This year, forget the internet and its online shops galore. Find a magical place for your Christmas shopping trip instead.
There are plenty of traditional towns for Christmas shopping trips in the UK. On the other hand, if you want to rediscover the magic of Christmas choose an exotic destination on either side of the Atlantic to explore. Capture a city’s Christmas lights on your camera for fantastic homemade Christmas cards. Then listen out for carols by candlelight with a warming drink. You may get merry enough to sing along!
We’ve chosen six magical places for a shopping trip that you can enjoy surrounded by the spirit of Christmas.
You can reach Edinburgh by bus, car, plane, or, for a unique experience “all aboard the Caledonian sleeper train!”. Embark from London to begin a Christmas trip like no other before. Awake to a traditional Scottish breakfast before you pull into Scotland’s capital. Do you begin your Christmas gift shopping before mid-November? If so, explore Rose Street to find boutique shops to uncover unusual gifts. For something more lux, designer shops are along Multrees Walk and George Street.
If you’re in Edinburgh from late November, visit Edinburgh’s St James Quarter. Here, you’ll enjoy a festive shopping experience and free entertainment. While listening to carols and admiring an alpine winter wonderland relax with a warm beverage in hand. To embrace the twinkling of lights, stroll down to the historic Royal Mile. Here, you’ll discover the Nutcracker shop. Plus, the Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe! Shop here for authentic Christmas gifts and stocking fillers. Once your weekend trip is complete roll down the tracks in comfort in a warm carriage back to London.
2. Greenwich Market, London
What comes to mind when you think of Christmas shopping trips in London? Visions of golden lights adorning Harrods? Colourful light displays along Oxford Street? Joyful entertainers in Covent Garden always catch our attention! The truth is there’s so much to see in London at Christmas that it’s hard to know where to start.
A great place to consider is a Christmas shopping trip to Greenwich Market. Greenwich Market sits within a world heritage site, full of authentic architecture such as Greenwich Park, one of London’s 8 Royal Parks. You can reach Greenwich via London Bridge Train Station or Jubilee Tube Line. To take in London’s skyline, catch the Air Line Cable Car from the Royal Docks in Newham to Greenwich Peninsula.
On arrival, have lunch by the water’s edge or tuck into traditional Christmas foods at the market. At the market you’ll find a wide range of gifts. From authentic arts and antiques to creative crafts and collectibles, you can find unique Christmas gifts for everyone. There are plenty of hotels nearby so you can continue exploring Greenwich the next day. Or book into a hotel of your choice in central London, and join the city cruise back up the river.
On a shopping trip to York, set aside time to admire its mighty medieval walls. You can walk the 700-year-old walls, a trail that takes about two hours, with ample opportunities for a refreshment or two. After a break, stroll down an authentic shopping street (The Shambles), which appeared in the Domesday Book.
As winter approaches, dive down decorated streets and snickelways (narrow roads). Look out for homegrown suppliers such as Tullivers, for specialty teas and local produce. To support more local businesses, stay in early November when York’s festive indoor market kicks off. This free, three-day event spans across state rooms at Carton Towers. Each room holds something for everyone. Find Christmas gift ideas, make crafts, and relax at the homely hot food hub and bar.
Known as one of the UK’s most festive cities, take a break from shopping to explore York Minister’s Christmas Tree Festival. You can follow a Christmas Tree Trail of 60 adorned trees up the cathedral’s Nave, Chapter House, and Lady Chapel. Organised by local businesses each year, you’re sure to find some décor inspiration too.
Another good time to visit is mid-December, for York’s biggest Christmas concert on Priory Street. Welcome the songs of Christmas, from Slade to Silent Night, all played live by big brass bands and acoustic instruments! Remember your Christmas jumper to swing into Christmas.
4. New York
If your favourite pastime is shopping, shopping trips to New York are no doubt right up your street. What better time than over the Christmas period? Take an empty suitcase and return with gifts for everyone! During your trip, stop in well-known department stores. These include Macy’s (home of the latest fashion) and Saks Fifth Avenue for designer fashion. For one-of-a-kind gifts, venture to Bryant Park’s Winter Village, near Times Square.
Staying more than a long weekend? Take time to admire New York’s twinkling lights during a river cruise over dinner. Visit after Thanksgiving when the ice rinks will be open. The most loved ones are found outside the Rockefeller Centre, Bryant Park, or Central Park, Manhattan. After whizzing around the rink, stop for a drink to admire splendid Christmas trees and lights.
For an even bigger visual feast, leave early to cozy up at Rolf’s. Rolf’s is New York’s most popular Christmas-themed German restaurant. It has over 200,000 decorations, lights, and a platter of German dishes, such as Wiener Schnitzel. This magical place is where to get into the festive spirit!
5. Calais, France
Visit Calais by coach during a Christmas break. Or take your car and board the train in Folkestone via Le Shuttle. You’ll find yourself in France in just 35 minutes. You could also take the chance for some slow travel by sailing by ferry in 90 minutes from Dover. Enjoy sea views with a warm meal or drink to hand. Look out for Calais’s 19th-century lighthouse (Phare de Calais) as you approach.
Whatever way you travel, there’s more to Calais than being the busiest passenger port in central Europe. It’s also a great escape for foodies! During a long weekend, sample France’s flavours in top restaurants. Then explore a hypermarket. This is a novel experience where can find gourmet gifts, such as Calais’s Dauphin cheese. You will also be spoilt for choice of fine wines for the table on Christmas Day. Wine lovers can also discover new tipples at Calais Vins shop five minutes from the port.
You can stroll around one of five colourful open-air markets during your shopping trip. On a Saturday morning rub shoulders with the locals, while sampling their favourite produce at Place Crèvecoeur. There is a fine selection of charcuterie, cheeses, and cider. There is also a fine snow village to enjoy, with a ski slope and sledding. Head over to the Place d’Armes square to find it.
6. The Amalfi Coast, Italy
If you’d prefer a bit more winter sun with your Christmas shopping experiences, head to the Amalfi Coast. In December, temperatures reach 15° C. Although you won’t see many Christmas markets, you’ll discover plenty of designer boutiques. There are some beautiful hilltop viewpoints as well when you need a break from hitting the shops.
To view a light show, the port of Salerno hosts the Luci d’Artista from early November. This annual event is full of shimmering installations throughout its streets and squares. Sorrento is Another town that adorns itself with fairy lights. The centrepiece is the colourful Christmas tree in the central square – Piazza Tasso. Visit this square at weekends to enjoy seasonal concerts, with various performers to add some variety.
As you shop, you will do well to resist the comforting and mouth-watering aroma of zeppoles (fried doughnut balls) and struffolis (dough balls covered in honey). Take home colours of the Mediterranean by picking up a hand-painted ceramic plate from the town of Vietri sul Mare. Here, you can indulge in fine Mediterranean cuisine by following its tile-lined streets to a top seafood restaurant.
Travel Insurance For Christmas Shopping Trips
Will you be booking a big Christmas shopping trip to York – or New York? Thinking about a last-minute trip to Calais to choose your wine? Or maybe a trip to source gifts in Greenwich.
Wherever you choose to go shopping, embrace the magic of Christmas with Free Spirit Travel Insurance to travel with confidence this winter.