Lincoln, Manchester, Birmingham & Leeds, England
The tradition of Christmas Markets in the British Isles seems to have migrated over from Germany as early as the 16th century. Unfortunately, due to the somewhat overzealous efforts of certain religious factions in the 1600s, England’s holiday markets experienced a long hiatus that would continue more or less into the 20th century. It wasn’t until the 1980s that the first annually recurring Christmas Market reappeared in the United Kingdom, in the city of Lincoln in Central England. From its humble beginnings of eleven stalls and a few thousand visitors in 1982, the Lincoln Christmas Market has grown into an impressive affair, with as many as a quarter of a million visitors flooding Lincoln’s Castle Square every December.
From Lincoln, the United Kingdom experienced a spectacular proliferation of Christmas Markets that quickly spread across the country. Perhaps no city embraced the new tradition as enthusiastically as nearby Manchester, which now boasts not one, but five different Christmas markets every year. Manchester’s Christmas activities center around the main market in Albert Square, in the shadow of the city’s towering Christmas Tree. The other markets are scattered throughout the city center, and run for nearly a month in November and December, making the Manchester markets collectively among the longest running each year.
In Birmingham and Leeds, as well as in other places, the Germans got into the act. Hearkening back to the days of the medieval Christmas trade coming from Frankfurt, Birmingham and Leeds developed Christmas Markets with a distinctly German flair. These two markets are now among the highest attended outside of Central Europe. The Birmingham Christmas Market in particular is the most popular in England, and may be the most attended Christmas Market in the world outside of Germany, with an estimated two million visitors stopping by every year.
Together, Lincoln, Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham represent the Big Four of England’s Christmas Market scene. The Lincoln Market, traditionally the shortest, usually runs in the first week of December, from 10:30am-9:30pm on most days. The Manchester Markets run from mid-November until a few days before Christmas, from 10:00am-9:00pm on most days. The Birmingham Market runs from mid-November until a few days before Christmas, from 10:00am-9:00pm on most days. The Leeds Market runs from mid-November through the third week in December, from 10:30am-9:00pm on most days. Obviously, dates and times vary from year-to-year, so visitors should check ahead. There is no cost of admission at any of these Christmas Markets, though few visitors will escape without spending at least some money! Web: http://christmasmarket.lincoln.gov.uk; www.manchester.gov.uk/markets; www.birmingham.gov.uk/frankfurtmarket; www.festiveleeds.com/christmasmarket (official websites of the Lincoln, Manchester, Birmingham and Leeds Markets respectively)