The Lincoln Christmas Market is always marked boldly in my annual calendar. Even when I’ve lived away from Lincoln over the years, I’ve always come back home to spend this special weekend with family and friends. It’s an amazing showcase of festivity, art, craft, music, food and drink that takes over the entire uphill part of the city! In this article, I’m going to tell you a bit about what the market means to me, and explain everything you need to know about the 2021 Lincoln Christmas Market so you can make your own special memories at this year’s event.
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When is the Lincoln Christmas Market?
First of all, you may be wondering… when exactly does the market take place? Unlike many other Christmas markets throughout the UK, Lincoln’s event does not run continuously throughout the festive season.
The Lincoln Christmas Market typically takes place over the first weekend in December, running from the Thursday to the Sunday.
This tradition continues for the 2021 event, which takes place from 2–5 December.
What makes the Lincoln Christmas Market so special?
For me the Lincoln Christmas Market is a time of nostalgia. I’ve been to it as a child and as a teenager, and have seen it grow over the years.
My old primary school is opened each year as a place for refreshments during the market – I love to make a stop here and see how the school has changed.
Now, I continue making memories visiting the market every year as an adult. Our friends vie for a spot on our sofa for the weekend, and we all head out in the evening for a gluhwein and German sausage.
Ultimately, it’s a time when the city of Lincoln comes together to celebrate community, and we welcome people to see the very best of our city.
The market doesn’t change a lot year-on-year, but there is always something different to get out of it, and always a new story to tell.
A few years back, we’d just returned from travelling overseas, and we were living in London. As we set out to drive up to Lincoln on a cold Friday morning, our car went a few yards before conking out. It was the last time we would ever use that car! But there’s no way we could miss the Lincoln Christmas Market, and so we bought last-minute train tickets and a couple of cans of Guinness for the journey.
A quick history of the Lincoln Christmas Market
The story of Lincoln Christmas Market began in 1982, when a group of the city’s councillors paid a trip to Neudstadt in Germany, Lincoln’s twin town. They were also joined by a delegation from the community organisation Feucht-Fröhliche-Neustadter (FFN Lincoln), who still hold a stall on the market every year.
Neustadt, like many German towns, had been holding Christmas markets for many years. The councillors and FFN members were so impressed by what they saw that they decided to take the concept back to Lincoln.
That December, the first Lincoln Christmas Market was held with just 11 stalls in Castle Square. It was the first German-style Christmas market to be held anywhere in the UK! The tradition has since spread widely and they are now held all across the country, with famous examples in Manchester, York and Birmingham.
With support from Lincoln Council, FFN Lincoln ran the market annually throughout the early years, with stall applications, planning and marshalling all managed by its volunteers. The organisation played a key role in keeping the event on the calendar as it became bigger and more difficult to manage.
Lincoln Christmas Market has kept growing every year, and it is now one of Europe’s biggest Christmas markets. Some 250,000 people descend on the city for the weekend, and the 2021 event is expected to feature over 280 stalls.
It’s quite hard to get across in words just how huge the market is. From the Thursday to the Sunday, the entire uphill Lincoln is closed down and taken over by market stalls, including the grounds of our spectacular castle and cathedral, and the gardens of the Lawns.
The German influence has remained ever-present through to today. Gluhwein – a German version of mulled wine – is one of many classic delicacies you will find among the market, with several stall-holders from Neustadt making the trip over each year.
The years that never were
There have been a few blips along the way. In 2010 the Lincoln Christmas Market was called off for the first time in its history as the UK was hit with severe wintry weather conditions.
Later, in 2017, a bad weather forecast prompted the organisers to call off the last day of the market. The decision was met with quite some ridicule after the weather turned out to be absolutely fine…
I probably don’t need to tell you why the market didn’t go ahead last year in 2020. But the good news is that it’s back up and running again this year, and we can’t wait to be a part of it again!
So, what can you expect to find at this year’s Lincoln Christmas Market? Let’s take a closer look…
Stalls to look out for in 2021
The hundreds of stalls at the Lincoln Christmas Market include pretty much anything you could imagine. Handmade crafts, themed clothes, quirky gifts, artisan food and drink, local delicacies, glassware, artwork – it’s an absolute godsend to get ahead on your Christmas shopping!
The following are a few of our favourite stalls that will be back this year, with fresh ideas and new products for you to enjoy.
Lincoln Distillery and Ferry Ales Brewery
We’ve been SO excited to find out that two of our favourite local businesses are teaming up to co-host a stall at the 2021 Lincoln Christmas Market!
