9 fantastically festive places for a Christmas break


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.

Find out more

One-of-a-kind 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.

Find out more

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. 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.

Find out more

Feast on fresh festive fare

Ludlow, Shropshire

Knights at nighttime at Ludlow Castle

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 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.

Find out more

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.

Find out more

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.

Find out more

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.

Find out more

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

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.

Find out more
13 May 2021(last updated)

Don’t miss

Earl's Court Garden with urn water features and arch, Arundel Castle, West Sussex

16 secret English country gardens to visit

Best food festivals in England

Autumn's tastiest food festivals

Cathedral ruins in Coventry

Our favourite things to do in Coventry

The city of Bath, a UNESCO historic world heritage site, and a town full of visitor attractions. View over Pulteney Bridge and the weir on the River Avon. Georgian Bath.

Top things to do on a Bath city break

The towers of Durham Cathedral next to a river

Best things to do and see in the County of Durham

View of Stonehenge from across a field on a sunny day

10 top English Heritage sites you need to visit

  • 1

    Winchester, Hampshire

  • 2

    Chester, Cheshire

  • 3

    York, Yorkshire

  • 4

    Ludlow, Shropshire

  • 5

    Salisbury, Wiltshire

  • 6

    Norwich, Norfolk

  • 7

    Beamish, Durham

  • 8

    The Cotswolds, Gloucestershire

  • 9

    Mousehole, Cornwall

VisitEngland would like to invite you to take part in a short survey about our website, it should take no more than a couple of minutes.

Go to the survey

To add items to favourites …

… you need to be logged in.

If you already have an account, log in.

Or register a

Access your account

Enter your e-mail address or username.
Enter the password that accompanies your e-mail.
Forgot your password? Recover your account
Don't have an account? Register an account