Christmas shopping in Wales

What do you want for Christmas? How about a relaxing day out, somewhere pretty, where you can easily tick everything off your gift list … and still have time for a mulled wine or two? Here are eight places to find everyone’s perfect present, from the big brands and bright lights of our cities, to bijoux boutiques and gorgeous gifts in our market towns. 

Cardiff

Shoppers browsing the stalls at Cardiff Christmas Market

Cardiff Christmas Market, South Wales by Craft Folk
 Cardiff is, quite simply, one of the top shopping cities in Britain. When the mighty St David’s shopping centre opened its new extension in 2009, with flagship stores like John Lewis and Apple as its cornerstones, the city joined the big league of shopping destinations. Pretty much every prestigious retail brand is packed into the compact, pedestrianised city centre.  But it’s in the warren of Victorian and Edwardian arcades that you’ll unlock the city’s strong independent streak, with dozens of home-grown boutiques, cafes and delis. Christmas brings a big seasonal street market to The Hayes area, just outside a traditional Victorian indoor market that’s still going strong after 126 years. One final tip: if ‘quirky’ is on your shopping list, the sprawling antiques/curios emporium of Jacobs Market is unbeatable.  

Swansea

Swansea Christmas Market, West Wales by Delta Whiskey
Swansea’s the main retail hub for South West Wales, with a great spread of big brands and local independents. You can find most of the big names in and around The Quadrant shopping centre and Oxford Street, while the vast traditional market is easily the biggest and best covered market in Wales. The best of the local independents are in the Independent Quarter, which encompasses the arcades and side-streets off the main drag. And during the festive season, Swansea Christmas Street Market sets up dozens of stalls along Oxford Street to offer crafts, handmade gifts, fine foods and unique Christmas decorations.

Narberth

Narberth has described itself, somewhat immodestly, as ‘the Bond Street of Wales’.  But we know what they mean. It’s a lovely little market town, and they are justifiably proud of having Pembrokeshire’s best selection of independent shops. It’s notably strong on food, art, footwear and clothing, and there’s usually a winter carnival to get the festive season off to a flying start. 

Llandeilo

Two children buying ice cream at Heavenly Chocolate store

Heavenly Chocolates, Llandeilo, Carmarthenshire by discover carmarthenshire
The pretty hilltop town of Llandeilo in Carmarthenshire has become a popular day out for independent shoppers, who spend a leisurely day trawling the town’s many boutiques, jewellers, galleries and antiques shops (if you’re doing it properly, you’ll also need to factor in a pit-stop at the excellent Ginhaus). In summer, it’s obligatory to snaffle an ice cream from Heavenly, but since it’s Christmas we may opt for a warming hot chocolate at one of the many cafes and pubs. The annual Festival of the Senses (17 to 19 November 2017) kicks off the festive season with live entertainment, fireworks and late-night shopping.

Abergavenny

As the undisputed food capital of Wales, Abergavenny is the perfect place to stock up your larder with Christmas goodies, and the Abergavenny Christmas Food Festival on 10 December 2017 is the ideal time to do it. While you’re there, it’s well worth stepping outside the market hall and exploring the many independent boutiques, galleries and gift shops that line the streets. 

Conwy

Conwy Castle in snow

Conwy Castle, North Wales by Ashley Perkins
Here’s a Christmas quiz question: how many chain stores are there in Conwy? Answer: only three.  All the other shops– a whopping 92.5% - are proudly run by local traders. It’s an astonishing feat, which places Conwy in Britain’s top five places for independent shops. It’s also the key to why Conwy is such a great place to do your Christmas shopping. For instance, there’s the multi-award-winning Edwards butchers, the Yesteryears toy emporium, Vinomondo for fine wine, Baravelli's for artisan chocolate … and if you want a suit of armour this Christmas, look no further than The Knight Shop. And all these treasures are wrapped neatly within the town walls of a beautifully preserved medieval town.  To see it all at its festive best, head there on 9 December for the Conwy Winterfest.

Cowbridge

Cowbridge has always been at the prosperous heart of the Vale of Glamorgan’s squirearchy, and whither Cardiff’s business moguls pilot their Range Rovers at the end of the working day. Accordingly, there’s an upper-echelon feel to Cowbridge’s many shops, galleries and bars, which are mostly strung along a single High Street that runs the whole length of the town. Women’s clothing is where Cowbridge really excels (around 18 boutiques the last time we counted) but it’s also great for gifts, jewellery and art. Christmas begins here on the last Sunday of November at the Reindeer Parade, when Father Christmas is drawn by real reindeer down High Street, accompanied by a mass of festive elves. 

Hay on Wye

A couple Christmas shopping in Hay on Wye

A couple Christmas shopping in Hay on Wye
 Hay straddles the Wales-England border, and the town was only half-joking when it declared independence  from both countries in 1977. Hay on Wye isn’t officially an ‘independent kingdom’, but when you stroll around the shops, it certainly has that feel. The shopping here is all about high-quality, free-thinking individualism – which makes it perfect for a Christmas shopping expedition. If you go on the weekend of 23 to 26 November 2017, there’s the added bonus of the Hay Festival Winter Weekend, which has a food festival and vintage fair alongside the usual literary events.

More shopping ideas in Wales