Lincoln Distillery (makers of Lincoln Gin) and Ferry Ales Brewery, one of Lincolnshire’s finest and most creative purveyors of ale, are coming together to offer a range of gins and beers at a big combined stall.
The guys at Lincoln Distillery will be selling their classic Lincoln range as well as some new products, including a rosemary and pear blossom gin called ‘The Tyler’s Toast’.
Ferry Ales Brewery are bringing back their Toasty Roasty and Ebenezer ales due to popular demand. In addition to this they’ll be putting on some festive-themed offers, including beer crackers, wooden beer carriers, and ’12 days of Christmas’ beer boxes.
You will also be able to buy combined gift packs of gin and beer. We’ll be at the front of the queue for those!
The Cocktail Pickers Club
Retford-based cocktail crafters The Cocktail Pickers Club have become regulars at the Lincoln Christmas Market, hosting a bottle bar for the last three years of the event.
In 2021 these guys are taking it to the next level, selling their fresh and fruity cocktails on tap! How awesome is that?!
Every year, the organisers of the Lincoln Christmas Market hold a competition for the most spectacular chalet, with the winners being chosen by a public vote on social media.
At the last market in 2019, ornamental glass creators Artifactually came runners up… and this year they’re back in their usual stall on the Lawns, with their sights set on claiming the top spot!
Artifactually are based in Guildford and make stunning hand-blown glass Victorian Christmas ornaments, which are featured in the likes of Harrods. Look out for their stall, which will be decorated with new baubles for this year.
Alex and I have been going on a journey of sustainable living in recent times, so I was excited to hear about Soapology. This Nottinghamshire-based business, launched a decade ago by Emma Grosse, makes natural handcrafted artisan soaps that are palm oil free.
Soapology has won awards for its soap bars, including a recent accolade at the 2021 Natural Beauty Awards for its pink lemonade liquid soap. Look out for that at the market stall, along with a whole range of new products.
This includes solid shampoo and hair conditioner bars that last up to 65 washes and save up to three single-use plastic bottle uses. You will also find handmade natural soy wax crackle candles available at the stall in four scents: pink lemonade, mojito, serendipity and sweet dreams.
Another hugely popular local business, Jenny’s Jams can be found in shops and cafés all across Lincolnshire.
We always look out for her stall at the monthly Lincoln Farmers’ Market, and we’re especially partial to a scone at Bells Tea Shop on Lincoln Steep Hill, which comes with one of her delicious preserves!
Jenny will be back at the Lincoln Christmas Market again in 2021 with all sorts of jams, chutneys and preserves on offer. Look out for the raspberry and prosecco jam for a festive treat, or some diabetic marmalade.
Lincolnshire Poacher Cheese
As enthusiastic foodies, we feel quite spoiled living in Lincolnshire. Our county produces some 20% of the UK’s homegrown food! One of our favourite local delicacies is the cheese, which you will find in abundance at the Lincoln Christmas Market.
Lincolnshire Poacher is one of the county’s classic cheeses, made in countryside surroundings in the heart of the Lincolnshire Wolds. Look out for their stall again in 2021.
Treat yourself to a block of Vintage Poacher – it’s perfect for late afternoon nibbles on Christmas Day.
Sausage and gluhwein aren’t the only German products you’ll find at the Lincoln Christmas Market. Located among a cluster of food stalls in the castle grounds, Continental Cottage specialises in cured meats.
Try some of their highly popular German salami! For just a tenner you can take away a selection that includes a big chorizo, green pepper salami, classic salami, hazelnut salami, a pair of mini chilli salamis and a jalapeño pepper salami.
Food and drink you must try at the Lincoln Christmas Market
Many of the stalls we’ve picked out above provide some cracking food and drink products to take away from the market. But to really get into the festive spirit, you need some instant gratification, right?
Make sure you stop by these next few stalls to sample some of the very best culinary delights on offer at the market.
Gluhwein from FFN Lincoln
A visit to the Lincoln Christmas Market wouldn’t be complete without a mug of gluhwein. This German variation of mulled wine has been a pinnacle feature of the market since its earliest days. There’s nothing quite like it on a cold December evening with Christmas music blaring out all around.
In fact, Feucht-Fröhliche-Neustadter (FFN Lincoln) has served gluhwein at the same spot in Castle Square every single year at the market since it first began in 1982. And, of course, they’re back this year!
FFN Lincoln sources its gluhwein directly from a producer near Lincoln’s twin town, Neustadt. As always, it will be available in purpose-made Lincoln Christmas Market mugs.
