It is safe to say that the prospect of Christmas shopping can be a daunting one – especially if you live in a town or city with fewer shops than others. You face the issues of crowds, stressed-out shoppers, and the item you wanted inevitably being out of stock. Even if you are considering travelling somewhere new to shop this year, knowing where to start can seem like a minefield.
With this in mind, we here at Business Name Generator, have done the heavy lifting for you. After taking a seed list of the 30 largest towns and cities in the UK, we were able to reveal the most ideal festive shopping destinations. The following nine factors were taken into consideration:
- The number of shopping centres
- The number of retail parks
- Is there a Christmas market?
- How many days of the year is the Christmas market open?
- How many hours per day is the Christmas market open?
- Is there a Santa’s Grotto?
- The number of hotels
- The number of Christmas-themed events
- The distance between the largest train station and the city centre
By analysing these factors for each city, we were able to score each factor out of 10, allowing us to calculate an overall score out of 90. While shopping online can be tempting at this time of year, browsing the high street and Christmas markets can help to keep the small businesses that continue to operate up and down the UK alive.
The Best Christmas Shopping Cities
Birmingham is No.1 for Christmas Shopping
First up, we delved into the best cities for Christmas shopping overall. Taking the top spot was Birmingham, with a score of 77.5/90. This is unsurprising, as Birmingham is the second-largest city in the UK, famed for its bustling Bullring Shopping Centre, which draws in thousands of tourists each year.
As well as this, Birmingham also boasts an impressive 238 city centre hotels, allowing it to score 9.6/10 in this section. 11 shopping centres in total meant Birmingham scored 8.2/10 in this division, and their world-famous Christmas market is open for a staggering 53 days, scoring the city 9.3/10 in this segment. Finally, Birmingham also draws people in during the festive season with its 202 Christmas-themed events, scoring 8.2/10 in this category.
The Big Smoke Bags Second Place
In second place was London, the biggest city in the UK, with a score of 77.8/90 – coming very close to Birmingham. London actually has 219 festive events around this time period, scoring 8.9/10 in this section. London also scored full marks when it came to the number of hotels in the city centre, with a very impressive 1,106 places to stay. London’s largest Christmas market – Winter Wonderland – is open an respectable 45 days a year, meaning the city just missed out on first place, as Birmingham pipped them to the post. This scored them 8.2/10 for this segment.
Liverpool is Gifted Third-Place for Christmas Shopping
Liverpool was in third place with 71.6/90 overall. Boasting 12 shopping centres, compared to the size of the city, allowed it to score 9.3/10 for this category, while 33 retail parks scored them 7.5/10. Their Christmas market only being open for 36 days could have contributed to Liverpool not being higher up the list, scoring them 5.7/10 in this segment. However, they managed to pull it back with 184 hotels in the city centre, allowing them to achieve an almost perfect 9.3/10.
Hiding Round the Back of the Tree…
When it came to the cities further down the list, it was interesting to see that Leicester, despite hosting a monumental 263 festive events, placed in 22nd overall, with a score of 44.8/90. This could be down to the fact that the city only has 3 shopping centres, scoring it 1.8/10 in this area. Preston was also trailing behind the rest of the cities, landing in 25th place with 39.4/90. Having only 42 hotels in the city centre meant it received a fairly poultry 3.2/10, while their Christmas market only being open for 1 day scored them 0.4 for this category.
At the tail end of the results was Lincoln (29th), with an overall score of 25.1/90. Having only 2 shopping centres scored Lincoln only 0.4/10, while 11 retail parks left them with 1.4/10. The city is also one of the few without a festive market, which could have drastically dragged its overall score down.
The Best UK Destinations for Christmas Markets
It has to be said that one of the most exciting aspects of the festive period is the Christmas markets. Brimming with mulled wine, holiday music, and stalls of smoked cheese, markets draw thousands of tourists to different cities each year. But which ones should you travel to first? After taking into consideration factors like how many days the market is open, as well as the hours per day, we were able to give each city a Christmas market score out of 30.
Bristol is the Best City for Christmas Markets
In first place was Bristol, scoring a near-perfect 29.9/30 overall. The festive market is open for a very impressive 50 days throughout the year, 10 am-10 pm each day. This gives tourists many options when it comes to visiting the city, while also allowing city residents to enjoy the festive cheer as they go about their daily lives. Complete with as many as 35 stalls, igloos, and even gondolas, it is unsurprising that people are flocking to Bristol for their festive fix.
Southampton in Second Place for Christmas Markets
Next up was Southampton, with 28.6/30 in total – coming very close to pipping Bristol to first place. The Southampton markets are also open from 10 am-10 pm – the same as Bristol – but only for 48 days of the year. Despite only being 2 days fewer than the city in first place, it was still enough to miss out on the top spot. The market itself boasts over 30 vendors selling their handmade goods, as well as festive rides and a Christmas Fun House.
