24th Nov 2012 2:02pm | By Helen Elfer
Ditch the high street and buy your Christmas gifts and goodies at a festive market. Here’s our pick of the very best in the UK
Nothing cheers up a freezing cold day like a mug or two of cinnamon-infused mulled wine, snaffling down a few sugary German biscuits and picking up some pressies for your loved ones all at the same time.
If that Christmas combo doesn’t leave you feeling all warm and fuzzy inside, then bah humbug to you. Maybe you could use an injection of festive cheer from these long-standing shop-til-you-drop-athons.
Albert Square is the main hub of Manchester’s huge series of Christmas markets, but there are seven smaller ones dotted around the city centre.
Buyer's market: The theme is European, so you’ll find areas of the market representing the trademark Christmas goodies from different countries.
Invest in delicious Dutch toffee waffles and cheeses, French biscuits and lavender soaps or some Spanish chorizo – plus, obviously, as much glühwein as you can drink.
Arts and crafts are sold at the stalls in Exchange Square, German goodies in St Ann’s Square, and French treats in King Street. All the market areas are walking – or staggering – distance from each other.
Xmas X-factor: Bigger is better in Manchester. To prove this, every year it’s a grand city tradition to hoist a huge inflatable Santa on to the city’s Town Hall.
Not forgetting the religious side of things, a giant revolving nativity scene will be the centrepiece of the market. Runs until December 23.
Spread across the Hayes, Trinity Street, Working Street and St John’s Church area, Cardiff’s festive market has a strong focus on its Welsh heritage – offering an alternative from the usual German themes.
Buyer's market: Most of the stalls here sell traditional regional gifts, such as carved Welsh lovespoons, pewter products, thrown pottery, Christmas lanterns and local artwork.
Visitors can also commission crafty personalised gifts from the talented artisans around the precinct or chow down on seasonal fare.
Xmas X-factor: It’s going to be extremely nippy in Cardiff at this time of year, so make sure you take time to warm your cockles with a generous nip of whiskey or fruit and cream liqueurs sold from many of the stalls. Runs until December 23.
Edinburgh has hosted a festive market since medieval times, and this one at East Princes Street Gardens has a welcoming Scottish flavour, from the foodstuffs to the atmosphere.
Buyer's Market: The eclectic Scottish produce is enough to make your mouth water – juicy sausages, fried potato cakes, gourmet venison burgers and speciality hot chocolate made with a whole Mars bar – that’ll put some flesh on your bones.
Xmas X-factor: Edinburgh’s pretty winter ice rink is right next door to the market, so go for a spin once you’ve finished shopping.
They serve large mugs of mulled wine here, too, to keep you toasty warm. Both the market and the ice rink are operating until January 6.
Leeds goes all out every year with this German Christmas Market in Millennium Square.
Buyer's Market: The festive village holds more than 40 traditional wooden chalet stalls and Alpine-style log cabins from which cutesy gifts such as hand-crafted jewellery, seasonal decorations and wooden toys are sold.
Naturally, there will be heaps of German seasonal munchies on offer – think stollen, gingerbread, bratwurst. The old-fashioned carousel ride is extra fun after a glass or two of glühwein.
Xmas X-factor: This is Leeds, so naturally the majority of visitors are as interested in festive boozing as Christmas shopping.
The ever-popular Frankfurter Scheune is a large hall built just for this, serving hot, Christmas cocktails, mulled wine and German beers, along with grub.
Bavarian bands will be performing here every night of the market, too. Runs until December 16.
Photos: Getty, Thinkstock