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Bournville, Birmingham
Photograph: @_shamrock_sean

The 10 most festive Christmas towns in the UK

From cobbled streets to chocolate box cottages, these getaways will get you in the festive mood

Written by
Richard Franks

While the UK can’t guarantee a white Christmas, there’s something to be said for its picture-perfect towns and villages. You know the ones: those quaint spots with cobbled streets, mock-Tudor high streets, weekly farmers markets and all that good stuff. 

The best part? Throughout November and December many of these towns turn into something out of a Christmas movie, with everything from Shakespeare-themed candlelit walks and renowned light shows to festive railway rides and good old pantomimes on show. Don’t worry, we’ll spare you the dodgy panto jokes. 

🎄 The best
places to visit at Christmas in the UK
🎅 The best Christmas shops in the UK
🛍️ The most magical Christmas markets in the UK
🏘️ The cosiest winter cottages to stay in the UK

Richard Franks is a travel writer based in Birmingham. At Time Out, all of our travel guides are written by local writers who know their cities inside out. For more about how we curate, see our editorial guidelines. This guide also includes affiliate links, which have no influence on our editorial content. For more information, see our affiliate guidelines

Best UK towns to visit at Christmas

Windsor, Berkshire
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1. Windsor, Berkshire

Fancy a right royal knees up this festive period? Windsor Castle’s 2023 Christmas display, between 30th November – 1st January, will mark the 675th anniversary of the Order of the Garter – England’s oldest order of chivalry; one that was founded right here in 1348. Various tree and wider castle decorations will mark both the anniversary and the recent Coronation. Windsor’s popular ice rink also returns to the town between 17th November – 7th January, while various Christmas markets take place across the wider borough.

📍 Check out more of the best things to do in Windsor

Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire
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2. Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire

The birthplace of the world-famous Bard, William Shakespeare, is romantic at the best of times… but we think there’s few places better than here at Christmas. Not only are its cobbled streets framed with regal festive lights and decorations, his many attractions – like the Shakespeare Birthplace Museum – turn into a Tudor Christmas paradise; look out for the candlelit walks. Some 300 stalls selling local crafts and wares return at the Victorian Christmas Market in early December, but fear not for those of you who like to arrive ‘a minute too late’ – there’s a year-round Christmas shop on Henley St.

📍 Check out the best things to do in Stratford-upon-Avon

Mousehole, Cornwall
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3. Mousehole, Cornwall

The Mousehole Harbour Lights attracts visitors from all over the UK and beyond; it’s easy to see why. Proudly celebrating its 60th year of operation in 2023, this harbour attraction features cascading hillside lights, the famous Mousehole cat and even a floating Loch Ness Monster, among other favourites. Some 10,000 bulbs adorn this pretty fishing village - which is pronounced ‘Mowzul’, by the way - with the lights on this year after dusk from December 11th to January 6th. A few boutique shops, cafes and galleries pepper the harbour surrounds, and are ideal for dipping in and out of on a crisp winter’s evening.

📍 Check out more of the best places to visit in Cornwall
🥧 Explore more of the best things to do in Cornwall

Ludlow, Shropshire
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4. Ludlow, Shropshire

It’s worth visiting Ludlow for its Ye Olde pubs, timber-framed buildings and centuries-old cathedral at any time of year… but there’s just something about a historic market town in the winter, isn’t there? On various dates throughout December, Father Christmas will be taking a break from his busy schedule to meet children at the 11th-century fortress Ludlow Castle, which overlooks both the town and the lush Shropshire countryside. The Castle will also host a winter festival across the weekend of 24th - 26th November.

📍 Check out more of the best things to do in Ludlow

Oban, Argyll
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5. Oban, Argyll

Oban may be known as the ‘gateway to the isles’ but you’ll definitely want to stick around during the festive period. Its highlight is without a doubt the 10-day Oban Winter Festival, between 17th-26th November, which celebrates the town’s tight-knit, unique Scottish heritage and culture through a series of art, craft, language, game and music sessions. There’s also a family-friendly winter woodland walk planned each day and a Santa’s sleigh parade (with real reindeer) ahead of the lights switch on. After the festival, Oban remains a popular spot for Christmas shoppers, seafood lovers and whisky drinkers alike, with much of the town’s popular bars and restaurants remaining open year-round. Don’t forget your walking boots for a steep jaunt up to the iconic McCaig’s Tower, to bask in the lights from above.

