Christmas events are back for 2021; from mouth-watering markets and magical illuminated trails to family festive train rides, Christmas craft workshops and everything in between. Here’s our pick of the happenings across the country.
Christmas Markets full of mulled wine merriment and Christmas gift inspiration…
Southbank Winter Festival, London
4 November – 24 December 2021
The popular Winter Market returns to London’s Southbank Centre alongside a range of family shows and festive fun on the banks of the River Thames. All along the South Bank are strings of decorations and cute illuminated wooden cabins selling Christmas gifts, from the quirky to the traditional, as well as mince pies, spiced cider and steaming mugs of mulled wine and hot chocolate. Make sure to grab a selfie by the huge Christmas tree!
Also check out the fantastic performances available at the Southbank Centre, from Christmas concerts and choir performances to a children’s retelling of Black Beauty and circus entertainment with Circus 1903.
As the largest authentic German market outside of Germany and Austria, it is the focus of festivities in Birmingham each year and stands as a firm favourite on the cities calendar. While Carollers sing and whirl you away with traditional festive songs and jazz music, relish in the deliciousness on offer like the German Bratwurst and Brezel, chocolatey crepes to sweeten your palette, and mulled wine or German beer to complete the night.
Since 1998 Manchester’s markets have been attracting thousands of visitors to the city centre each year, with more than 300 festive stalls and chalets across the city centre. Follow the market trail as it winds through the city centre, across locations such as Albert Square and Cathedral Gardens, tempting you with gifts, crafts, jewellery, and amazing food and drink. European and local producers offer everything you could imagine, and don’t miss out on the traditional bratwurst, Hungarian goulash, Spanish paella or a good old-fashioned hog roast.
Throughout the Christmas season Waddesdon Manor throw several festive events to get you in the Christmas spirit, including a Christmas Fair with over 70 hand selected artisan stalls selling festive décor, great gifts, and tasty food. Also, the ground’s gardens will bring the landscape to life with a sparkly after dark light display.
An array of local businesses, handmade gifts and seasonal treats will be available in one of the 68 festive alpine chalets across Parliament Street and St Sampson’s Square. York will also be decorated once again with lights, creating the perfect backdrop for your Christmas market experience. THOR’S tipi will be back for its sixth year on Parliament Street serving traditional ‘Winter Warmers,’ such as mulled wine & luxury hot chocolate, all in a twinkly, Christmas style tipi with real log fire. To top it off, King’s Square will host the much-loved Vintage Carousel throughout the festive season.
Winding lanes, Bavarian-style chalets, local traders and live entertainment fills the Exeter Cathedral and its surroundings with that favourite festive feeling. The market is in the heart of the city, surrounding the landmark cathedral. There will be a line-up of carol services, concerts, events and tours, amongst the local craftspeople and traders selling unique gifts and decorations, as well as global cuisine and festive treats.
Recognised as one of the best in Europe, renowned for its unique location, and handpicked high-quality exhibitors and bustling atmosphere, the Winchester Cathedral Christmas Market is inspired by traditional German Christmas markets and attracts more than 400,000 visitors each year. The pretty wooden chalets are situated in the Cathedral’s historic Inner Close surrounding an ice rink.
Blenheim Palace's Great Court will be transformed into a seasonal market, with traditional wooden chalets full of festive treats from over 50 designer-makers and artisan food and drink producers. Filled with a variety gifts to tick off of your Christmas list and tempting treats to taste and take home, it's the perfect addition to a Christmas day out at Blenheim Palace.
England’s greatest Elizabethan house hosts a luxury gift fair and seasonal food market, all in a picture postcard setting with the magnificent Tudor house as a backdrop. The Christmas event at Burghley usually features more than 100 exhibitors with festive chalets and stalls spread across a larger area to give visitors more space and choice. As well as the heated marquees packed with Christmas ideas, there will also be seasonally decorated log-cabin type stalls. Burghley's popular pop-up Christmas Shop will be open during the event, while Burghley’s Orangery Restaurant has festive menus, including a popular Christmas Afternoon Tea.
This popular Christmas market is back in Pensthorpe’s magical courtyard, and is attended by the region’s best food and drink suppliers, artists, and craft makers. The market is the perfect spot to escape the bustling high streets at Christmas time and finish your festive shopping right by the beautiful national park. Discover bespoke creations, creative gift ideas and delicious treats made from boutique producers, many of whom are from the local area.
