Dare I say it too early, but *cue Sean Bean’s voice* “winter is coming”. And with winter (if you live in the northern hemisphere) comes Christmas! Whilst there are plenty of places to celebrate Christmas around Europe (seriously, we’re spoilt for choice when it comes to Christmas markets), there’s certainly no place like home.
However, if you fancy getting away from your hometown for a few days this Christmas, I have rounded up the top 5 UK destinations for a Christmas break.
Nowhere does Christmas quite like London. I was born and grew up in South London and will never tire of visiting the city. As Samuel Johnson said, “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.” Whilst London is obviously a wonderful city to visit all year round, at Christmas it really comes into its element, not only in the form of big events but also all of the little things like the fairy lights, Christmas decorations and carollers that fill the streets.
Whatever you do, be sure not to miss the famous Winter Wonderland, where I actually celebrated my 18th Birthday two years ago. Winter Wonderland is an annual amusement park that is set up in Hyde Park offering ice skating, amusement rides, a big wheel, ice bars, Christmas markets, circuses and shows, lots of festive food and even Santa’s grotto. I’m getting in the Christmas spirit just thinking about it. Plus, this year is the 10th anniversary of Hyde Park Winter Wonderland so it would be rude not to pay a visit.
Other London Christmas markets include the Southbank Centre Winter Festival (pictured above against the iconic backdrop of the London Eye), the markets outside the Tate Modern, and the Leicester Square market. The best places to see Christmas lights are Oxford Street, Regent Street, Bond Street and Kew Gardens. Finally, if you want to channel your inner Olympic ice skater, head to Broadgate, Canary Wharf, the London Eye, Hampton Court Palace, Natural History Museum, Somerset House and the Tower of London for the best outdoor skating rinks.
Growing up as a teenager, Birmingham was the nearest and most easily accessible large city to where I live at home. This meant that I went to Birmingham’s extravagant Frankfurt Christmas Markets pretty much every single year. Birmingham’s Market is the largest authentic German Christmas Market outside of Germany or Austria. And having been to the real deal in Cologne, I can vouch for how epic Birmingham is.
These markets are huge and offer everything from traditional German food and drink (think pretzels, grilled sausages and wheat beer) to locally hand-crafted ceramics, jewellery, Christmas decorations and much more. Don’t forget to check out the live music performances in Victoria Square and head to Centenary Square for more markets and also an ice rink and big wheel.
Isn’t Bath just the loveliest, most quintessentially British city ever? The magical setting of Bath Abbey provides the perfect backdrop for Christmas celebrations. Outside the cathedral, you can find Christmas markets aplenty, as well as Bath on Ice and a snow lodge, a rustic indoor venue filled with warm food and real ales. Plus you can always wind down after a hard day’s shopping at Bath’s famous natural thermal spa – warm and cosy, just like Christmas.
Bath is also situated in the gorgeous South West (my favourite part of the country, but naturally I’m a little biased). On your Christmas break in Bath be sure to venture out into the fresh, crisp British countryside for a walk with your loved ones.
Edinburgh may be famous for its New Year celebrations, Hogmanay, but it also does Christmas pretty darn well too. In fact, I’d say it rivals London. How do you fancy dressing up as Santa and running through the city to fundraise money for charity? Edinburgh’s got you covered.
How about singing and dancing along to the Street of Light, an event where over 60,000 beautiful bulbs of light are synchronised to music from local choirs and bands? Yep, Edinburgh’s got that. But they couldn’t possibly host a free 24 Doors of Advent event which allows you to peep behind usually closed doors throughout the city during advent? Wait. Nope. They’ve only gone and done that too.
Clearly, Scotland’s capital is all about embracing the weird, wacky and wonderful. But it also boasts a lot of the traditional stuff too, like a fantastic European Christmas market, and a separate Scottish Market to celebrate some of the best craft, food and drink Scotland has to offer. There’s also plenty of fairgrounds and concerts to entertain you if all else fails.
I couldn’t write about the best U.K. cities for a Christmas break without including my own, could I? We all know how much I love Exeter all year round but it’s bloody brilliant at Christmas time. Not as mind-blowing as some larger cities, sure, but magical nonetheless.
Located in an idyllic setting at the heart of the city centre, Exeter Christmas Market on Cathedral Green offers both continental and local produce (handmade gifts and festive food and drink), sold at over 80 stalls. There are also some smaller Christmas markets on both Castle Street and Fore Street. After walking around the Christmas markets be sure to head to Old Firehouse for some mulled wine and hearty food.
Plus as we’re so close to the beach in Exeter, why not take a day trip to Exmouth, Dawlish or even the English Riviera for some alternative Christmas celebrations. It may not be a Christmas BBQ on the beach in Australia, but it’s slightly different and could be a lot of fun. Who doesn’t love chilly winter walks down the promenade?
This is a collaborative post with Great Little Breaks but as always all opinions are my own.