If mulled wine really isn’t your thing, there will be more seasonal hot drinks to choose from, including Irish cream coffee and FFN’s hot chocolate with cream and marshmallows.
Traditional German sausage
The traditional German sausage stall is another long-running stall that has become an intrinsic feature of the Lincoln Christmas Market. It’s a welcoming sight on Union Road by the Victoria pub, as you exit the castle grounds with a hungry stomach.
Every year without fail we treat ourselves to a bratwurst or currywurst here. It’s messy, calorific, almost impossible to eat without spilling… and delicious!
The team on the big, circular stall are always dressed in traditional German garb for the occasion, with sausages sizzling away in the middle. The aroma is irresistible.
Keep your eyes out on Union Road for a small, bright red cart selling roast chestnuts. A stop-off here has become a staple part of our routine at the market, and it really brings that festive feeling.
It’s usually just a couple of quid for a bag of chestnuts. It’s nice to slow down for a few minutes to tuck into a few of these while soaking up the evening atmosphere.
Christmas afternoon tea by Stokes
If you’ve read our blog posts in the past you’ll know that we’re big fans of Stokes Tea & Coffee, one of Lincoln’s oldest and best-loved local businesses. Stokes are always heavily involved in the Lincoln Christmas Market, and this year they’ll be one of of the event’s official partners.
Stokes Lawn Café is situated right among the flow of market stalls, so it’s convenient for a stop-off along the way. Special Christmas afternoon teas will be available here during the market, as well as a range of special seasonal drinks, including the famous Stokes hot chocolate!
This year Stokes will also be welcoming market-goers to a special pie and peas stand that will serve delicious hot, homemade pies, made with local produce. So keep an eye out for that too.
Tapas from the fabulous Olé Olé
One of Lincoln’s most creative and exuberant restaurants, Olé Olé always ranks highly on our list when we want a night of fun and good food on the town. The great news is that these guys also hold a stall at Lincoln Christmas Market, right by their restaurant’s premises on the Lawns.
Make sure you swing by here this year to try one of their delicious tapas concoctions. Whenever you’re next in the city, we’d also highly recommend making time for a meal in their restaurant. The dátiles con bacon (dates stuffed with almond and wrapped in bacon, mmmm) are incredible – always included in our order!
Hot and crispy scotch eggs
The Village Deli is a regular among the street food vendors that set up inside the castle grounds. If you can’t wait for that bratwurst or bag of roast chestnuts to warm you up, you can’t go wrong with one of their amazing hot and crispy scotch eggs.
Experiences at the Lincoln Christmas Market
The amazing food, drink and craft stalls are the beating heart of the Lincoln Christmas Market, but they are not the only thing you can take away from the event.
As you weave your way through the stalls, look out for the activities and entertainment along the way that give the market its special buzz…
Ride the big wheel
The big wheel is an iconic feature of Lincoln Christmas Market every year. If you didn’t spot it already, you will find it on Westgate just outside the walls of the castle, among an array of funfair rides.
Take a ride on the wheel after dark to get the most out of the experience. You will see the entire market lit up from above in all its glory, Lincoln Cathedral illuminated in colours, and views of Lincolnshire stretching out into the distance.
Try the illuminated castle wall walk
For an even more impressive view of the Lincoln Christmas Market from above, you can take the illuminated Medieval Wall Walk on top of the castle walls.
The wall walk is one of our favourite Lincoln experiences at any time of year, which you can read about in our guide to visiting Lincoln Castle.
During the Christmas Market it becomes even more enchanting. The entire route is brought to life in lighting around its full perimeter. with breathtaking views of the busy market below.
This is a hugely popular experience, so booking in advance is essential. Tickets are £10 for adults, £9 for concessions, £5.50 for children or £25.50 for a family of up to five. You can book on the Lincoln Castle website.
Absorb the live street music
A walk through the market is accompanied by the unmistakeable soundtrack of classic Christmas music songs. In the busiest spots you will also be greeted by buskers playing festive classics.
At the last market in 2019 a new zone was introduced at St Paul in the Bail featuring live music and other entertainment. It’ll be back again this year, so be sure to check it out!
Bring your kids along
There is plenty of special entertainment at the Lincoln Christmas Market to make it a magical experience for kids. At the new section at St Paul on the Bail, children can write and decorate personalised letters to Santa and then deliver them into a big Christmas postbox.
Around the stall route you’re also likely to meet performers in Santa costumes, and the fairground on Westgate is bound to keep your little ones entertained.
