Christmas Day will be here before you know it so we’ve asked Rough Guides’ accessible travel specialist Emma Bowler to give her run-down of the best Christmas markets in the UK and beyond.
Twinkling lights, rustic chalets and the promise of warm, spiced wine, a Christmas market will challenge anyone not to feel in a festive mood. Many markets offer activities and entertainment as well, and the great news is that they are keen to be inclusive.
Christkindelmarkt stalls in Millennium Square, Leeds
10 Nov – 24 Dec 2017
You’ll find Leeds Christkindelmarkt in Millennium Square, in the heart of the city centre. There’s a Christmas carousel ride, entertainment stage and atmospheric eateries. Forty-five wooden chalet stalls make it a great place to stock up on handcrafted toys, jewellery, cards and decorations. Don’t miss the authentic German delicacies on offer, including bratwurst, stollen, gingerbread and glühwein.
This is a small market that’s big on access, with disabled toilets in the square and a Changing Places toilet next to the Civic Hall – remember to bring your RADAR key. The best accessible drop-off points are on Rossington Street and Portland Gate. There’s on-street parking all around the square and Blue Badge holders can park without time limit in the Woodhouse Lane multi-storey car park.
London Hyde Park Winter Wonderland
17 Nov 2017 – 1 Jan 2018 [closed Christmas Day]
This annual Hyde Park extravaganza features London’s largest German-style Christmas market, with more than 200 twinkling stalls and 100 rides and attractions. Many activities here are accessible, so you can go ice-skating, see London from the giant wheel and have a drink in sub-zero temperatures at Bar Ice. Alternatively, admire deep sea-themed ice sculptures at The Magical Ice Kingdom or watch a show, such as dramatic Zippos Christmas Circus or Cinderella on Ice.
Entry is free but you need to book tickets for additional activities in advance. There’s also a Personal Assistance ticketing scheme. Parking is limited in the park; if you’re travelling by tube, Green Park is the best station for step-free access. Check the Winter Wonderland accessibility page for detailed access information.
Popular food stalls at Edinburgh’s European Christmas Market
Edinburgh European Christmas Market
17 Nov 2017 – 6 Jan 2018
The Edinburgh European Christmas Market in East Princes Street Gardens is part of Edinburgh’s dazzling six-week season of festive entertainment. More than 100 traditional stalls offer tasty food, warming drinks and handmade gifts. Access to the fairground rides at neighbouring Santa Land depends on the nature of your disability. Wheelchairs are welcome on the ice rink, and some of the pods on the Big Wheel are accessible.
East Princes Street Gardens is accessible from Princes Street and Waverley Bridge but some ramps are very steep. There’s free parking in the vicinity and an accessible toilet at the Mound precinct but you’ll need to ask a member of Edinburgh’s Christmas staff to open it. Check edinburghchristmas.com for further access information.
Craft*Folk market takes over Cardiff’s city centre
Craft*Folk’s Cardiff Christmas Market
9 Nov – 23 Dec 2017
Craft*folk is part of Cardiff’s city-wide Christmas celebrations. The market now has more than 80 stalls, featuring goods from more than 200 artists and craftspeople, many of them Welsh. Among the edible offerings, you’ll find Snowdonian cheese, buttered bara brith and aged Celtic whisky. There are all sorts of crafty gift ideas too, from hand-poured candles and steampunk jewellery to hand-forged ironwork and ceramic Christmas decorations.
The market is located in the city centre. There are disabled toilets and disabled parking bays nearby. Blue Badge holders can park for free in pay-and-display spaces and in most council car parks. There’s also a free City Centre Mobility Service to help disabled people around the pedestrianized areas.
Tinsel-covered chalets in the grounds of Belfast Hall
Belfast Christmas Market
18 Nov – 23 Dec 2017
More than 100 chalets take over the grounds and outside perimeter of Belfast Hall for the Belfast Christmas Market. Thirty-two countries are represented including a significant number of proud local producers. There are crafts, decorations, and food from Europe and beyond, plus Santa in his accessible gingerbread-themed grotto. New for 2017 is a vintage helter skelter and a food court with bench-style seating.
There are disabled portaloos and the organisers have done their best to address uneven surfaces and kerbs. If you’d prefer to beat the crowds the market is quieter Monday – Wednesday 10am – 12pm and you can book a free tour as part of the Buddy Scheme if you have access requirements (contact firstname.lastname@example.org).
Birmingham Frankfurt Christmas Market and Craft Fair
16 Nov – 24 Dec 2017
Birmingham’s Frankfurt fair is billed as the largest authentic German Christmas market outside Germany. Browse the traditional goods and gifts on sale at more than 120 stalls, and enjoy live music while snacking on pretzels and schnitzels washed down with weissbeer.
The market is wheelchair accessible, with routes to avoid any steps, and accessible toilets are located next to the stage on Victoria Square. There are various car parks in the vicinity, but be aware that the council car park on Navigation Street doesn’t have a lift.
If you don’t want to travel far you can find local Christmas markets all over the UK, but if you’re feeling more adventurous then head to Europe. Experience the festive season in one of the original Christmas markets, such as those in Vienna (18 Nov – 30 Dec 2017), whose markets date back to the first December Market in 1298; fairy tale Tallinn (17 Nov 2017 – 6 Jan 2018); or go for Scandi style in Stockholm (19 Nov – 23 Dec 2017).
Christmas markets can get busy so you might want to avoid peak times – Friday and Saturday night in particular – and if you go to Bruges’s atmospheric Christmas Market (24 Nov 2017 – 1 Jan 2018), take a cushion to ease the impact of the cobbles.
If you’re planning a journey in your Motability Scheme car, you may also be interested in our latest travel articles below. Find out what you need to do here if you are taking your Motability Scheme car abroad this festive season.
For other inspiration on great days out around the UK, including some accessible trails, see The Rough Guide to Accessible Britain.
The Motability Scheme enables disabled people and their families to access a brand new car or scooter, by exchanging their mobility allowance to lease the vehicle of their choice. Find out more:
More useful articles:
Rough Guides would like to thank the following individuals, companies and picture libraries for their kind permission to reproduce their photographs:
Edinburgh: Michelle Grant / Rough Guides
Cardiff F4NMHJ: Peter Bolter / Alamy Stock Photo
Belfast: Christopher Heaney