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UK Christmas Markets by train

Posted by Rhiannon Batten at 03:53 on Sunday 16 November 2014

Think of Christmas markets and you probably think of Strasbourg, Stuttgart or Stockholm. But while the Europeans certainly know how to do festive shopping with style, you don’t have to leave home to find glühwein, gingerbread and pretty wooden decorations. In fact, over the past few years the trend for German markets in Britain has taken an exciting new direction. Keeping the cosy wooden cabins and twinkling white fairy lights of their continental counterparts, instead of stocking them with goods shipped in from Aachen to Zurich, they now play host to a high quality range of gifts, food and decorations from local artists, small food producers and craftspeople. After all, who wants a factory-made Santa hat when you can buy pottery from Dorset, cheese from Somerset and handmade jewellery from a Birmingham silversmith?

Here are five great Christmas Markets, all within easy reach of a city-centre railway station:

East Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh. Photo by Fraser Cameron, supplied by PR Visit Scotland. © Underbelly Ltd.East Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh. Photo by Fraser Cameron, supplied by PR Visit Scotland. © Underbelly Ltd.Edinburgh
A sporran’s throw from Edinburgh’s Waverley station, the Scottish capital’s Christmas market isn’t the biggest in the UK but it’s one of the most atmospheric. With the Scott monument, the Christmas tree on the Mound and Edinburgh Castle as backdrops, the 100 or so stalls in East Princes Street Gardens come sprinkled with a little architectural magic dust. The focus is on European-style spoils, so you’ll find everything from gloves to glühwein on sale, while a Children’s Market in “Santa Land” (also in Princes Street Gardens) is home to a miniature railway ride, Christmas Tree Maze and toy stalls. Funfair rides and an ice rink offer plenty of post-shopping entertainment and, five minutes walk north, in St Andrew Square, is another ice rink and a separate Scottish Market, this one dedicated to locally crafted gifts, from tablet to tweed.

  • When: 21 November to 4 January
  • Distance from station: 200m from Edinburgh Waverley (less than five minutes on foot)
  • More info: edinburghschristmas.com
  • Top tip: Don’t want to walk even that short distance with your shopping bags? Visit Edinburgh’s Waverley Station on any Friday from now until 19 December and you’ll find a host of locally made gifts on sale, as part of Waverley Christmas Market at Platform 2.
  • Superbreak offers the ability to book your hotel and train ticket together for a range of overnight breaks to Edinburgh's Christmas Market

Bath Christmas Market is a 5-min walk from Bath Spa Railway Station. Photo: Bath Tourism Plus/Colin HawkinsBath Christmas Market is a 5-min walk from Bath Spa Railway Station. Photo: Bath Tourism Plus/Colin HawkinsBath
Another great market for those who like to shop with their eyes as much as their wallets, this one, in the Georgian city of Bath, is arguably the most beautiful in England. Dominated by the floodlit Grade I-listed Abbey the 175 stalls here are housed within a village of wooden cabins that look as though they’ve been cobbled straight from a nativity scene. Commendably, there’s a focus on foods and crafts from the South West; highlights include Speckled Wood’s delicate wooden decorations, whimsical jewellery from My Bear hands, Tea People’s delicious - and ethically produced - single estate teas and pungent Wyfe of Bath cheese from the Bath Soft Cheese Company. Set out into the surrounding streets to explore the city’s independent stores, beneath a cobweb of dainty, all-white Christmas lights, and don’t miss the covered Guildhall Market for seasonal stocking fillers, from haberdashery to humbugs.

  • When: 27 November to 14 December
  • Distance from station: 400m from Bath Spa (five minutes on foot)
  • More info: bathchristmasmarket.co.uk
  • Top tip: Every Saturday afternoon from 29 November to 13 December Bath Abbey will be hosting 20-minute drop-in Shoppers’ Carols services. Warm up afterwards with a cup of mulled Honey’s Midford Cider from the Gascoyne Place stall in the churchyard behind the Abbey
  • Visit the Chritmas Markets of Bath and Bristol in style with Great Rail Journeys escorted 4-day rail trip, including
    enjoy a steam railway and charming Lacock Abbey
    a ride on a steam railway and visiting the charming Lacock Abbey

Lincoln's Christmas Market is set in and around the city’s Cathedral Quarter. Photo: Festiniog TravelLincoln's Christmas Market is set in and around the city’s Cathedral Quarter. Photo: Festiniog TravelLincoln
It’s a case of catch it while you can at this vast seasonal bazaar. Set in and around the city’s Cathedral Quarter, with its fairytale cathedral and Norman castle making for a dramatic backdrop, Lincoln’s Christmas market runs for three days only at the beginning of December. If that coincides with snow it’s like stepping into a Dickens novel, especially if you approach it via the aptly named Steep Hill, whose cobbled heights play host to a beguiling range of vintage emporiums, fashion stores, chocolate shops and tearooms.

