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Five festive breaks in England – in case Christmas in Europe is cancelled


If there was ever a Christmas to embrace with gusto, it is surely 2021. After last year’s festive damp squib – which saw us forgoing the delights of traditional markets, illuminated trails and good cheer in decorated pubs – we’re primed to mop up every last dreg of winter celebrations this time around.

Now that a number of European countries are either tightening restrictions (the Netherlands), shutting down events (Germany) or returning to lockdown (Austria), England’s restriction-free approach surely promises the best hope of a little Yuletide downtime unencumbered by the pandemic-related miseries of 2020. Indeed, should you have unvaccinated children over a certain age, a handful of EU nations are tricky, or impossible, for a holiday this December anyway.

Of course, the UK as a whole has its own particular challenges. The Continental-style markets in some of our town squares have shrunk, thanks both to a lockdown-induced exodus of stall holders and a shortage of imported goods and traders (a result of post-Brexit red tape). Should a visit to a fulsome market be top of your festive wishlist, be sure to check for details on this year’s turnout ahead of booking a trip. 

That said, here is a mix of events and displays, in some of Britain’s most festive corners, that will ensure a suitably Christmassy break in the coming weeks.

Go to market in Winchester

If you’d planned a tour of Germany’s most storied festive markets, only to have your itinerary thwarted by the country’s shutdown of many Christmas events, then Winchester’s offering is a suitable alternative – in a typical year, it attracts 400,000 visitors. Expect more than 100 stalls (housed in mini wooden chalets) selling games, toys, decorations, jewellery, seasonal food and drink, and plenty more. The ice rink doesn’t feature for 2021, instead you’ll find a larger food court plus a main stage hosting local musicians. Tucked in the shadow of the cathedral, a few laps around the market should be accompanied by a visit to the building itself. Step into its history of 900-plus years and maybe even join a seasonal service.

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