London’s Winter Wonderland Ranks Third
Coming up in third was London, walking away with a score of 28.2/30 when it comes to their festive markets. Despite remaining very close to first and second place, it all came down to how many days each market was open for – with the London markets open for 45 days.
While they are still open from 10 am until 10 pm, it wasn’t quite enough to secure a higher spot on the list. However, markets in London are still bustling with unique Christmas activities to get involved with, like the Christmas Art Market will be held at Rich Mix and the Independent Ceramics Market in Shoreditch.
A Few Unopened Presents…
Further down the list, Worcester, which came in 18th place, has a festive market that is only open for 4 days – giving tourists and natives alike a very limited time to visit the stalls. This would inevitably lead to a high amount of foot traffic, as well as overwhelming crowds that could make for a stressful experience for vendors and customers alike.
Bradford’s Christmas market is only open for 2 days, which could have led to the city being in 19th place overall. Stoke-on-Trent, which was higher up the list in 15th place, only boasts a market that is open for 1 day a year, for 3 hours of the day. Despite being a small affair, the market, held at the town village hall, offers a family-friendly day of fun, complete with a Christmas light switch-on.
The Best UK Cites for Shopping Centres
England’s Capital City is the UK’s Centre for Shopping
Finally, we delved into the cities with the best shopping centres and retail parks, to reveal where shoppers would be most spoilt for choice during the festive season. In first place was London, with an overall score of 20/20 in this category – an unbeatable achievement. The city comes equipped with a staggering 242 retail parks, as well as an impressive 46 shopping centres.
While these numbers may seem overwhelming for shoppers, they offer a great opportunity to keep the high street alive and thriving. With so many people opting to shop online in 2023, as we have mentioned previously, small and independent retailers with physical stores may rely on Christmas shopping to increase their profits for the year.
Leeds is Great Year-Round Shopping Destination
Leeds came in second place with 18.5/20. As the third-largest city in the UK, a high score for Leeds was to be expected – and with 42 retail parks and 17 shopping malls, it is definitely deserving of its spot on the list.
When it came to getting back home after shopping, Leeds scored higher than London with 5/10, as its train station is only 0.5 miles from the city centre.
Manchester Makes it to Third
In third place was Manchester, scoring 17.8/20 for this section. 71 retail parks and 11 malls, including the famous Arndale shopping centres, mean tourists and city natives alike have an array of stores to choose from.
…and Don’t Forget About!
Further down the list sat Stoke-on-Trent, with 12.5/20 when it came to shopping centres and retail parks, with only 7 malls and 26 retail parks. However, this city still offers a unique shopping experience, including independent cafes, restaurants and stores. The Welsh capital city of Cardiff also tied on points with Stoke-on-Trent at 12.5/20.
Doing your Christmas shopping at your city or town’s local Christmas markets, shopping centres and high street, instead of shopping online, might mean having to deal with busy buildings and bustling crowds. But, if the Christmas market season does one thing for the world of retail, it is that it reminds of the sense of joy and community that we should feel when we shop.
That’s not just because the Christmas markets are running on festive cheer, but also because, getting back onto the high street to shop is helping to keep town and city centres, and all the small businesses that operate on them both at Yuletide and year-round thriving.
So, whether you live in London, Leicester, Liverpool or Leeds, get yourself down to your local Christmas market and treat yourself to a hot chocolate, or two.
We then established a list of factors that could be feasibly and fairly measured against each of the 30 cities. These factors included the number of shopping centres; the number of retail parks; the presence of a Christmas market; how many days of the year the Christmas market is open; how many hours per day the Christmas market is open; the presence a Santa’s Grotto; the number of hotels; the number of Christmas-themed events; the distance between the city’s largest train station and the city centre.
Details related to Christmas markets in each city were sourced from The Mirror, a variety of official Christmas markets website, a variety of official Santa’s Grotto websites. Further information related to Christmas-themed events in each city were sourced from Eventbrite.
Details related to shopping centres, malls and retail parks in each city were sourced from TripAdvisor and Completely Retail. Details on the distances between each city’s main train stations and the city centre were measured on Google Maps, with Google determining what was deemed as each city’s centre.
For each factor, a score out of 10 was given, depending on how well each city performed. The scores were calculated so that the highest result was equal to 10/10, while the lowest was equal to 0/10, with the rest of the scores being calculated accordingly. For the ‘Is there a Christmas Market?’ and ‘Is there a Santa’s Grotto?’ factors, the scoring system worked so that yes was equal to 10/10 and no was equal to 0/10. The score /10 for each of these nine factors was calculated to give each city a total score /90, which was used as the metric to rank the cities in total score order.