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15 Places you must visit in the UK during Christmas

Published 15th Nov 2023

Welcome to the festive wonderland of the United Kingdom! Where the holiday season transforms iconic landmarks and charming towns into dazzling displays of Christmas magic. In this enchanting journey, we'll unveil 15 must-visit places that epitomize the spirit of Christmas across the UK.

From historic cities sprinkled with twinkling lights to quaint villages hosting traditional festivities, join us on an adventure as we explore the most enchanting destinations that promise to make your Christmas merry and bright. Get ready to be immersed in the warmth of festive cheer and discover the quintessential British charm that comes alive during this magical time of the year.

1. Edinburgh at Christmas

Edinburgh at Christmas time is nothing short of enchanting, as the historic Scottish capital transforms into a winter wonderland for December.

Make sure you visit the city's iconic landmarks, including the world famous Edinburgh Castle, which is bathed in a warm, festive glow, creating a magical atmosphere that captivates locals and visitors alike. Princes Street Gardens hosts a spectacular Christmas Market where the air is filled with the scent of mulled wine and the melodies of carollers.

The Royal Mile, draped in sparkling lights, becomes a hub of Christmas celebrations. Edinburgh’s numerous cosy pubs offer respite from the winter chill, inviting patrons to savour traditional Scottish fare (foods) by crackling fires.

From the enchanting Christmas tree at the Mound to the vibrant street performances, Edinburgh during the holidays radiates a special kind of charm that captures the true spirit of the season. Whether wandering through the bustling streets or taking in panoramic views from Arthur's Seat, Edinburgh at Christmas is a captivating experience that lingers in the heart long after the festivities have ended.

2. York at Christmas

York at Christmas time is a storybook setting come to life, where medieval charm and festive spirit intertwine to create a magical atmosphere. The historic city, surrounded by ancient walls, is transformed into a twinkling wonderland with its cobbled streets adorned in sparkling lights.

The Shambles, a picturesque medieval street, takes on a fairytale quality as its timber-framed buildings are decked out in festive decorations. The iconic York Minster, standing tall against the winter sky, becomes even more majestic with its illuminated facade.

The Christmas markets in St Nicholas Fair add a delightful touch, offering everything from handcrafted gifts to seasonal treats. Mulled wine permeates the air, and carollers fill the narrow lanes with melodious tunes.

York's quaint shops, selling unique treasures, invite visitors to find the perfect gifts while the aroma of roasting chestnuts wafts through the historic alleys. With a backdrop of ancient history and a festive spirit that envelops the city, York at Christmas is a captivating destination that transports you to a bygone era of holiday enchantment.

3. Bath at Christmas

Bath at Christmas is a great option if London isn’t on the cards. The architecture of this historic city is adorned with twinkling lights, casting a warm and inviting glow over its cobblestone streets.

Bath Abbey and the Roman Baths, already steeped in history, take on an extra layer of magic as they become illuminated against the winter night. The Bath Christmas Market, set against the backdrop of the stunning Bath Abbey, transforms the city into a bustling holiday spectacle.

Stalls brim with handcrafted gifts, artisanal treats, and the scent of spiced mulled wine wafts through the air, creating an irresistible atmosphere. The charming streets, lined with boutique shops and cosy cafes, invite visitors to indulge in festive delights.

Bath's picturesque surroundings, including the nearby Cotswolds, enhance the seasonal charm, making it a destination where the spirit of Christmas seamlessly intertwines with the city's rich heritage.

4. Canterbury at Christmas

Canterbury at Christmas time is a delightful blend of medieval splendour and festive cheer. The city's iconic Canterbury Cathedral, a masterpiece of Gothic architecture, stands as a majestic centrepiece, adorned with twinkling lights that enhance its timeless beauty. Cobbled streets and historic buildings, steeped in tales of centuries past, are adorned with wreaths and decorations, creating a storybook atmosphere.

The Christmas market in Whitefriars Square offers a treasure trove of handmade crafts, local treats, and seasonal delights, while the scent of roasted chestnuts and spiced mulled wine fills the air. Carollers echo through the narrow lanes, adding a melodic backdrop to the joyful ambiance. Canterbury's quaint shops and boutiques showcase unique gifts, providing a perfect blend of holiday shopping and cultural immersion.

With the medieval charm of the city harmonizing with the festive spirit, Canterbury during Christmas is a truly magical experience that transports visitors into a winter fairy tale set against the backdrop of centuries-old history.

5. Birmingham at Christmas

Birmingham at Christmas time is a vibrant symphony of lights, festivities, and seasonal cheer. The cityscape transforms into a dazzling spectacle with the German-inspired Frankfurt Christmas Market, one of the largest outdoor markets in the country.

