Did you know that almost every city in the UK hosts a Christmas market or Winter Wonderland event during the holiday season? Having lived and travelled in the country, I’ve had the opportunity to visit many of them and have put together this guide to what I believe to be the best Christmas markets in the UK for 2023.
While my guide is subjective and based on personal experience, it can serve as a starting point for your holiday market adventures. I recommend selecting the markets that best suit your tastes and travel preferences to ensure a memorable and enjoyable experience.
Best Christmas Markets UK 2023
The holiday season is a perfect time to come together with family and friends to enjoy the festivities and what better way to do it than at a Christmas market?
Picture yourself sipping on a warm mug of mulled wine or hot chocolate, surrounded by twinkling lights and festive cheer.
While every Christmas market shares some common themes, each one has its own distinct ambience that offers a unique and unforgettable experience.
I’ve rounded up the top 10 Christmas markets in the UK that are guaranteed to get you in the holiday spirit.
But if you’re looking for an alternative, scroll down to discover my extended list of the best Christmas markets in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. So, no matter where you are, you’ll be able to discover a festive market nearby.
Manchester Christmas Market – Located in Albert Square in the city centre (although temporarily moving to Piccadilly Gardens), Manchester has one of the largest Christmas markets in the UK.
With over 300 stalls, it offers a blend of traditional German and Austrian gifts, cuisine, and locally produced specialties. This market is perfect for foodies, with top vendors from Manchester offering delicious cuisine.
Don’t miss the chance to check out the Giant Santa at St. Peter’s Square, the gin bar featuring 100 different types of gin, and the Skate Manchester ice rink at Cathedral Square.
Get more information on Christmas market dates, opening times and things to see in Manchester with my Manchester Christmas Market guide, updated for 2023.
If you would like to stay in a central location, book one of my recommended hotels near Manchester Christmas Market. In general, I suggest staying in the Northern Quarter.
Edinburgh Christmas Market – Edinburgh’s winter festivals, spanning from November to January, merge the celebrations of Christmas and Hogmanay. In the city centre and surrounding neighbourhood squares, you’ll find a multitude of Christmas markets to explore.
Check out the Scottish Market on George Street or the traditional European Market in the Mound Precinct for local gifts.
Take a ride on the Big Wheel, Star Flyer, or a classic Christmas carousel for an exhilarating experience. And, of course, ice skating on St. Andrew Square is a must-do, with skate rentals available for those who don’t have their own.
This guide to Edinburgh Christmas Market 2023 has everything you need to know to book your trip for Christmas or Hogmanay, including confirmed dates.
Book one of these recommended hotels near Edinburgh Christmas Market in the Mound district.
Birmingham Christmas Market – Birmingham is unlike any other Christmas market in the UK, as it is closely linked with the Frankfurt Christmas Market in Germany. In fact, it’s the largest Christmas market outside of Germany and Austria!
The Birmingham Frankfurt Christmas Market takes place over a span of seven weeks, beginning in early November and running until just before Christmas Day. This market is the epitome of traditional Christmas markets in the UK and is incredibly popular amongst locals and tourists alike.
Read my guide to Birmingham Christmas Market and dates and full details for 2023.
I suggest stay near Victoria Square and New Street at one of these recommended hotels near Birmingham Christmas Market.
Bath Christmas Market – The picturesque city of Bath is renowned for its rich history, stunning Roman baths, impressive Bath Abbey, and beautiful Pulteney Bridge. During the winter months, the city is also home to the beloved Bath Christmas Market, which draws in crowds from far and wide.
Beyond the market, Bath offers an abundance of other attractions to explore, such as lush green spaces, fascinating museums, and captivating galleries.
With so much to see and do, it’s no wonder that Bath is one of the most sought-after winter destinations in the UK. Whether you’re a history buff or simply looking for a cozy winter retreat, Bath has something for everyone.
York Christmas Market – While The Shambles may be York’s most iconic street with its charming half-timbered houses, the city has so much more to offer. From the towering York Minster to the historic Clifford’s Tower, there are plenty of attractions to keep visitors entertained.
