One of the best things about Advent and the Christmas season is the build-up to the big day and the sense of anticipation shared with friends and family. With more Christmas activities to choose from, it’s little wonder that the holiday season is beginning earlier and ending later as many pop-up Christmas destinations now extend well into the New Year.
In the last 20 years Christmas markets in the UK have taken off as both shopping destinations and social spaces. A Christmas fair is also an opportunity for small independent businesses and artisan craft sellers to showcase their wares to new customers – offering a pop-up environment to those not in a position to run a bricks and mortar shop throughout the year.
Photo credit: Rebecca Wood
Every holiday season, city centres and tourist destinations across the UK are transformed into festive experiences. From the beginning of November, rows of wooden chalets begin to appear, to be transformed by twinkling lights and festive fare. Soon the air will be filled with Christmas carols and the unmistakable aroma of hot spicy mulled wine and roasted chestnuts. For many people in search of a festive vibe, the sights, sounds and bustle of a busy Christmas market are an unbeatable experience and the perfect way to spend long winter evenings.
The numbers of Christmas markets are increasing in the UK – and despite a 2-year hiatus due to Covid, the rise in their popularity shows no signs of abating.
Increased competition has resulted in markets becoming more specific to a destination, often involving local artists, community members and performers to create a unique identity for an event. Many city centres also plan their Christmas lights switch-on to coincide with the opening of their Christmas fair or include specially commissioned light shows and yuletide bars as part of their festive offer.
So popular are these festive destinations that many tour operators and coach companies now run dedicated trips to the UK’s top Christmas markets.
Christmas Market Stars
Paper Starlights have been sharing the light at Christmas Markets in the UK since 1996 when we set up our very first Christmas sideshows in Leeds, Halifax and Manchester. Embodying a bold DIY and pop-up peddlar aesthetic, our first touring contraption consisted of an oversized umbrella and a Silver Cross pram. With stars suspended from the spokes, our Heath Robinson-esque starlight mobile became well known at markets and music festivals alike. Find out more about our story here.
Fast forward 27 years, we think we know a fair bit about Christmas Fairs. So - if you have winter wanderlust or yearn for a yuletide pick-me-up, look no further than our footloose and festive tour around 8 of the UK’s most famous Christmas Markets
York Christmas Market 2022
Photo credit: York Christmas Market
We rate a trip to York at Christmas 2022 as a top day out that can easily become a weekend.
York Christmas Market 2022 - traditionally known as York St Nicholas Fair - is part of the York Christmas Festival 2022. Celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, the market takes place along the city’s main throughfare, Parliament Street, and adjoining St Sampson’s Square. 1997 was our first year at the Christmas Market in York- who can forget the cold nights sleeping in the van outside the Duke of York pub? And the warm welcome offered by said establishment? 25 years later we still love being part of the seasonal spread of alpine chalets and the handpicked selection of local traders, artisan products and handmade gifts. And we love to meet the merry melee of shoppers who invariably end their excursion in the grand Nordic environment of Thors Bar at the head of the market.
Against an architectural backdrop of the famous Shambles and York Minster, it’s a treat to visit York at Christmas - and we relish the annual ritual of transforming our chalet into our very own winter wonderland with a magical display of Paper Starlights for all to enjoy. Find us this year on Parliament Street!
York St Nicholas Fair 2022 runs from 17th November to 23rd December 2022
Bath Christmas Market 2022
We rate Bath Christmas Market as one of the most beautiful Christmas markets in the UK. If you’re looking for festive charm, oodles of atmosphere and a good pub lunch to boot, you can’t go wrong with Bath at Christmas. Nestling between Roman baths, Georgian terraces and the amazing Renaissance Bath Abbey, the architecture is the only thing that may momentarily distract you from over 150 twinkling chalets that line the picturesque pavements. A proudly boutique market featuring original British crafters and makers, quality, quirkiness and authenticity are in abundance at Bath Christmas Market – and we guarantee you will leave the city with a festive feel, happy memories, and a bag full of thoughtful and original gifts.
After pressing pause on the full-scale market for the past two years, the Christmas Market in Bath is back in 2022 to celebrate its 20th Anniversary. We have traded in Bath for almost all of these 20 years and are looking forward to being part of the celebrations – come and visit Bath and our chalet outside the Abbey!
Bath Christmas Market 2022 runs from 24th November to 11th December 2022
Chatsworth Christmas Market 2022
We rate Chatsworth Christmas Market top of the class for its atmosphere and stunning location.
A date in the diary for Derbyshire and beyond, the Christmas Market at Chatsworth takes place in the grounds of Derbyshire’s very own Chatsworth House. Featuring more than 100 artisan makers from Derbyshire and further afield, who can imagine a more beautiful setting for a Christmas Market? By the time we’ve finished our 2nd cup of coffee the late autumn mists have started to rise to reveal the golden Derbyshire countryside and the extravagant architecture of our host, Chatsworth House behind us.
With a labyrinth of stalls, tempting culinary treats and toe-tapping sounds from local performers, Chatsworth Christmas Market is part of the ever-popular Christmas at Chatsworth event which runs until 8 January 2023. Every year thousands flock to see Chatsworth House filled to the rafters with extravagant themed displays which transform every room. We also join in the fun and every year create a bespoke display to reflect the theme, which is a closely guarded secret until the month before the market. Come and visit us this year and guess the theme!
Chatsworth Christmas Market 2022 runs from 5th – 23rd November 2022
Lincoln Christmas Market 2022
We rate Lincoln Christmas Market top of the league for festive flair and longevity.
