Situated merely 45 minutes from London, the historic Rochester Castle, an impressive relic from the 11th-century Norman era, serves as the magnificent backdrop for the 2023 Rochester Christmas Market.
A masterpiece of architectural ingenuity from one of William the Conqueror’s prominent architects, the castle’s uniqueness is unparalleled.
The vibrant Christmas market, humming with life and the excitement of the festive season, draws in a multitude of visitors from across the region, all captivated by the inviting allure of this stunning setting.
In this guide, you’ll find full details for planning a visit, including confirmed 2023 dates and opening times.
As the biggest Christmas market in Kent, Rochester lays out an enticing tapestry of events with a tantalising schedule that spans weekends filled with food, drinks, music and singing.
Rochester Christmas Market 2023
Taking pride of place within the centuries-old Rochester Castle, the Christmas market exudes a sense of timelessness. It serves as a beacon to visitors from all corners, drawing them in with a rich array of over 70 stalls stacked with artisan goods and festive treats.
In contrast to its historic setting, the market has a contemporary twist, incorporating live music performances and craft workshops, all wrapped up in an enchanting ambience further enhanced by the castle’s captivating lights and decorations.
Dates and Location
Note that the Christmas market in Rochester takes place over three weekends; it’s not a daily event.
Rochester Christmas Market dates: Weekends from 25th November to 10th December 2023.
Location: Rochester Castle Gardens.
Saturday 25th and Sunday 26th November: 10am to 6pm.
Friday 1st December: 12pm to 8pm.
Saturday 2nd and Sunday 3rd December: 10am to 7pm.
Friday 8th December: 12pm to 8pm.
Saturday 9th and Sunday 10th December: 10am to 6pm.
Christmas Day: Closed.
Admission: Free, no tickets required.
Rides: Ferris wheel, carousel and other fun fair rides and activities.
Ice skating: No.
Vegetarian: Yes, plenty of options.
Vegan: Yes, plenty of options.
Gluten free: Yes, but limited.
Parking: Please take public transport to help limit congestion.
Reason to visit: The wonderful location in Rochester Castle Gardens and the Bavarian food village.
Specialities: Traditional mulled wine, German bratwurst sausages, roasted chestnuts and churros.
Where to stay: The Golden Lion Wetherspoon is located less 7 minutes from the Christmas market.
Hotels near Rochester Christmas Market
Rochester is a small town with most sights and attractions around High Street. There are only a couple of hotels in this area. I suggest staying at The Golden Lion Wetherspoon as it’s near the Christmas markets at Rochester Castle, the train station, shops and the city’s historic architecture and museums.
Location of Rochester Christmas Market
Christmas in Rochester, UK
Rochester is one of many popular winter events. Read my Christmas markets 2023 UK guide for more places to visit this winter. Discover where to go, things to do and the best ways to experience UK food, history and culture.
Food at the Christmas Market
Mulled Cider: A welcome winter warmer, mulled cider is a hot favourite at Rochester Christmas Market. It’s a warming beverage made from local Kentish apples, imbued with the taste of seasonal spices.
Chestnuts: You’ll see vendors roasting chestnuts on open fires, an enduring tradition. These are a staple of UK Christmas markets and a great snack to keep your hands warm while you explore the market.
Kentish Hog Roast: A local specialty, these tender and succulent hog roasts originate from locally reared pigs and come with crunchy crackling. It’s an ideal savoury treat to satisfy your hunger while you wander the market.
Poffertjes: Venturing beyond British borders, this Dutch treat consists of mini, fluffy pancakes. Drizzled with syrup and dusted with powdered sugar, it makes for an indulgent snack.
German Bratwurst: Bringing a bit of German tradition to the English market, these sizzling sausages are always a hit. Enjoy them on a bun with a generous dollop of mustard.
Churros with Chocolate Sauce: A Spanish sweet treat, these deep-fried dough pastries are often dusted with sugar and served with a rich, warm chocolate sauce for dipping. Perfect for those with a sweet tooth.
