*This is a commissioned post for Aviva*
It’s many years since my first visit to the Leeds Christmas Markets in Millennium Square Leeds, in fact I’d hazard a guess that it would have been around Christmas 2014 when I was living in a swish city centre apartment with one of my best friends. I’d never been to a Christmas Market before but the lure of alfresco festive fun with delicious food and mulled wine (or hot chocolate in my case) was enough to tempt me into making a visit.
In recent years I’ve tended to visit the Manchester Christmas Markets – both with friends and with the children – as they’re only just down the road. However, this year I decided to venture further afield and make a return to the Leeds Christmas Markets, popping down during the day in the hope that it would be a little quieter (though missing out on the cosy twinkly festiveness that comes with it being dark!)
Leeds city centre is less than an hour away on a good run, though anyone who traverses the M62 regularly will know that a “good run” is a not exactly the norm and lorries over taking each other going up hills are especially painful. It has to be said that after many years of daily commuting, the M62 is rarely my favourite place to be – it’s a busy road, prone to serious traffic incidents and bad weather – I’ve spent many a miserable hour at a standstill on the top of that motorway. It’s certainly the last place you want to break down and be stuck (and let me tell you, I tested that one out at about 30 weeks pregnant and was so grateful for breakdown cover (and if you’re going to be travelling further afield for Christmas Markets this year then European Breakdown Cover and appropriate car insurance for driving abroad is a must). But really a quick hop across the M62 is nothing compared to what some people do to get to Christmas Markets!
There are lots of places to park in Leeds but as I was also planning on fitting in some Christmas shopping, I parked in my usual car park at Leeds Trinity – it’s not the cheapest by any stretch but it’s definitely one of the most convenient for the city centre. If you’re aiming specifically for the Christmas Markets then I think The Light car park would probably be the closest – again it’s not exactly cheap but city centre parking rarely is these days!
The Leeds Christmas Markets are much smaller than the Manchester ones and don’t seem to have seen much expansion over the last decade – but I love this. The Manchester Christmas Markets are huge and sprawling but a lot of the product on the stalls seems to be repeated several times over whereas in Leeds, everything is more compact making it easier to visit with children.
I love to look at all the trinkets and toys on offer, the Christmas decorations and stalls selling beautiful jewellery but I rarely buy anything – it’s more about the experience and topping up the festive feelings!
I don’t know about you, but the main focus of visiting the Christmas Markets for me is food and drink – hot chocolate with amaretto and whipped cream, mulled wine, German sausage or hot sandwiches stuffed with pork and apple sauce, and then there’s all the sweet treats – fruit and marshmallow kebabs covered in chocolate, sweets and chocolates galore.
Have you visited any Christmas Markets this year? I’d love to know if you have a favourite – or indeed any recommendations for European Christmas Markets to visit?