We’re now on the home straight; Christmas Day is fast approaching and festive preparations are in full swing. Very, very soon our beautiful home city of Bath will be playing host to its annual, award-winning Christmas market. You’ll find 150 beautiful little chalets filled to the brim with artisan gifts and delicious treats courtesy of the South West’s independent businesses. Can you tell we’re getting excited?
But visits to Christmas markets, whether here in Bath or elsewhere, are not without their logistical challenges. That’s why we’ve pulled together our top tips to make sure you not only survive, but leave full of festive cheer and most importantly, with most of your Christmas shopping ticked off.
Plan transport in advance
Getting to your chosen Christmas market is often the most difficult part, as they tend to be in the very centre of some of our loveliest cities. Driving can be fraught with traffic queues and parking dilemmas, so it’s often best to use public transport if you can. The Bath Christmas market is only a short walk from the train station making it the perfect way to come into the city centre, while the popular Park & Ride services from Newbridge, Lansdown or Odd Down are another great way to arrive quickly and painlessly.
Pick a quieter time to visit
You’ll find with most Christmas markets that things get particularly busy at weekends with tourists and day trippers, as well as at lunchtimes, when city-working folk find time for a quick browse. Try to plan your visit for first thing as the markets are opening, or alternatively visit in the evening when things are starting to quieten down and the lights are twinkling.
Make sure you bring plenty of cash
While you’ll find that a lot of stall holders offer chip and pin services, many do not. And just think how awful it would be to fall in love with the perfect Christmas present for Great Aunt Jean, only to then discover you’ll have to traipse around finding a cash point before you can purchase it.
Take a list of Christmas presents you’re looking to buy
One of the best ways to increase your chances of seasonal shopping success is to make a list before you go. Include the names of those you’re buying for and any ideas you already have. That way you can tick them off as you go and nobody will be forgotten.
Check out which stalls will be there in advance
Established Christmas markets have their own website where you’ll find details of stall holders and their location. Alternatively, you can usually pick up a map or leaflet at the city’s local tourist office. If you’re feeling super organised you can go one stage further than writing a list of names, by planning which stalls you’ll visit to find presents for which people. That way you can even plan your route!
Don’t be afraid to haggle a little
Most, if not all, of the Christmas market stalls will be occupied by small independent businesses who may be pleased to do you a deal on multiple items to shift more stock. Avoid offending the stall holder with a silly offer, but don’t be scared to enter into a bit of good-natured bartering. You may find that as the markets draw to a close, artisans are only too pleased to make more sales by reducing their prices a little.
DON’T eat before you go
There are many, many food and drink stalls at Christmas markets offering a range of mouth-watering treats, the smells of which will be drifting through the streets around the stalls. Believe us, you will not be able to resist buying at least something to keep you going. Our advice? Embrace it and enjoy something delicious for dinner. Perhaps a bratwurst…or waffle…or churro…or burger…or some beautiful creamy fudge…sorry, we drifted off there!
Avoid taking children (and dogs)
Obviously, there is nothing to stop you taking a child or a dog if you wish, but you may enjoy a more relaxing day if you’re able to leave them behind at home. The areas around the Christmas markets can get extremely busy and popular stalls can attract crowds several bodies deep at peak times. Navigating this can be hard enough as an adult, let alone when you’re only 3 feet tall. Our suggestion is to pick a quieter time or draft in childcare so you can experience the Christmas markets stress-free.
Choose a comfortable outfit
A day at the Christmas markets can be long, cold and involve a lot of cobblestones (well it can in Bath at any rate!), so make sure you guard yourself against the elements with plenty of warm layers, a hat, gloves and most importantly, some boots that will keep your feet warm, dry and comfortable.
We suggest channelling city chic with something flat and stylish. Try Grove, our classic, black Chelsea boots, Cabell for luxe knee length leather with brogue detailing, or for an over the knee option, have a look at Lyndhurst - versatile and flattering in navy suede.