Ho, ho, ho: The best Christmas markets and fairs across the network

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Words by Harriet Cooper

‘Tis the season for a Christmas market or fair. With the scent of Glühwein and roasted chestnuts hanging in the air, choirs tra-la-laing seasonal classics and stalls selling hand-crafted trinkets and gifts, here are the best places across the network to put some sparkle into your festive shopping and soak up the yuletide bonhomie.

Hyde Park Winter Wonderland

Where: Hyde Park, London W2

When: 21 November – 5 January 2020

What: For all things Christmassy, head to Hyde Park where the annual Winter Wonderland is a twinkling, magical affair. Alongside festive favourites such as the UK’s largest open-air ice rink (lit by over 100,000 fairy lights), illuminated rollercoasters and fairground rides, market stalls, Santa Land and the incredible Circus MegaDome, this year’s new attractions include the world’s tallest transportable Observation Wheel and Paddington on Ice.

How: The nearest station is London Liverpool Street

Hyde Park Winter Wonderland, London

Southbank Centre Winter Market

Where: Queen's Walk, under Hungerford Bridge, London SE1

When: 8 November – 5 January 2020

What: Eat, drink and be merry alongside the River Thames at the Southbank Centre Winter Market. Browse the wooden chalets, all of them offering an array of handmade gifts and traditional winter delicacies like raclette and bratwurst. Afterwards, sip mulled wine in one of the heated booths at the alpine-style Bar Under the Bridge or hit the Circus Bar, which comes complete with fire pits and a secret cinema.

How: The nearest station is London Liverpool Street

Southbank Centre Winter Market, London

Christmas in Leicester Square

Where: Leicester Square, London WC2

When: 8 November – 5 January 2020

What: Christmas in London’s most famous square promises to be a glittering affair with a fun-packed programme for all. Kids will love Santa’s Grotto, where they’ll hear a festive fairytale, meet the big man himself and receive a gift. For grown-ups, La Clique is being billed as “the alternative Christmas show” with circus, comedy, cabaret and more. There’ll also be a market selling trinkets, gifts and seasonal refreshments.

How: The nearest station is London Liverpool Street

German Market and Christmas Fair

Where: Meadow Croft Garden Centre, nr Wickford, Essex

When: 7 November – 23 December

What: Where better to get into the festive spirit than this German Market? The 25 stalls offer a colourful display of authentic, hand-crafted wares, from cuckoo clocks and candles to tree ornaments. All that shopping making you hungry? There’s traditional fare in the form of the famous Kurz and Lang bratwurst sausages, stollen and schokokuss aka ‘chocolate kisses’ – all washed down with glühwein or homemade spiced apple drink.

How: Nearest station is Wickford then local bus or taxi

German Market and Christmas Fair, Essex

Shenfield Christmas Fayre

Where: In and around Hutton Road, Shenfield, Essex

When: 8 December, noon to 5pm

What: The Shenfield Christmas Faye is a real community event, with local businesses, groups and residents all embracing the festive spirit. The main high street (aka Hutton Road) is closed off, allowing visitors to peruse the 60-plus Christmassy stalls that line the thoroughfare, while the scent of mulled wine hangs in the air and choirs sing everyone’s favourite carols. Kids will love Santa’s grotto, the family entertainment and fairy-lit rides , which included a rather impressive helter skelter last year.

How: Nearest station is Shenfield

The Mill Road Winter Fair

Where: Mill Road, Cambridge

When: 7 December

What: Festive stalls and entertainment line Mill Road, which is closed off to traffic for the day for its annual Winter Fair. Street events range from free circus workshops and Morris dancers to choirs singing all the yuletide classics. There is story-telling, interactive science experiments, craft activities and the like for youngsters and, of course, ample opportunity to buy a wide range of specialist and artisan produce, gourmet treats, trinkets and more.

How: Nearest station is Cambridge

The Mill Road Winter Fair, Cambridge

Bury St Edmunds Christmas Fayre

Where: Bury St Edmunds town centre, Suffolk

When: 21 – 24 November

What: The Bury St Edmunds Christmas Fayre is now in its 18th year and 2019 promises to be bigger and better than ever with 300 stalls around the town centre. But the festive fun doesn’t stop there – expect a children’s opening parade with giant puppets and fireworks, a cookery theatre and food area in the Cathedral grounds, entertainers, dance groups as well as a funfair on Angel Hill and in the Abbey Gardens. The event finishes with a traditional carol service.

How: Nearest station is Bury St Edmunds

Bury St Edmunds Christmas Fayre, Suffolk

Felixstowe Christmas Lights Switch-on and Craft Market

Where: Hamilton Road, Felixstowe, Suffolk

When: 30 November

What: The official Christmas Lights switch-on and Craft Market is a much-loved festive fixture in Felixstowe. A children’s candlelight parade precedes the switch-on, after which visitors can browse the twinkling stalls which line Hamilton Road. There’s also a Santa’s Grotto, carol singing and plenty of live entertainment. At the beginning of December, Santa and Rudolph tour the town in their sleigh every weekday evening, between 6pm and 8.30pm.

How: Nearest station is Felixstowe

Global Village Christmas Market

Where: The Forum, Norwich, Norfolk

When: 5 – 7 December

What: Norwich’s Global Village Market may be a year-round event, supporting local businesses and global artisans, but the three-day Christmas Market is particularly special. There’ll be a host of traders, illustrators and makers selling gifts from around the world, with a focus on fairly-traded and eco-conscious products. On the final day, carol singers and brass bands will add to the seasonal cheer, alongside a delicious spread of festive morsels and mulled wine.

How: Nearest station is Norwich

Global Village Christmas Market, Norfolk

Great Yarmouth Christmas Fayre and Market

Where: Great Yarmouth Minster and the Priory Centre, Norfolk

When: 29 November - 1 December

What: Great Yarmouth is going all out this Christmas with a glittering programme of activities. The Christmas Fayre, in the town’s Minster and in the Priory Centre, and the Market, in the historic market place, will be home to stalls selling jewellery and wreaths to traditional wooden toys, baubles and cards, as well as cakes and biscuits. Not to mention a Santa’s Grotto, fireworks and the opportunity to tra-la-la along to the Lardal Kantori Norwegian choir.

How: Nearest station is Great Yarmouth