In recent years, the top place to go to pick up some last minute Christmas gifts and maybe a seasonal treat or two has been a Christmas market. Unlike the half-hearted attempts of old, the best UK Christmas markets have featured more than just a soul-destroyed Santa or pine-dropped trees – they can be excellent places to find true Christmas cheer, global gifts and showcases of the world's most interesting Christmas traditions.
Traditionally, Germany and Austria have been the go-to destinations for an authentic Christmas Market experience but as for instance shown in this short documentary, British markets are increasingly becoming destinations for German tourists too.
But which are the best UK Christmas markets? Here’s our pick of the top ten.
Pic: Duncan Hull
Manchester has one of the largest Christmas market scenes in the country with over 300 stalls across ten different locations around the city centre, including Albert Square, Market Street and the Corn Exchange.
On offer are gifts, crafts, jewellery and foods, including bratwurst, goulash, paella, and, of course, a big steaming hog roast.
This bustling Christmas market is running until the 21st December, 10am-8pm, with Albert Square staying open until 9pm. [More info on Manchester Christmas Market]
In the shadow of St Paul’s Cathedral is the Christmas market at Bankside, just outside London’s Tate Modern. Hidden among the expected fare there’s also an old-fashioned carousel and Christmas music, to add to the atmosphere.
The Tate Modern's Christmas market runs until 23rd December, opening at 11am Monday-Friday, 10am on weekends, and then closing at 9pm Sunday-Thursday and 10pm Friday and Saturday evenings. [More info on Tate Modern Christmas Market]
Edinburgh doesn’t mess around when it comes to Christmas, and in addition to three different Christmas markets (one European, one Scottish and one for kids) there’s a tonne of other special attractions and events to check out.
So once you’ve loaded up on locally produced sausages, fresh seafood and Scottish craft beer, you can take a spin on the Star Flyer or the Helter Skelter, or even go ice skating. On second thoughts, it is probably best to do those the other way around.
The festivities are running all the way through to January 4th so will keep you entertained through hogmanay too. [More info on Edinburgh Christmas Market]
Pic: PL Chadwick
Now in its 12th year, the Cheltenham Christmas Market will once again be setting up shop on The Promenade, and will feature all of the crafts and gifts you might expect.
There’s set to be up to 40 stalls bursting with festive Christmas market goodies. Our hot tip is getting some Glühwein down your neck, which is traditional German mulled wine, and goes great guzzled down with bratwurst.
It’ll be running until 20th December, closing at 6pm Sunday-Wednesday, and 8pm Thursday-Saturday. [More info on Cheltenham Christmas market]
If you prefer your Christmas markets ultra-posh, then head to the residence of the Duke of Marlborough on Oxfordshire. Blenheim Palace is the only non-royal palace in Britain, where you can stock up on handmade British contemporary crafts including ceramics, soaps, wreaths and “designer fashions”.
The best bit? Though Christmas can be chilly, parts of this market are hosted in heated and carpeted pavilions in the Palace courtyard. So no freezing to death while trying to buy gifts for you. [More info on Blenheim Palace Christmas Market]
The Romans somewhat inadvertently help create the Christmas story by supposedly demanding a census in Bethlehem, so perhaps it is appropriate that two thousand years later that Bath’s Christmas market is literally setting up shop near to the town’s famous Roman baths.
There’s 170 Christmas chalets, and highlights including Schokolat chocolate tools, great for sweet-toothed foodies, as well as Belgian chocolates from the same company.
You can even buy a wooden bow tie from the aptly named Wooden (Bow) Tie Company. In the immortal words of The Fast Show, "suits you, sir!"
If you want to visit, you’ll have to be quick as the market closes on Sunday night. [More info on Bath Christmas Market]
Liverpool’s ONE Centre is home to what is purported to be the UK’s largest Christmas tree, so the city will hopefully be feeling suitably festive should you choose to visit the city’s Christmas Market.
The Liverpool Echo reports that this year the market will be running all the way until the 22nd December, and will be selling gifts, treats and continental food. [More info on Liverpool Christmas Market]
Pic: Colin Smith
Cardiff has booked a mammoth 170 stalls for its Christmas market, and features merchants across a wide range of categories: from ceramics, to cheeses, to picture frames and artwork.
If you want to decorate your tree in a slightly more creative way, perhaps the most interesting seller is Win-Man Designs, which is offering origami Christmas cards, paper bonsai plants, and paper decorations and wreaths.
The market is running all the way up to the 23rd December. [More info on Cardiff Christmas market]
Thanks to the likes of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, if there’s one era that the festive season conjures up in our minds it is the Victorian era. So where better to visit for Christmas gift buying than bursting-at-the-seams-with-history, York?
The city is running a number of Christmas markets through to December 23rd including one in Shambles Square, surrounded by buildings that have leapt right out of a Christmas card. All the 100 Christmas chalets need for added authenticity is some top hats, newspapers with bizarrely tiny headline text, and an orphan with a heart of gold. [More info on York Christmas Market]
Nottingham's Christmas market, part of its Winter Wonderland, is a popular destination, and even could be called famous: footage of the city's Christmas market appears in this year’s horror-comedy film Krampus, which is cinemas now. Sadly in the film the characters don’t spend time ice skating or sampling the food on offer, as they’re a bit too busy dealing with a Christmas demon.
The real-life Christmas market complex is open until 6pm every day until Christmas Eve when it closes at 4pm, and promises artisan cheeses, chutneys and chocolates, jewellery, and even Lego-themed decorations. [More info on Nottingham Christmas Market]
So, don't be a Scrooge! Get yourself to your nearest city's Christmas market, brandish some bratwurst and get in the spirit. It's only a couple of weeks until the big day now, and if you are still stuck for what to buy then get checking out our gift guides, linked to below, with more on the way!
The Giz UK Gift Guide...Guide