📍 Check out our essential guide to Scotland

Bournville, Birmingham
Photograph: @_shamrock_sean

6. Bournville, Birmingham

There’s little more synonymous with Christmas than a chocolate box village, and Bournville is (literally) that. Founded in 1901 by the Cadbury family for its factory employees, Bournville feels like it was built for Christmas. The star of the town is its famous 1948-planted Atlas Cedar tree, whose annual lights switch on attracts locals and visitors in their droves. It is undoubtedly the region’s most iconic Christmas tree. Much of the village remains the same, too: its inviting Green is flanked by its mock-Tudor independent shopping arcade, and the Cadbury factory indeed still operates. Festive events at Cadbury World include a Santa stage show, while festive-themed trinkets and treats are on sale in the gift shop.

📍 Check out more of the best things to do in Birmingham

Llangollen, Denbighshire
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7. Llangollen, Denbighshire

Straddling the banks of the River Dee, Llangollen is a gorgeous Welsh gem well worth a winter visit – especially during its Christmas Festival, where the traditional Welsh Siôn Corn (Chimney Jack) dons his green outfit, rather than the famous red, when switching on the lights. The kids will also love the Santa Special: a two-hour journey from Llangollen to Lapland (Carrog) and back including a visit and a gift from Santa. Over at Llangollen Wharf, adults can enjoy a four-hour luxury Christmas afternoon tea boat ride, or even join the party boat which includes a retro buffet and a DJ playing the biggest festive hits.

📍 Check out more of the best places to visit in Wales

Whitby, Yorkshire
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8. Whitby, Yorkshire

Whitby’s Christmas Festival is back with a bang between November 17th-19th, featuring an explosive firework display, the town’s Christmas lights switch on and a number of local food, drink and gift traders. Whitby itself is draped in history and makes for an ideal pre-Christmas getaway – not least for its quirky gift emporiums and pubs. Then there’s the picturesque Harbour, the 199 Steps and Whitby Beach, which all make for a bracing winter’s walk; its overlooking ruined Gothic Whitby Abbey inspired Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’. In Winter, you’ll also have the nearby Saltwick Bay all to yourself, a favourite beach with fossil hunters.

📍 Check out more of the best things to do in Whitby

Chipping Campden, Cotswolds
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9. Chipping Campden, Cotswolds

Chipping Campden – one of the UK’s best preserved market towns – is famous locally for its Christmas market, this year taking place on December 2nd and 3rd. Its historic High Street, with its Cotswold-stone buildings laid out in the 7th century by King Henry II’s close friend Hugh de Gondeville, is known for its particularly wide avenue, as it was built to be a wool trading street. Today, regular markets and indeed a Christmas-themed one sprawl beside the river and the Market Square, while an indoor fayre is held over the famed Town Hall’s two floors. Visiting this jewel of the Cotswolds at any time of year is a delight, but at Christmas? Just magical.

📍 Check out the best things to do in the Cotswolds

Buxton, Derbyshire
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10. Buxton, Derbyshire

Buxton’s historic charm comes to the fore at Christmas through its family-friendly experiences. The Victorian, Grade II listed Pavilion Gardens will this year host a variety of events including Breakfast with Santa, the Christmas Trail, and the popular Christmas Fair, while a number of Dickensian and artisan Christmas markets will also pop up on various dates in the spa town. Then there’s the famous Christmas Lights Switch-on and Lantern Parade; the Dickensian Ball, with a dress code of 1835-1901; pantomimes at the lavish Opera House; and perhaps the most unusual location for a Santa’s Grotto: the two-million-year-old limestone Poole Cavern, on the edge of town.

📍 Discover where to stay in the Peak District

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