The ultimate Christmas shopping experience in the UK

Despite the continuous rise of online shopping, when Christmas rolls around the high streets come into their own with festive window displays, twinkling lights and shoppers searching for gifts. However, it goes without saying that some cities offer a better Christmas shopping experience than others, with some being more stressful than seasonally satisfying, and falling down on that festive feeling.

With that in mind, we’ve created a completely new algorithm to reveal once and for all, the best Christmas shopping experience in the entire country! To do this, we’ve taken into account factors such as how busy each place is, how many shops there are to explore, the size and rating of the Christmas market, traffic, parking and that all important chance of snow.

Taking all of this into account, below are the very best places in Britain to do your Christmas shopping (and treat yourself to a mulled wine after!)

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1. Edinburgh

If you’ve ever visited Edinburgh for Christmas, it’s no real surprise that the Scottish capital ranks first when it comes to offering the best Christmas shopping experience. For a start, its cobbled streets and striking architecture go perfectly with the season, the city hosts a huge, sprawling Christmas market and isn’t as populated (and therefore busy) as other cities. Plus, being in Scotland, the chance of seasonal snow is much higher!

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Shopping in Edinburgh

2. Glasgow

Taking up both top spots thanks to our algorithm, Scotland is undoubtedly the place to be for Christmas. With the likes of Princes Square, Buchanan Street and the St. Enoch Shopping Centre, there’s a whole lot of shopping to be done, and this is again matched with festive cheer, manageable crowds and traffic, and a stellar Christmas market.

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Shopping in Glasgow

3. Oxford

Thanks to the likes of Oxford university and the charm of its many older buildings, Oxford in the winter can feel like you’ve walked on to the set of a Harry Potter film. However here, you’ll swap Butter Beer for mulled wine at the highly rated Christmas market, and benefit from fewer crowds, great parking and an abundance of shops to find those all-important gifts.

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Shopping in Oxford

4. Newcastle

Geordies are widely known to be a friendly bunch, so maybe this festive friendliness made its way into our algorithm as Newcastle finds itself in the top five best places for Christmas shopping. Again, with a higher chance of snow and a great Christmas market, the city’s shops aren’t too spread out either, making it an easy day out to tick a serious amount off of your shopping list, and still have time for something pumpkin spiced and warming!

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Shopping in Newcastle

5. Belfast

Northern Ireland’s capital makes the top five for many reasons. Not only does the city have a highly regarded Christmas market, but it also features almost everything else you could want too: it’s not overly busy, there’s a fair chance of snow, a lot of shops and you shouldn’t find it too hard to get a parking space. The only reason it’s fifth is because the other four cities ranked slightly higher, but its still one of the very best Christmas shopping experiences in the whole of the UK! Well worth a festive shopping trip where you can sample other sights such as the Titanic Experience while you’re at it!

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Shopping in Belfast

6. Bournemouth

A trip to the seaside in the winter might seemingly reduce that festive feeling, but Bournemouth performs really well when it comes to Christmas shopping. With an abundance of shops, and not too many people getting in your way during the search for those must-buy items.

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Shopping in Bournemouth

7. Southampton

With the likes of Westquay Shopping Centre, Southampton is a great destination for shopping, and with its Christmas light displays, market and easy routes in and out of the city, there’s no surprise it made the top 10!

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Shopping in Southampton

8. Manchester

The shopping area is particularly spread out and can get rather busy. This has held Manchester back from taking the top spots, however its light displays and markets are some of the best in the country. Pair that with a trip to the Trafford Centre and you’re in shopping heaven.

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Shopping in Manchester

9. Brighton

Another seaside attraction makes the top 10 and with the eclectic, winding lanes of Brighton, mixed with the high street shopping of Churchill Square, it’s a no-brainer. Ranking highly in the algorithm due to the close proximity of its shops, the city falls down on traffic and how small its Christmas market is.

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Shopping in Brighton

10. York

Yet another city that has a quaint beauty that perfectly matches Christmas time. With its cobbled streets and medieval architecture, York is an ideal place for a festive shopping trip.

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Shopping in York

11. Nottingham

Known more for Robin Hood than being a destination for Christmas shopping, Nottingham ranks outside of the top 10, but that’s not to say it isn’t worth a festive trip. Surrounded by countryside, there’s the perfect opportunity for a relaxed winter walk after hitting the hectic shops in the city centre.

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Shopping in Nottingham

12. Bristol

In years to come, we will likely see Bristol move further and further up this list, with it gaining in popularity as a place to live for many. A charming city well worth a city break, with an abundance of shops and places to celebrate the season.

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Shopping in Bristol

13. Cardiff

In our algorithm, Cardiff actually had one of the highest ranked Christmas markets, however fell down on parking options, the fact the city can get so busy and its low chance of snowfall. Still, a city more than worth visiting, whatever the season.

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Shopping in Cardiff

14. Birmingham

Birmingham boasts a big Christmas market, and great shopping choices with the likes of the Bullring. It does however fall down like others, on its high traffic and high competition when it comes to actually experiencing the market and finding what you want in the shops.

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Shopping in Birmingham

15. Liverpool

A brilliant city for shopping, its placement on this list definitely shouldn’t put you off paying it a visit. Liverpool simply suffers from low chance of seasonal snowfall and a Christmas market that doesn’t have as much to shout about as others.

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Shopping in Liverpool

16. London

It may be a surprise to some that London ranks so low on this list, what with Oxford Street, Camden and the flagship stores of some of the world’s biggest brands. Next to that, the capital’s Christmas lights are arguably the best in Britain. But the city falls down because it gets so busy, and is so spread out, that a days shopping can get tiring, and sipping a mulled wine can have to get swapped for a tube journey or two.

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Shopping in London

17. Swansea

If you’re planning your Christmas shopping in Swansea, it might be best to opt for public transport, as the biggest marks against Swansea come from its limited parking options and difficult drive in to the city centre. Beyond this, Swansea is a beautiful city, and one that embraces the season as much as any other!

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Shopping in Swansea

18. Leicester

Again, another city that falls down due to its parking options, Leicester doesn’t have the highest rated Christmas market so finds itself at 18th. Still, a great option during a trip to the Midlands!

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Shopping in Leicester

19. Leeds

A surprise to see Leeds ranking so lowly, as it’s got a huge amount of shopping on offer. Again though, it currently just can’t compete with the likes of Edinburgh when it comes to the Christmas market and overall festive feeling!

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Shopping in Leeds

20. Sheffield

Shopping in Sheffield is a favourite for those in Yorkshire, but unfortunately when taking into account the Christmas market, and the ease of the overall festive experience, the city doesn’t quite come up trumps!

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Shopping in Sheffield

Methodology

We created a custom algorithm that combines metrics such as the likelihood of snow and the quality of the Christmas market to estimate how enjoyable it is to do your Christmas shopping in each city.

The aim was to understand each core part of the Christmas shopping experience: Traveling to the city, parking in the city, shopping in the city, walking around the Christmas market and feeling festive throughout the experience – with the chance of snow making everything feel more Christmassy! By combining our raw metrics, we can approximate how good each part of the city is.

We then scaled the resulting combinations between a theoretical maximum and minimum (eg. London’s population squashed into Oxford’s area to create the worst possible experience of appearing too busy, and Oxfords population spread over London’s area as the best possible experience).

We then summed the scores for each element to approximate the score of the overall experience, and ranked based on this summation.

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