exploring christmas markets in south east england

Nothing brings more of that special Christmas feel than a nice Christmas market and a town decked with festive lights. Almost every town and village has at least some lights, and others plenty more – December is the time to hop on the train or a car and go visit places!

Now if you haven’t been to any place yet there is still some hope left, although many markets close their doors this weekend, right before the big day. I’ve bought lovely locally made crafts and treats there and we are going to skate there also once or twice before new years. Lots of fun for the whole family.

London Christmas markets

 True to my habits, I first checked whether my favourite castles had any Christmas markets and events coming this year and there certainly were plenty: one of my all-time favourites, Leeds Castle, had (and still has until the 24th) a lot going on. The castle is festively decorated, the gardens illuminated with lights, there is German-style Christmas market and of course Santa for children – not forgetting husky rides and visiting reindeers!

One can never go wrong with Leeds Castle, which they call the loveliest castle in the world (I’ve gotten feedback about this before, so I shall mention that this Leeds in question is a tiny village near Maidstone, Kent, in South East England).

Leeds Castle
Image Leeds Castle

My children have been asking about ice skating a lot, so a nearby Christmas Market here in Kent that offers a cute market in German-style chalets and ice skating in a beautiful park setting in Royal Tunbridge Wells at Christmas event (until Jan 5th). If you time your visit well you can still see also reindeers, Dickens Christmas story performance and a Christmas market at the Pantiles shopping centre nearby (on the weekend of 21st-22nd).  

TUnbridge wells christmas

Keeping children in mind I am adding one more place, although it’s not really a Christmas market, nor is it outdoors, but it’s lovely and very popular destination – so much so that people stay often overnight nearby: Bluewater shopping centre Winter Wonderland. We watched the Charlie and Lola puppet theatre, earned some presents by successfully throwing objects down with “snowballs”, tested the winter slides and that pretty indoor ice skating rink – the list goes on.

And of course there is plenty of shopping to do also under thousands of twinkling lights – a modern day christmas experience for sure that makes the little ones extra happy (and they are open until Jan 5th).


One of my favourite hot-spots for Christmas is actually London, and luckily it is one of those places where fun will continue well into the new year. There is so much to do there: we combine our visit with the Snowman theatre show (our all-time family favourite Christmas programme!) with the christmas lights on a bus tour around the city after dark – and the lovely Hyde Park Winter Wonderland with rides, ice skating, circus and two christmas markets full of cute stalls (until Jan 5th).

Another other great London Christmas market to visit is by the London Eye – lovely lights, ice rink and of course the lovely South Bank Christmas market stalls (until Dec 24th).

London Christmas markets

The other special place nearby is in Chatham, Kent, where we are going this weekend – to the Dickens World. Currently they also have set up a special Winter Wonderland along with a Christmas Pantomime and those lovely old-fashioned market stalls (until Dec 24th). So exciting!

Since I live in the South East England these are my favourite places nearby. Other parts of the country have had amazing Christmas Markets, of which Edinburg, Bath and Manchester rank really high, but most have already closed, or are closing their doors for the year this weekend. If you missed all those lovely markets and would still like to get into that old-fashioned Christmas spirit, try taking an overnight trip and make a new Christmas tradition out of it.

Hotels might be hard to find at this point, but my tip would be to use a hotel search engine for that. I have tried and tested probably pretty much all of them, and my current favourite is Trivago. They actually check room prices from almost 200 different sites, so you are bound to get the best price. Trivago shows you all the sites which offer the hotel you want to stay in – and they give all the details so you can compare on the spot (and on the same page. This is a key feature for me as I don’t like those sites which open multiple windows for you and make the process really hard).

Hamley's Elves

That said, I’d love to hear about your favourite Christmas Market experiences – especially if you took an overnight trip and stayed in a hotel so I can add some ideas to my next year’s bucket list already. I wish you all a very merry Christmas Market time!


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