Travel: Enjoy a seasonal city break

There’s nothing like a Christmas market to really muster the magic of the season - and the UK is home to some fantastic festive fayres.

By The Newsroom
Saturday, 30th November 2013, 6:00 am
Edinburgh's Christmas Market. Picture: PA Photo.
Edinburgh's Christmas Market. Picture: PA Photo.

Whether it’s an unforgettable family day out or a Yuletide minibreak you’re after, Abi Jackson rounds-up seven of the best

Luxury and romance in Bath

With its golden-stoned Georgian architecture, Roman Baths and Royal Crescent, Bath is one of the UK’s prettiest cities and the ideal setting for a weekend of relaxation and romance.

In the run-up to Christmas, it becomes especially charming, lit up with twinkling lights, carol singers and brass bands adding to the festive magic. For 18 days, Bath Abbey provides a stunning backdrop to the Christmas Market, which sees more than 150 traditional wooden chalets fill the square and surrounding streets. Whether you want to shop or simply soak up the atmosphere, it’s sure to warm the cockles.

There’s also an ice rink (November 22-January 5) in Royal Victoria Park - impress your partner with some fancy spins, or just hold hands and have some fun.

A short drive from the city, set among gorgeous tree-lined grounds, Lucknam Park Hotel & Spa is the perfect choice for a luxurious romantic break. The five-star 17th century country house has a Downton Abbey feel, with its antique furniture, grand fireplaces and silverware.

Book a cookery course, go horse riding and explore the surrounding countryside, or order champagne and put that ‘Do not Disturb’ sign to use!

Foodies are in for a treat with the Michelin Starred Fine Dining At The Park and the contemporary Brasserie, while afternoon tea’s served daily in The Drawing Room.

Soothe post-shopping muscles and banish seasonal stress with a treatment at the impressive and newly-extended spa. A Dry Floatation experience will have you transported to a realm of pure relaxation in no time, while a Haslauer Reflective Sun Light Therapy session could help counter seasonal affective disorder. Facilities also include a pilates suite, pool, sauna and steam rooms and outdoor heated Jacuzzi.

:: Bath Christmas Market runs from November 28 to December 15 (www.visitbath.co.uk)

:: Lucknam Park Hotel & Spa (www.lucknampark.co.uk) offers standard rooms from £345 per night for two adults sharing on a room only basis, including use of spa facilities.

Festive family fun in Salisbury

Slightly smaller in scale but ideal for a weekend of festive-themed family magic, this year Salisbury Christmas Market sees 71 delightfully-decorated wooden chalets fill Guildhall Square in the city centre. A host of musical events will also take place, including performances by local school choirs. Pay a visit to Santa’s Grotto before marvelling at the arts and crafts on display and sampling some gourmet treats.

The surrounding area of Wiltshire is home to a variety of attractions and things to do, and The Pembroke Arms at Wilton - a small market town a few miles outside Salisbury - is the perfect base from which to explore.

Recently refurbished, this charming and comfortable hotel also welcomes your pet pooch, providing snugly beds and dog’s dinner menu. The seasonal game menu, on the other hand, will delight mums and dads, while the Little Adults menu features a choice of kids’ favourites.

Stretch your legs and top up on fresh air with a walk in the surrounding hills and woodlands, enjoy a mysterious family history lesson with a visit to nearby Stonehenge, or go an expedition to spot some of the area’s famous White Horses (if they’re not covered in snow!).

:: Salisbury Christmas Market runs from November 28 to December 21 (www.visitwiltshire.co.uk)

:: The Pembroke Arms (www.thepembrokearms.co.uk) offers a family room (two adults and two under-13s sharing) from £154. Or, families can book the ‘Feeling Festive’ Christmas Market break, including one night’s accommodation, spiced cider and mince pies on arrival, dinner and breakfast, for £220.

Style and culture in London

Designer stores and high street heroes may line London’s West End streets, but it’s still possible to enjoy an old-fashioned Christmas shopping experience in the capital.

Set beneath trees decorated with twinkling fairy lights, the Southbank Centre’s Christmas Market has borrowed some of the best ideas from its German counterparts and concentrated them into one easy-to-navigate riverside strip of traditional huts.