Lincoln Council operates a wristband scheme at the market for children to give you peace of mind. You can pick up a free wristband from the Tourist Information Centre in Castle Square, from stewards at the market entrances or at the Lincolnshire Showground park and ride station. Write your mobile number on the back of your child’s wristband, and a market steward will call you if you become separated.
See the choir concerts at Lincoln Cathedral
Lincoln Cathedral is our city’s centrepiece, and it makes a stunning backdrop to the Christmas Market. While the market is on, the cathedral plays host to various special events.
Special choir concerts, children’s craft workshops and tours of the building are held at the cathedral on market days, while the shop and café sells mulled wine and festive gifts.
Find out more about Lincoln Cathedral in our complete visitors’ guide.
5 tips for visiting the Lincoln Christmas Market
Wrap up warm (and wear decent footwear!)
This is a bit of an obvious one, but Lincoln gets pretty cold in December! You’ll be spending a lot of time in the crisp outdoors while walking around the market, so make sure you wear some warm clothes.
You’ll be mostly on your feet too, so wear comfortable shoes. These days I wear my hiking boots to the market, which are also helpful if the castle grounds get muddy.
The daytime and nighttime are very different experiences
If you’re in Lincoln over the whole weekend, try and visit the Christmas Market in both a daytime and nighttime setting. They’re both very different experiences, each memorable in their own way.
In the daytime it has the feel of a charming, family-friendly market, and so is a good time to bring kids along. It’s also great for adults because the bars are less busy and you can sip your beer or gluhwein while watching market-goers browse the stalls.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s still busy, but it’s just a little less hectic than the evenings. I like to hit the craft stalls in the daytime and shop for Christmas gifts.
The nighttime is when the Lincoln Christmas Market really comes to life. After dark it has the feel of a celebration, with colourful lights and cheery crowds. For me, this is the best time to get immersed in the street entertainment, go on the funfair rides, and enjoy the food, drink and music.
It does tend to be busier in the evening, so you’ll need a little more patience when looking around craft stalls. When you’re down, you can take a scenic walk down Steep Hill and find a local pub to warm yourself up again.
Thursday is the least crowded day
If you want to be a real pro at avoiding the crowds at Lincoln Christmas Market, Thursday is the day for you. Most tourists come for the weekend days, so if you’d like to experience that magical nighttime feeling but at a slower pace, then try and make it for the Thursday evening.
Earlier in the day on the Thursday is when the market stalls will be at their quietest.
Follow the one-way route
For as long as I can remember visiting the Lincoln Christmas Market it has had a one-way system in place. This means it’s well set up to be safe and secure in post-pandemic times.
In some sections of the market crowds can bottle-neck, especially coming in and out of the castle grounds. Sticking to the one-way route makes it easier for everyone.
If you happen to miss the stall you’re looking for or you want another look, you can always go back round again!
Try some evening Christmas shopping
During the market, many shops in Lincoln city centre stay open late. So, if you want to keep the shopping wagon rolling after you’re done at the stalls, why not hit up Lincoln’s fantastic independent outlets to find some Christmas gifts?
Steep Hill is a good place to start, which leads down from Castle Square. Check out our guide to the shops on Lincoln Steep Hill for a complete rundown.
Where to stay for Lincoln Christmas Market
If you’re visiting Lincoln from afar for the Christmas Market, then you’ll probably need somewhere to stay. Luckily, the city has a great selection of hotels, guest houses and bed & breakfasts that will be more than happy to welcome you.
The Christmas Market is one of the busiest weekends in Lincoln’s calendar and rooms get booked up fast, so be sure to plan in advance. Here are a few of our recommended picks for your accommodation.
Places to stay within the market area
It’s a good idea to set up base right among the market, or at least close to it, which will avoid needing to travel in and out of the city. You’ll be doing plenty of walking around the market itself, so why not save your feet for that?
The only downside to this is that town will be busy and loud later into the night than usual. If you’re ok with that and you want to be right among the action, here are some excellent options:
- White Hart Hotel: this is a gorgeous hotel right on the doorstep of the market by Castle Square. It has spacious, modern rooms, and terrace views of the cathedral which are particularly spectacular on market nights.
- Tower Hotel: another top-notch modern hotel situated along the market route, on Westgate. Make sure you have dinner in the hotel at least once during your stay – it’s one of the best gastro-restaurants in town.
- Cathedral View Guesthouse: located on Eastgate just a few paces away from Castle Square, this gorgeous guest house in a restored 12th-century building is a warm and friendly base for exploring the market.
