There is no better way to get into the holiday spirit than going to a Christmas Market. It’s full of Christmas decorations, music, festive food and drinks, and gift ideas. Advent hasn’t even started yet, but we have already visited our first Christmas Market of the season – The Bury St. Edmunds Christmas Fayre. Keep reading for all the details you need to know before your visit to the Bury St. Edmunds Christmas Market including some insider tips.
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Bury St. Edmunds, also simply called Bury, is located in the county of Suffolk in East England. This was actually my first time to visit Bury St. Edmunds, but I can say it won’t be my last. Of course, I plan on making the Christmas Market an annual tradition, but I would also like to go back and explore the city more.
As of 2011, the population was just over 35,000. Still, it has lots of history and things to do. It once was a pilgrimage site where people would come to see the shrine to King Edmund who died in 869. Today, the Cathedral and Abbey Gardens are the most popular attractions. Also, the city center is picturesque and fun to walk around.
The Bury St. Edmunds Christmas Fayre 2018 By the Numbers
The Bury St. Edmunds Christmas Market was much bigger than I expected. It’s one of the biggest Christmas events in East Anglia. 2018 was its 16th year and they had over 300 stalls. It is only open for four days (November 22nd – 25th, 2018), so if you haven’t gone yet, you have missed your chance for 2018. Bookmark this page, I will update the dates for 2019 as soon as they are available. I hope in future years they consider expanding the dates!
Food and Drinks
Personally, I think the food and drinks are the best part of the European Christmas Markets! Come hungry and thirsty, there is no shortage of food or beverages at the Bury Xmas Market.
Although I had read the food was concentrated by the Cathedral, we found plenty of food stalls throughout the Fayre. I was impressed by the international selection. I even saw stalls offering Goan and Transylvanian food. Unfortunately, by the time I saw those, I was already full! For our lunch, Russell insisted that I try a traditional English hog roast – a pork sandwich with apple sauce and cracklings.
Most booths selling food products offered samplings, so we got to try some interesting things. I think my favorites were the unique jams (beetroot and horseradish), sausages (elk), and cheeses. I also enjoyed the brownies and chocolate. Come to think of it, I don’t think there was anything I didn’t like!
For beverages, there is no shortage of choices. They have plenty of non-alcoholic (ex: hot chocolate) and alcoholic (mulled wine) to choose from. When you start getting chilly, the warm drinks hit the spot! Look out for the deals combining mulled wine with mince pies. There were also local wineries, distilleries, and other beverage companies selling their products and offering samples.
Shopping at the Bury Christmas Market
You will find some unique Christmas gift ideas at the Bury St. Edmunds Christmas Market. There are lots of artisan crafts and some toys. The local food products could also make great gifts. Some of them, we liked so much, we bought them for ourselves.
Some stalls were offering special deals if you purchased during the Fayre, but not all were. In some cases, if there was a product I liked but no special deal, I asked if they had a website or offered their products in other places. That way I would have the option to purchase later. Several of the stalls did have their products available at Jarrold’s in Norwich.
A couple things to keep in mind:
- Bring cash. Most vendors did accept credit cards but there were a few that did not. We ran into one vendor whose credit card machine broke. The lines we saw at the cash machines were long, especially during peak hours.
- Don’t wait until the end to buy! We decided we would look at all the stalls then pick up our favorites at the end before heading back to the train. That way we would haven’t to carry everything around all day. Well, unfortunately, one of the places we wanted to buy from was sold out of our favorite. Some places may allow you to make the purchase and then pick it up later.
We were too busy shopping, tasting, and drinking so we didn’t have much time to enjoy the entertainment. There was a stage in the Cathedral area offering cooking demonstrations and the main stage just outside the Abbey Gate with musical performances.
The opening night they do have a parade and fireworks. Maybe, I will try to make it to that next year.
Activities for Kids
Kids may not be interested in all the shopping, but there are plenty of rides at the market to entertain them – what we call bumper cars (called Dodgems in the UK), swings, a Ferris wheel, carousels, those spinning teacups, and more. The rides we saw were designed for younger kids. While most of the rides were in the Abbey Gardens area, you will find them throughout the Christmas Markets. They did have discounted rides on opening day.
Additionally, children can see Santa in the Abbey Gardens. Fair warning though, the line was long when we walked by on Sunday afternoon.
For older kids, Moyse Hall had free admission (usually £5 for adults and £3 for children). They had a special exhibition with props from popular movies like Star Wars, Star Trek, Harry Potter, and the Martian. The museum was named best family museum in Suffolk in 2017.
Kids will also enjoy the opening night fireworks and parade.
Bury St. Edmunds Christmas Market Video
Check out our video to see more of our experience at the Bury Christmas Fayre.
Getting to the Bury St. Edmunds Christmas Market
The Christmas Fayre is very popular so please don’t try to drive into the city. There will be road closures and terrible traffic. Instead, you have two options:
- Greater Anglia Train Service – We took the train to the market. Greater Anglia offers additional service to Bury St. Edmunds during the Fayre. Still, the trains were busy so allow extra time. The Bury St. Edmunds train station is about a 10-minute walk from the Christmas markets in the city center. There are signs to direct you or you can follow the crowds. For the lowest fares on the train, be sure to book in advance and also choose specific train times (Check the schedules and prices here).
- Park and Ride – You also have the option to drive and then take a bus. The Christmas Fayre park and ride buses run from Saxham Business Park, just off the A14 (use postcode IP28 6RX in your GPS). The service is available Thursday 11 am until 8:30 pm, Friday and Saturday 8:30 am until 8:30 pm and Sunday 9:00 am until 5:30 pm. The cost is £10 per car and it must be paid in cash.
Please make sure that if you do drive, you have a designated driver!
Have you been to Bury St. Edmunds or the Bury Christmas Market? I would love to hear about your experience.
Expert Tips for the Bury St. Edmunds Christmas Market
- Do not try to drive to the Christmas Fayre! The city is not built to handle lots of cars. Either take the train or use the park and ride.
- Do not wait until the end to make your purchases. Some stalls will sell out.
- Come hungry! There is so much good food (and drinks) at the market.
- Bring a reusable bag to carry your purchases.
- You can find women’s restrooms inside the Cathedral. For men, there were port-a-potties in the Cathedral yard.
- Bring cash! Not all vendors accept credit cards and the lines for the ATMs were insane at times.
- The Bury Christmas Market only lasts for 4 days so be sure to mark your calendar. It’s usually the last part of November.
Disclosure: Thanks to Greater Anglia for providing us with complimentary train tickets so that we could attend the Bury St. Edmunds Christmas Fayre.
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