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Christmas Markets: the Best of the UK!

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Crimbo’s here (well, nearly), and it’s time to get festive. Forget the internet: if you really want to find out what Yuletide shopping is all about, you need to get involved with a good old fashioned Christmas market. You can book train ticketscar hire and hotels through to get there – so why not make a Crimble-themed break, and stay a day or two?

Manchester Christmas Market

Albert Square in the heart of Manchester is home to the granddaddy of UK Christmas markets. Festive stalls selling everything from local cheese to designer jewellery cram the cobbles outside the Town Hall. A massive illuminated Santa presides over the proceedings from up on the roof. And when you’ve finished shopping it’s time to eat. Sample schnapps and schnitzel in one of the brilliant German refreshment lodges, or head straight for the Gluhwein. Ding dong merrily on high!

Exeter Christmas Market

Combine festive fun with West Country charm in the UK’s most laid-back city. The Cathedral Green is where it’s at: expect handmade gifts, foodie treats from around the world and plenty of mulled cider. Plan your whole trip in advance to get the best deals.

Hyde Park Winter Wonderland

The UK’s largest slice of Christmas cheese, Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland gets away with it by being bigger, bolder and brighter than anyone else. You’ll get wooden chalets stuffed with crafty goodies; licensed bars; family entertainment; and a whole Christmas-themed fairground complete with dodgems, a Ferris wheel and ice rink. Book early to get evening tickets for the skating, so you can whizz around the ice under a canopy of lights.

Leeds Christkindelmarkt

The Leeds Christkindelmarkt is the culmination of a punishing touring schedule for the German families who run it. The result: super-jolly stallholders whose rosy-cheeked festive patter is made all the better by the knowledge they’ll soon be going home for Christmas themselves! Think Bavarian snow-lodges selling hand-made advent calendars, and traditional wooden gifts. Make sure you head for the goulash stalls when your tummy rumbles. Oh, and don’t forget to stop by the bandstand for some real live oompah music. Frohliche Weihnachten!

Portsmouth Victorian Festival of Christmas

Dreaming of a traditional Christmas, complete with carol singers and gas lamps? Step back in time on the historic streets of Portsmouth Dockyards, where you’ll be greeted with the sights and sounds of 150 years ago. Top-hatted gentry and bustling wenches throng the pavements, street urchins sing round open fires, and there’s not a Furby in sight. This year, the Victorian Festival of Christmas is also host to a Sherlock Holmes exhibition. Plus they’ve got a traditional green-clad Father Christmas in a live stage show. And you get to visit all the usual dockyard attractions when you pay to get into the Festival. I saw three ships come sailing in… can get you the cheapest deals on train tickets, hotel bookings and car hire for all of these festive fun times. Pack your cheeriest sweater and your biggest stocking. Magic is in the air!

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