Carmen Paddock shares how to make the most out of Exeter’s festive Christmas market…
From 20th November to 20th December, Exeter’s Cathedral Green transforms from a place of calm to one of bustling festive spirit, as dozens of quaint wooden huts pop up in front of the imposing Gothic structure. The Christmas Market, which is open daily, is a holiday-lover’s paradise; there, you can find gifts and treats to suit all tastes and price ranges: exquisite clothing and accessories, quirky crafts, artisan jewellery, gourmet delicacies, and street food both traditional and unique. The atmosphere is delightfully charming and cheerful; its bustling activity and old European aesthetic seem a perfect combination to evoke the elusive ‘Christmas spirit’.
The range of products offered are all suitably wintery/holiday-orientated, and it’s impossible to list or review them all here. A few standouts, however, deserve special mention. The market is the perfect place for all of your holiday shopping needs. If you’re looking for winter wear, you can find beautiful and colourful hats, scarves, gloves, and slippers in a range of styles and budgets. One stall offers gorgeous hunt-style attire and another ponchos from South America. Handmade leather-bound journals will satisfy any artists or writer, and adorable carved wooden cats make whimsical stocking stuffers. The jewellery ranges from affordable to luxury and includes amber creations, pearl strings, and one-of-a-kind colourful beaded creations.
If food is more your thing, you’re in luck. Artisan food purveyors from Devon and further afield sell everything from local cheeses, chutneys, sausages, and sweets to French pastries, Italian cookies, Mediterranean produce, and Middle Eastern baklavas. It’s very hard, however, to walk around the market without the street food aromas making your mouth water. You can satisfy your hunger with hot chocolates, Spanish paella, French mussels, Thai currys, hog roast, gourmet burgers, and the traditional Christmas favourites: the warm and filling German bratwurst, potato skillets, and sauerkraut.
Unsurprisingly, the market teems with crowds – namely all generations of locals – at the evenings and weekends. To avoid the insanity, queues, and sold-out churros, take advantage of flexible student schedules and go for a weekday lunch or afternoon shopping spree when you have a few hours free from lectures. Whether you go for the food, the gifts, or just to explore – alone or with friends – it is a fantastic way to celebrate Christmas cheer.