Hay-on-Wye, Mid Wales
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. Each November you will also get the added bonus of the Hay Festival Winter Weekend, which has a food festival and vintage fair alongside the usual literary events.
The Royal Welsh Winter Fair, Builth Wells, Mid Wales
A super festive event all in one place! Head to the the Royal Welsh Winter Fair at the agricultural showground in Builth Wells towards the end of November for a kick-start to your festive season. As well as all the usual competitions with cookery, crafts, livestock and hounds on display, there are reindeer visiting at certain times. There's a huge food hall full of local Welsh produce, craft stalls with beautiful handmade products, Santa's Grotto and a magnificent fireworks display at the end of it all.
Llandeilo, West Wales
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. 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 festive highlight is November's Festival of Senses - surround yourself with live music, taste great food and drink, visit the craft and fashion stalls and get the Christmassy feels as Santa and his sleigh leads the way through town before a twinkly lantern parade.
Cardiff, South Wales
Cardiff is one of the top shopping cities in Britain. Pretty much every prestigious retail brand is packed into the compact, pedestrianised city centre. The mighty St David’s shopping centre is a major destination for well-known names and labels, including flagship stores like John Lewis and Apple as its cornerstones. In the warren of Victorian and Edwardian arcades, 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 the traditional Victorian indoor market that’s still going strong after more than 100 years. If ‘quirky’ is on your shopping list, the sprawling antiques and curios emporium of Jacobs Antiques is unbeatable.
Swansea, West Wales
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 Swansea indoor 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. 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.
Cowbridge, South Wales
Cowbridge has always been at the prosperous heart of the Vale of Glamorgan and where 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. Regular Vale Makers Markets are held throughout the year, and you should be able to get some lovely gifts made by local craftspeople at the Christmas market on 3 December.
Conwy, North Wales
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 per cent - 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… and if you want a suit of armour (you never know!), 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 for the Conwy Winterfest.
A whopping 92.5 per cent of shops in Conwy are proudly run by local traders. It’s an astonishing feat, which places Conwy in Britain’s top five places for independent shops."
Narberth, West Wales
Narberth has described itself 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 Christmas market in the Queens Hall during November to get the festive season off to a flying start.
Saundersfoot Coastal Christmas, West Wales
Running for the whole of December and into the New Year, Saundersfoot's harbour area is turning into an enchanting Christmas shopper's delight. Local craftspeople, including jewellers, leather goods makers and boutique clothing designers will take up residence in specially built cabins. In the village, there are also lots of independent shops to explore. Try out the traditional festive food and drinks on offer as you explore this beautiful village on the Pembrokeshire coast. Find out more on the Saundersfoot Coastal Christmas website.