Lincoln’s German-inspired Christmas market was among the first of its type in the UK and has grown to become one of the largest. One of the oldest and most popular markets around, market stalls line the streets around the city’s stunning Cathedral, whilst twinkling lights lead visitors through Castle Square to Victorian themed traders selling a wide range of festive food and drinks alongside handmade crafts and stocking fillers.
The traditional Victorian Fayre will be back from December 2 to 5, with unique traders in place across the city centre alongside music and street entertainers. For the first time, there will also be a month-long yule market in the city centre, with 30 wooden chalets in place– all dressed and lit to add to the festive atmosphere, bringing a touch of Bavaria to Worcester’s own seasonal traditions. The special Christmas market stalls will be in place from December 2 to 23.
Open Studios featuring Hotwalls artists, plus loads more, including market traders on the parade ground, The Traders Keep in the Square Tower, live music and festive refreshments. The Hotwalls Studios make up Portsmouth's exciting creative quarter, with 13 studios built inside a famed heritage location.
Wrapped Up Food and Gift Christmas Fair, Hampshire
5 December 2021
This festive fair will be held at The Lights Theatre in Hampshire, and include a wide range of gift, craft and food stalls, alongside seasonal drinks and food offerings to keep you going through your Christmas shopping list. Plus, it is a free and family friendly event.
The hugely popular Beverley Festival of Christmas is set to return to the cobbled streets of this medieval minster town. Over the years the event has grown from a small market to one of the largest Christmas Festivals of its kind in the UK. At its heart are traditional Victorian Christmas Markets selling everything from festive food and drink to arts and crafts. The historic market town is the perfect setting for the traditional Victorian fairground, while the streets come alive with live music, dancing, Victorian street entertainers and last, but by no means least, Santa on his sleigh drawn through the town by reindeer in the Christmas Parade. Carol singers, hot roast chestnuts, mulled wine and mince pies complete the picture-perfect Christmas scene.
A unique Christmas digital LED providing an incredible light show on and in a steam train, consisting of thousands of fully controllable colours mixing LED lights and LED wristbands. This makes the train look magical both inside and out and creates a wonderful and memorable experience for the whole family.
A brand-new family event at one of the UK’s most iconic and popular family attractions, featuring everything from Britain’s tallest singing Christmas Tree and Santa Trains, to an illuminated hedge maze and festive storytelling featuring real-live flying owls. The festivities at Longleat include a whole host of attractions for all of the family, with the ever-popular festive lights where visitors can walk through a 50-metre-long reactive tunnel of lights A display of lights will transform the giant facade of Longleat House into a series of festive scenes as visitors wander among a forest of 100 decorated Christmas Trees.
Learn to ice-skate against the picturesque background of the botanical gardens of Kew Gardens, and experience the sparkling after-dark experience. Christmas at Kew has a magical light trail across the gardens, with mesmerising flickering flames and larger than life illuminations; even say hello to Father Christmas along your way. During the after-dark festivities, discover sparkling tunnels of light with family and friends, waterside reflections, and a panoramic Palm House light display. Of course, there will also be delicious independent street food vendors offering tasty festive delights, from hot food and sweet treats to spiced winter warmers and hot chocolate.
NEW FOR 2021: Glow 2021 at RHS Garden Bridgewater, Manchester
17 November – 18 December 2021
For the very first time, see the beautiful gardens sparkle at Christmas and follow the dazzling displays lighting up the magical trail. Experience a selection of Bridgewater’s best-loved locations including the Weston Walled Garden, Chinese Streamside Garden and Ellesmere Lake as never before with the sight of sparkling trees, shrubs and water features. There will also be the chance to treat yourself to a selection of warming drinks and festive treats, as well as some last-minute shopping in the Garden Centre where you’ll find Christmas treats, beautiful books, exclusive gift ideas and everything you need to deck your halls. Glow events will also take place at RHS gardens across the country.
The award winning and visually spectacular lantern and light festival, Lightopia, is back this year and ready to light up Heaton Park in Manchester and Crystal Palace Park in London this Christmas. Brighter than ever, there will be brand new installations and routes, allowing visitors to embark on a magical journey through the new Fantasy themed light trail.
