Accessible Christmas Markets in the UK and beyond
By Emma Bowler
With just a month to go till Christmas Day, Rough Guide’s accessible travel specialist Emma Bowler shares the best Christmas markets in the UK and beyond to whet your Christmas appetite.
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.
11 Nov – 18 Dec 2016
You'll find Leeds ChristkindelmarktOpens in new window in Millennium Square, in the heart of the city centre. There’s a Christmas carousel ride and more than 40 wooden chalet stalls, which makes 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 RADAROpens in new window key. The best accessible drop-off points are on Rossington Street and Portland Gate. There’s on-street parkingOpens in new window all round the square and Blue Badge holders can park without time limit in the Woodhouse Lane multi-storey car park.
LONDON HYDE PARK WINTER WONDERLAND
18 Nov 2016 – 2 Jan 2017 [closed Christmas Day]
Celebrating its 10th Year, this Hyde Park extravaganzaOpens in new window features London’s largest German-style Christmas market, with more than 200 stalls lit by fairy lights. 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 ice sculptures at The Magical Ice Kingdom or watch a show, such as the wintry ballet Nutcracker on Ice or the daredevil Cirque Berserk.
Entry is free but you need to book tickets in advance. There’s also a 2-for-1 Personal Assistance 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 WonderlandOpens in new window website for detailed access information.
EDINBURGH EUROPEAN CHRISTMAS MARKET
19 Nov 2016 – 7 Jan 2017
The Edinburgh European Christmas MarketOpens in new window in East Princes Street Gardens is part of Edinburgh’s dazzling six-week season of festive entertainment. More than 100 stalls from across northern Europe offer tasty food, warming drinks and handmade gifts.
Access to the fairground rides at neighbouring Santa Land depends on the nature of your disability. Some of the pods on the Big Wheel are accessible and to get onto Santa’s Train you’ll need to transfer from your wheelchair.
East Princes Street Gardens is accessible from Princes Street and Waverley Bridge but some ramps are very steep. There’s free parkingOpens in new window 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.comOpens in new window for further access information.
CRAFT*FOLK'S CARDIFF CHRISTMAS MARKET
10 Nov – 23 Dec 2016
Craft*folk is part of Cardiff’s Step into ChristmasOpens in new window city-wide 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 local craft beers. There are all sorts of crafty gift ideas too, from candles and knitted scarves to hand-forged ironwork and ceramic Christmas decorations.
The market is located in the city centre. There are disabled toiletsOpens in new window and disabled parking baysOpens in new window nearby. Blue Badge holders can park for free in pay-and-display spaces and in council car parks for up to three hours. There’s also a free City Centre Mobility ServiceOpens in new window to help disabled people around the pedestrianized areas.
BELFAST CHRISTMAS MARKET
19 Nov – 22 Dec 2016
To celebrate Northern Ireland’s Year of Food and Drink 2016, Belfast Christmas MarketOpens in new window has become bigger than ever. Twenty stalls have been added at the market’s entrance and inside there are crafts, decorations, and food from Europe and beyond, plus Santa in his accessible grotto. Parents of sweet-toothed children may wish to avoid Candy Alley, for obvious reasons.
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 tourOpens in new window if you have access requirements.
BIRMINGHAM FRANKFURT CHRISTMAS MARKET & CRAFT FAIR
17 Nov – 29 Dec 2016 [except Christmas Day]
Birmingham’s Frankfurt fairOpens in new window is billed as the largest authentic German Christmas market outside of Germany. Browse the traditional goods and gifts on sale at more than 120 stalls, and enjoy live-music whilst 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 parksOpens in new window 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 marketsOpens in new window 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 StuttgartOpens in new window (23 Nov–23 Dec 2016) or PragueOpens in new window (26 Nov 2016–1 Jan 2017). Alternatively, discover one of Europe’s more recent fairs, like the one on the Champs ElyséesOpens in new window in Paris (15 Nov 2016–10 Jan 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 BrugesOpens in new window (25 Nov 2016–1 Jan 2017), take a cushion to ease the impact of the cobbles!
Rough Guides would like to thank the following individuals, companies and picture libraries for their kind permission to reproduce their photographs:
1 Edinburgh: Michelle Grant / Rough Guides
2 Edinburgh: Michelle Grant / Rough Guides
6 Cardiff F4NMHJ: Peter Bolter / Alamy Stock Photo
7 Belfast BA7ME9: scenicireland.com / Christopher Hill Photographic / Alamy Stock Photo