Five of Britain's best Christmas markets
Britain's biggest and best Christmas markets to enjoy over the festive period.
Alongside the traditions and customs of the festive period, Christmas buzz is often created by expensive TV commercials and elaborate marketing campaigns run by powerful corporate giants. It's a lucrative period for the multiples, but consumers can escape the crush of department stores - and support small businesses, too - by visiting one of Britain's ever-growing number of Christmas markets. Here are five of our favourites.
1. Birmingham's Frankfurt Christmas Market
Having been running for the past 12 years, Birmingham's festive offering is the biggest authentic German Christmas market outside Germany and Austria.
Bright lights line the streets where stalls offer everything from mulled wine and steins of beer to festive food and toys crafted by local artisans, with plenty of space for visitors to soak up the atmosphere.
The city's enormous Bullring shopping centre may be just around the corner, but you wouldn't know it once you've immersed yourself in the magic of the market.
2. Southbank Festive Markets
If you're looking for somewhere to wrap yourself up in the warm Christmas spirit without fighting through a manic superstore, head to your local market for some seasonal cheer and support the small businesses on show.
London has a whole host of Christmas activities to choose from, but the Southbank Festive Markets are a great alternative to the rushing throngs that descend on Oxford Street.
With the Thames on one side and enchanting wooden chalets on the other, there are plenty of opportunities to pick up treats and gifts from independent sellers - a great way to experience something different in the heart of the English capital.
3. Edinburgh Christmas Celebrations
Scotland knows how to get in the Christmas spirit, and Edinburgh's historic buildings provide a brilliant backdrop for festive fun.
The German market itself is similar to those that can be enjoyed elsewhere in the UK - handcrafted gifts and unique items are all available, while the organisers have worked hard to cultivate an authentic Bavarian feel.
Visitors can also take to Europe's largest open air ice rink, as well as pop into Edinburgh Castle for great views of the city. All in all it's a brilliant Christmas experience, with plenty of small retailers to choose from in the market.
4. Bath Christmas Market
Much like Edinburgh, Bath's traditional surroundings are the perfect setting for a classic Christmas market, and more than 150 chalets are set up next to Bath Abbey to create the ideal festive scene.
The small stalls stock wide varieties of food, quirky gifts and handmade decorations. It's another great chance to support independent businesses, all the while getting in the Christmas spirit.
5. Swansea Christmas
Big, bright and wonderful, Swansea's Christmas market is as much a fair as it is anything else.
Two ice skating rinks, various funfair rides and a range of attractions make it a particularly vibrant spot - and there are more than 40 festive chalets for visitors to sample as they make their way through the site.
So, if you're looking for somewhere to wrap yourself up in the warm Christmas spirit without fighting through a manic superstore, head to your local market for some seasonal cheer and support the small businesses on show.