Guide to Norfolk’s best Christmas markets
Inject some real festive spirit into your Christmas shopping, with a whirl round Norfolk's wonder fully festive seasonal markets. SIMON PARKIN has the complete guide to the best for gifts, decorations, food and Christmas cheer.
There is nothing more guaranteed to get the Christmas juices flowing than the mention of Christmas markets. For years, we were tempted by the exoticism of markets in Prague, Vienna and Berlin. Now there's no need to jet off as Norfolk has plenty of its own to fill us full of Christmas cheer.
Germany is famous for its Christmas markets, with more than 2,500 across the country. They have been a German tradition since at least the mid-1500s.
Seasonal markets were held year around. Christmas markets were an especially joyous, anticipated event, as they brought light and laughter to a cold, dark season.
Each town had a unique market. Local tradesmen sold their wares at the market, which gave each market an individual flavour. Food and beverages served were produced in the region, so each town's offerings were a little different. Tradesmen lined the streets with handmade wares, displaying distinctive regional characteristics.
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While we don't have the tradition of such markets, to get the experience you no longer have to hop on a plane. Apart from the fact that one might fancy a jaunt abroad, there is no need to jet off because we have fantastic Christmas markets all over the county this year.
And the numerous charming Christmas markets Norfolk is hosting are a good antidote to holiday commercialism. Instead of mass-produced gifts, the markets feature unique, hand-crafted items, purchased from vendors who have often crafted the items themselves.
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Market Place, Great Yarmouth, December 2-4, 01493 745828, www.gytcp.co.uk
Yarmouth's Christmas market has a wide variety of stalls, festive entertainment, fun fair and attractions not only in the Market Place but also Norwegian seasonal specialities in nearby St Nicholas Church and Priory Centre. Crafts, gifts, specialist foods and local produce will all be on sale.
Medieval Christmas Market
Dragon Hall, King Street, Norwich, December 3-4, 10am-5pm, �2.50, �1 under-16s, under-5s free, 01603 663922, www.dragonhall.org
There'll be a royal welcome for visitors to Dragon Hall's Medieval Christmas. Queen Elizabeth I (as portrayed by actor Rachel Duffield, that is) will be on hand to welcome her shopping subjects to the event this weekend. The ancient hall (built in 1430) will be tastefully decorated in traditional seasonal splendour – most of it donated by Dragon Hall staff and volunteers from their gardens and augmented by splendid traditionally decorated trees. Beneath the magnificent crown post roof and throughout the ancient building traders from all over the UK and northern Europe will be in period costume selling a wide variety of medieval themed goods and original crafts. Musicians in period costume will also be performing throughout the two. There will be a bar featuring local ales, mulled wine and food inspired by German Christmas Markets.
Victorian Christmas Fayre
Holkham Hall, December 3-4, 10am-5pm, �11, �7 children, �30 family, 01328 713111, www.holkham.co.uk
Holkham Hall's Bygones Museum goes all festive again with a Victorian Christmas Fayre this weekend. The event features Dickensian-era seasonal shopping, costumed traders, a daring fire breather, minstrels leading Christmas carols and storytelling. You can make your own traditional decorations too. The hall is open and magnificently decorated with traditional garland. Children's prices include a gift.
Deepdale Christmas Market
Burnham Deepdale, December 3-4, 10am-4pm, free admission, www.deepdalechristmasmarket.co.uk
Stock up on all those Christmas decorations and presents at the third Deepdale Christmas Market, while enjoying plenty of festive food, cheer and carols. There will be many stalls and activities to really start December with a large glass of festive spirit. The regular shops and cafe at Dalegate Market will be open as normal throughout the weekend.
A Christmas Nostalgia
Blackfriars Hall, St Andrew's Halls, Norwich, December 4, 10am-4pm, �1, under—16s free, www.cloistersfair.com
Remember Christmas past. Plenty of Christmas shopping with 45 stalls selling all the antiques, collectables and vintage you need to recreate that old-fashioned Christmas you remember from your childhood. Among the items on sale will be children's books, toys, games, puzzles, dolls, teddies, Christmas cards and decorations, old-fashioned table settings, kitchenalia, vintage clothes and original gifts, jewellery and much more.
Christmas Street Fair
Town Centre, Bungay, December 4, 9am-4pm, free admission Join in with the festivities in Bungay as its holds its popular annual Christmas market in the streets, with everything from mince pies and mulled wine to brilliant and local gift ideas, just in time to put under the tree.
