Sophie Gackowski writes for HomeAway UK
You don't have to go to Vienna to enjoy the magic of a European Christmas: Here in the U.K., we have hundreds of events both big and small, taking place across Scotland, England, Northern Ireland and Wales. Whether you want to pack your suitcase full with gems and trinkets, woodwork and crafts, or an array of festive delicacies, here's our guide to seven of the United Kingdom's most wintry and wonderful events.
Bath. As a World Heritage City, there are plenty of reasons to visit Bath aside from just its Christmas market. That said, the festive display—which sits in the shadow of grand Bath Abbey—is certainly one of the U.K.'s best. Held from the last days of November until the second week of December every year, it comprises 150 wooden chalets adorned with handmade crafts, decorations and food, including Christmas favourites like caramel and gingerbread. And when you've shopped till you've dropped, Bath's spas will surely revive you.
Lincoln. It may only take place over four days in December, but Lincoln's Christmas market—set in the city's atmospheric medieval square—encompasses over 280 stalls, making it one of the largest in Europe. Needless to say there's too much on sale to list here (though keep an eye out for the German-made wooden toys), but with the ferris wheel, classical music concerts and host of traditional events on offer, there's plenty to keep you busy. And as if that wasn't enough, the imposing Gothic cathedral is sure to set the stage.
Cardiff. Cardiff doesn't just have a Christmas market; it has an entire Winter Wonderland. Including an open-air ice rink, children's carousels, food and gift stalls and a 60-metre high ride—which features spinning chairs, making it the only of its kind in the U.K.—it's a great event for the whole family. And, taking place between mid-November and mid-January, you can experience a festive Wales without having to forgo an American Christmas. When you've admired all that, why not visit Cardiff Castle or the 12th-century Llandaff Cathedral?
York. Yorkshire goes mad for yuletide. With no less than seven distinct Christmas markets—including the Crafts and Children's Fayres and St. Nicholas Medieval Market—there's much to see and do when taking a festive break here. Pick up historic crafts (think pottery and jewellery) at the latter, while enjoying a glass of spiced mead. Baroque and medieval music fills the city's churches from the start of December, carol singing awaits in York's spectacular cathedral, and intricate ice sculptures will be displayed at the Festival of Angels.
London. You don't need to attend Hyde Park's Winter Wonderland to visit the Big Smoke, but it's as good a reason as any. Running from late November to early January (except Christmas day, of course—that's reserved for gifts and gluttony!), this lovely event encompasses everything Christmassy. You can grab a bite to eat at the Bavarian Village or Nordic Bar, flash your cash at over 200 wooden chalet stalls, and view the capital from the sky on the Giant Observation Wheel. Travelling with little ones? Don't miss Zippo's Christmas Circus!
Salisbury. Salisbury's Christmas spirit comes alive as Father Christmas enters his grotto, the lantern procession begins, and the sound of local choirs fills the air. Set in the city's Guildhall Square, there's an enormous tree decorated with candy canes and baubles, which overlooks dozens of stalls adorned in tinsel and lights. From fudge and hand-blown glass to oil paintings and organic soap, there's just about everything you could possibly imagine gifting. And the next day, take a trip to nearby Old Sarum, an incredible Iron Age hill fort.
Edinburgh. Lastly, running from mid-November to early January, Edinburgh's Christmas market is yet another you don't have to actually visit over Christmas. For almost two months, the market below the Mound is decorated with a range of tempting treats, arts and crafts, many of which have travelled all the way from Germany. Sink your teeth into juicy schnitzels washed down with mugs of glühwein (mulled wine, or literally 'glow wine' in German), before riding the illuminated ferris wheel. And, if you decide to hang around until it finishes, make sure you check out my next blog post: In December, I'll share the definitive guide to an Edinburgh Hogmanay!