Of course, the annual St. Nicholas Fair Christmas market is a highlight of the winter season in York. This festive market brings the community together for a magical experience, returning once again in 2023.
Starting from the heart of the city, the Christmas decorations along The Shambles lead you towards Parliament Street, where the market begins.
Wander through the stalls, savouring the Christmas treats, as you make your way towards St. Sampson’s Square, lined with alpine-style chalets. The York Christmas market is not to be missed!
For full details, read my York Christmas Market guide that includes dates for 2023, opening times and locations.
Discover the best areas to stay close to Parliament Street and St Sampson’s Square in this guide to hotels near York Christmas Market.
6. Southbank, London
Southbank Christmas Market – The Southbank Winter Festival is a beloved holiday event for Londoners and visitors alike. During the winter season, the banks of the River Thames are adorned with twinkling lights and festive decor, accompanied by an array of charming German-style wooden cabins.
This market offers much more than just shopping – it’s a true Winter Wonderland, featuring diverse events, performances by talented street artists, and a variety of delicious food trucks offering everything from hearty meals to classic Christmas treats.
In addition to the festive atmosphere and delightful entertainment, the Southbank Christmas Market is renowned for its unique shopping opportunities. With a wide selection of handmade crafts, artisanal gifts, and traditional holiday ornaments, you’re sure to find the perfect presents for your loved ones.
Read the full guide to Southbank Christmas Market that includes dates, opening times and a list of food vendors.
Or if you’re looking for other places to go in the capital, my London Christmas Market guide is a great starting point.
Nottingham Christmas Market – For an unforgettable Christmas market experience in the UK, look no further than Nottingham Christmas Market. Locally referred to as Nottingham Winter Wonderland, this beloved event is one of the most popular winter attractions in the region and will be returning in 2023 to the delight of many.
The Winter Wonderland market offers a traditional German-style setting, complete with all the classic elements of a German Christmas market – from delicious holiday treats to warm, spiced mulled wine and an array of charming handmade gifts and festive decorations.
Whether you’re looking for unique gifts for loved ones or simply want to soak up the festive atmosphere, Nottingham Christmas Market is the perfect destination to embrace the holiday spirit. So, make sure to add it to your winter travel plans and enjoy the magic of this cherished event.
Read my full guide to Nottingham Christmas Market for 2023 dates.
Stay in one of my recommended hotels near Nottingham Christmas Market for a convenient stay in the Lace Market or near the Old Market Square.
Winchester Christmas Market – Widely regarded as one of the best Christmas markets in the country, this market has over 100 charming chalets lining the streets and a popular Christmas Ice Rink that draws crowds of all ages.
What sets the Winchester Christmas Market apart is its focus on locally produced, artisanal gifts and decorations. You’ll find a delightful array of handcrafted items, from unique jewellery and art pieces to festive home decor and delightful treats. With a focus on sustainability and environmentally friendly practices, you can feel good knowing that your purchases are made with care and that you’re supporting local artisans.
Beyond the shopping and ice skating, there’s much more to enjoy at the Winchester Christmas Market. With a range of exciting events and activities, including live music performances, carol singing, and delicious food and drink options, you’re sure to feel fully immersed in the holiday spirit.
Get the latest updates on what’s happening at opening dates for Winchester Christmas Market that is held at the cathedral.
Stay within walking distance at one of these hotels near Winchester Christmas Market.
Exeter Christmas Market – This beloved event takes place in the heart of the city and is one of the region’s most highly anticipated winter experiences.
The Bavarian-style Christmas stalls that line the paths surrounding the Cathedral are a major highlight of the market, offering traditional Christmas food, artisanal gifts and decorations, and local musicians providing family-friendly entertainment.
Exeter is well-known for its exceptional cuisine and local food producers, which are celebrated year-round on the Exeter Food & Drink Trail. Even during the winter, the focus on quality and locally sourced ingredients remains, making the Exeter Christmas Market a must-visit destination for foodies and those looking for unique holiday gifts.
