Are Christmas markets festive delights or 'assemblies of tat' which take up too much space?

Andy Wells
Freelance Writer
The Christmas market at Trafalgar Square has been criticised by art chiefs (PA)

They’ve become town and city centre staples in recent years, where traders sell their festive wares to customers lapping up the Christmas spirit.

But not everyone appears to be won over by traditional Christmas markets - especially near London’s Trafalgar Square.

Art chiefs have furiously lashed out at the Christmas market set up on there - for “spoiling the view” at the iconic public space.

The 34 stalls that make up the Bavarian market on the north bank of the square have been described as an “assembly of tat” by Stephen Bayley, the chairman of the Royal Fine Art Commission Trust.

He wrote in a letter to The Times that the stalls are an insult to the National Gallery, which sits close by.

The Christmas markets were attracting shoppers on Tuesday morning at Trafalgar Square.

Mr Bayley said: “To Dr Johnson the open space by Charing Cross welcomed ‘the full tide of human existence’.

“And that is a good thing. But the full tide of human existence deserves better than to have public space appropriated by decadent private commerce.”

Christmas markets have become increasingly popular in Britain in recent years, after they were started in Vienna in the 13th century before becoming a staple in German towns.

Shoppers are generally able to try various foods and drinks and buy gifts from local businesses at temporary street stalls.

When Yahoo News UK visited this morning, visitors to Trafalgar Square gave their backing to the market.

Trafalgar Square with the Christmas market by the gallery.

Mark Wansbrough-Jones, 73, a retired doctor from London, had just dropped his granddaughter off to an audition and was killing time until she finished.

“I’d say the market doesn’t impede my view but I know this view like the back of my hand, for goodness’ sake, so it’s not a problem,” he said, waiting for the gallery to open.

“I think it’s wonderful, I think it’s so vibrant that you can do things, you can change things in London.”

Nick Horridge, 50, who works in healthcare, had travelled to the UK from Seoul, where he lives and works.

“I think it just adds a little seasonal character, I’m about to go in the gallery actually so I don’t think I’ll see it from the inside,” he said.

“I think it just adds a bit of Christmas spirit.

“I’m not disappointed, I guess there’s plenty of roadworks obscuring the views of many national treasures around.”

Visitors to Trafalgar Square take a look at the Christmas market stalls.

Ethan Bittan, 21, who works as a member of cabin crew, was showing his friend from Spain around, but was happy to show her the landmark square with the Christmas market taking place.

“I think it looks good, I mean it’s Christmas so people will expect to have Christmas decorations for this time of the year, and I don’t think it ruins the view, and it’s only going to stay here for like one month, so it doesn’t really matter in my opinion,” he said.

Wil Van Beek, 65, who comes from near Arnhem in the Netherlands, was visiting on holiday with her partner, Raymond Von den Heuvel.

“They always look for a nice part of the city for a market place,” she said.

“So I can imagine that they put it right here and it’s temporary so I think for this time of the year it will be nice.

“But I can imagine some people will say it’s not nice at all.

“It’s fine.”

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But Mr Bayley said he is not a fan of how widespread they are becoming, adding: “Christmas markets were unknown in this country before the 1980s and right now one is spoiling the noble view across Trafalgar Square to the National Gallery.”

Despite their increased popularity in the UK, not all of them are proving popular, with shoppers criticising them for being overpriced and placed in bad locations.

Mulled wine was banned by the council at the market in York over fears that it would encourage street drinking, while one shopper at the Liverpool Christmas market told the Liverpool ECHO described the site as “too small and in the wrong location”.

Christmas markets have become a more frequent sight across the UK in recent years (Getty)

Another added: “Went last night and was very disappointed. Mainly food stalls. Rubbish.”

The location of the Manchester market was also criticised by stallholders, who told the Manchester Evening News that they were struggling to make money and faced with drunk people screaming bad language close to where they were trying to trade.