Aside from the Christmas market, there are new sights to seen as the Palace and Gardens are transformed into a fairy-tale wonderland. Wander through the spectacular gardens, illuminated by over one million lights and soak up the brilliance of the trail, undisturbed by noise and light pollution. Inside the Palace the Nutcracker has been re-imagined with each of the rooms exquisitely transformed and filled with hidden surprises.
NEW for 2021: Christmas at Trentham, The Trentham Estate, Stoke-On-Trent
26 November 2021 – 9 January 2022
As night falls on the award-winning gardens of Trentham this winter, the grounds will come alive with a spectacular burst of Christmas magic and sparkle in this brand new, visually stunning, multi-sensory mix of light, fire and sound. Christmas at Trentham is a brand-new illuminated trail designed to sprinkle a little Christmas magic, accentuate the flora and fauna and see the stunning historic landscape in a new light.
NEW for 2021: Christmas at Delamere Forest, Cheshire + nationwide Forestry England events
26 November - 31 December 2021
Forestry England’s Delamere forest offers a brand-new Christmas trail featuring enchanting illuminations and Christmas tunes. Millions of lights sit among the trees lighting up the iconic Christmas Cathedral, Neon Tree and mesmerising Fire Garden, aglow with hundreds of flickering flames. Complete your walk under the stars with a spiced winter warmer, hot chocolate or toasted marshmallows. Other winter events will take place at Forestry England sites across the country, from Bedgebury Pinetum to Westonbirt Arboretum.
Experience a visually spectacular lantern and light festival that has illuminated people’s Christmas for over three years, at one of the UK’s favourite theme parks. The new Alton Towers installation will invite you to embark on an immersive journey through the four seasons, where a mix of spectacular lanterns, immersive light installations, and colour transformations will light up the seasonal pathway and lead you through an after dark wonderland.
Twilight trail at Forbury Gardens and Abbey Ruins, Reading
3 – 31 December 2021
Reading’s festive light trail returns this year with a mouth-watering, wintery wonderland of lights and smells. A town once known throughout the world as Biscuit Town, the trail will celebrate Reading’s history, where Huntley and Palmer’s started out as a shop on Reading Street and went on to become the greatest manufacturer of biscuits in the world. Inspired by the biscuit heritage, the Twilight Trail is a spectacular light installation through Reading’s Forbury Gardens and the 900-year-old Abbey Ruins. Featuring music and poetry contributions from local school children, while writers and performers will accompany you on a playful walk.
NEW for 2021: Sewerby Winter Woodland, East Yorkshire
3 – 23 December 2021
Postponed from last year, the Winter Woodland at Sewerby Hall and Gardens will light up the beautiful woodlands and take visitors on a journey of spectacular sounds and lights. The Snow Queen has taken over part of the gardens and her quest will lead visitors through an illuminated tunnel into the winter woods and her domain. Further into the woods, participants have the opportunity to take part in activities such as wand making with Moonlight, learning spells; and even meeting the Snow Queen herself, before enjoying the grand finale of a superb lighting display set to music. Sewerby house will be filled with Christmas decorations and trees, and here visitors will also be able to sample a range of local craft stalls and relax in the festive bar.
8 – 24 December 2021, and 27 December – 3 January 2022
Enter the world of Pinocchio this Christmas as you journey through the immersive Christmas trail, see Pinocchio in Stromboli’s puppet show, and meet characters from the story. Begin in Geppetto’s workshop, before later journeying through the land of toys and discover that all is not quite what it seems. The experience is joined by the magical lights and enchantment of the castle and its gardens, as well as a Christmas shopping area, and a big fair-ground wheel for spectacular views.
A magical trail featuring spectacular light installations and classical Christmas tunes will transform the estate's 'Capability' Brown landscaped grounds and gardens. In this new winter wonderland, you will discover the sparkling tunnel of light adorned with over 100,000 pea-lights and almost 50 metres long, walk under giant baubles and beneath trees illuminated in Christmas colours and so much more.
Set to become a truly festive wonderland, Bath’s Christmas calendar is packed with events this season. Start with a tour of some of the city’s most iconic buildings and streets, which will be lit up with spectacular festive illuminations every day until the new year and easy to follow thanks to an interactive map. From 9-31 December
The Enchanted Garden of Light at the American Museum will illuminate the museum’s dramatic hillside setting with a sparkling route winding throughout the gardens and parkland and from 19 November - 26 December
Luke Jerram’s incredible touring exhibition, Museum of the Moon lands at Bath Abbey with Christmas carols, magical storytelling and moon-gazing with the Bath Astronomers, all under the light of the Moon in the Abbey’s newly restored worship space.