Read my guide to Exeter Christmas Market 2023 where it will be held in front of Exeter Cathedral.
If you’re looking for good value for money hotels near Exeter Christmas Market I recommend several places to stay close to Cathedral Green.
Belfast Christmas Market – Northern Ireland’s premier Christmas market, held in Belfast, is a treasure trove of local specialties and international offerings. Whether you’re seeking unique gifts, festive decor, or delectable treats, this market has something for everyone.
One of the market’s standout features is its emphasis on locally sourced and produced food, with many vendors coming from nearby St. George’s Market. This means visitors can enjoy a wide variety of delicious local specialties, from classic Irish comfort food to trendy artisanal snacks.
In addition to the local offerings, the Belfast Christmas market also boasts a large international presence, featuring gifts and decorations from around the world.
This blend of local and global influences creates a truly unique and exciting atmosphere, allowing visitors to experience the best of both worlds.
Get all the details on Belfast Christmas Market that includes updated dates for 2023.
Christmas Markets in England
If you want to head abroad during the upcoming holidays, my guide to the best Christmas markets in Europe has plenty of inspirational winter destinations.
There are countless Christmas markets to explore throughout the UK, each offering its own unique charm and character. From quaint village fairs to bustling city markets, there’s no shortage of festive destinations to discover.
While many cities have their own British-style Christmas markets featuring classic holiday treats, handmade crafts, and traditional decorations, others draw inspiration from the iconic German Christmas markets. These markets offer a more authentic experience, with wooden chalets selling festive wares and mulled wine flowing freely.
Beyond the markets themselves, many cities also host a range of exciting holiday events and activities throughout the winter season. From festive light displays and ice skating rinks to live performances and family-friendly attractions, there’s no shortage of entertainment to enjoy.
Bakewell Christmas Market – This Christmas market takes over the town centre, spanning one weekend in November and features around 100 charming Christmas chalets, offering a delightful array of handmade gifts, delicious treats, and festive decor. With its cosy ambience, friendly vendors, and unique shopping opportunities, the Bakewell Christmas Market is a highlight of the holiday season in the Peak District.
Beverley Christmas Market – Includes the Made in East Yorkshire event and a Christmas Parade in the town centre.
Bournemouth Christmas Market – Set against the picturesque backdrop of Bournemouth’s famous Victorian gardens, the Bournemouth Christmas Market is a must-visit destination for anyone seeking a festive holiday experience in December or January. With its range of charming stalls selling everything from handmade gifts to delicious local treats, this market is the perfect place to embrace the holiday spirit and soak up the enchanting ambience of this beautiful coastal town.
Brighton Christmas Market – Brighton’s festive season is a truly magical time, with the city coming alive with a dazzling array of holiday lights, decorations, and entertainment. From live music performances and street artists to fun family activities and delicious food and drink options, there’s always something to see and do during Christmas in Brighton.
Bristol Christmas Market – The Bristol market is a new holiday tradition that draws visitors from across the region, offering a wide variety of unique gifts, handcrafted goods, and delectable treats. With its cosy igloos, festive Bavarian bar, and stunningly decorated Christmas tree on Broadmead, this market is the perfect destination for embracing the holiday spirit and enjoying the festivities.
Canterbury Christmas Market – The Christmas market in Canterbury provides an enchanting experience with more than 70 traditional wooden chalets selling festive gifts, crafts, and seasonal treats at Whitefriars Canterbury. Read this guide for information on each of the Christmas markets in Kent.
Chatsworth Christmas Market – Experience the magic of the holiday season at Chatsworth House Estate, which opens its doors to visitors over Christmas. In addition to exploring the stately home, gardens, farmyard, and playground, you can enjoy the enchanting Christmas market, which is part of the larger Christmas at Chatsworth event spanning from November through January. With its festive atmosphere, unique shopping opportunities, and an array of seasonal activities, Chatsworth House Estate is the perfect destination for a memorable holiday outing.
