It’s hardly surprising that Christmas markets are popular events. People like to browse for Christmas gifts and decorations while surrounded by a festive ambiance. Like any other large event, planning can make all the difference as to how well you enjoy it. Going on a whim may seem fun, but you could end up feeling let down. Here are a few tips to help you make the most of your visit to the Harrogate Christmas Market.
While there would be plenty of parking spaces should you wish to drive, why not have a more relaxing trip by choosing public transport? You’ll find frequent trains to Harrogate station from both York and Leeds, and direct buses from Leeds, Bradford, Wetherby, Pateley Bridge, and Ripon. Once you arrive, we’ve organised frequent, free shuttle buses to and from the market from Stand 1 at the bus station, which is right next to the Harrogate Railway Station.
Time your visit carefully
We’re not going to mislead you about how many people come to the market. Depending on the day and time you attend, it can be remarkably busy – sometimes ‘in your personal space’ busy. Depending on how you view crowds, it can either be fun, with people having a laugh as they (hopefully politely) cut across the tide to get to a stall, or it can be a nightmare if you’re uncomfortable in crowds, have small children in tow, or have mobility problems. The opening times are Thursday and Friday 10am to 7pm; Saturday 9.30am to 8.30pm, and Sunday 9.30am to 5.30pm. The busiest times are Friday 5pm to 6pm, Saturday 11am to 5pm, and Sunday 11am to 3pm. If you do find yourself in the middle of a crowd and need assistance, just wave at one of our volunteer ‘Market Makers’ (yellow sash), who will come to your aid. More information on disability access can be found here.
Not all traders accept card payments, so remember to bring some cash with you. If you need to withdraw money, there are numerous ATMs just up from the market, on the other side of Parliament Street. There’s also a dispenser at McColl’s Convenience Store on Royal Parade, which is off the roundabout bordering the market.
Don’t forget your appetite!
There will be a wide selection of tasty food stalls, both in the Food & Drink marquee and dotted around the market, so you won’t go hungry! Some cater for dietary requirements such as vegan and gluten free. Whether you’re looking for traditional British fare or international cuisine, we won’t disappoint. If you’d like something to warm your cockles as you browse, then as well as tea and coffee, you’ll find mulled wine and cider, and even ‘fortified’ hot chocolate. And you might get a sample or two from the alcoholic gift sellers. There is no beer tent at this family-friendly market.
Head for Santa’s grotto
If your little ones are beside themselves with excitement about meeting Father Christmas, it’s best to visit the grotto first, as there can be queues during busy periods. There are fully domesticated reindeer next to the grotto which are rotated daily, so each reindeer is only there for one day. They have plenty of food and water, and their pen is regularly cleaned, and straw refreshed. We can assure everyone they are very well cared for by Riggmoor Reindeer, who are registered with the local authority. We’ve met with the vet who attends the animals and he has confirmed being at the market causes the animals no discomfort. The grotto is signposted within the market confines.
We love dogs, but…
We’re going to be blunt – the market is no place for dogs – apart from service animals. It’s noisy and gets crowded. And even the most docile animals can become reactive in uncomfortable or unfamiliar situations. We’ve seen small dogs being accidentally trodden on, and one poor dog that was tied up and left for ages shaking. While we appreciate people can be very attached to their dogs, it’s just not fair on them. But Fido doesn’t have to miss out altogether, as there are stalls selling doggie gifts and treats!
All the fun of the fair
We know kids can get a bit bored walking around the market, which is one reason we invite a mini fun fair to join us. This family-owned funfair has been part of the Harrogate Christmas Market since 2012 and charges a reasonable fee per ride. While most of the rides are suitable for younger ones, the Runaway Train can bring a few thrills to older children and adults as well.
We have a terrific programme of busking musicians for 2018, whom you’ll find half way down St Mary’s Walk in the old bus shelter. This year’s festive performers include a barbershop quartet, Gang Show, folk ensemble, singer-songwriters, small choirs, and even the Harrogate Gilbert & Sullivan Society. Check out the full programme here.
Leave the market
No, seriously – leave! The Harrogate Christmas Market was set up to encourage visitors to Harrogate so that local businesses could benefit. Get your fill of the market, then wander out to the four corners of our great town; there are unique shops, eateries, cafes, and bars waiting to be enjoyed. Check out our earlier blog detailing the areas not to be missed. If you really want to experience more of what Harrogate can offer, why not turn your visit into a short break? We’re fortunate to have some outstanding hotels, guest houses, bed & breakfasts, and serviced apartments.
Breathe it in
There’s so much to see and do at the market that sometimes you forget to stop and just ‘be’ in the moment. The stalls and their wares, decorations, twinkly lights, music, and even the smell of roasting chestnuts can make quite an impact, so don’t be in too much of a hurry. Slow down and let the festive ambiance seep in.
Author: Susan Scarre, Adrenaline Content Marketing, on behalf of Harrogate Christmas Market