Traditional Christmas Fayre
Redgrave and Lopham Fen, South Lopham, Diss, December 4, 10am-5pm, free admission, 01379 688333
Festive activities with tree dressing, winter barbecue and seasonal fayre, gifts, crafts and refreshments.
Blickling Hall, December 3-4/10-11/17-18, 11am-5pm, �9, �4.50 children, 01263 738030, www.nationaltrust.org.uk
Another returning seasonal favourite is Christmas at Blickling. Held at this beautiful National Trust house just outside Aylsham, the event runs for the next three weekends. Be welcomed by characters from the past and enter a country house beautifully decorated for the festive season. Find your way into the garden where a trail of decorated Christmas trees and lights lead you to the Temple where Father Christmas awaits your all-important order. The Christmas Courtyard houses a marquee with crafts, seasonal snacks and drinks. Christmas trees, wreaths and greenery are for sale beside garden gifts, hot chestnuts and seasonal delights.
Festival of Christmas
Norwich Cathedral, December 9-11, Fri/Sat 10am-5.30pm/Sun 12pm-5.30pm, �4 (�3.50 cons), �3.50 children, under-12s free, www.norfolkchristmasfestivals.co.uk
For the last four years Norwich Cathedral has hosted a Historic Christmas Fayre in the Cloisters but 2011 is going to be very different. This three-day Festival of Christmas see organisers promising gifts to suit all ages and all tastes in shopping avenues around the Cloisters, an array of seasonal food and drink with the opportunity to meet the producers or watch cookery, floral, foraging, sausage-making, butchery demonstrations and wine masterclasses. There will be family activities including a large children's activity area, carol singing and the chance to meet Snow and Drift all the way from Lapland. Christmas Craft Market
The Mall, Norwich, December 5-24, free admission, 01603 766430
The annual Christmas Craft Market returns to the The Mall. All items are locally produced, from handmade fudge, gifts, soaps and jewellery to wooden crafts and speciality oils. Open daily 9am outside Boots on level 1.
The Forum, Norwich, until December 18, free admission, 01603 727950
The ever popular Christmas Craft Fair continues at The Forum until December 18 offering unusual gift opportunities for your seasonal shopping. Jewellery, handbags, art work, clothes, pictures, wood work, metal work, you name it. In addition, Jarrolds' Forum shop is showcasing a wide variety of products from local suppliers and producers, with a chance to meet the people who make the products, throughout December.
Clutter City Christmas Craftacular
Norwich Arts Centre, December 10, 10am-4pm, free admission, 01603 660352, www.cluttercity.co.uk
The Christmas market with a difference. Clutter City brings another yuletide feast of crafts, festive workshops and winter food and drink to Norwich Arts Centre next Saturday. This quirky handmade market is where you will find unusual and unique gifts and items including jewellery, illustrations, clothing, home d�cor, hand-stitched goods and more all brought to you by independent artists and crafters. Confirmed vendors include illustrations from local talent Gemma Correll, original acrylic necklaces and clocks from Big Bad Wolf Designs and illustrations and screen prints from the Mesh Collective. There will also be children's workshops, music and festive food.
Assembly House, Norwich, December 10-11, 10am-4pm, free admission, 01603 626402, www.assemblyhousenorwich.co.uk
There'll be stalls selling all kinds of Christmas gifts, from edible goodies such as Christmas cakes, mince pies, Yule logs and freshly-baked biscuits to festive floral arrangements and pretty Christmas plants. Plus there'll be plenty of ideas for presents, from jewellery and pottery to hats and crafts. For younger members of the family, there'll be wooden toys and old -fashioned sweets plus all sorts of games and activities to keep them amused.
A Victorian Family Christmas
Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse, December 20-22, 10am-2.30pm, �7, �5 children, under-4s free, 01362 869251, www.museums.norfolk.gov.uk
Gressenhall opens the workhouse doors for a glimpse of a truly Victorian Christmas offering the chance to enjoy the sights and sounds of Christmas past. Roll up! roll up! and marvel at the Magic Lantern show, join carol singing in the Chapel and 'boo and hiss' at appropriate moments during renditions of traditional Christmas tales. Make your own peg doll and a traditional Christmas card. Taste workhouse gruel. Track down Victorian street peddlers but keep your hands on your purses - the Artful Dodger may be about!