No market can beat Lincoln for its size and setting. Taking place over 4 days in the cultural quarter of the city, its Medieval square, Norman castle and Gothic cathedral make you feel as if you’re travelling through time and greeting the spirits of Christmas past. The illusion is completed by the traders dressed in Victorian costume.
The first ever Christmas Market in Lincoln took place in 1982. And, as far as we can gather, was the very first Christmas Market to be held in the UK. Following a visit to a Christmas market in the German city of Neustadt an der Weinstrasse (Lincoln's twin town), Lincoln councillors were so impressed with the event that they set up their own market with just 11 stalls.
Although it had its origins in Germany, Lincoln Christmas Market has a distinctly British feel and, 40 years on, is a melting pot of British market traders, artisans and traditional travelling showmen, who gather from all corners of the UK. We have traded there every year since 1999 and are proud to be part of a mass mobilisation of over 300 stalls, 800 traders and 250,000 visitors over 4 days. That’s more footfall than Glastonbury Festival! Come and see us outside the Lawns, opposite the exit from the Castle.
Lincoln Christmas Market 2022 runs from 1st – 4th December 2022
Birmingham Frankfurt Market
Birmingham Christmas Market, also known as the Frankfurt Christmas Market, Birmingham, is famous for being the largest authentic German Christmas market outside Germany. Based in Frankfurt, the arrival and construction of the market in Birmingham City Centre is a sight to behold as huge wooden chalets and sky high festive structures arrive in the city on the back of articulated trucks. Every year visitors enjoy the relaxed atmosphere and the opportunity to sample authentic German food such as bratwurst and lebkuchen washed down with glugs of warming gluhwein (mulled wine) and a cheeky ‘Stein’ of German beer. As part of their Christmas tradition, shoppers also browse the authentic German chalets for wooden toys, tree decorations and handmade lace.
Established in 2000, with 180 stalls in its heyday, the Birmingham Frankfurt Christmas Market takes place along Birmingham’s main throughfare, New Street and adjoining Victoria Square. Paper Starlights traded at the Christmas Market in Birmingham for over 15 years – and visitors to the market may remember our little star-filled hut on New Street between the pancake stall and Ray’s handmade jewellery.
Birmingham Christmas Market 2022 – 2022 dates to be confirmed
Manchester Christmas Market 2022
Manchester Christmas Market landed in the city in 1999 and has grown every year since. Each year more than nine million visitors browse more than 300 beautifully decorated stalls offering international food, drinks and Yuletide gifts.
Manchester Christmas Markets are unique in the UK as they are spread across 10 individual sites across the city centre - each with its own distinctive character. The market is so vast that it can feel like a city within a city and a day’s browsing can turn into a weekend carousing.
The markets are also famous for the giant inflatable Santa which took up residence in Albert Square every year, before being retired a couple of years ago.
New for 2022 and perfect for a Yuletide promenade are the Winter Gardens in Piccadilly Gardens. Decorated with festoon lighting for a real festival feel, the attraction will feature yuletide bars, locally brewed ales, food stalls, craft sellers, and a stage with live music and DJs.
Paper Starlights traded at the Christmas Market in Manchester for 6 years and enjoyed our position on the corner of St Ann’s Square between the Gluhwein bar and the Singing Christmas Tree.
Manchester Christmas Market 2022 runs from 12th November to 22nd December 2022.
Winchester Christmas Market 2022
Photo credit: Winchester Cathedral
Also known as Winchester Cathedral Christmas Market, the Christmas Market in Winchester proudly showcases the best of British makers and crafters and attracts more than 400,000 visitors each year to enjoy the festivities.
Founded in 2006 and situated within the historic setting of Winchester Cathedral Close, Winchester Christmas Market is renowned for its spectacular location and architecture. Visitors also love to browse over 100 chalets filled with quirky and handcrafted gifts showcased by British makers and crafters.
Its focus on localism, British independent businesses and artisan festive foods, as well as regular performances by local choirs, all give Winchester Christmas Market its unique identity and make it an important part of its community.
For almost 20 years, our colleagues and friends at Wappa of Langport have sold Paper Starlights at Winchester Christmas Market alongside their own brand of ceramic door knobs - their chalet a firm fixture outside Winchester Cathedral.
Winchester Christmas Market 2022 runs from 18th November to 22nd December 2022
Oxford Christmas Market 2022
Alongside the City’s tourist attractions of the Bodleian Library, the Ashmolean and the Colleges, if the season is right – why not squeeze in a visit to Oxford Christmas Market?
Taking place in the City of Dreaming Spires, the Christmas Market in Oxford is quintessentially English with a focus on British traders and makers. The market was established in 2009 and is situated in the heart of the city on historic and picturesque Broad Street.
With the sound of choirs singing Christmas carols, festive decorations, local artisans offering unusual and handmade gifts, and the aroma of mulled wine and cinnamon drifting in the air, a visit to the Oxford Christmas Market is an enchanting Christmas experience.
As a major UK tourist destination it would be a shame to spend anything less than a couple of days in Oxford to take in the sights and sounds of the City – while you’re here, why not visit Modern Art Oxford, who, at Christmas feature a display of our paper star lanterns alongside its flagship exhibitions.
At the time of writing, dates are still to be confirmed. But we hope the City of Dreaming Spires will again be filled with festive joy as Oxford Christmas Market returns to the heart of the city in 2022.
Oxford Christmas Market 2022 runs from 1st – 18th December 2022 (TBC)
See you there!
We hope you have enjoyed our winter whistlestop tour of the best Christmas Markets in Europe. We will be once again Sharing the Light at our favourite Christmas Markets this year and look forward to seeing you there.