It’s the time of year to start thinking about your Christmas menu and looking forward to one of the most enjoyable shopping experiences of the season: the Christmas market.
Throughout the UK there is a huge choice of markets at which you can enjoy everything from exciting new culinary offerings to the traditional favourites we all know and love. Many of the markets also offer entertainment as well as hand-crafted gifts and treats. So, this year, avoid the stress of queuing at the supermarket and visit your local market, or one of these regional gems, and make your shopping experience delightfully festive.
Here’s a pick of the best Christmas markets in the UK:
1: Traditional – Durham
With its imposing cathedral, castle and atmospheric streets, Durham is the ideal place to visit to get a taste of traditional Christmas spirit. Its Christmas festival is held between 2 and 4 December this year. If you make the trip, you’ll be able to source some ingredients for the season, or even select some gift hampers for friends and family, at the Local Food Producers’ Market in the cathedral cloisters. You can also pick up cookery tips with demonstrations from local chefs in sessions held throughout the weekend.
2: German – Oxford
Like taking a short trip to Germany itself, Oxford’s Christmas Market, which runs from 2 to 18 December, is a treat for those who love the food, drink, entertainment and gifts that make the German-style market unique. Enjoy German delicacies – including bratwurst, currywurst and glühwein, stollen and gingerbread – and save some of the handmade chocolates for gifts (if you can resist them) while looking at the decorated wooden stalls selling handmade toys, decorations and jewellery.
3: Victorian – Portsmouth
If Christmas means all things Victorian to you, visit Portsmouth, the birthplace of archetypal Victorian writer Charles Dickens, for the Victorian Festival of Christmas 2011. As well as being surrounded by various characters from the era, visitors to the market will find the largest Christmas market on the south coast, with a wealth of local foods from Hampshire. Buy some free-range meats or a local-produce-filled Christmas hamper, and pick up Victorian recipes at the cookery theatre.
4: Medieval – Caerphilly
Home to one of the most impressive medieval castles in Europe, Caerphilly hosts an annual Medieval Christmas Market, which is another chance to enjoy local foods at a farmers’ market as well as more exotic treats at a continental market.
5: Children’s – Drumlanrig Christmas Fair
Drumlanrig is in the part of the UK that is probably most likely to experience snow in December, and children will love the Christmas trees and grotto at this Scottish country house. Meanwhile you can sample the kitchen’s Christmas lunch or snack on roasted chestnuts and mince pies.
As well as a chance to soak up some festive spirit, these Christmas markets provide a much needed boost to local economies, promoting local businesses and drawing in visitors with offerings from the area and abroad. If there are no markets in your area, a trip to one of these is a great day out and a chance to stock up on some supplies in time for Christmas.