Centred around Victoria Square, the market boasts over 180 stalls offering everything from handcrafted ornaments to delectable treats. The towering Big Wheel and the iconic Ice Rink in Centenary Square add an extra layer of excitement, providing breathtaking views of the city's festive panorama.

The Bullring and Grand Central shopping centres are adorned with festive decorations, creating a bustling and lively shopping atmosphere. The aroma of sizzling bratwurst and mulled wine mingles with the joyful sounds of street performers and carollers, creating a sensory feast.

Birmingham's diverse cultural offerings, combined with the spirited holiday atmosphere, make it a dynamic and enchanting destination that truly comes alive during the Christmas season. 

6. Windsor Castle at Christmas

Windsor at Christmas time is a regal tapestry woven with the charm of a historic town and the festive magic of the holiday season. The iconic Windsor Castle, resplendent against the winter sky, serves as the magnificent backdrop to the seasonal celebrations.

The quaint streets, lined with traditional shops and adorned with twinkling lights, exude a cosy warmth. The Windsor Christmas Market, nestled beneath the Castle walls, offers a delightful array of handcrafted gifts, local treats, and seasonal decorations, creating a merry atmosphere.

The scent of roasted chestnuts and the melody of Christmas carols permeate the air as visitors explore the picturesque town. The Long Walk, leading up to the castle, takes on a fairytale quality with its majestic trees and festive illuminations.

Windsor at Christmas time is a blend of timeless elegance and festive exuberance, making it a destination where the spirit of the season harmonizes with the rich heritage of this royal town.

7. Hever Castle at Christmas

Hever Castle at Christmas time is a picturesque retreat imbued with historical charm and festive allure. Nestled in the heart of the Kent countryside, the castle, once the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, transforms into a winter wonderland during the holiday season. The Tudor architecture, draped in twinkling lights, creates a magical ambiance that transports visitors to a bygone era.

The castle's interiors are adorned with opulent decorations, showcasing the grandeur of yuletide celebrations through the centuries. The gardens, usually resplendent in their natural beauty, take on a new enchantment with seasonal displays, and the air is filled with the scent of pine and crackling log fires.

The Christmas market within the castle grounds offers a curated selection of artisanal goods, and the courtyard becomes a hub of festive activities. Hever Castle at Christmas is a captivating journey through time, where the historical significance of the castle harmonizes seamlessly with the joyous spirit of the season.

8. Belfast at Christmas

Belfast at Christmas time is a vibrant tapestry of festive lights, jovial celebrations, and the warmth of Northern Irish hospitality. The city center transforms into a winter wonderland, with the stunning City Hall illuminated by a mesmerizing light display.

The Christmas Market at Belfast City Hall draws locals and visitors alike, offering a delightful array of artisanal goods, seasonal treats, and mulled wine. The streets are alive with the sounds of carolers and the scent of roasted chestnuts, creating a joyful atmosphere.

Victoria Square and Castle Court shopping centers glitter with festive decorations, providing an ideal backdrop for holiday shopping. The annual Christmas tree at Donegall Square, a gift from the people of Norway, stands tall and resplendent, symbolizing the international spirit of the season.

Belfast's cultural venues, such as the Ulster Museum and the Grand Opera House, host special events and performances, adding an extra layer of merriment to the city's festive ambiance. Belfast at Christmas is a celebration of community, culture, and the spirited joy that characterizes this special time of the year. 

9. London at Christmas

London at Christmas time is a dazzling spectacle where the historic charm of the city converges with the magic of the holiday season. Iconic landmarks like Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London, and the Houses of Parliament are adorned with twinkling lights, casting a festive glow over the cityscape.

Regent Street and Oxford Street transform into glittering avenues of holiday splendour, with department stores showcasing elaborate window displays. The Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park becomes a festive playground with its ice rink, Christmas markets, and thrilling rides. The South Bank of the River Thames hosts the enchanting Christmas by the River market, offering panoramic views of the city.

West End theatres feature special seasonal performances, and Covent Garden bursts with festive decorations and street performers. London's bustling atmosphere, combined with its cultural richness, makes it an unparalleled destination during Christmas, where the spirit of the season permeates every corner of this cosmopolitan metropolis.

10. Inverness at Christmas

Inverness at Christmas time is a picturesque Highland retreat infused with festive charm and warm Scottish hospitality. The city, nestled along the banks of the River Ness, takes on a magical quality as historic landmarks, including Inverness Castle, light up in a festive display. 

The High Street transforms into a festive marketplace, where local vendors offer an array of handmade crafts, seasonal treats, and traditional Scottish fare. The annual Christmas Lights Switch-On event bathes the city centre in a radiant glow, marking the beginning of the holiday season.

