England’s Winter Festivals, Seasonal Markets and More

Country-wide Christmas markets and winter festivals mark the start of the holiday season By: Brittni Rubin
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Bath Christmas Market. // © 2010 Bath Tourism Plus
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Bath Christmas Market. // © 2010 Bath Tourism Plus

VisitEngland is inviting visitors of all ages to experience the blend of original and traditional seasonal festivities unique to Old Blighty. The holiday spirit captured throughout the country, through seasonal markets, seasonal festivals and entertainment showcases, make England a desirable destination this winter. What follows is a list of festivities by region.

South West England
For the first time in Cotswold’s history, the town of Cirencester will host a German-style Christmas Market, complementing the shops and businesses already in town. The market will be made up of 50 festively decorated wooden chalets, and the streets will be lined with holiday-inspired Christmas trees. Travelers can shop for cultural keepsakes and handicrafts unique to Britain and Europe. In addition, a large selection of traditional food and drink will be available, including both English and German classics. Cirencester’s First Annual Christmas Market will feature seasonal carols an music performances daily in addition to the celebratory paper lantern procession in the evenings. The market will be open Dec. 4-19.

Also in South West England is the Bath Christmas Market, a holiday-inspired market located in the heart of Bath’s shopping district. From Nov. 25 to Dec. 12, Bath will showcase more than 100 traditional wooden chalets, each offering unique, handmade gifts and food items for sale. This year will mark the market’s 10-year anniversary — it will remain open for an extra week in celebration. After a long day, shoppers can also take advantage of the Thermae Bath Spa, nearby the market. www.bathchristmasmarket.co.uk

Central England
Travelers looking for a holiday experience in the heart of England can visit the Worcester Christmas Fayre, billed as the leading themed street market in the West Midlands. It boasts a wide range of both independently owned and brand-name market stalls, shops and boutiques. The family-friendly market features a Victorian carousel which spins to authentic barrel organ music. Also located around the city are many cafes, pubs and restaurants, which provide a true English holiday atmosphere. The festival is open Dec. 2-5.

From Dec. 1 through Jan. 5, 2011, Stratford-upon-Avon, widely known as Shakespeare’s birthplace, will show visitors how Anne Hathaway’s cottage would be dressed for Christmas during the Tudor and Victorian times. Also, on Dec. 11, guests craving a spook can book a Falstaff Experience tour, such as the Haunted Pub Crawl of Stratford or the Ghosts of Christmas Past Mini Ghost Hunt.

The Geffrye Museum in London will celebrate 400 years of English tradition from Nov. 23 through Jan. 2. In light of the holidays, the “Christmas Past” exhibit will be open to travelers interested in exploring the way Christmas has been celebrated in English middle-class homes from the year 1600 to the present day. Each of the museum’s 11 period rooms will also be ornamented with festive decorations of holidays past. This special exhibition can be viewed Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays and Bank Holiday Mondays from noon to 5 p.m.

Northeast England
The NewcastleGateshead Winter Festival’s wide array of festive activities includes outdoor ice-skating, Christmas markets and seasonal music at The Sage Gateshead. There will also be countless performances, plays, pantomimes and Christmas shows at various theaters across the twin cities in addition to the artistic installations in Saltwell Park. The festival runs through Dec. 31, culminating with the New Year’s Eve Winter Carnival featuring a community parade through the streets of Newcastle and celebratory fireworks.

The Thursford Christmas Spectacular is billed as the largest holiday show in England. It is a grandiose Christmas-themed show featuring various types of Christmas entertainment including dancing, glittering costumes and music, with a cast of more than 100 performers. The show runs until Dec. 23 with two shows per day (2 p.m. and 7 p.m.). Prices are roughly $40-$55 per person

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