We’ve made our stance on winter pretty clear over the years. It might not be what you think. We, as humans, have this funny tendency to forget that we’ve experienced freezing UK winters before... and that we survived them.
People often spend the whole month of November in complete shock that it is, somehow, November. We stare out of the window at the end of the workday, turn to our colleagues and discuss the impossibilities of it being so dark already.
But we love winter. We love twinkly lights strewn across balconies and wrapped around grand columns. We love a glass of mulled cider in our local pub. We love curling up on the couch to begin our Harry Potter marathon. We love donning our favourite coats and boots, stepping out into the street, and hurrying to our next destination. The relief. But that’s part of the fun of winter, isn’t it?
Above all, we adore the celebration of Christmas. The enormous Christmas trees that dominate a city centre. The smell of cinnamon in the air. Taking the family out for a night of games and markets and good food. So, we wanted to run you through some of our top picks for where to experience a great Christmas market here in the UK. In particular, if you’re planning to travel in the UK this winter, the below are places you can both take a tour with us and experience the departure city’s wonderful markets.
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Our home base, Edinburgh, is a magical place. Sure, it’s icy cold in winter, but there’s something about seeing the Royal Mile decked out in wee white lights that warms the soul. Make your way to our historic city centre and you’ll find the Christmas market along the bustling Princes Street. It’s worth it for the food and drink alone, but you’ll even find funfair rides and often live events happening nearby too. Be sure to shop around the market stalls, you never know what local and handmade products you might stumble across. Just make sure to grab that hot chocolate first.
Plus, seeing Edinburgh from the Big Wheel should definitely be at the top of your list.
You can also head to the west end of Princes Street where a family-friendly zone is often set up, perfect for families and the little ones.
Pop around the corner to St Andrew Square too and you might just spot Santa and his elves. Then make sure you meander down George Street and test your balance at Edinburgh’s Christmas Ice Rink. Someone took the Christmas duster and shook it hard over Edinburgh.
And while you’re in our wonderful capital, consider seeing the beauty of the Scottish Highlands in the winter. Perhaps you’ll get extra lucky and see it dusted in snow.
Picture this. It’s the 20th of December and you’re in Oxford on a Rabbie’s tour. You and your friends have a few hours to wander the streets, you’re loving life. But then it dawns on you... you forgot to get your grandma a Christmas gift. Your schedule is packed between now and Christmas Day, and you fear you’ll have no time to find her a present worthy of her grandma-y goodness.
But then you round the corner onto Broad Street and are almost blinded by twinkly lights. Once your eyes adjust, you realise you’re at the Oxford Christmas Markets and a twinkly light lightbulb goes off in your head. What might you buy her? A beautifully decorated ornament for her Christmas tree? A mug for her coffee? A wooden picture frame with carvings of deer and trees on it?
The real challenge is not buying yourself a dozen new gifts while you’re at it. The temptation is real.
“Bath was like a warm hug from an old friend. I felt safe in its embrace for those few special days. And I left with a mournful sigh, hoping to be back again soon.”
That’s how our very own Bron described Bath on her recent visit. We all adore Bath. For such a small city, it packs a big punch. That’s why we’ve recently made it a new departure point, so that you might just be tempted to add ‘stay in Bath’ to your travel plans.
Now imagine this regal yet quiet little town covered in Christmas cheer. Wooden chalets decorated with ivy and mistletoe. Sparkling lights lining your path as you explore the Christmas markets. You may not even buy anything, you’re just here for the experience of it all. You love perusing the stalls, seeing the skills of the locals who have made everything from tea cosies to stunning jewellery.
Then you grab yourself a warm drink and take a seat on a bench just beside Bath Abbey and you think about how Bath is the kind of place that was made for Christmas markets.
There’s something about Glasgow. If you speak to someone who lives there, they’ll easily rant for hours about how much they love living in this city. It’s both a vibrant music hub and a great place for families. It has everything for a great shopping spree followed by a delicious meal out. Now imagine all of that backed by the glittering festive lights of Christmas.
You put on a pair of ice skates and brave the open-air ice rink. Looming above you is the enormous Christmas tree, like a mysterious and curious giant coming to play. And all around you is the beauty of Glasgow’s buildings in George Square.
You’re in the market (pun intended) for a new Christmas sweater. The cheesier the better. You munch on some chocolate kisses as you peruse the stalls, hoping to find that must-have item.
Not to mention that Glasgow is one of our hubs for tours into the Highlands and beyond. If you think Glasgow in Christmas lights is beautiful, wait until you see the Highlands in winter.
The air is filled with the joyful melodies of carolers. There are dazzling lights all around you creating a mesmerising tapestry of light. Handcrafted treasures and delectable treats surround you like an army of temptation. And London, already so bustling, becomes more alive than you’ve ever seen it.
This is the meaning of winter in the UK. Embracing that holiday spirit, allowing yourself to be swept up in the magic of it all. To be tempted. That feeling you get when you enter a winter wonderland of indulgent food, spicy drinks, and tempting gifts... perhaps for yourself?
And all around you there’s London, a place we’ve loved for a long time. It’s the perfect city for those who have an endless to-do list. A travel bucket list city, to be sure. And beyond its chaotic walls unfolds the picturesque tapestry of the English countryside. It’s London’s very own retreat. Where will you go?
This is where it all began, so it’s fitting that we end on this note. The Manchester Christmas Markets began back in 1999, inspired by the traditional German markets that have become an icon of the season around the world. Back then, there were a mere 17 stalls set up in St Ann’s Square, but over the years, the markets have grown in both scale and popularity. Today, hundreds of market stalls are scattered across the city in various locations.
Like any good Christmas market, you’ll find plenty of locals selling their goods there. But there’s this wonderful blend of European influence still mixed in there today. Go for the atmosphere alone, the live performances and entertainment that will be a huge distraction from the shopping you likely came to do.
Manchester is a vibrant city in itself, great to visit or travel from at any time of the year. But in winter, at Christmas? The markets have woven themselves into the fabric of Manchester’s winter identity, drawing people from all over the world... you included?
You could create a Christmas holiday completely around seeing the different Christmas markets of the UK. We’re not sure what damage that would do to your bank account, but you’ll likely leave infused with an unbreakable Christmas spirit. No Grinches allowed.