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Crowds gathering outside Christmas stalls at the Plymouth Christmas Market

7 of the best Christmas markets and shopping districts in the South West

Make unforgettable adventures as you search for the perfect Christmas gifts.

As the crisp winds of November herald the arrival of autumn, thoughts turn to the most magical time of the year: Christmas.

While the South West may not be the first destination that comes to mind for Christmas festivities, it is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered. Picture charming Christmas markets nestled amidst historic cities and vibrant shopping cities bustling with holiday cheer.

This year, why not embark on an unforgettable adventure to experience the joy and wonder of Christmas. Here are seven of the best:

Bath: A Georgian wonderland

Nestled in the heart of Somerset, the city of Bath is renowned for its stunning Georgian architecture, Roman baths, and, come November and December, its enchanting Christmas market. The Bath Christmas Market (Thursday 23 November until Sunday 10 December) transforms the city into a winter wonderland, with over 150 beautifully decorated wooden chalets offering unique gifts, crafts, and delicious seasonal treats. While in Bath, don't forget to visit the famous Roman Baths, soak in the Thermae Bath Spa, and take a stroll along the picturesque Pulteney Bridge, all while enjoying the festive atmosphere.

Stalls at Bath Christmas Market at Abbey Green, underneath a green illuminated tree

Bristol: Urban exploration unleashed

Bristol, a city teeming with artistic energy, invites you to dive into its vibrant heart. Disembark at Bristol Temple Meads Station and follow your curiosity. St Nicholas Market, a labyrinth of artisanal wonders, awaits. Venture further to Cabot Circus, where you’ll traverse the urban jungle of high-street brands and discover hidden gems. This is an urban explorer’s dream come true.

The Bristol Christmas Market (Friday 3 November to Saturday 23 December) is situated in the city centre and boasts an eclectic mix of stalls offering everything from artisanal crafts to international cuisine. The city’s unique blend of tradition and innovation shines through during the festive season, with attractions and shows and the enchanting, animated projections on the iconic Clifton Suspension Bridge.

Illuminated Christmas stalls at Bristol Christmas Market


Exeter: Cathedral city delights

Exeter, a city steeped in history, beckons you to step back in time. Disembark at Exeter St Davids Station and let the city’s yuletide magic transport you. The Exeter Christmas Market (Friday 17 November to Sunday 17 December), nestled in the Cathedral Green, offers a glimpse into Christmas past. Meander through cobbled streets, tracing the footsteps of centuries gone by, and unearth treasures in charming boutiques. This adventure is a true time-traveller's delight.

Don't miss the chance to ice skate at the Cathedral Green Ice Rink, adding an extra layer of magic to your visit.

Christmas stalls at the Exeter Christmas Market, framed against Exeter Cathedral at night


Plymouth: Coastal Christmas thrills

Plymouth, a city steeped in maritime history, offers a Christmas celebration with a coastal twist. The Royal William Yard Christmas Market (Thursday 30 November to Sunday 17 December) is a highlight, set in a picturesque waterfront location with artisanal products, street food, and live entertainment. Take a walk along the Hoe Promenade to admire the city's iconic Smeaton's Tower lighthouse, adorned with festive lights. And, of course, explore the Drake Circus Shopping Centre and the charming shops of the Barbican for unique gifts. Taste the sea breeze as you explore this maritime haven.

Crowds walking through a street in Plymouth at Christmas, with Christmas lights illuminated above them


Salisbury: A historic gem in Wiltshire

Venture into Wiltshire to discover the historic city of Salisbury, known for its stunning cathedral and medieval streets. During the Christmas season, the Salisbury Christmas Market (Saturday 18 November to Sunday 31 December) springs to life, offering an array of handcrafted gifts, delicious food, and a warm atmosphere. Take a moment to visit Salisbury Cathedral, home to one of the best-preserved copies of the Magna Carta, and stroll through the charming streets of this quintessential English city.

The Salisbury pop-up market


Cardiff: Welsh Christmas magic

Cross the border into Wales to experience Cardiff’s unique brand of Christmas magic. Cardiff’s Christmas Market (Thursday 9 November to Saturday 23 December), set in the heart of the city, offers a diverse range of gifts and crafts, including traditional Welsh products. Immerse yourself in Welsh culture and explore Cardiff Castle, beautifully illuminated for the season, and indulge in festive treats at Winter Wonderland, complete with an ice rink and funfair rides.

Christmas festivities in Cardiff, with Cardiff Castle in the background


Cheltenham: Regency architecture meets modern artisan

Cheltenham Christmas Market stands out for its unique blend of historic charm and contemporary allure. Set against the backdrop of the picturesque Regency town, it seamlessly integrates traditional festive elements with modern craftsmanship. The market's curated selection of artisanal goods, local delicacies, and the welcoming community atmosphere make it a distinct and memorable holiday experience.

For 2023, Cheltenham will host two Christmas markets to Cheltenham’s Promenade. The first will be a Christmas Gift Market, taking place from 16 to 19 November. This will be a fantastic selection of retail gifts such as homewares and food & drink. The market will be full of Christmas chalets for the four-day period.

The second will be a traditional arts and crafts Christmas market taking place on the Promenade from 14 to 23 December. Local traders and creators will demonstrate their fantastic homemade crafts. Pottery, original art, glassware, jewellery, and much more will be on offer.

Crowds walking through Cheltenham Christmas Market in the day


This holiday season, consider venturing to the South West of England and beyond for a Christmas adventure like no other. From the historic charm of Bath to the coastal magic of Plymouth, and from the medieval streets of Salisbury to the Welsh traditions of Cardiff, each destination offers a unique blend of tradition, innovation, and festive spirit. The Christmas markets and shopping districts provide a vibrant backdrop to create lasting memories with family and friends. Embrace the holiday spirit, embark on an adventurous journey, and discover the warmth and joy of Christmas in the South West of England and beyond.