Cheltenham Christmas Market – Christmas in Cheltenham offers a uniquely charming holiday experience, set amidst the town’s stunning Regency architecture, cobbled streets, and beautiful parks and gardens, which are transformed into dazzling winter wonderlands during the festive season. With its enchanting atmosphere and range of festive activities and attractions, the Cheltenham Christmas Market is the perfect destination to soak up the magic of the holiday season.
Chester Christmas Market – This market is a festive wonderland, with approximately 70 charming Christmas chalets enveloping the Town Hall Square in a sea of twinkling lights and glittering baubles. One of the market’s most iconic features is its traditional Christmas tree, which takes pride in place in the square’s centre, providing a picturesque backdrop for holiday photos and creating a warm and inviting atmosphere that captures the season’s spirit.
Cirencester Christmas Market – A two-day Advent event in the Cotswolds.
Grassington Christmas Market – Part of the Dickensian Festival in the Yorkshire Dales.
Harrogate Christmas Market – The Christmas market in Harrogate is a delightful winter wonderland, offering an intimate holiday experience filled with unique gifts, festive decorations, and delectable treats. With its wide array of entertainment options for kids and an enchanting selection of local vendors and artisans, this market is the perfect destination to immerse oneself in the holiday spirit and enjoy all the magic of the season.
Hyde Park Winter Wonderland – Winter Wonderland hosts an incredible array of attractions, making it a stand-out event during the festive period in London. Here, you can glide across the UK’s largest open-air ice rink, experience the exhilarating views from the Giant Wheel and enjoy numerous heart-pounding rides.
Kingston Christmas Market – Located in the heart of the town at the Ancient Market Place, the market features an array of festive stalls with artisans and local producers selling handcrafted goods, seasonal foods and unique gifts.
Knaresborough Christmas Market – Held over one weekend at the North Yorkshire market town.
Leeds Christmas Market – The German Christmas Market (Christkindelmarkt) is likely returning to Millennium Square in 2023, bringing with it all the festive cheer and German-style delights that have made it a beloved tradition for many.
Christmas in Leicester – Visit the Christmas events, rides and attractions in Leicester.
Lichfield Christmas Market – A one-day event in November where you’ll find 100 stalls over three locations.
Lincoln Christmas Market – Update: Permanently cancelled in 2023.
Liverpool Christmas Market – Located in the heart of the city, Liverpool’s Christmas market is a winter wonderland filled with festive food, handmade gifts, and seasonal entertainment. With over 40 traditional wooden chalets, visitors can sample local delicacies, sip on mulled wine, and soak up the festive atmosphere, making it the perfect addition to any winter trip to Liverpool.
Ludlow Christmas Market – A small event in Shropshire and an opportunity to meet Father Christmas.
Newcastle Christmas Market – Newcastle is a festive treat for visitors to the city, with a wide range of local traders selling everything from delicious food and drink to unique gifts, tree decorations, and stocking fillers. With over 50 stalls, visitors can sample the best of the region’s cuisine, including traditional Geordie delicacies, while browsing the wide variety of crafts and souvenirs on offer.
Norwich Christmas Market – One distinctive feature of Winter Wonderland in Norwich is the ice rink, which adds an element of fun and recreation to your visit. Also, a visit to Santa’s Grotto provides a magical experience, particularly for younger guests.
Oxford Christmas Market – Update: Permanently cancelled in 2023.
Plymouth Christmas Market – Winter City returns to the coastal city with rides and Santa’s Grotto.
Portsmouth Christmas Market – A maritime German-themed market and Christmas lights switch-on.
Rochester Christmas Market – A delightful winter wonderland that promises to be one of Kent’s most exciting events of the year. Running over three weekends, the market is perfect for those looking to get into the festive spirit, with a wide range of activities and entertainment to keep visitors of all ages engaged. Claiming to be the largest Christmas market in Kent, Rochester Christmas Market boasts over 200 stalls selling everything from handmade crafts and gifts to delicious festive treats and seasonal drinks.