The market itself features 250 stalls; be warned that you may have to do a bit of searching to track down the local arts, crafts and artisan food stalls among the generic Santa hat merchants and tooth-crackingly iced gingerbread hearts. The roots of this fair are authentically deep though. Lincoln is said to have started the modern trend for seasonal German markets in the UK when it ran one in 1982, to help cement relations with its Teutonic twin town, Neustadt an der Weinstraße.

  • When: 4 to 7 December
  • Distance from station: 500m (10 minutes on foot)
  • More info: lincoln-christmasmarket.co.uk
  • Top tip: If you can’t make it to Lincoln for the main Christmas market, check visitlincoln.com/markets for a range of one-day shopping events taking place in the city in the run-up to Christmas, from a Christmas Artists’ Market on 13 December to Christmas Craft and Farmers’ Markets on 20 December.
  • Ffestiniog Travel offers a useful series of tailor-made mini breaks to Christmas markets in Bath, York, Edinburgh, Cardiff, Lincoln and London.

Birmingham Christmas Market. Photo: Visit BirminghamBirmingham Christmas Market. Photo: Visit BirminghamBirmingham
There’s no mistaking the inspiration behind Birmingham’s vast festive shopping extravaganza, which stretches from the city’s Rotunda building to Centenary Square. Officially dubbed Birmingham Christmas Frankfurt Market, this colossal fair (it welcomed almost five million visitors at the last count) is so close an homage to its German counterparts that the smell of sizzling bratwursts and potato fritters is more prevalent on the city’s streets each December than the coriander, cumin and garlic wafting from the Balti Triangle. But while sauerkraut and stollen may be the main selling point of its 180-odd stalls that doesn’t mean there aren’t some West Midlands producers amid the mix. Careful planning is the order of the day; while the first half of the fair, roughly from the Rotunda to Victoria Square, is the German market proper, the second stretch, in Chamberlain and Centenary Squares, is a craft market.

  • When: 13 November to 22 December
  • Distance from station: 300m (five minutes on foot)
  • More info: birmingham.gov.uk/frankfurtmarket 
  • Top tip: For shopping with a more local, hand crafted, gist, head to arts centre Mac Birmingham in Cannon Hill Park, around 2.5 miles south of New Street station (buses 45 and 47 run every six minutes and will get you there in under 20 minutes). The centre is running contemporary Christmas Craft Markets on the first and second weekends in December stocked with ceramics, jewellery and paintings from some of the region’s most talented makers.

Winchester Christmas Market. Photo: Winchester City CouncilWinchester Christmas Market. Photo: Winchester City CouncilWinchester
More intimate than the larger Christmas markets, with around 100 stalls glinting from fairylit wooden cabins in the Inner Close of the city's Norman cathedral, what this Hampshire fair lacks in size it makes up for with its focus on high quality gifts. While many of the products on offer are not strictly local, the majority are from small, interesting British and European companies, whether that’s Cotswolds honey, London-made jewellery, Isle of Wight pottery, boutique educational books from Kent or traditionally made Comté cheese from eastern France. Take some time out between stalls to enjoy a skate on the ice rink at the market’s heart, or book a twilight tour of the cathedral’s tower.

  • When: 20 November to 21 December
  • Distance from station: 600m (under 15 minutes on foot)
  • More info: winchester-cathedral.org.uk/christmas/christmas-market
  • Top tip: Make a day of it by sandwiching your shopping between a civilised seasonal, organic lunch at the town’s new River Cottage Canteen and a decadent dinner at the Savage Kitchen, a pop-up restaurant specialising in locally sourced, seasonal produce; both are within a five-minute walk of the market. The next Savage Kitchen event runs on 6 December.

Written by Rhiannon Batten

>> Superbreak offer a range of breaks to Christmas Markets across the UK by rail, see: Superbreak Christmas Markets

Image on blog teaser of Bath Christmas Market: Bath Tourism Plus / Colin Hawkins

Do you know of a UK Christmas Market that you'd like us to feature? If so, we'd love to hear about it. Please let us know by using the 'Add a Comment' facility below or email: info@greentraveller.co.uk.

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