Where on earth did this last year go? Already we’re in the runup to Christmas – and the round of seasonal markets that open around this time of the year. Some will be firmly established old favourites, and some might be new on the scene but, whatever your preference, why not hitch up your caravan and enjoy a weekend or longer browsing a Christmas market or two?
Difficult choices aside, here is our list of the top ten.
For the early birds, one of the first to be staged is the Christmas Market in the historic city of Bath. It opens on Thursday the 23rd of November and runs through to Sunday the 10th of December.
Iconic monuments might take on a quite different hue after a glass of festive mulled wine before you repair to one of the several well-appointed campsites dotted around the city.
2. Frankfurt Christmas Market Birmingham
Opening even earlier – from Thursday the 2nd of November right through to Sunday the 24th of December – is the “Frankfurt” Christmas Market in the centre of Birmingham.
It claims to be the biggest authentic festive German market outside Germany or Austria – so, be sure to sample the traditional fayre of roast almonds, bratwurst, schnitzels, and pretzels, washed down with gluhwein, hot chocolate, or Weissbier.
If you are planning to take your caravan to South Wales, you’ll not want to miss out on the Christmas Market held in the centre of Cardiff.
This is one of the longest-established Christmas markets – now into its 30th year – and this time around opens from the 9th of November until the 23rd of December.
4. York Christmas Market
You’ll be stepping back in time whenever you wander the narrow, Medieval streets in the heart of York – as Christmas approaches, the atmosphere takes on even more magic.
The city’s St Nicholas Fair – as those in the know are more likely to call it – runs from the 16th of November until the 22nd of December with a host of different stalls set against the magnificently historic backdrop and a variety of Christmas-themed events to enthral the whole family.
Even if you miss out on the market itself, you may be sure to catch the Christmas Tree Festival – held in the stunning York Minster – from the 2nd of December until the 5th of January.
5. Chester Christmas Market
From the 17th of November until the 21st of December, the much-loved city of Chester holds its popular Christmas Market in the very centre of town – right outside the Town Hall on Northgate Street.
Simply stand in wonder at the festively-lit Christmas tree that is the centrepiece of the city’s celebrations.
6. Southampton Christmas Market
The Christmas Market in Southampton’s city centre enjoys an especially extended run from the 16th of November into the New Year until the 2nd of January.
It’s another of the German-themed festivals – offering waffles and Bratwurst, with mulled wine or German beer.
7. Winchester Christmas Market
Just a short way up the road, you can discover an effective contrast in the approach to the Christmas festivities.
The Winchester Cathedral Christmas Market claims to be one of the best in Europe and one where you can step inside from the cold and surround yourself with the 1,000 years or so of history on which the iconic Winchester Cathedral is built.
8. Edinburgh Christmas Markets and Winter Festivals
North of the border and they do things slightly differently, of course, – but no less enjoyably.
Rather than a single Christmas market, therefore, the Scottish capital has several markets and festivals dotted all over the city – from the run-up to Christmas until the wilder New Year celebrations that will make a memorable Hogmanay.
9. Belfast Christmas Market
The Christmas Market in Northern Ireland’s capital of Belfast runs from the 18th of November until the 23rd of December.
Although the backdrop to the market is the impressive Belfast City Hall, a distinctly international flavour imbues proceedings in everything from freshly-cooked cuisine to hand-crafted goods.
10. London’s Winter Wonderland
If you were looking to save the biggest of them all until the last, then it’s the English capital where you’ll want to look. London’s enthralling Winter Wonderland – from the 17th of November until the 1st of January – covers almost the whole of Hyde Park and offers everything from an outside ice-skating rink to a big Ferris wheel and circus performances.
But London is nothing if not a collection of distinctive, individual villages and communities so you can also take your pick from more than 10 additional Christmas markets dotted about the metropolis.