An Insider's Guide to Exeter Christmas Market
Exeter’s Christmas Market has returned to Cathedral Green for the 4th year running. The backdrop of Exeter’s majestic Cathedral makes this a wonderfully atmospheric setting for Christmas shopping and festive street food and drink.
Market manager Nick Rhodes, and Siobhán McGuigan from Type AB Consultancy led us on a tour of the market in its first week, to meet some of the traders and sample some of their wares. After meeting at the west front of the Cathedral, the first stop was Alfie, an iconic London Taxi who has been converted into a vintage taxi photo booth. Festive props make this a great idea for a unique Christmas card, plus it’s a lot of fun!
The Christmas Market offers local Devon based retailers the chance to showcase their businesses, and it is a great place to pick up unique, handmade gifts. Visit this year’s Pitch Perfect competition winners Light and Beloved for some great ideas for stocking fillers and handmade decorations. Dragonfly, normally based in Totnes, offers ethically sourced items from Asia, we loved their felt animal bottle toppers. Local artist Tabby Rabbit produces quirky prints, cards and bags featuring her designs – perfect for dog lovers! Stop by the Devon Reclaimed chalet to hear the interesting stories behind their industrial lighting and portholes salvaged from ships.
The chalets are beautifully decorated, check out Tracy Davison Contemporary Jewellery with her mad hatter theme, and the festive smell of orange and cinnamon from Pollyfields tempted us in to admire their handcrafted dried fruit and spice decorations. Opposite you will find local jeweller Gemstar, showing off some of their finest pieces. Their nearby shop was closed for a few weeks following the devastating fire in Cathedral Yard, so the organisers of the market offered them a free chalet to showcase their wares.
It is well worth exploring this end of the market to seek out Sally’s tea rooms, a real hidden gem where you can relax on comfy chairs with a cuppa and giant mince pie – an oasis of calm in the midst of the bustling market.
Time for a quick refreshment stop courtesy of Norcotts Cider, who let us sample some of their award winning fruit ciders. These were deliciously refreshing and not too sweet, with flavours including raspberry and orange, cranberry, and elderflower – apparently a tasty addition to gin!
Don’t miss the Amazing Chocolate Workshop, their incredible chocolate creations range from tools and handguns, to make-up, pegs, and bottle openers – and even a chocolate teapot!
The Christmas market is a great foodie destination, from traditional fare you’d expect to find such as German bratwurst and Gluhwein, to local, independent traders offering something a bit different. We stopped at Snob Lobster for a delicious toasted brioche and lobster roll. A new addition to the market for 2016, this Devon producer combines two indulgent treats – lobster and champagne!
Nearby Bush Farm Catering offer locally farmed bison and venison burgers, or head towards the west front of the cathedral for wood fired pizzas from the Flaming Good Pizza Co. If you have a sweet tooth there are lots of tempting treats on offer, from pick n’ mix style sweet stalls, beautifully decorated cupcakes, crepes and churros.
We finished our tour with a spicy bratwurst barbecued over a large coal pit, washed down with a warming glass of Gluhwein!
Exeter’s Christmas Market is open daily in the run up to Christmas until Sunday 18 December. Opening hours are Monday - Wednesday 10am - 7pm, Thursday - Saturday 11am - 9pm and Sunday 11am - 6pm. The market has been growing in size each year, so is bigger than ever with over 80 traders for 2016 - 70% of which are local.