12 fantastically festive places for a Christmas break

Get stuck into the festive season by visiting some of England’s most Christmassy locations, include charming villages perfect for a country getaway, market towns and historical cities with great Christmas shopping.

1

Experience Christmas card perfection

Lavenham, Suffolk

With crooked half-timbered houses and pastel pink cottages slouching on narrow lanes, the Tudor town of Lavenham was made for the front of a Christmas card. It’s even more alluring in winter when the Christmas Fair lights up the old Market Place. Browse more than 80 stalls selling locally-made gifts, clothing and toys, and then enjoy roasted chestnuts, mince pies and hog roast, all washed down with mulled wine.

Lavenham Christmas Fair takes place from 7 to 9 December.
2

Gaze out upon a sea of lights

Mousehole, Cornwall

Discover the tiny village of Mousehole, a place that has charm and character by the shedload. From its local granite houses huddled together near the water’s edge, to its harbour which sparkles with an impressive lightshow. Along the harbour road you’ll find galleries, gift shops and restaurants, and best of all, the Ship Inn, where you can watch the boats sail by with a pint of St Austell ale or a generous portion of fish and chips.

The Mousehole Harbour Lights begin on 15 December.
3

Wander down a festive high street

Skipton, Yorkshire

Know as the 'Gateway to the Dales', the historical market town of Skipton is famous for its Christmas Market and the street entertainment that comes with it – look out for tap dancing turkeys. Running along the length of its entire high street, lined with shops and cafes housed in handsome stone buildings. Expect Sweet stalls, mini fairground rides and plenty of specialist and artisan goodies to nibble on.

The Skipton Christmas Market takes place on 2 and 9 December.
4

Skate in the shadow of a cathedral

Winchester, Hampshire

With the aromas of roasting chestnuts and mulled wine wafting from wooden chalets all huddled together on Winchester Cathedral’s historic Close, a trip to this Hampshire city will get you feeling super festive. Browse handmade gifts and indulge in freshly baked mince pies and bratwurst before taking a spin on the outdoor ice rink. The Cathedral’s dramatic medieval architecture makes for a magical backdrop, especially in the evening when the lights turn on and a warm glow radiates from the market stalls.

Winchester Christmas market is open until 20 December.
5

Explore a magical Christmas market

Bath, Somerset

If you’re looking for some of the best Christmas shopping in the UK, Bath Christmas Market is just the ticket. Sprawled across resplendent Georgian streets and with the city’s historical, honey-hued landmarks as a backdrop, this enchanting market has more than 180 twinkling chalets selling everything from gingerbread houses to seasonal food and drink, as well as carol singers entertaining you whilst you shop.

Bath Christmas Market is open until 9 December.
6

One-of-a-kind Christmas shopping

Chester, Cheshire

Retail therapy and time travel go hand-in-hand in a roman city that’s home to a one-of-a-kind shopping quarter dating back hundreds of years. Shop for Christmas presents as you wander through a mixture of medieval and Victorian ‘rows’ – continuous half-timbered two tiered galleries that are thought to be the oldest in England. You’ll find independent shops along the upper galleries in Watergate Street and Bridge Street, or head straight to the Christmas Market for 70 wooden chalets selling hand-crafted gifts and goods.

Chester Christmas market is open until 22 December.
7

Step into a Dickens novel

York, Yorkshire

Yorkshire’s historic capital takes on a distinctly Dickensian feel come Christmastime as the St Nicholas Fair adds even more olde-worlde charm to a city festooned with Tudor beams, ‘Snickelways’ (small streets and footpaths) and crooked shop windows. Mooch around 100-plus twinkling chalets selling everything from Whitby Jet jewellery to artisan cheeses. For something even more unusual, stop by the Medieval Market at Barley Hall to pick up traditional gifts and soak up 14th century surroundings at the tavern bar.

St Nicholas Fair runs until 23 December.
8

Feast on fresh festive fare

Ludlow, Shropshire

Long recognised as a foodie’s paradise, Ludlow celebrates the culinary arts all year round. Traditional butchers, bakers and greengrocers line the town’s market square which comes alive for three days in December with a Christmas Market showcasing all manner of festive cheer and tastes. For a more traditional taste of Christmas, visit Ludlow Castle on 24 and 25 November and soak in the atmosphere of the annual Medieval Christmas Fayre. Drink spiced cider, eat freshly baked mince pies, and watch Medieval entertainment like jousts and puppet shows.

Ludlow Christmas Market takes place on 6, 9 and 23 December.
9

Explore a properly festive city

Salisbury, Wiltshire

Few cities dive into the festive season as much as Salisbury does. Festivities begin in mid-November with the annual Christmas lights switch on event. Visit the Christmas House (Mompesson House) to see displays of how Christmas has been celebrated through the ages, and wrap up warm for some outdoor ice skating in the Guildhall Square. Once you’re all skated out, step off the ice into the Christmas Market and browse for a unique gift or the perfect festive tipple.

Salisbury Christmas Market is open until 6 January.
10

Stroll through a modern festive tradition

Norwich, Norfolk

Lights and sounds play a big part in most Christmas celebrations, but Norwich really goes all out for the festive period. Now an annual tradition in the city, the Tunnel of Light has garnered attention from across the country, thanks to a dazzling light display. Take a stroll through the tunnel, then visit the traditional Christmas market to soak in the festive atmosphere; listen to cheery Christmas tunes and eat gingerbread as you explore the independent stalls packed with local crafts.

Norwich's Tunnel of Light is now on until 5 January.
11

Have an olde-worlde celebration

Beamish, Durham

Tucked away in the heart of County Durham, Beamish Museum is a time machine-style recreation of life in the early 20th century. Christmas is no exception, allowing you to indulge in the sights, sounds and (best of all) tastes of Christmas past. Enjoy fairground rides or take a spin on the ice rink; both are made extra special by the unique surroundings. Afterwards, browse the outdoor bazaar for traditional trinkets, gifts and locally-sourced food and drink.

Christmas at Beamish is open now until 24 December.
12

Snap up Cotswolds' villages

The Cotswolds, Gloucestershire

The Cotswolds is studded with plenty of chocolate-box villages ideal for a wintery getaway to remember. Broadway and Chipping Camden are among the highlights, but every village in the area has a unique charm of its own. For example, Bourton-on-the-Water celebrates the festive season by putting a Christmas Tree in the river that runs through the village.

Find out more about Christmas in the Cotswolds.
05 Dec 2018(last updated)
  • 1

    Lavenham, Suffolk

  • 2

    Mousehole, Cornwall

  • 3

    Skipton, Yorkshire

  • 4

    Winchester, Hampshire

  • 5

    Bath, Somerset

  • 6

    Chester, Cheshire

  • 7

    York, Yorkshire

  • 8

    Ludlow, Shropshire

  • 9

    Salisbury, Wiltshire

  • 10

    Norwich, Norfolk

  • 11

    Beamish, Durham

  • 12

    The Cotswolds, Gloucestershire

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