NEW for 2021: Family guided tours of Buckingham Palace
Weekends at 11am between 6 November 2021 and 30 January 2022
Available for the first time, Family Guided Tours of Buckingham Palace are specially designed for children and highlight stories about the Palace’s history and its role today that little ones will love. Christmas-themed family tours (available between 18 December and 2 January) also explore royal Christmas traditions past and present, from Queen Victoria’s Christmas trees and festive feasting to Her Majesty the Queen’s Christmas broadcast. The tours feature interactive games and activities, such as learning how to dance at a royal ball and practising standing like a Guardsman.
Tales of Winter Magic event, Buster’s Ancient Farm, Hampshire
10 Dec, 4 – 5.30pm and 7-9.30pm
Come along to the Great Roundhouse for a festive family-friendly Midwinter storytelling with Red Phoenix. Sip a hot chocolate from the shop or mead from the bar and cosy up over a roaring fire whilst soaking up the atmosphere of the ancient building, the good company and the anticipation of the story.
Merrivale Miniature Village at Christmas, Great Yarmouth
13 – 23 December 2021
Merrivale Miniature Village will welcome a legendary guest this Christmas when Santa takes residency throughout the festive season. Santa will be welcoming guests from his man-sized grotto, set within the one-acre site’s gardens. With a Christmas inspired makeover, the Merrivale gardens will also feature special illuminations and animations over the seasonal period.
The Hawk Conservancy is bringing its popular Owls by Moonlight event back, with visitors able to watch these mystical birds twist and turn through the night sky. The event will have a few festive extras, and a seasonal supper to get you in the Christmas spirit!
Santa’s family friendly Christmas Party Cruise, Plymouth
Saturday 11 December at 12pm and 2.30pm, Sunday 12 December at 12pm
Santa takes to the high seas with this fun and festive cruise for the whole family. Ticket price includes a glass of mulled wine and a mince pie for adults, plus a soft drink and small gift for each child. Includes festive music and face painting
Father Christmas Family experience, Harewood House, Yorkshire
4 and 5 December, 11 and 12 December, 18 and 19 December, 20, 21, 22 and 23 December,
Make Christmas magical with a private family visit to Father Christmas at Harewood House from Saturday 4 December. This year he will be taking up residence in the historic Old Library, where twinkling lights and rich decoration make for a truly authentic experience. There will be storytelling and gifts to add a sprinkle of magic to all who visit. With each individual family group having their own short private audience with Father Christmas, tickets are limited for this unforgettable experience. Each child will receive a gift from Father Christmas and there will be an opportunity for a family photograph.
Breakfast with Santa, The Box Kitchen & Bar, Plymouth
Every Saturday and Sunday from 27 November to 19 December, 9am to 11am
Visit Plymouth’s incredible new museum and art gallery for a festive breakfast with a difference, as you dine underneath the display of ship figureheads suspended from the ceiling. Santa will be on hand to greet you as you arrive and sit down to either pancakes with maple syrup or blueberries, or a delicious Breakfast Bap. All washed down with a hot chocolate, tea, coffee or fruit juice.
Visit Santa's Winter Wonderland at Tamworth's SnowDome. With real snow, real animals and the all new winter wonderland show visitors can take a walk through the enchanted forest, enjoy a fun game of snowballs, hitch a ride on a sledge and have fun sliding about in the snow tubes.
Based upon the story and characters from the 1985 popular Chris Van Allsburg children’s book, and now widely considered to be one of the classic Christmas stories for young children. Hop aboard the festive train in your pyjamas and experience the theatrical adventure as you make your way from the High Weald countryside to the North Pole. Polar Express’s chefs will serve the most delicious hot chocolate and homemade cookies onboard, before ending the trip with meeting Santa Claus himself!
Taking place in Northernhay Gardens Is Exeter’s first ever Winter wonderland. In the heart of the city, there will be plenty of exciting rides and attractions, locally sourced festive refreshments, as well as a Santa’s Grotto and Ice Rink. For the over 18 visitors, there will also be the German themed bar.