Places to stay nearby
If you want to stay somewhere with fairly easy access to the market but a bit further from the busyness, these are our favourite choices:
- The Old Palace Lodge: this repurposed 19th-century church is one of Lincoln’s most beautiful hotels. Located a short distance off Steep Hill it’s close walking distance from the market, but far enough away for a little peace and quiet.
- The Poplars: this characterful bed and breakfast has a superb location that’s just a few minutes’ walk from Castle Square, but on a quiet side street. Perched on the upper slope of Lincoln’s hill, it has some great views across the city, especially at night.
- Creston Villa Guest House: for somewhere a bit further out of town, the lovely Iain and Anna will be very happy to host you in this homely bed and breakfast set in an old Victorian House. It’s about half an hour’s walk or a short taxi ride from uphill Lincoln where the market is held.
How to get to the Lincoln Christmas Market (and find your way around)
Most of the roads surrounding the market area are closed for its duration, which means it’s not easy to park nearby. If you find somewhere to park on the outskirts of the city, it’ll be at least a 10–15 minute walk to the market.
So, if you’re arriving by car, there is a more convenient option…
Park and ride at Lincolnshire Showground
A dedicated park and ride service is set up at Lincolnshire Showground, just north of Lincoln on the A15. You can use the postcode LN1 2ZF to find the location.
The park and ride service will be operational throughout the market, with times and prices as follows:
- Thursday 2 December: £13 day charge, 11:30am–10pm
- Friday 3 December: £14 day charge, 9am–10pm
- Saturday 4 December: £15 day charge, 9am–10pm
- Sunday 5 December: £14 day charge, 9am–7:30pm
The bus drops off by the Museum of Lincolnshire Life on Burton Road, a short distance from the market.
Arrive in style on a steam train
Heading to Lincoln for the Christmas Market from the vicinity of London or Hitchin? If so, you can make the experience a truly memorable one by taking a Pullman steam engine journey on Sunday 5 December.
The service is run by Steam Dreams, one of the market’s official partners in 2021. You will arrive in Lincoln on a stylish steam locomotive at 2pm and depart for the return journey at 5:20pm, allowing plenty of time to peruse the market.
Tickets begin at £109, or at the higher end you can indulge in some Pullman style on-board dining from £279.
By foot from the train and bus stations
If you are arriving to Lincoln by regular train or bus, the stations are located at the bottom end of the city centre. It’s about a 15-minute walk from here to Castle Square for the market.
Head up Lincoln High Street until you reach the top, where you will see an archway leading onto the Strait. Continue up here onto Steep Hill and keep going to the top. The shops on Steep Hill sometimes hold special events during the market, so keep your eyes out on the way up!
If you’d rather skip the walk, you can book a taxi instead. Christmas Market weekend is busy so it’s worth booking in advance for your arrival. Try one of these local firms:
- A2B Cars: 01522 533433
- Handsome Cabs: 01522 545352
- Direct Cars: 01522 567567
The Lincoln Christmas Market zones and route
The way around the Lincoln Christmas Market is circular, and while there are several points where you could start, Castle Square is the most convenient. There are various outdoor stalls here, including the famous gluhwein by FFN Lincoln. You can also wander under Exchequergate Arch to find a few more stalls outside the front of Lincoln Cathedral.
From the square, head into the Castle grounds. This is one of the liveliest areas, full of outdoors stalls selling food, drink and gifts.
Heading out of the grounds and across Union Road, you can continue following the route around The Lawns. This is where you will find the Pantry Marquee, the Bazaar Marquee and the Children’s Winter Wonderland.
The final section of the route runs along Westgate. This is where you will find the Big Wheel and fairground rides. Also look out for the Craft Marquee here – we often find some of our best Christmas pressies in this little gem!
You can return round to Castle Square from Westgate, stopping off finally at St Paul in the Bail for the new entertainment section.
A few final things to know
Before you finalise plans for your magical market weekend, here are a few useful things to know:
- Dogs: unfortunately dogs and other pets are not allowed at the Lincoln Christmas Market, except for guide dogs.
- Toilets: don’t worry, there are public toilets set up around the market route, including accessibility toilets.
- Safety: marshalls are positioned around the route to help, and there are medical and welfare facilities on site if you have any mishaps.
We hope you have a great time at Lincoln Christmas Market, whether it’s your first time or you’ve been coming for years! If you’ve got any stories to tell about past visits, we’d love to hear about it in the comments below.
If you want to fill your time in the city with more activities, take a look at our complete rundown of things to do in Lincoln.
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