United Kingdom

How to Shop the Christmas markets from your armchair

Strolling amid wooden chalets and fairy-lit stalls, choosing handmade gifts and treats while enjoying the scent of mulled wine and the sound of carols — few things make you feel more festive than a good Christmas market.

Only this year, thanks to the pandemic, most have been cancelled. It’s estimated our cities will lose a huge £800 million in revenue from festive market visitors.

But that doesn’t mean you have to Christmas shop from joyless mega-chains on the internet. Many small businesses have cleverly clubbed together to recreate the atmosphere of a festive fair online — one you can visit from the comfort of your sofa.

‘You get the chance to shop for beautiful, handcrafted, locally made or unusual gifts you won’t find on the High Street,’ says Emma Frayling, from bathchristmasmarket.com, the virtual version of Bath’s famous market.

Jenny Wood rounds up a selection of the best virtual Christmas markets. Pictured: How Bath Christmas market usually looks. This year, you can go there online

Many are also trying to bring a little Christmas magic to the experience, with special offers as well as online ‘events’ such as filmed craft workshops, raffles, cookery demos and even carol singing.

‘Virtual markets are an absolute lifeline for small businesses, who often do the bulk of their sales in the run-up to Christmas,’ says Polly Horton, organiser of onlinechristmasfair.com, which has had over 500 applications for its 115 online ‘stalls’. ‘Hopefully we can help people survive until next year.’

We’ve rounded up the best of them — so, grab a cup of something hot, get comfy and log on for some socially- distant retail therapy…

A HO-HO-HOST OF HO-HO-HOMEWARES 

Decorcafe Christmas festival, runs until December 16, thedecorcafe.com/our-events-2/

Jenny suggests visiting Decorcafe Christmas festival to gift pet presents wrapping paper (pictured) this Christmas 

Organised by a group of top interior designers, this free market offers nothing but stylish gifts and accessories for the home, all from small or independent brands. Visitors can browse dinnerware to dress the Christmas table, wreaths for the door plus throws, cushions, candles, lampshades and blankets to give as gifts. As well as shopping, there are live and recorded cooking, flower arranging and gift-wrapping demonstrations.

Perfect present picks:

GIFTS GALORE WITH CHRISTMAS CAROLS

Ely Cathedral market, runs until December 20, elycathedralchristmasfair.com

Jenny picked Wax and Wane silver drop earrings (pictured) as a gift from Ely Cathedral market

The Cambridgeshire city’s annual Christmas market usually takes place inside the beautiful cathedral, but its 200 stalls, workshops and events have moved online this year. This well thought out and festive site is easy to navigate with a huge range of gifts, from jewellery to clothes and food and drink.

Visitors can watch easy table decoration and block printing workshops; and listen to Christmas carols from Ely Cathedral choristers as well as a brass band.

Perfect present picks:

DISCOUNTS AND A PERSONAL SHOPPER

The Online Christmas Fair, runs until December 24, onlinechristmasfair.com

Jenny suggests purchasing luxury handmade wreaths (pictured) from The Online Christmas Fair

Running right up until Christmas, this virtual market has a friendly feel and showcases an impressive selection of gift ideas from 115 independent Brit-ish sellers, with all ‘stallholders’ offering special discounts or free extras such as giftwrapping. Hate browsing online? Ring the hotline 07432 154 924 for a personal shopper’s gift suggestions over the phone.

Perfect present picks:

SHOP WHILE BACKING A GOOD CAUSE

Early Early Virtual Christmas Fair, runs until January 2021, eecfair.org.uk/

Jenny suggests purchasing Damson Tree vodka (pictured) from Early Early Virtual Christmas Fair

With 160 stallholders selling everything from gifts for children and pets to jewellery, food and beauty products, 10 per cent of every purchase made through this market’s snowflake-covered website will go to ABF The Soldiers’ Charity (the Army’s national charity). As well as a raffle and book signings, for £10 per item you can also send in pictures of your antiques for a valuation by the Antiques Roadshow’s Marc Allum.

Perfect present picks:

ONE-OFF GIFTS FROM BATH 

Bath Christmas Market, runs until January 1, bathchristmasmarket.co.uk

Jenny picked Christmas chutney and marmalade gift box (pictured) as a top present from Bath Christmas Market

Bath’s festive market is famous for its little wooden chalets, usually dotted all over the city. But this December, visitors to the virtual market’s impressively professional — and very Christmassy —website can browse descriptions of each stallholder and click through to their websites or Etsy shops to buy their products. Most are local to Bath and Somerset, with many offering discounts and selling items impossible to find elsewhere. There are themed gift guides to help with ideas, as well as the chance to support local charities.

Perfect present picks:

FESTIVE FOOD — WITH A SHOPPING ASSISTANT TOO 

Borough Market Festive Kitchen, runs until 18 December. christmas. boroughmarket.org.uk

Pictured left: Sea salt caramel fudge, £5.95, by Whirld. Pictured right: Aurora Gold olive oil £12.95, by The Olive Oil Co.

London’s famous food market has created a slick virtual version with a full schedule of cookery demos and masterclasses, ‘in conversation’ chats with celebrity chefs, and live cook-alongs, for which participants can have a crate of relevant ingredients delivered to their door beforehand. 

Buy produce from the bustling real life market without leaving your home, or ring the order line to get an assistant to do your shopping for you. Delivery is carbon neutral and nationwide; within the M25, it’s free.

Perfect present picks :

THREE-DAY BEAUTY FEST

Livewell Winter Wellbeing Market, Runs: December 4 to 6. Livewelllondon.com

Jenny suggests silk pillowcase and eye mask set (pictured) from Livewell Winter Wellbeing Market

From activewear and aromatherapy to eco-friendly beauty products, this ‘wellbeing’ market is a must for anyone feeling run down after a stressful year. With products from independent brands, there’s a big emphasis on sustainability and plenty to please all ages. But it only runs for three days from tomorrow, so get your skates on. To access the market, register your details for free and a link to the website will be emailed to you tonight.

Perfect present picks:

Football news:

Rashford voiced a cartoon about child hunger
Argentina won the 78th World Cup at home amid a crackdown. The junta kidnapped people, the opening took place a kilometer from the prison for dissenters
Barcelona will not buy Garcia this winter
Monaco scored 36 points in the first 20 games of the seasons. More than it was under Jardim
Rivaldo: Koeman deserves respect for the trust of young people. Zidane stopped doing that
Roma cannot beat Lazio in 4 consecutive matches
Mourinho on extending the lease of the Bale: Not a second was said about it