The Whitby Winter Festival is a brand-new family focused festival running from 26 November 2021 up until 30 March 2022. The festival will include a festive ice rink, hot food stalls, light displays, along with different attractions and activities going on throughout Christmas and the winter period of 2022.
Help Santa save Christmas by freeing 10 elves trapped by the devious Jack Frost. Christmas Quest: Elf Rescue is a winter outdoor activity for families with children of 7 years old and up. Though this game is aimed at younger players, teams of adults will also enjoy this festive foray into the city of Norwich. The game contains a mix of easy and slightly harder puzzles that both children and adults will enjoy when playing as a team. Downloaded to your phone, this treasure trail of puzzles takes you on a tour of 10 iconic Norwich locations.
Great Yarmouth’s world-famous Hippodrome will be delighting audiences again this year with its mesmerising water and circus “Christmas Spectacular”. This 75-minute entertainment extravaganza combines hilarious comedy from Jack Jay and Ben Langley, with a packed line-up of internationally acclaimed circus performers, trapeze aerialists, acrobatics and daring stunts from the wheel of death. As well as an impressive light show, there is also a fantastical Water Spectacular featuring synchronised swimmers and giant fountains, which come into their own as the historic central stage transforms into a giant swimming pool.
Saints and Angels, Bamburgh Castle, Northumberland
13 November 2021 – 3 January 2022
The spirit of Christmas will soar through Bamburgh Castle in one of the biggest indoor Christmas events in the region. Heralded as Saints & Angels, visitors to the magical Northumberland castle will travel through staterooms, each transformed into a celestial extravaganza, where angels take flight overhead, sending peace, strength and good fortune to all throughout the castle and beyond as part of the Christmas Kingdom at Bamburgh Castle, which also includes Reindeer Reign where visitors can meet Santa’s herd of Norse reindeer grazing in the castle’s West Ward; Christmas Wreath Making in the King’s Hall
Take this unique festive steam train trip through West London and the rest of the capital and you will surely leave in the holiday spirit. Perfect for friends or date nights, enjoy the beautifully decorated vintage carriages, the magical scenery of London at night, as well as the option of a delicious 3 course evening meal, of course with Christmas crackers.
5 – 19 November Blackpool, 25 November – 19 December London
The installation will feature Christmassy TV sets for Monica’s apartment, Ross’ apartment, Chandler and Joey’s apartment, and, of course, Central Perk, so it’s a prime opportunity to geek out over a bit of TV history — and capture that perfect ‘gram.
Returning this year with an exciting partnership with Moet & Chandon, Somerset house is a favourite in the capital, with skating, music, and the perfect gift selection from Hotel Chocolat, along with delicious food and drink. The ice rink takes over the neoclassical courtyard and completes it with a magical 40ft Christmas tree. From skating lessons to DJS on the rink-side, there is something for everyone, as well as indulgent champagne and cocktails in the Skate Lounge by Moet & Chandon.
The Rewilding - Willow Basket Workshop, Lancashire
23 Nov 2021 - 24 Nov 2021
Two-day in-depth workshop with the opportunity to make a large basket or take your time making a small basket with a choice of colours, weaves, and handles perfect for a Christmas gift or home decoration.
This Art of Mine offers the chance to make your own bespoke, personalised Christmas baubles or choose from a range of art kits and classes for gifts. There are plenty of examples, stamps and stencils to help you get a good result and a tutor to offer lots of guidance. The perfect way to get in the festive spirit! Or, create your own Christmas wall art, ceramic plates, or cups.
Christmas Wreath Making Workshop, Boringdon Hall Hotel, Plymouth
1, 6 and 29 December, 6.30pm – 8pm
Join a festive wreath making workshop with the award-winning florist Hannah Burnett, in the surroundings of the beautiful Elizabethan house Boringdon Hall. You’ll learn how to make a wreath using festive florals and natural greenery. Mince pies, tea and coffee will be provided, all materials are included and you’ll take your creation home to enjoy throughout the festive season or for the perfect Yuletide gift.
Hampshire’s leading English Sparkling Wine Vineyards will gather at the spectacular Winchester College to showcase their exquisite collection of wines. An opportunity to discover new wines, decide on your favourite Hampshire fizz, talk to the winemakers and place an order for your festive wine.