Dartington Hall Hotel, Totnes, South Devon
(On the Dartington Estate, surrounded by the River Dart and Grade II* listed gardens.)
7. Visit: Ipswich Christmas Market
(9-11 Dec 2016.)
Got some Christmas shopping to do? If you’re staying at Hintlesham Hall, you can tick off your list in one go if you take a trip into nearby Ipswich town centre from 9-11th December, when it will be hosting a bustling Christmas market. The popular festivities include a street food market, stalls selling gifts and live music and entertainment.
Where to stay: Hintlesham Hall Hotel, Ipswich, Suffolk
(In the small Suffolk village of Hintlesham, near the historic waterfront town of Ipswich.)
8. Visit: Ja Windermere German Christmas Market
(10-11 Dec 2016.)
Britain’s growing love affair with German Christmas markets shows little sign of slowing, and one of the newest markets on the scene is Ja Windermere. The small town of Windermere will be filled with the scents of German beers and Christmas biscuits from 10th-11th December, with 40 stalls offering local produce with a German twist, a ‘mountain goat Santa’s grotto’ and carols from the local school choirs. Plus, nearby, at The World of Beatrix Potter, you can book a magical Christmas tea party with Santa.
Where to stay: Lindeth Howe Country House Hotel, Lake District
(Magical hillside setting, commanding views of Lake Windermere to the Cumbrian fells beyond.)
9. Visit: Abergavenny Christmas Food & Drink Fair
(11 Dec 2016.)
The world-famous Abergavenny Food Festival in Wales (held every September) has a festive cousin. The Abergavenny Christmas Food and Drink Fair is perfect for picking up gifts for food lovers. There’ll be over 85 of the top seasonal producers, expert chef demos, children’s cooking workshops, a food and drink market and a music and light parade.
Where to stay: Gliffaes Country House Hotel, Brecon Beacons, South Wales
(Overlooking the River Usk, in the shadow of the Black Mountains.)
10. Visit: Oxford Christmas Market
(8-18 Dec 2016.)
Few cities are more atmospheric than Oxford come Christmas time – carols at the colleges, mulled wine in tiny pubs and strolls down frosted lanes. Turn a short break in Oxford into a Christmas shopping exhibition by visiting the Christmas Market on Broad Street. It’s full of old-fashioned charm, with a nod to German markets – think wooden chalets selling glühwein and traditional glass decorations. Just outside the city, the spectacular Blenheim Palace is hosting the Living Crafts for Christmas Fair from 17th-20th November.
Where to stay: Cotswold Lodge Hotel, Oxford
(In a quiet conservation area, near the peaceful Oxford University Parks.)
Steaming cups of mulled wine and hot chocolate, sparkling glass decorations and traditional toys: A good Christmas market gets you into the spirit in a way a trip to the shopping mall never will.
So, trade the mass-produced ‘tat’ in the shops for the artisanal treasures of the stalls. Switch on your festive season in style with a luxury weekend break away.
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1. Salisbury Christmas Market © 2016 Salisbury Christmas Market; 3. Birmingham Frankfurt Christmas Market © 2016 Birmingham City Council; 7. Ipswich Christmas Market © 2016 Ipswich Borough Council; 8. Peter Rabbit © 2016 The World of Beatrix Potter Attraction; 9. Abergavenny Christmas Food & Drink Fair © 2016 Abergavenny Food Festival; 10. Oxford Christmas Market © 2016 NiRa Events.