The festive season is upon us, which means it’s time to quickly grab those final few presents for friends and family. Many of the top Christmas markets are already trading, with lots of great gift ideas, including handmade crafts and seasonal decorations, on sale.
But Christmas isn’t just about giving, it’s also an opportunity to tend to your own needs. Mid-winter is often the best time to visit the UK’s towns and cities, catching them looking their best, all decked out in festive trees and twinkly lights.
There’s also plenty of opportunity to grab a little something to eat and drink at these top seasonal markets, picking up a crepe, German sausage or mug of mulled wine while on the move.
Here’s our unbeatable guide to the finest yuletide markets from across the GWR network, including a selection of the best London Christmas markets, to suit people of all ages and tastes.
Each year, Hyde Park, just 15 minutes’ walk from Paddington station, is transformed into a festive feast of funfair rides, Christmas markets, street food and much more. You’ll struggle to find a bigger, more immersive seasonal experience in the UK than the yuletide extravaganza that is Winter Wonderland. And don’t forget to drop by EL&N for a winter warmer hot chocolate. If you’re going with kids, we suggest you book a quieter morning slot (from 10am). Meanwhile, adults can quaff Bavarian beer till 10pm.
8 Southwark Street, London SE1
22 November – 9 January
If you’re Looking for a London Christmas market that’s a little more on the quiet side, then Borough Market is the place for you. Formerly a wholesale fruit and veg market, Borough has since become an exciting shopping destination where Londoners and visitors can net top quality fresh food. It also turns up the Christmas bling during the festive season, so swing by and take a peek.
Edwards Mews, at the rear of Selfridges London, W1A
Until 23 December
Selfridges has long been a popular destination for those looking to get a taste of Christmas in the lead up to the big day, with its eye-catching festive window displays. This year sees the return of the iconic department store’s Christmas market, tucked away on the mews behind the shop. Food, drink, flowers and festive treats are all on offer.
The Southbank centre’s Christmas market, occupying a stretch of the Thames Path, is always a pleasant escape from the hustle and bustle just north of the river. Take a stroll under sparkling lights and browse the crafts, decorations and great gift ideas. You’ll surely be tempted by one of the many food stalls, selling gourmet cheese toasties, bratwurst, mince pies and much more.
Bohemia Place, London E8
26 November – 19 December
Every weekend, in the build-up to Christmas, Bohemia Place transforms into Hackney’s very own Christmas market, selling a host of goodies, including tasty food, mulled wine, and sustainable fashion. In collaboration with Black Eats LDN, the market will showcase the city’s best black-owned businesses. And there will be a human-sized pinball machine in the arches of Hackney!
St John Street, Working Street, Trinity Street and the Hayes
Until 23 December
For 30 years, the good people at Craft*folk, an organisation dedicated to supporting artists and crafts people, have hosted the Cardiff Christmas Market at the very heart of the city. The decorated stalls, housing all sorts of enticing goods, line the pedestrian areas around St John Street, bringing Cardiff’s centre alive during the colder months.
Broadmead in Bristol Shopping Quarter
Until 23 December
As many as 50 stalls are packed into this vibrant Christmas market at the heart of Bristol city centre. Get yourself a warm mug of mulled wine and explore the huts full of handmade goods. There are loads of opportunities to grab a bite to eat, including tasty burgers and sausages. Meanwhile, the German-themed Jäger Barn Bar is a fun spot to get yourself a little tipple for the road, including a tempting hot chocolate with Baileys. #MerryBristmas
Exeter Cathedral, 1 The Cloisters
Until 18 December
Exeter Cathedral’s Christmas market returns for 2021, selling gifts and food from around the globe. The market’s stalls line the Cathedral Green at this stunning location that is perfectly suited to stimulating Christmas cheer. As well as gifts, decorations and tasty grub, the market – the first of two Devon Christmas markets in this guide – will host chalets selling kaleidoscopes, kitchen knives and even Viking drinking horns!
Head on down to Broad Street in Oxford’s city centre and explore stalls selling a wide range of goods, including jewellery, decorations, original art and skincare products. There’s also hot food, drinks and carol singing at this fun-filled market.
Take a GWR train to Oxford station and a short walk.
Cheltenham Christmas Market is bigger and better than ever! After a little investment, the market has expanded to include the High Street, just outside Marks & Spencer. Among the wide array of gifts and grub on offer, the market does a turn in exotic food, including crocodile burgers. And for those in need of some seasonal open-air ice-skating, make your way to the rink at Imperial Gardens (until 2 January).
The Piazza, Plymouth City Centre
2 December – 19 December
Make your way to Plymouth Christmas Market at the Piazza in Plymouth’s city centre to explore more than 50 stalls selling products from across the South West. Wooden cabins, festooned with twinkling lights, line this large, open space just a short walk from Drake Circus Shopping Centre, selling artisan gifts, food and drink.
Talented crafters and traditional traders gather to sell their wares at this city-centre Christmas market. Make your way to Swansea’s bustling Oxford Street to grab a last-minute present – and a quick bite to eat while you’re at it.
Unit 1a Oxford Rd, Broad St, Mall, Reading
4 & 5 December
Text BoxYou’ll need to be quick to catch this fab but fleeting Reading Christmas market. Everything from cute crafts to skincare products are on sale at Reading Biscuit Factory, the cinema, bar and coffee shop at the heart of the city centre. Head on over and grab a mulled wine while you browse.
Made in Cornwall is a business community that supports Cornish producers, making everything from pasties to paintings, and his year, the group’s members are holding a Christmas market at Truro cathedral. Make your way to the iconic church to bag yourself some authentic Cornish gifts, grub and more.
This weekend market, spread across High Orchard Street, Llanthony Road and Mariners Square at Gloucester Quays, supports local makers, bakers and artisans. There’s loads on offer, including delicious street food and a bar selling mulled wine and luxury hot chocolate. It’s a great place to while away a weekend.
Newlyn Art Gallery & The Exchange, Penzance
17 & 18 December
The Newlyn Art Gallery and The Exchange are jointly hosting a fine Penzance Christmas market. Representing local makers, the two-day event will include handcrafted goods, tasty food, mulled wine and music. It’s the perfect place to lay your hands on some stocking fillers – and for getting you into the Christmas spirit in time for big day.
Take a GWR trains to Penzance station and a train journey to Newlyn Art Gallery.
Head to Bath Spa to support a selection of independent, local artisan makers at Bath’s iconic Abbey Quarter with products from blankets and Christmas decorations to brownies and jewellery. Complete with a Victorian carousel, festive food and drink, and live entertainment, browse Bath’s skilled makers and enjoy the sights, smells and magic of Bath at Christmas.
Spring has sprung, which means it’s time to step outside and stretch those legs. Head down to Devon, where you can enjoy long beach walks, peaceful country strolls, fun-filled zoos and welcoming campsites.