Your guide to Norfolk’s best Christmas markets
Inject some real festive spirit into your Christmas shopping with a whirl around the region's wonderful seasonal markets. SIMON PARKIN has a guide to the best places for gifts, decorations and plenty of 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.
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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SANDRINGHAM CHRISTMAS CRAFT SHOW
Sandringham Estate, November 23-25, 10am-6pm, �6 (�5.50 cons), �2 children, 01283 820548, www.craft-show.co.uk
Find that ideal Christmas present (or more) at the Sandringham Christmas Craft Show, being staged in large marquees at Sandringham Estate's Visitors' Centre this weekend. This popular favourite blends arts and crafts, regional food and drink, unusual gifts and craft demonstrations. Plus there'll be Santa's Owl Show and Grotto (say hello to Smurf the African Spotted Eagle Owl). And a special feature this year - a panto! The two-hour Dick Whittington show will keep your little ones entertained in traditional style (�4 extra per person). The event is open from 10am-6pm daily and don't miss your welcoming glass of punch.
Assembly House, Norwich, November 24-25, 10am-5pm, free admission, 01603 626402, www.assemblyhousenorwich.co.uk
The Assembly House - a beautiful example of Georgian architecture - will be decorated in fabulous festive style and this event will feature a host of seasonal stalls, perfect for Christmas presents and stocking fillers, as well as delightful decorations and tempting edible treats. Listen to the brass band playing carols in the courtyard then take a look at the Christmas goods on offer – from elegant fresh floral wreaths and attractive table arrangements, to Christmas cakes, biscuits and Yule logs as well as vintage clothes, knitwear, toys and games and old-fashioned sweets.
Bury St Edmunds, November 23-25, free admission, 01284 764667, www.burystedmundschristmasfayre.co.uk
Now in its ninth year, Bury St Edmunds' Christmas Fayre which has grown into one of the country's biggest festive events in the UK and draws visitors from across the region. The three-day event is a sparkling mixture of several markets and a host of family entertainment rolled into one. About 100,000 people are expected to visit this weekend drawn by some 300 stalls across the town centre offering a huge range of Christmas treats, gifts and locally-produced and sourced food and drink. At Moyse's Hall Museum stallholders will be dressed in costume for the Historical Market where there will be unusual crafts and gifts for sale, while in the Abbey Gardens see reindeer and talk to Father Christmas in his grotto. There will also be an old fashioned penny arcade, magic show and a wide range of music and entertainment.
CHRISTMAS COUNTRY CRAFT MARKET
Forum, Norwich November 23-24/27–December 8, 9.30am–5pm, free admission, moderncountrycrafts.com
Modern Country Crafts offers a selection of bespoke crafts, handmade jewellery, unique ladies' clothes, beauty and health products with a Christmas flavour in the Atrium of the Forum. Perfect for unique gifts and stocking fillers.
BACK IN TIME CHRISTMAS FESTIVAL
Norwich Cathedral, November 24 (10am-4.30pm)/November 25 (12pm-3pm), free admission, www.cathedral.org.uk
While Norwich Cathedral has previously hosted a Historic Christmas Fayre in the Cloisters this year is something very different. This two-day festival sees families encouraged to discover Norfolk's historical links with the Low Countries through lots of exciting, hands-on activities - and rather than buy gifts, make your own. Events will include a weaving workshop – inspired by the Strangers who came to Norwich from the Low Countries in the 16th century - plus printing, stained glass making and decoration making. There will also be storytelling, and a new interactive Cathedral trail to explore.
HINGHAM CHRISTMAS FAIR
Lincoln Hall, The Fairlands, Hingham, November 25, 10am-3pm, 50pm, children free
A traditional Christmas fair now in it's seventh year with local crafters, trades-people and producers selling gifts, locally produced food and drink, homeware, antiques and gardening. The local Silver Band will be providing entertainment for shoppers from 1pm.
Great Yarmouth, November 30-December 2, 10am-5pm, free admission, 01493 745828, www.great-yarmouth.co.uk
This annual Christmas craft and gifts event provides ample opportunity to find unique presents and speciality foods whilst enjoying a festive atmosphere in the heart of Great Yarmouth. Taking place in Great Yarmouth Minster, the Priory Centre and the Market Place, the three days of festive fun will feature craft, food and gift stalls selling candles, pottery, glassware, woodturning, toys, jewellery, knitwear, paintings, cakes, real ales, olives, sweets, nuts and much more. Traditional festive entertainment will include school choirs, bell ringers and local performers, plus a Santa's grotto and fun fair rides. In addition Norwegian craft traders return providing a unique opportunity to purchase from a selection of their wares including handmade pewter, wooden games and puzzles, Norwegian designed knitwear and headgear, cookies, cheeses and cooking Norwegian waffles everyday.
Cromer Parish Church, November 30-December 1, free admission, 01263 512254, www.thisiscromer.co.uk
Cromer's Christmas Market coincides with the Lights On evening. Stalls selling all manner of festive goodies will open at 2pm next Friday ahead of the arrival Father Christmas at 6pm and the lights switch on at 6.45pm. The market then continues all day Saturday with entertainment in High Street from 10am-4pm.
MEDIEVAL CHRISTMAS MARKET
Dragon Hall, King Street, Norwich, December 1-2, 10am-5pm (Sun 4pm), �2.50, �1 under-16s, under-5s free, 01603 663922, www.dragonhall.org
This season defining market is now an eagerly anticipated annual event with the ancient hall (built in 1430) tastefully decorated in traditional seasonal splendour and augmented by traditionally decorated trees. Traders from all over the UK and northern Europe will be in period costume. Their stalls stock original and unusual gifts, from historical reproductions in wood, iron and glass to archery equipment, individual handcrafted textiles, jewellery, toys and ceramics, perfect gifts for friends and family. Exquisite Christmas decorations, candles and cards, together with locally produced Christmas wreathes and cakes, wines and ales. Musicians in period costume will also be performing throughout the two days. There will be a bar featuring local ales, mulled wine and food inspired by German Christmas Markets.
