The scent of hot mulled wine and roasted chestnuts in the frosty air, fairy lights glowing softly in the trees and the sound of traditional Christmas carols floating from Scandinavian style wooden chalets selling sparkly wares. It is, of course, the Christmas market, one of the UK’s newest old traditions.
Over the past few years the big Christmas market has become as much a part of the build up to the twenty-fifth as mince pies, awkward work parties and people complaining that Christmas is coming earlier and earlier these days. Now they are held in towns up and down the country, and are great places to have fun, get in the Christmassy mood and find a unique gift for that really difficult person. We’ve picked some of our favourites below:
Manchester plays host to one of the biggest Christmas markets in Britain. Running for five snow-dusted weeks from the 10th of November, Albert Square and nine other markets across the city are transformed into a winter wonderland, full of specially constructed log cabins selling all manner of Christmas goods, from hand-crafted ornaments to indulgent truffles. It’s a truly international affair, with the opportunity to buy everything from Hungarian goulash to fancy French soaps.
Across the Pennines, the historic streets of York are equally festive. St Nicholas Fair is the ideal place to get in the mood for Christmas; the traditional wooden chalets are festooned with boughs of fir trees and it seems the entire market is glowing when dusk falls.
As well as an ice rink, there will be an Ice Trail over the weekend of 10 and 11 December. Thirty sparkling sculptures will be scattered across the city, taking you through the streets and squares of York on a Christmas adventure. And should you wish to raise your voice in song, Choirs Weekend is the 26 and 27 November, plus there are special carol services held at York Minster and other churches including St Michael le Belfrey and York City Church.
Looking for a Cornish Christmas Market? Down in Padstow it’s part of a four day Christmas Festival, and as befits Padstow’s recipe as a foodie destination, it’s a celebration of the best food producers in the area.
There’s something special about standing in this small North Cornwall port town in the sharp cold of winter, surrounded by festive stalls selling the most delicious food and drink, from artisan bread to luxury pies, gigantic paellas and traditional Christmas puddings. There will also be cooking demonstrations from over forty of the biggest names in cuisine – Phil Vickery, Angela Hartnett, Michael Caines, Brian Turner, Ed Hughes and of course Rick Stein amongst them.
Norwich is a beautiful place at any time, but Christmas is particularly special. With its medieval streets and buildings, it doesn’t take much to make it feel festive, but that’s not to say they won’t make an effort! As well as the market stalls there will be an ice-rink, fifty-foot snowman bouncy castle and a giant Norwegian spruce bedecked with thousands of lights at the heart of the city.
Norwich is really going for the spectacular this year though, with a Tunnel of Light, the first of its kind in the UK. Step into this four metre high, 45 metre long tunnel and be surrounded by the coruscating hues of the Northern Lights, projected by 50,000 LED beams. Not only that, three times every evening Norwich Castle and City Hall will be lit up with forty-minute shows, set to original music and projected onto the walls.