But while the smell of sizzling Bratwurst and spicy Gluhwein conjures up a distinctly German flavour, there’s a global feel to the colourful stalls, selling goods ranging from knitted finger puppets made in Peru, to sugar-coated churros from Spain.

The new five-star Rosewood London hotel is ideally placed between the Southbank and West End. Built in 1914, the Grade II-listed building is accessed via a wrought iron gate which opens into an almost perfectly quadrangle courtyard. Inside, the sound of traffic disappears, and porters in flat caps and leather driving gloves set the quintessentially English theme that runs throughout the inviting property.

A roaring fire crackles in the hotel’s gentlemanly bar, stocked with a selection of vintage books found in Portobello Market and fine whiskies, while the Mirror Room restaurant serves a menu of elegant takes on casual dining staples - perfect if you’ve overindulged on Bratwurst.

Warm, friendly and charming - the whole experience will leave you dreaming of a white Christmas. But featuring a seven-storey Pavonazzo marble staircase, that would cost an eye-watering fortune to build today, Rosewood London is a far, far cry from Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire’s humble Holiday Inn.

:: Southbank Centre Christmas Market runs from November 16 to December 24 (www.southbankcentre.co.uk/winter-festival/markets)

:: Rosewood London (www.rosewoodhotels.com) offers rooms from £370, including use of mini-bar, in-room films, laundry and breakfast.

Best of the rest...

Lincoln Christmas market

The biggest of its type in Europe, with over 300 stalls, Lincoln’s market draws visitors from far and wide. In the heart of the historic action, the Cathedral Quarter, the looming Cathedral spires and castle walls provide a truly magical setting, with costumed carol singers and brass bands adding to the atmosphere. Soak it all up, mulled wine in hand, as you browse the craft and gift stalls, sample fresh, local food and enjoy this stunning city at its best. While the market only runs for four days, festive fun continues throughout the month, including an ice rink (until December 31) and a reindeer parade (on Thursday, December 12).

:: Lincoln Christmas Market runs from December 5 to December 8 (www.visitlincoln.com/whats-on/lincoln-christmas-market-2013)

Swansea Christmas market and Waterfront Winterland

Red and green wooden chalets bring a touch of festive alpine charm to the coastal South Wales city of Swansea, as the annual market sees the city centre abuzz with shoppers on the lookout for local gifts and crafts. While grown-ups enjoy a mulled wine, kids can say ‘Hello’ to Santa in his grotto. Visitors can even step inside a giant snow globe for a unique photo souvenir, and there’s something for everybody at the award-winning Waterfront Winterland, where funfair highlights include the penguin party ride for little’uns and the 62m-high Star Flyer for breathtaking views, as well as the two family-friendly ice rinks.

:: Swansea Street Market runs from November 29 to December 22. Waterfront Winterland is open from November 15 to January 5 (www.swanseachristmas.com)

Edinburgh Christmas markets

Soulful and vibrant all year round, the streets of Edinburgh are an extra special treat when Christmas comes to town. In various locations across the city, there’s something for everyone, with a traditional European Market taking place around The Mound, a Scottish Market in St Andrew’s Square, as well as a new Children’s Market, each bursting with gifts and edible delights. Special attractions and fairground rides will be set up across the city, including the 60m-high Star Flyer and 36-pod Big Wheel, so you can take in the sights from the sky. Kids can explore the Christmas Tree Maze where - if they find the centre - elves will be waiting with gifts, before hopping onboard the Santa Train. What Christmas dreams are made of...

:: Edinburgh Christmas Markets run from November 22 to January 5 (www.visitscotland.com)

St Nicholas Fayre, York

Another picturesque and historic city - and another which looks more striking than ever when illuminated with Christmas lights. You’ll find stalls aplenty lining the city centre selling a range of wares. Pick up ‘Made in Yorkshire’ gifts in the medieval Guild Hall and head to the living museum Barley Hall to catch crafting in action. With many of the traders in costume, and carol singers and street performers never far from earshot, you’ll feel as though you’ve stepped into the pages of a Dickens novel. Another highlight is the local farm produce and delicious street food on offer - a hearty steaming pie will keep you warm and fuelled for a full day’s strolling.

:: St Nicholas Fayre runs from November 28 to December 1 (www.visityork.org)