The aroma of spiced mulled wine and hearty stews fills the air, inviting visitors to indulge in the flavours of the season. Inverness's stunning natural surroundings, including the nearby Loch Ness, enhance the festive ambiance, creating a unique and enchanting Christmas experience that captures the spirit of the Scottish Highlands.

11. Manchester at Christmas

Manchester at Christmas time is a bustling urban haven that seamlessly blends its industrial heritage with a festive spirit that illuminates the city. The iconic Manchester Town Hall serves as the centrepiece, adorned with twinkling lights and a magnificent Christmas tree in Albert Square.

The city centre transforms into a winter wonderland with the Albert Square Christmas Markets, offering a plethora of international treats, crafts, and seasonal delights. The streets are alive with the sounds of cheerful carollers and the scent of roasting chestnuts.

The Trafford Centre, one of the largest shopping malls in Europe, becomes a hub of holiday shopping with its impressive decorations and an array of festive events. The Ice Village in Cathedral Gardens adds an extra layer of winter enchantment with its ice sculptures and an ice rink.

From the vibrant cultural scene to the lively festivities, Manchester at Christmas is a dynamic city where the warmth of community and the magic of the season converge in a truly unforgettable experience.

12. Nottingham at Christmas

Nottingham at Christmas time is a charming fusion of historical elegance and festive cheer, creating a warm and inviting atmosphere throughout the city. The iconic Nottingham Castle, perched atop a sandstone cliff, becomes a beacon of holiday spirit with its dazzling lights and decorations.

The Old Market Square, surrounded by medieval architecture, transforms into a festive paradise with the Winter Wonderland, offering a vibrant Christmas market, an ice rink, and a mesmerizing big wheel.

The Lace Market district, known for its historic charm, comes alive with festive decorations, creating a picturesque setting for holiday strolls. The city's diverse range of shops, from quirky boutiques to high-street favourites, invite visitors to discover unique gifts for their loved ones. Nottingham's rich cultural scene adds an extra layer of magic, with theatres and venues hosting special festive performances.

Nottingham at Christmas is a delightful blend of heritage and merriment, making it a perfect destination for those seeking the true essence of the season. 

13. Leeds at Christmas

Leeds at Christmas time is a dynamic and festive spectacle, where the city's vibrant energy converges with the spirit of the season.

The historic Victoria Quarter, adorned with twinkling lights and luxurious decorations, transforms into a dazzling shopping destination, offering an array of high-end and boutique stores. The German Christmas Market in Millennium Square, inspired by traditional Christkindelmarkts, brings a touch of Bavaria to Yorkshire, with its charming wooden stalls offering handcrafted gifts, festive treats, and warming mulled wine.

The city's cultural venues, such as the Leeds Playhouse and the First Direct Arena, host special holiday performances, adding a touch of artistic magic to the festivities. The Leeds Corn Exchange, with its distinctive domed roof, becomes a unique hub for independent shopping, showcasing local artisans and designers.

From the bustling streets to the cultural hotspots, Leeds at Christmas is a spirited celebration that encapsulates the city's contemporary flair and festive joy.

14. Exeter at Christmas

Exeter at Christmas time is a captivating blend of historical elegance and festive enchantment. The city's medieval architecture, including the stunning Exeter Cathedral, provides a timeless backdrop for the holiday celebrations. The High Street sparkles with festive lights, creating a warm and inviting atmosphere as shoppers explore the array of quaint boutiques and traditional markets.

The historic Cathedral Green hosts a Christmas market where the air is filled with the scent of spiced cider, and local artisans showcase their wares. Exeter's cobbled streets come alive with the sound of carollers, and the Royal Albert Memorial Museum becomes a cultural hub for seasonal exhibitions and activities.

The Quayside, adorned with lights reflecting on the water, adds a touch of maritime charm to the festivities. With its rich history and a festive spirit that pervades the city, Exeter at Christmas is a delightful destination that seamlessly marries the old-world charm with the joy of the season.

15. Glasgow at Christmas

Christmas time in Glasgow is a magical experience that transforms the city into a festive wonderland. The streets are adorned with sparkling lights, and the air is filled with the cheerful sounds of carollers and the occasional skirl of bagpipes. 

George Square, the heart of the city, is transformed into a dazzling winter wonderland with a towering Christmas tree and a bustling Christmas market. Glasgow's iconic shopping destinations, such as Buchanan Street and the Style Mile, come alive with festive decorations, offering a delightful shopping experience for those seeking unique gifts. 

The city's theatres and venues host special holiday performances, adding a touch of cultural richness to the season. Families gather at George Square for ice skating, and the aroma of mulled wine and seasonal treats wafts through the air. Glasgow truly captures the spirit of Christmas, creating a warm and festive atmosphere that brings people together to celebrate the joy of the season.