TRADITIONAL SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS
Holkham Hall, December 1-2/8-9/15-16, 11am-5pm, �12, �8 children, �36 family, 01328 713111, www.holkham.co.uk
Christmas at Holkham this December includes these three magical weekends of traditional family entertainment complete with real reindeer to add that special festive feel. Holkham Hall will be open and visitors will be able to see the magnificently decorated grand state rooms and meet Victorian characters dressed in splendid costumes. There will be storytelling, dancing, carol singing and tales from Christmas past, while Father Christmas will welcome children to collect a gift and leave him their special, secret Christmas wishes. In the Old Kitchen visitors can also watch the bustling cooks prepare a traditional Christmas feast. There will be an opportunity to source a variety of seasonal gifts from Victorian traders' stalls in the Bygones Museum.
DEEPDALE CHRISTMAS MARKET
Burnham Deepdale, December 1-2, 10am-4pm, free admission, www.deepdalechristmasmarket.co.uk
Stock up on all those Christmas decorations and presents at the fourth Deepdale Christmas Market, while enjoying plenty of festive food, cheer and carols. There will be many stalls, entertainment and activities nd we've heard a rumour that Father Christmas may be calling in to say hello. The regular shops and cafe at Dalegate Market will be open as normal throughout the weekend.
Blickling Hall, December 1-2/8-9/15-16, 11am-5pm, normal admission prices, 01263 738030, www.nationaltrust.org.uk
Another seasonal favourite is Christmas at Blickling. Held at this beautiful National Trust house just outside Aylsham, the event runs for three consecutive 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.
CHRISTMAS STREET FAIR
Town Centre, Bungay, December 2, 9am-3.30pm, 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. The well known street market features some 100 stalls. Entertainment will be provided by the South Norfolk Youth Symphonic Band (10.30am) and The Old Glory Molly Men (2pm). Father Christmas will be arriving at 11am on his horse drawn carriage.
Attleborough, December 2, 1pm-6pm, free admission, www.attleboroughonline.co.uk
Attleborough will get into the festive spirit with its now annual lights switch-on and Christmas Carnival. The town has built up a reputation for presenting one of the finest displays of Christmas lights in the region, while the event also includes Santa and traditional carol singing. The theme this year is the Christmas of 1952. A Christmas Craft Extravaganza will also be held on December 9 (10am-3pm) at Connaught Hall on Station Road.
CHRISTMAS CRAFT MARKET
The Mall, Norwich, December 3-23, free admission, 01603 766430
Castle Mall's annual Christmas Craft Fair is back for another year with an array of locally crafted gifts to suit everyone. From handmade jewellery, clocks and gifts to locally produced beers. Open daily 9am outside Boots on level 1.
CRAFT FAIR AND ENCHANTED EVENING
Norwich Castle, December 7, 5pm–9pm, �3.40 (�2.90 cons), �2.50 children, 01603 495897, wwwmuseums.norfolk.gov.uk
Celebrate festive magic as the Castle keep is transformed into an atmospheric winter woodland scene. Accompanied by a programme of Baroque music from the Vivace Quartet, this unusual Christmas fair will have a stalls with gifts in every price range. For the first time ever, you'll also be able to see live owls in the keep. Listen to storytelling under the tree and marvel at magician's tricks. There will also be a Christmas with some mellow festive jazz.
CLUTTER CITY YULETIDE MARKET
Norwich Arts Centre, December 8, 11am-4pm, free admission, 01603 660352, www.cluttercity.co.uk
The Christmas market with a difference. Clutter City is back with a winter wonderland of another yuletide feast of crafts, festive workshops and winter food and drink to Norwich Arts Centre. 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. Vendors in previous years have included 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. In total there will be over 30 stalls, live music, warm spicy cider and delicious festive treats.
CHRISTMAS WORKSHOPS AND FATHER CHRISTMAS
Fairhaven Woodland and Water Garden, South Walsham, December 9, 11am-5pm, �5.50 (�5 cons), �5 children (includes present), pre-book on 01603 270449, www.fairhavengarden.co.uk
Meet Father Christmas and his reindeer at Fairhaven. Follow the woodland trail and find Santa in his yurt with reindeer Comet and Blitzen, also enjoy children's crafts in the elves workshop, live music and a Christmas mini-market selling gifts and food goodies. Fairhaven is also hosting a series of Christmas workshops including Christmas Cupcake Decorating (Dec 11, 10.30am-12.30pm, �14), Christmas Figures (Dec 11, 1pm-3pm, �14) Painting Illuminated Letters (Dec 12, 10am-3.30pm, �30 plus �2.50 for materials), and Topiary Trees (Dec 14 and 15, 1.30pm, �20). Pre-book on 01603 270449.
TRADITIONAL EUROPEAN FOOD AND CRAFT FAIR
Fakenham, December 14-15, free admission, www.traditionalmarket.co.uk
Sample the festive delights of the continent. Fakenham will be transformed into a bustling market place with traders from France, Belgium, Italy, Spain, Holland, Poland and many more countries will be wearing traditional costumes, selling high quality products including Brittany biscuits, olives, Italian nougat, delectable cheeses, sausages, charcuterie, and much more.
CHRISTMAS CHARITY CRAFT FAIR
Central Hall, Back Lane, Wymondham, December 15, 9.30am-1.30pm, free admission, www.sparklesevents.co.uk
Charity Craft Fair containing up to 40 craft stands. All the festive items on sale are made by the seller, plus there will be seasonal food and drink.