Salisbury Christmas Market – The market takes place in the historic Guildhall Square, with its stunning medieval architecture and atmospheric cobbled streets providing the perfect backdrop for a traditional Christmas market. Visitors can explore over 80 stalls, showcasing a range of handmade crafts, local produce, and unique gifts, perfect for finding that special something for friends and family.
Sheffield Christmas Market – Sheffield offers a unique opportunity to support local independent businesses and craft makers, with around 50 stalls lining the streets in central Sheffield. Visitors can shop for unique gifts and enjoy festive treats while exploring the city’s historic buildings and beautiful surroundings.
Shrewsbury Christmas Market – On the Square and three other locations.
Skipton Christmas Market – A quaint and intimate event, taking place over two Sundays in December, drawing visitors from the surrounding area. The market offers a range of stalls selling unique gifts, festive foods, and locally made crafts, making it a great place to support small businesses and get into the holiday spirit.
Southampton Christmas Market – Southampton is a vibrant port city known for its maritime history and modern shopping facilities.
Stratford Upon Avon Christmas Market – Located in the heart of Shakespeare’s country, the Stratford Upon Avon Christmas Market is one of the newest additions to the UK’s festive calendar. The highlight of the event is the Victorian Christmas market, which offers visitors a unique experience of the traditional Christmas market with the added charm of Victorian-era decorations, street performers and food vendors dressed in period costumes.
Truro Christmas Market – The biggest market event in Cornwall from late November.
Windsor Christmas Market – Windsor is home to the historic Windsor Castle and the picturesque River Thames. The Christmas markets in this charming city are an extension of the elegance that permeates Windsor’s streets, providing a festive and sophisticated shopping experience.
Worcester Christmas Market – The Christmas market in Worcester, known as the Victorian Christmas Fayre, is a great opening to the Christmas season, presenting a festive event that beautifully evokes the spirit of the Victorian era.
Christmas Markets in Scotland
Scotland is home to some of the most enchanting Christmas markets in the UK, with a range of destinations offering unique holiday experiences that celebrate Scottish traditions and heritage.
Consider Edinburgh’s iconic Christmas markets, which combine Christmas and Hogmanay celebrations, or Glasgow’s glittering lights and bustling market stalls.
Aberdeen Christmas Village – Aberdeen Christmas Village is spread across Broad Street and Upperkirkgate. The pop-up ice bar is a standout feature, where you can sip on seasonal drinks amid an icy decor.
Glasgow Christmas Market – Glasgow has plenty to celebrate this winter. There are two traditional Christmas markets, the IRN-BRU Carnival and, of course, Hogmanay. St Enoch is very much about the food, from the traditional German bratwurst to sweet handmade cakes. At the same time, George Street is the home of the city’s international Christmas market, best for artisanal gift shopping and Christmas decorations.
Read the complete Scotland Christmas Markets guide here.
Christmas Markets in Wales
Wales is home to a variety of festive holiday markets that offer visitors a taste of Welsh culture and hospitality. From the vibrant Cardiff Christmas Market, featuring over 200 vendors, to the quaint seaside town of Llandudno, which transforms into a winter wonderland during the holiday season, Wales has something for everyone.
Cardiff Christmas Market – Cardiff’s markets have been a beloved holiday tradition for 30 years, attracting visitors from far and wide to enjoy the festive vibe, unique vendors, and lively entertainment. As one of the best winter festivals in the country, the Cardiff Christmas Markets offer something for everyone, with a wide variety of food and drink options, artisanal gifts, and seasonal activities that capture the spirit of the holidays.
Christmas Markets in Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland is home to several enchanting Christmas markets that offer visitors a festive taste of local culture and traditions.
The Belfast Christmas Market, in particular, is a popular winter attraction that features international vendors alongside local craftspeople, providing a unique shopping experience that showcases the best of Northern Ireland’s artisanal products and culinary delights.
Additionally, the Derry/Londonderry Christmas Market is a vibrant and lively destination that offers visitors an array of holiday activities, entertainment, and festive foods.
Sustainable Travel in the UK at Christmas
When visiting Christmas markets in the UK, it’s important to keep sustainability in mind and make choices that positively impact the environment and local communities.
