For the second year in a row, I spent a day at the Christmas market in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk. I always visit on the Friday – the fayre runs from Thursday evening through to Sunday, usually at the end of November. Friday’s are the least busy of all the days, and it’s really nice to walk around all the festive stalls and get a little Christmassy!
Bury St Edmunds is around an hour’s drive away from home, and we leave early in order to guarantee a parking space in the Park and Ride. It costs £10 per car (for up to 7 passengers), and there’s a regular park and ride bus service (every 10 mins) to the centre. As previously, we were on the bus by 9:30am, ready to do some serious Christmas shopping … after finding a coffee first of course.
The market tends to start getting busy once the schools finish for the day – by 5pm it’s getting quite congested, and that’s often when we start heading back to the bus to take us to the car.
There are over 300 stalls at the Bury St Edmunds Christmas Fayre, spread across the town.
Abbey Gardens, adjoining the cathedral, hosts over 100 stalls, along with lots of children’s entertainment (dodgems, bungee trampolines, water zorbing etc) as well as having real reindeer and a Santas Grotto.
We tend to visit Abbey Gardens last of all, as it looks pretty when all lit up with Christmas lighting. Towards the rear of the Gardens is a row of aviaries and a little outdoor café that not many know about – a great place for a warming hot chocolate before you head home.
Angel Hill is the famous medieval centre of Bury St Edmunds. The roads are closed, and the whole area is filled with over 100 stalls … everything from handmade pens (made in the same village that I live in!), woollen shawls, very fragrant sliced dry orange festive wreaths, handmade dog biscuits, pick n’ mix sweet stalls … and lots of different hot food stalls. Oh, and mustn’t forget the mulled wine. Here there’s a stage where during the day and evening various music acts can be watched/heard. And at the far end of Angel Hill you’ll find a carousel, helter skelter and other fairground rides.
This beautiful Georgian building is full to the rafters with stalls selling handmade gifts. So popular is this part of the fayre that they’ve adopted a one-way system to walk around it!
St Edmunsbury Cathedral hosts a gift fair too. You can join in with a carol service, and take refreshments in their beautiful Refectory. Out the back of the cathedral, in the Cathedral Courtyard, there’s over 25 food and drink stalls; we watched a cookery demonstration here.
Ivy Joan Makers Market
This year, some stands in the Unitarian Meeting House, ‘won’ our virtual ‘most amazing gift/craft’ prize. The standout item, which we’re still talking about a week later, was a tall felted hare – the most incredible thing ever. Standing approximately 60-70cm, the eyes were so expressive. It was made by Sarah Hubbard and created using needle felt. Look at this:
Bury St Edmunds Street Market
When we used to live nearer to Bury St Edmunds, we often visited at the weekends to walk around the street market. As well as some regular stalls, there’s lots of festive ones too at the fayre and we always love looking at them all.
The Arc Shopping Centre
The Arc Shopping Centre is a relatively new addition to Bury St Edmunds (well I remember it being built!) There are some excellent stores here, but during the Christmas Fayre there’s festive stalls too … hand made chocolates, photographic prints of animals, bath bombs, scarves and socks – this is a good spot to pick up some unique stocking fillers.
Hatter Street is a pedestrianised street off Abbeygate Street. There were some lovely festive stalls here, and we bought a bright yellow felt flower!
We didn’t get to see everything on offer at the fayre – we try to see most of it though. There’s so much to see and do – and of course you can’t ignore all the stores in Bury St Edmunds – many of these are independent stores and are worthy of a browse. What I’m saying is if you can visit over two days, you will get around it all!
A special mention has to go to a lovely teashop that we always visit – Harriets. Harriets, on Cornhill, is a quaint tearoom where the staff wear traditional uniforms. Tea is loose leaf and there’s a large menu of different blends to choose from. I ordered their special blended tea – it was very refreshing.
To eat, I ordered a flatbread filled with salad, tomatoes and sweet chilli dressing, topped with grilled halloumi and bacon. It was delicious.
Their afternoon tea looked wonderful too.
You almost always have to queue at Harriets … it’s worth it though.
2017 versus 2018
This year was better than ever (last year was good too). Maybe it was because we found more of the smaller markets, off the main streets, which offered unique handcrafted goods. I feel there were more stalls this year; some we remembered from last year, but there were lots of new ones too.
Will we go back in 2019? Yes, it’s become a tradition now! It’s nice being able to walk around a Christmas market at leisure, as opposed to being taken where the crowd takes you! And next year, I might just want to buy a 3’ tall needle felted hare!