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8 festive places for a Christmas break in 2023

Festive light trails with your mates, Christmas afternoon tea with your mum, romantic evenings at German Christmas markets and December days out with the kids to meet Santa - if you're looking for Christmas things to do, these uber-festive places in England have you covered. 

More Christmas 2023 events and things to do:

20+ Christmas events for 2023 | Christmas markets 2023 | 2023 Christmas events in stately homes | 2023 Christmas steam train experiences

1

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.

Get into the festive spirit at this Christmas event
2

Do some after-dark Christmas shopping

Chester, Cheshire

People wandering around Christmas market

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 countless wooden chalets selling hand-crafted gifts and goods.

Feast on fudge at a cute Christmas market
3

Step into a Dickens novel

York, Yorkshire

People browsing market stall at St Nicholas Fair in York

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. Slip through to the Shambles Market to pick up stocking fillers from local indie traders before taking a ride on the vintage carousel in Kings Square and finishing up with a well-earned hot drink (or something stronger) at Thor's Tipi bar.

Experience York at Christmas
4

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 National Trust's Mompesson House and immerse yourself in the Victorian charm of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, brought to life in different rooms. You can dress up in period costume as one of the characters (Tiny Tim anybody?) and sit at the Cratchitt's sparse Christmas table, the little ones can go on a spotter's trail and enjoy a storytelling session (on selected weekends). Be sure to take a photo of the 12ft Christmas tree. 

Grown-ups can make their own festive wreath in a workshop (Monday 4 December), and enjoy the warming refreshments in the tea shop and browse through old treasures in the second-hand book shop on site. 

Plan your perfect Christmas break
5

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. Norwich Market is at the centre of the festive decorations being in the heart of the shopping area – look up at the lampposts wrapped in warm lights, Christmas trees on the balcony of Norwich City Hall and the golden glow from The Forum. Make sure you visit Norwich Castle, to see incredible festive projections light up its iconic facade. And don't forget to book tickets to the spectacular Thursford Christmas show - with a cast of 130 performers, it's the biggest all-singing, all-dancing Christmas show of its kind in Europe!

Book a Christmas break to Norwich
6

Have an olde-worlde celebration

Beamish, Durham

Beamish Museum decorated in Christmas fare

Tucked away in the heart of County Durham, Beamish Museum is a time machine-style recreation of life in the early 19th and early 20th century. Christmas is no exception, allowing you to indulge in the sights, sounds and (best of all) tastes of Christmas past. Experience wonderful festivities and enjoy a wintery stroll around the open-air museum grounds, made extra special by the unique surroundings. Afterwards, see the traditional decorations, enjoy festive treats and find that perfect present for someone special.

Step inside a Beamish Christmas
7

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
8

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 light show. 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.

Take a Cornwall Christmas break
12 Oct 2023(last updated)

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  • 1

    Winchester, Hampshire

  • 2

    Chester, Cheshire

  • 3

    York, Yorkshire

  • 4

    Salisbury, Wiltshire

  • 5

    Norwich, Norfolk

  • 6

    Beamish, Durham

  • 7

    The Cotswolds, Gloucestershire

  • 8

    Mousehole, Cornwall

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