What to Buy
Handcrafted Jewellery: Amidst the dazzling array of stalls, you’ll find intricate jewellery pieces crafted by local artisans. These make for meaningful gifts, reflecting the creativity that thrives in the Kent region.
Kentish Wines: Wine lovers would be thrilled to pick up a bottle or two of the local Kentish wines. Known for their quality, these wines are produced from vineyards around the region, making them a unique souvenir or gift.
Local Artwork: Rochester’s vibrant artistic community contributes a variety of paintings, prints and sculptures. You could take home a piece of Rochester’s artistic soul, supporting local talent in the process.
Traditional Christmas Decorations: Expect plenty of handmade Christmas ornaments and decorations. They add a traditional touch to your festive decor, from delicate glass baubles to wooden nativity scenes.
Handmade Soaps: Scour the market for handmade soaps made using natural ingredients. They often come in delightful festive shapes and aromas, making them a charming gift option.
Cheese from Local Dairies: Gourmet cheese from local dairies makes for a deliciously unique gift. Each variety reflects the rich dairy heritage of the Kent region, and you can often find a selection of vegan options as well.
British Woollen Goods: Keep the winter chill at bay with British woollen goods. You can find everything from chunky knit scarves to warm mittens, reflecting traditional British craftsmanship and quality.
Visit Medway is the official website for the region’s tourism. It has information regarding events and the best ways to experience Rochester at Christmas, like the Dickensian Christmas Festival and Rochester Castle.
Sustainable Travel Tips
The choices we make have an environmental and social impact on the places we visit. Try to implement these responsible travel measures when visiting Rochester at Christmas.
Use Public Transportation: Taking advantage of Rochester’s public transportation system, including buses and trains, is a practical way to reduce your carbon footprint. For instance, Southeastern Railways provides regular services to Rochester, making it accessible without relying on a personal vehicle.
Choose Local and Ethical Gifts: There’s an abundance of locally-made, ethical gifts at the Christmas market, from artisanal soaps to handmade jewellery. By choosing these, you support local economies and help reduce the environmental impact associated with long-distance shipping.
Dine Sustainably: Indulging in the local food at the market doesn’t mean you can’t eat sustainably. Many vendors use ingredients sourced from nearby farms, promoting a sustainable diet that reduces food miles. Plant-based and vegetarian options are also plentiful, offering a lower-carbon choice for your meal.
Mind Your Waste: Minimising waste, particularly food waste, is another step towards sustainability. Order reasonable portions to avoid leftovers. Most vendors use compostable plates and cutlery, but bringing your own reusable utensils can help further.
Stay in Eco-Friendly Accommodation: Rochester hosts several accommodations that are committed to sustainable practices. Some hotels use renewable energy sources and have strong waste reduction strategies in place, allowing you to sleep soundly knowing you’re contributing to a more sustainable tourism industry.
Walk Around the Town: Rochester’s rich history and scenic beauty are best appreciated on foot. Walking is the greenest mode of transport and allows you to discover the town’s hidden gems at your own pace. The castle, cathedral, and Christmas market are all within comfortable walking distance of each other.
Rochester Christmas Market starts on Saturday 25th November, and continues each weekend until the 10th December 2023.
The Christmas market is held at Rochester Castle Gardens.
Rochester Christmas Market opening times are Saturday 25th and Sunday 26th November: 10am to 6pm. Friday 1st December: 12pm to 8pm. Saturday 2nd and Sunday 3rd December: 10am to 7pm. Friday 8th December: 12pm to 8pm. Saturday 9th and Sunday 10th December: 10am to 6pm.
The Christmas market in Rochester closes at 8pm on Fridays and 6pm or 7pm on the weekend.
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Recommendations are independently chosen based on personal travel experiences and extensive research. This post contains affiliate links to hotels and tours in Rochester, UK. This means I get a small commission from any bookings at no extra cost to you.