From vibrant Christmas markets and fragrant mulled wine, to thrilling fun fairs and peaceful carol concerts, here’s our pick of the best UK cities at Christmas.
What are the key ingredients for the best UK Christmas celebrations? Christmas markets with mulled wine and toasted marshmallows? Huge trees adorned with pretty lights? How about ice skating on a frozen rink wrapped up in warm coat and scarf, then warming up with a delicious hot chocolate? Sounds perfect!
There are so many elements that we love in the UK during the festive period. Lots of people have an annual trip to a pantomime or a funfair. Then there are the visits to see Father Christmas or spending an afternoon listening to a beautiful carol concert. Whatever you look for at Christmastime, there are some amazing UK cities to visit to celebrate this lovely time of year.
We’ve narrowed our list down to our 11 favourites. From seeing in New Year in Edinburgh, to ice skating in London and a refreshing Christmas Day swim in Weymouth, these are the best places to visit in the UK at Christmas.
11 Best UK Cities At Christmas
Scotland traditionally celebrated Hogmanay (New Year), and Christmas Day didn’t become a Scottish public holiday until the 1950s. Despite this, Edinburgh is now one of the best UK cities at Christmas. With festive events from mid-November to early January, it’s a great place to spend Christmas, Hogmanay, or both!
The Edinburgh Christmas market is spread across the city centre. It’s a great place to spend a few hours with friends, eating and drinking some festive treats. Plus, there are plenty of market stalls to pick up some Christmas gifts. Alongside the stalls of German bratkwurst and schnitzel, look out for the local haggis and mulled Irn Bru!
Christmas in Edinburgh is known for the Christmas lights along the Royal Mile, and for its large funfair. As well as family rides, you’ll find a Christmas Tree Maze and ice-skating rink. End your evening at the Dome to see the views over the top Christmas decorations, while sipping a tasty Christmas cocktail.
The Bath Christmas market takes place in the attractive Georgian streets around Bath Abbey. It has over 150 stalls, making it one of the biggest and best Christmas markets in the UK. You’ll find everything here from presents to traditional festive foods.
Bath is rated amongst the best UK cities at Christmas thanks to its programme of family friendly activities. You’ll find an outdoor ice rink, illuminated Elf trail, wreath making workshops and winter walks. And don’t forget your tickets for the annual Christmas panto at the Bath Theatre Royal.
Cardiff is another of the best places to visit at Christmas in the UK. The market here runs from mid-November and has an emphasis on original handmade crafts. Combine it with the independent shops in the city’s Victorian arcades for an epic Christmas shopping trip!
You’ll find more things to do at City Hall Lawn which has a programme of Winter Wonderland attractions. The funfair has a ferris wheel with magnificent views across the city. Or you could head over to the grounds of Cardiff Castle for some fun on the ice rink.
Cardiff has two great destinations for a Christmas rest stop! Head for the Bavarian themed cabins on Working Street for German beer and bratwurst. Or you could book a slot at the stylish Ice Bar, an amazing venue built entirely from ice!
The Frankfurt Christmas Market in Birmingham is the largest authentic German Christmas market outside of Germany and Austria. The market runs from early November, and sells traditional wooden toys and decorations, glass lamps and other gifts. You’ll also find plenty of authentic German winter foods to wash down with wheat beer or glühwein.
This German Christmas market has a lively atmosphere, and free music concerts. As one of best UK cities at Christmas, it’s a destination for people from all over Europe! It’s an ideal place to enjoy some Christmas shopping, ice skating, or you could take a ride on the carousel or big wheel.
If you fancy adding a touch of luxury to your trip, how about visiting one of these Michelin starred restaurants in Birmingham.
If you’re looking for Christmas getaways in the UK, London offers something for everyone! Christmas lights, shopping, markets, carols, panto, ballet and circus. you might struggle to fit it all in!
The myriad of entertainment options makes London one of the best UK cities at Christmas. You’ll find everything from traditional pantomimes and the Nutcracker ballet to Christmas themed drag shows. Or how about making ice skating against the backdrop of Hampton Court your winter holiday highlight?
Although this isn’t a city trip, if you’re dreaming of a white Christmas, then statistically your chances are higher if you travel to Scotland’s Cairngorms. Even if it doesn’t snow, it’s a great place to get into the festive spirit!
As one of the best places in the UK at Christmas, Santa, Rudolph and the team are regular visitors! You can see reindeer at the wildlife centre, or at their Elf House at Cairngorm Reindeer Centre. They even pop up at Christmas street parades!
If you can’t ski, snowboard or sledge, then there are other adventure activities to try. You’ll find ice skating and curling, and even night time zip lining. Or how about joining a distillery tour and warming up with a wee dram of whisky? Sounds perfect for chilly days!
The Manchester Christmas markets take place at six different sites across the city. You’ll find hand-crafted items by local makers on Market Street. For the family area with kids’ shows and an ice rink, head for Cathedral Gardens.
Many of Manchester’s venues also offer Christmas themed events. You’ll find shows on ice at the AO Arena, and light installations in Heaton Park. For concerts and musicals, check out the programme at Manchester Opera House. It’s a great city during the festive period, so definitely add it to your list!
If you’re looking for somewhere to stay during your trip, don’t miss our top picks for where to stay in Manchester.
If you need more ideas for the best places to visit at Christmas in the UK, how about York? The city is pretty at any time of year, but it’s even more charming when it’s lit up and decorated. It’s also home to the St Nicholas Fair, or Christmas market.
If you’re visiting York at Christmas you should definitely go to a carol concert. Held in the spectacular setting of York Minster, they connect with the spiritual meaning of Christmas. It’s popular though, so you’ll need to book tickets in advance.
The Oxford Christmas market is held from early to mid-December on Broad Street. It features stalls with decorations and unusual gifts ideas. You’ll also find festive foods and plenty of mulled wine. It’s such a pretty place during the festive season.
The Sheldonian Theatre and Christchurch Cathedral both have a programme of carol concerts. And will you find pantomime at the Oxford Playhouse? Oh yes you will!
The short and sweet Lincoln Christmas market takes place over just one weekend in early December. The site, right by the Cathedral and the Castle, gives the event an ‘ancient’ and traditional Christmassy feel. Look out for the ‘Lincolnshire Larder’ area, with local artisan cheeses, ciders and other regional foods. Mmm!
Over on the Lincolnshire coast, you can visit Santa on a miniature steam train. The Cleethorpes Coastal light railway run a ‘Christmas Express’, which leaves for ‘Lapland Central’ each weekend in December. The elves get very busy, so book in advance to insure your place!
Are you looking for something different to do over Christmas? Ok, so Weymouth might not have city status, but this town organises one of the UK’s largest Christmas Day swims. Register in advance, or cheer on the swimmers as they brave the cold water to raise money for charity.
You’ll find more Christmas quirks in Weymouth. In late November, there is a world record attempt for the most people dressed as elves. And in early December you’ll find a steampunk Christmas weekend and pirate party! People in Dorset definitely know how to celebrate the festive period!
There are so many amazing UK cities to visit at Christmas! Which is your favourite? We hope you have a lovely winter, wherever you pick!
If you’re looking for more fun getaway idea in the UK, don’t miss these guides:
The Best Destinations For Relaxing Breaks in England
21 Places To Add To Your Great British Bucket List This Year
The Best Of Britain: 20+ Trips To Add To Your Great British Bucket List
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