British Travel | 26th October 2023
Festive shopping: The best Christmas markets in the UK
Your essential guide to magical Christmas shopping breaks
For those who enjoy festive shopping experiences, Christmas markets in the UK are filled with quintessential British charm.
There’s nothing like sipping mulled wine while perusing the magical wares of glittering stalls to get you in the Christmas spirit. And in addition to revelling in the sweetness of Christmas carols and twinkling fairy lights, you can also find some seriously special gifts if you know where to look.
If you’re dreaming of a pre-Christmas getaway, we’ve handpicked six of the most appealing destinations for a hotel stay with some of the very best UK Christmas markets on your doorstep.
Christmas markets in London
November 2023 - January 2024
Springing up around the city in the weeks leading up to Christmas Day, with more running into the new year, London’s Christmas markets are a joy to experience, offering visitors the opportunity to gorge on tasty treats while foraging for special gifts. The go-to destination for festive fun, Hyde Park Winter Wonderland is just one of the spectacular pop-up Christmas markets in the UK that’s sure to fill your heart with that Christmassy feeling.
And of course the capital’s landmark year-round ‘destination’ markets such as Covent Garden and Borough Market get a big festive facelift from November onwards and are brimming with stocking fillers, holiday decorations, and delicious street food.
East Princes Street Gardens Market, Edinburgh
22 November 2023 - 3 January 2024
While many charming little markets pop up around the city, the star attraction is East Princes Street Gardens — a huge and vibrant Christmas market loved by locals and visitors alike. In addition to a dizzying array of stalls, funfair attractions including the Christmas Wheel, the Star Flyer and Santa Land, it’s also home to one of Europe’s largest outdoor ice rinks. Forget mulled wine, here you’ll be treated to sweet local whiskey flavoured with spices, tangerines, and honey.
Where to stay: For a unique experience, board the good ship Fingal - a luxury floating hotel docked at Edinburgh’s waterfront or check in to Prestonfield House, a boutique hotel renowned for its dramatic interiors and excellent fine dining.
Cheltenham Christmas Markets
16-19 November and 14-23 December 2023
Shopping in Cheltenham is a delight at any time of the year thanks to the festival town’s flourishing independent boutiques and artisan stores but its festive retail events, hosted by Cotswold Markets, are not to be missed. This year, two wonderful markets will be popping up along Cheltenham’s pedestrianised Promenade and Long Gardens: the Christmas Gift Market (16-19 November) with a special selection of homewares, and the Arts & Crafts Christmas Market (14-23 December) which features locally made pottery, original art, glassware, and jewellery.
Where to stay: Adored by fashionistas, the award-winning Ellenborough Park Hotel & Spa is the perfect place to stay for a luxury weekend shopping break in Cheltenham.
Bath Christmas Market
23 November - 10 December 2023
The spa city of Bath knows how to kick off the season in style with one of the most stunning Christmas markets in the UK. Every year, Bath Christmas Market transforms the gorgeous Georgian streets into a magical treasure trove for festive shopping. This year, more than 170 twinkling chalets are dotted around the streets and nestled amongst iconic monuments offering high quality fayre. The market showcases some of the best crafters in the South West with artisan goods including stylish homeware, handmade jewellery, and personalised presents.
Where to stay: Languish in Regency splendour at the five-star Royal Crescent Hotel & Spa. Situated in the heart of the city, this celebrated hotel is within easy reach of the best venues for seasonal retail therapy.
Tank Museum Dorset Christmas Fair
When it comes to winter wonderlands in the West Country, the Dorset town of Bovington has a unique festive shopping experience this year. The Tank Museum -— home to the world’s best collection of tanks — is hosting a Dorset Christmas Fair. The highlights include live entertainment, the opportunity to buy unique Christmas gifts from local makers and sellers and festive food and drink to get you in the Christmas spirit. Plus children can see Father Christmas arrive in a tank, and explore the Christmas trail.
Where to stay: The Priory Hotel is a stunning Grade 11 listed country house hotel nestled on the banks of the River Frome in the nearby town of Wareham. Many of Dorset’s top attractions, as well the county’s many Christmas shopping events, are within easy reach for guests to explore the beautiful county.
Llandudno Christmas Extravaganza
16 - 19 November 2023
For those seeking a winter weekend break in Wales, the coastal town of Llandudno is home to one of the most charming UK Christmas markets. And this little town puts on more than a market — come and experience the Llandudno Christmas Extravaganza. In addition to stalls piled high with goodies, you’ll find a feast of food and drink, a funfair, live music and even decorated igloos where you can rest up and quaff champagne. As Mr and Mrs Claus will be in attendance, this is a great choice for a family break.
Where to stay: For a luxury country estate retreat with breathtaking views over the Snowdonia mountains, make your way to Bodysgallen Hall & Spa. This five-star gem in Llandudno also has an award-winning fine dining restaurant.