Here are some simple measures you can implement:
- Shop mindfully at markets. Only purchase what you really need and try to support local, sustainable vendors.
- Walk, cycle or use public transport to get around while visiting Christmas markets. This is easier in bigger cities like London and Edinburgh can many old town streets in the UK are very walkable.
- Stay in a sustainable hotel powered by renewable energy to reduce carbon emissions and support sustainable businesses.
- When choosing accommodations, opt for hotels over short-stay apartments, as this can lead to a lack of affordable housing for locals in cities like London or Cardiff.
- Avoid using plastic or buying items made or packaged with plastic at the Nottingham Christmas Market, which is known for its traditional German-style market.
- Try to eat locally sourced organic food where possible at the Winchester Christmas Market, which is known for its focus on artisanal, locally produced food.
- Limit your meat and dairy consumption when visiting Christmas markets like the Glasgow Christmas Market or the Belfast Christmas Market, which are known for their vegan Christmas stalls.
- Explore more than just the main tourist areas and support the arts by attending local events and by visiting lesser-known markets like the Bakewell Christmas Market or the Exeter Christmas Market.
- Finally, consider visiting fewer places but staying longer at each destination to minimise your transport impact while enjoying the best UK Christmas markets.
Most Christmas markets in the UK start in November and continue until just before Christmas Day. Some markets continue into January.
The biggest Christmas market in the UK is the Frankfurt Christmas Market in Birmingham.
Yes, most Christmas markets in the UK are free to enter. However, you will need to pay for food, drinks, and souvenirs.
You can find a variety of food at UK Christmas markets, including traditional German and Austrian food like bratwurst and pretzels, as well as local specialties. Mulled wine and hot chocolate are also popular drinks.
Most Christmas markets in the UK are closed on Christmas Day, but some may be open on Boxing Day.
No, you do not typically need to book tickets in advance for Christmas markets in the UK. However, there are some exceptions to this. Check our city guides for detailed information. Some ice skating rinks and other attractions may require advance booking.
Opinions on the best Christmas markets in the UK may vary depending on who you ask, but Manchester, Edinburgh, Nottingham, Birmingham, and Bath are consistently among the most popular destinations for visitors. Each of these cities offers its own unique charm and character, from Manchester’s vast array of stalls and delicious food to Edinburgh’s picturesque backdrop and festive atmosphere to Nottingham’s traditional German-style market. Bath’s historic architecture and focus on artisanal gifts, and Birmingham’s largest Christmas market outside of Germany and Austria, also make them stand out as must-visit locations for anyone seeking a memorable Christmas market experience in the UK.
The UK has experienced milder winters in recent years, with snow becoming increasingly rare, particularly on Christmas Day. The last time that snow fell in most parts of Britain on Christmas Day was in 2010 when a widespread snowfall made for a picturesque winter wonderland across the country. Since then, snowfall on Christmas Day has been sporadic, with some years seeing only a light dusting of snow while others have been entirely snow-free. Despite this, the festive season remains a special time for people across the UK, with many embracing the spirit of Christmas, whether or not there is snow on the ground.
Christmas Jumper Day is an eagerly anticipated event for many people in the UK, as it provides an opportunity to don a festive jumper and support a good cause. The event is celebrated on the second Friday of December each year, and in 2023 it will fall on the 7th of December. The day encourages people to wear a Christmas jumper to school, work, or out and about, with the aim of raising awareness and funds for the Save the Children charity. 100% of the proceeds from Christmas Jumper Day are donated to this important cause, which supports vulnerable children in the UK and around the world, providing essential education, healthcare, and protection services.
Exploring the Christmas markets in the UK in 2023 can be a wonderful way to get into the festive spirit, discover unique gifts, and enjoy delicious food and drink.
Keeping sustainability in mind while visiting these markets and supporting local and independent businesses is important.
With so many markets to choose from, there’s something for everyone, whether you’re looking for a traditional German-style market, a unique Victorian-themed event or a more contemporary Christmas market.