In recent years, Christmas Markets have become huge in the UK. No longer do you need to hop on a flight to Germany or Belgium for your fix of mulled wine, bratwursts, and Christmas kitsch. Instead you can find the classic Christmas markets across the cities here in the UK.
This is a paid promotion with National Express. As always, these are all my own words.
Visiting Leeds Christmas Markets
On a chilly and drizzly Saturday at the end of November, we visited Leeds Christmas Markets, located at Millennium Square in the city centre. Christkindelmarkt, to give it the official name, is Leeds’ annual traditional German Christmas market, bringing a little piece of Germany into the heart of the city centre.
Leeds Christmas Markets are open 10.30 am – 9.30 pm (7.30 pm on Sundays) from the 8th November to 21st December, and are free to enter.
Set against the backdrop of the Leeds City Council building and Leeds City Museum, are an enclave of authentic wooden chalet stalls decked in festive cheer. There are nutcrackers stalls, an array of food stalls (churros and mulled wine anyone?), a traditional carousel and a singing moose head (obviously).
Along Cookridge Street to the south and round to Victoria Square you’ll find the fairground rides, including dodgems, a toy train and a Ferris Wheel outside the Art Gallery. You pay for the rides individually and in cash before getting on. The carousel is £3 per person, and the dodgems are £4 per car. Most rides are £3 per person. There were no queues at all for rides when we visited.
Leeds Christmas Markets aren’t huge and certainly not on a scale of London or Birmingham. There is no ice-rink and you really only need an hour or two to wander around. But it’s very charming, and certainly put me in the festive mood. Noting the number of people singing along to the Christmas tunes playing through the speakers made me realise I definitely wasn’t the only one.
Getting to Leeds Christmas Markets with National Express
Leeds is a good two hour drive away from us. The train is an option, but we find that prices are very expensive for a family and we never seem to be able to find a decent deal. We would normally choose to drive, but then that means you need to negotiate inner city driving and parking, as well as the cost of parking. Also, it means no mulled wine for one parent!
So for a change we took National Express. Admittedly, as we live in the Peak District with very limited public transport, we still had to drive a little bit. Chesterfield, which is a 25 minute drive away, is our nearest National Express bus station. But parking in Chesterfield city centre is much cheaper and easier than Leeds city centre. Plus, as we so rarely get the bus or coach in this country (actually, I’m struggling to remember when we last did) we very much enjoyed the novelty.
Now if the last time you went on a National Express coach was a fair few years ago, let me tell you… They have changed A LOT. The average age of the fleet that traverses the UK to more than 750 destinations is less than five years old and is therefore very modern.
Passengers can enjoy air conditioning, comfortable seats, free WiFi and onboard entertainment accessed from your phone or tablet, three pin plug sockets (although not USB), and toilets. I’ll admit that going to the loo whilst the bus is travelling down the motorway is quite an artform, and don’t expect luxury. But the toilets are there for when the kids need to go, which we all know is going to happen at some point on your journey.
In addition, some of the benefits for National Express passengers include:
Competitive prices with thousands of tickets for £5 or less (plus booking fee)
A guaranteed seat
The option of seat reservations on selected services for £2 per person. On most journeys you are able to reserve your seats. However, for some reason we we’re unable to do so for our trip. Thankfully a kind lady moved seats so we could all sit together.
A generous luggage allowance of two medium-sized suitcases, each weighing no more than 20kg and a small piece of hand luggage and driver assistance. Very handy if you’re going away for a weekend or longer.
Wheelchair lifts (available on most services – passengers are advised to pre-book)
Booster seats and the option to bring a child seat (subject to suitability and the passenger will be responsible for fitting)
And on top of all this, did you know that travelling by coach is the most environmentally friendly form of public transport? It generates up to five times less CO2 per passenger than the average car journey. Well that’s an absolute winner in our books!
Getting the National Express is much cheaper than getting the train and if you book far enough in advance, you can get some amazing deals. To book your National Express ticket and find the best fares visit their website.
It’s a 16 minute walk from Leeds Bus Station to Leeds Christmas Markets.
What else is there to do in Leeds with kids?
If you’re visiting Leeds on a day trip, you will also be able to squeeze in a couple of other activities beside the Christmas Markets.
We enjoyed a very yummy Thai lunch at My Thai Restaurant. No need to book and opens at 11:30 am (handy if needing a kid-friendly lunch spot that opens early). We also visited the Royal Armouries Museum, which is a twenty minute walk from Leeds Christmas Markets on the other side of the city. Here you can explore arms and armour from across the world, and entry is free.
If you have got more time in the city or are perhaps visiting for a weekend, check out this post for other ideas on what to do in Leeds with kids.
Were you an intrepid backpacker in your previous life? Exploring distant and exotic lands on a budget, getting off the beaten track and feeling like you were doing something different? Now that young kids are in the picture, travel priorities may have changed. But you don’t have to get sucked into the package holiday bubble. Adventure travel with young kids is possible! Jenny x