Our favourite Christmas Markets in the Lake District

(Image courtesy of the National Trust, John Millar)

December is a magical time of year here in the Lakes. Bringing Christmas markets, twinkly lights, good cheer, and lots of chances to eat, drink and be merry.

Christmas Markets started in medieval Germany, and are usually around the start of advent. They continue today in modern Germany (and many other European countries). The Christmas Markets are usually found in the town centres. With stalls selling a range of gifts, with lots of food and drink options, music and entertainment.

Christmas markets have been growing for many years – originally started in larger cities such as London, Manchester, Liverpool, Edinburgh and Glasgow. Where many of them import traditions from Germany, such as mulled wine and bratwurst. Small market towns are now hosting their own Christmas markets but prefer to use them as a showcase for local food & drink, and perhaps local craft and artwork.

Our favourite Christmas Markets in the Lake District

In Cumbria, there are many markets to choose from, often linked to a Christmas light switch on, or a visit from Santa.  They all showcase local produce, and you’ll probably find Cumberland sausage rather than bratwurst!  They are a fantastic boost for the local economy, give a great atmosphere to the town, and you can pick up some unique gifts whilst you’re there.

Here’s a guide to a few of our favourite Festive celebrations – all free to enjoy but you may find plenty of excuses to buy food, drink or perhaps some Christmas gifts? And don’t forget you can use the Lake District Pound at many independent shops and support the area.

Windermere Christmas Market

Windermere Christmas
Windermere Christmas

Victoria Street, Windermere, Saturday, 8th & Sunday, 9th December, 2018  www.windermerechristmas.co.uk

Around 50 stalls sell a range of goods produced both locally and from Europe, with live music and other street performers. There is a shuttle bus in operation from car parks in the larger Bowness-On-Windermere, and plenty of stands selling hot food.

Ulverston Dickensian Christmas Festival

Ulverston Dickensian Christmas Market

Ulverston Town Centre, Date: 24-25 November  www.dickensianfestival.co.uk

A Christmas Carol,  by Charles Dickens, is brought to life each year in Ulverston, where they turn back the clocks to the Dickensian era with a unique Christmas market. There’s street entertainment, Dickensian costume, horse drawn carriages,  and a selection of street food with the highlight being the grand parade.  All alongside a market with a fabulous selection of gifts.

Ambleside Christmas Lights

Market Cross & Market Place in Ambleside, Saturday, 17th November, 2018  www.amblesidechristmaslights.co.uk

Far more than just a Christmas Market, this annual event in Ambleside combines a traditional shopping experience with other activities. These include a Christmas light switch on, cruises on the lake, a lantern parade, and a visit from Santa Claus himself – complete with his sleigh. The day ends in spectacular style with a large fireworks display. There are family-friendly activities throughout the day, as well as live music and other street performances. Whilst the market sells a range of culinary delights and other gifts.

Keswick Victorian Fair

Market Place & Packhorse Court, Keswick, Sunday, 2nd December, 2018

This is a fantastic opportunity to combine some Christmas shopping with support for local charities. During this event, around 30 local and national charities have stalls. You can browse their goods that include a selection of homemade Christmas crafts and cakes. Also, there is a nativity scene, and children will be delighted with the fun fair. Plus the arrival of Father Christmas, complete with his live reindeer. There are also street performances throughout the day. Traders and other workers will be dressed in Victorian costume, and visitors are invited to do the same.

Taste Cumbria Christmas:  Cockermouth

Main Street, Cockermouth, Saturday, 8th & Sunday, 9th December, 2018  www.tastecumbria.com/taste-events/taste-cumbria-christmas-market

Taste Cumbria run a series of food festivals throughout the year across Cumbria. The food markets showcase the very best that local producers have to offer. The Taste Cumbria Christmas festival is the pinnacle of these food festivals. It mixes with some festive cheer, resulting in a popular event where you can pick up some delicious goods to go with your traditional Christmas feast. Craft stalls offer a range of gifts, and there are fairground rides for children. A beer and fizz tent provides some winter warmth, and you will also find some hot food stands.

Carlisle Christmas Market

Carlisle Christmas Markets

English Street, Carlisle, 28 November – 2 December

This market takes place over 5 days with local artisan producers and craftspeople from the Borderlands as well as live entertainment, activities and festive fun.
The event is being organised by Sustainable Brampton, a community organisation committed to minimising our impact on the environment, promoting local food production and local businesses and building a stronger community through practical activities and campaigning: www.carlisle.gov.uk/news-and-events/carlisle-christmas-market

Kendal Christmas Light Switch on & Market

At the end of November, a celebration is held in the town of Kendal. The festive lights are turned on at dusk, after the Christmas market takes place throughout the day, selling a range of locally produced goods. You’ll also find lots of lovely, unique independent shops around the yards and cobbled streets of the auld grey town.

Hawkshead Christmas Market


Hawkshead Village Centre, Saturday, 1st & Sunday, 2nd December, 2018 : www.facebook.com/hawksheadchristmasfair

The small village of Hawkshead brims with festival cheer each year, when a Christmas Fair takes over the ancient streets. Enjoy over 50 stalls selling food, crafts, and other gifts, as well as the village shops and pubs offering festive treats and shopping. There is also a lantern parade, live music, and street performances.  Santa is waiting in his grotto, whilst the village pubs host a mini beer festival.

National Trust Christmas Offerings:

The National Trust places in the Lakes have lots of different things going on:

Get a traditional Christmas fix at Sizergh Castle – with twinkling lights, the smell of pine needles and mulled wine, and Christmas food and pudding and of course, the chance to meet Father Christmas!

Allan Bank in Grasmere promises to envelope you in  ‘pure uninterrupted Christmas spirit’. There’ll be live Christmas classics, plus a wreath workshop, or go and cosy up by the fire with a hot punch.
Whatever you choose, you’ll have a Christmas experience to remember, and the added glow that your entry or membership, or spending in the shop or tearoom goes straight back into conserving this very special place.