There’s a little less than two weeks to go before Lincoln’s annual Christmas market returns to the city. Every year, for four magical days, the entire uphill area of Lincoln is turned into a winter wonderland and no degree at the University of Lincoln is complete without at least one visit during your time here. I’ve visited the Market two-years in a row now, and intend to make the hat trick when it returns on the 7th December.
Before coming to Lincoln, I’d always thought Christmas markets were a bit dull and uninteresting. Having lived in Sheffield and Leeds I thought I knew what to expect. Ten, maybe twenty stalls, each selling mulled wine and oversized sausages.
Lincoln’s market was the first traditional German-style event in the country. So of course, it has those things, but unlike some of the markets you might be used to, the scale is so much grander. And the best part? It’s nearly all free.
On my first ever visit to the market I remember being shocked by the sheer number of visitors. Despite only living in Lincoln for two or three months I’d grown to know the city very well. As a Journalism student, I’d travelled all over it, and being the home of Crown Court, Castle Hill is a prime location for stories.
However, I’d never seen it so busy. I now know that the market attracts more than 250,000 visitors a year and it really shows. The crowds are huge and at times a little crushing. For me I found this change of pace to be exhilarating, I was so used to Lincoln being a tranquil and peaceful city. Now it was alive, filled with people, bright lights and a cacophony of voices.
It’s not only the crowds which are large but the number of stalls too. There’s over 200 and they form a mile-long circuit which stretches from the Magna Carta pub, into the castle grounds, along Westgate and back around the Bailgate and into the cathedral.
As I mentioned before there’s stalls selling the traditional bratwurst (German sausage) and gluhwein (German mulled wine) but there’s plenty of stalls selling everything from handcrafted gifts to more modern and unique present ideas. If you’re struggling to find something for that person who has everything, you might find a little something different right on your doorstep.
My personal highlight of the weekend is the Big Wheel. It’s a huge Ferris Wheel that gets put up on Westgate and it provides visitors with some unmissable views of the city. From the top, you can really appreciate the scale of not only the market and the thousands of visitors scurrying from stall to stall, but also the cathedral, the castle and even the university.
Since coming to Lincoln I’ve had a chance to climb the walls of the castle, to scale the towers of the cathedral and even then, I’d still say the Big Wheel provides the best views of Lincoln. In previous years one £4 ride would get you two loops of the wheel. Carriages are filled with groups of four, so I recommend bringing some friends if you want a more intimate experience.
I always attend the event on Saturdays, and that perhaps is not the wisest idea if you aren’t a fan of crowds. Thursday is traditionally known as ‘locals day’, and as you might expect is a lot quieter. So, if you want to avoid the rush that’s certainly the best day to go. If Thursday isn’t an option it’s also worth noting that the market technically starts at midday. While the experience is much better after dark, there’s nothing stopping from exploring while the crowds are light at lunchtime.
If you are not enticed enough to go, the market has been voted for being the best in the entire country, according to Holiday Lettings, a part of Trip Advisor.
Whatever day you choose to come, be sure to wish me a merry Christmas if you see me there, and remember to get wrapped up in your best winter clothes. The Christmas market has a reputation for many wonderful things, but being warm isn’t one of them.