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Photograph: Chris Scott

The best Christmas events and attractions in the UK

As the days get shorter and the air gets frostier, light up your weekends with some of these fantastic festive things to do

Written by
Megan Geall

It’s Christmas. Well, almost. If you’re anything like us and are obsessed with the-most-wonderful-time-of-the-year then you’ll have already started thinking about how you’re going to make the most of the festivities. Maybe the tree is already up. Maybe your shopping is already done. Or maybe you’ve already started planning your visit to as many Christmas markets as physically possible. 

From wholesome activities like ice skating and carol singing, to glam Christmas parties and feasting on Christmas-dinner themed burritos, you can find all sorts of fun festive-themed things to do throughout the winter season. 

Not sure where to start? We’ve picked out some of most essential British festive happenings that you need on your Christmas list – just call us Santa Claus. 

The best Christmas light trails in the UK
The best Christmas markets in the UK

The Best Christmas Events in the UK


It’s time to dust off your skates and see what’s what: are you an effortless glider or a waddling penguin, hanging onto the sides for dear life? Right in the heart of the city at Cathedral Gardens, you won’t be able to hide from the rink at Skate Manchester so you might as well get on that ice and give it all you’ve got. Make sure to grab a picture right in front of the Christmas tree in the centre of the fun, then head to the Christmas market next door after the session for some well-earned refreshments. 

October 27-January 2, 11am-8.45pm. £17.50 adults; £14 children. The Cathedral Gardens, M4 3BG.


Kick-off the festive season with a kaleidoscope of colours at the National Memorial Arboretum. Across the 150-acre woodland site, beautiful illuminations and light displays will fill the gardens and trails, inviting you to wander along the route and soak up the atmosphere before heading to the restaurant to warm up. Here you can enjoy a selection of hot drinks, pizzas and tasty takeaway treats: making it a pretty wholesome way to get into the festive spirit, if you ask us.

December 7-23, from 4:30pm. From £19. National Memorial Arboretum, DE13 7AR. 



Nothing feels quite as festive as a castle at Christmas time – we’re envisioning those snowy Harry Potter banquet scenes. At Belvoir Castle this year, you’ll be able to experience their Twelve Days of Christmas shindig, which is specially curated by Charlotte Lloyd-Webber. Each room will be decorated with whimsical displays and installations that match the theme – and you can also add on a festive afternoon tea or a visit to Santa’s Grotto to round-off your visit. 

November 18-January 2, 11am-4pm. £25 adults; £10 children. Belvoir Castle, NG32 1PE. 


This is one for the people who turn into professional chefs every time they hear the word ‘Christmas’. After such a successful event last year, the Padstow Festive Chef Demonstrations and Christmas Market weekend is back for 2023. Watch some of the UK’s top chefs including heroes like Rick Stein, Paul Ainsworth, and Nathan Outlaw in the Festival Kitchen. And for those who prefer to do more of the eating than the cooking, head down to the Christmas market to taste some of the best food and drinks that Cornwall has to offer. 

December 7-10, various times. Price to be confirmed. Riverside, PL28 8BY. 



Journey through Cambridge University’s Botanic Garden for a stunning light display that is sure to spark festive joy in even the most ‘ba-humbug’ of people. Wander along the route to see some of the garden’s most beloved features – such as the fountain, lake, and glasshouse – dazzle with colour and light. 

December 1-22, 5-9.30pm. £20.35 adults; £13.20 children. 1 Brookside, CB2 1JE. 


Returning once again for 2023 is the Hippodrome’s Christmas Spectacular – featuring incredible international circus acts and an epic water performance. This one should not be missed off your holiday calendar: switch out the traditional pantomime and drawled ‘oh no, he did not’’s from the audience for a circus show full of excitement and action. 

December 9-January 7, various times. From £24 for adults; £14 children. St. Georges Road, NR30 2EU. 



Nothing says traditional Christmas quite like singing real Christmas carols. No, you won’t find any Mariah Carey or Michael Buble here, but what you will get is even better: we’re talking ‘O Holy Night’, ‘Silent Night’ and ‘Joy to the World’. Settle into the stunning Cathedral surroundings and enjoy a singalong with the choristers under the candlelight. And for extra points? Don’t forget to wear that amazingly ugly Christmas jumper at the back of your wardrobe. 

December 16, 4pm. Free. Norwich Cathedral, NR1 4DH. 


Get into the holiday spirit by putting your crafty hat on at Polesden Lacey Estate. Here, you can learn to create the perfect wreath to hang on your door using foliage gathered by the Estate’s rangers from across the grounds, while enjoying refreshments such as mince pies and mulled wine. At the estate, there’s also an opportunity to explore the Christmas trail and ride the traditional carousel. Cuteness. 

November 28-December 14, 10.15am and 1.30pm. £45. Polesden Lacey Estate, RH5 6BD.



When we said we’d found a Christmas event for everyone, we truly meant it. At Quex Park, you’ll find everything from tractor rides and farm tours to festive goat walking (because that’s a thing). Aside from the animal encounters, you’ll also be able to enjoy the farm after dark and take in the Quex illuminations by following the lights, projections and reindeer hooves round the park. Finish off with a German BBQ feast and a warming mulled wine or hot chocolate for the perfect family day out. 

November 18-December 31, various times. From £8.50. Quex Park, CT7 0BH.

Located in the centre of the city in Princes Street Gardens, the Edinburgh Christmas Market has a reputation for being one of the UK’s ultimate festive destinations – and with good enough reason. For seven magical weeks, you’ll be able to make the most of a traditional Christmas market with funfair rides, live outdoor events and delicious food and drink. Grab a steaming cup of hot chocolate and marshmallows and browse the stalls for handmade Christmas presents, before feasting on a traditional German hot dog. We can’t wait. 

November 17-January 6, all day. Free entry. Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh City Centre.



Why not try something different this Christmas and pick up curling? Just a stone’s throw from Waterloo station, the Curling Club is coming to Southbank for the winter season and it’s a great activity for a Christmas party, a festive meet-up with friends or a quirky date night idea. Try your hand at this winter sport and indulge your competitive spirit – and fill up afterwards with food from the alpine-inspired menu. 

October 13-February 18, 11am-11pm. From £48. Southbank Centre, SE1 8XX. 


No matter how cringe they can be, you can’t miss out on a traditional panto. At the Mayflower Theatre in Southampton this Christmas, you’ll be able to catch Ashley Banjo and Diversity in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs as well as pantomime legend Christopher Biggins. This family-favourite story will be brought to life on stage with the audience, of course, encouraged to take part in hounding the Wicked Queen. 

December 9-31, various. From £19.50. 22-26 Commercial Road, Southampton, SO15 1GE.


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