Travelling to Britain in December is magical. With twinkling lights, mulled wine and holiday cheer in the air everywhere you go, the very best of Britain’s Christmas markets and festive celebrations are back this year – bigger and better than ever before. To help you make the most of the season, we’ve put together some of our favourite holiday experiences that are guaranteed to get you in the Christmas spirit…
Christmas at Kew Gardens
What: The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew is transformed into a magical illuminated kingdom with more than a million twinkling lights, during Christmas at Kew. The festive-inspired trail takes you along the Treetop Walkway to see enchanting sights, from mesmerising optics to the flickering Fire Garden. (Father Christmas and his elves make a guest appearance occasionally, as well!)
Where: Kew Gardens is located in Richmond, London – approximately one hour by tube from central London
When: 20 November - 5 January
Christmas lights and iconic sights in central London
What: Revel in the full beauty of London’s Christmas lights snuggled up on an evening open bus sightseeing tour with The Original Tour and take in iconic sights including the Tower of London, Harrods and Piccadilly, all dressed up in their Christmas best. Alternatively, join Big Bus Tours, who include a walking tour and a cruise, so you can see the city illuminated with festive cheer as you sail along the moonlit waters of the Thames.
Where: all across London
When: November - January (dates and times vary depending on the tour company)
See Claridge’s Designer Christmas tree
What: Claridge’s much anticipated annual Christmas tree is designed by a different icon each year. Fashion star Diane von Furstenberg created “The Tree of Love” for 2018 featuring 8,000 iridescent hand-painted silver-leafed leaves. Karl Lagerfeld and Dolce and Gabbana are among the other famous names to have provided some artistic flair since Claridge’s introduced the Christmas tree in 2009.
Where: Claridge’s is located in London – a short walk from the Bond Street Underground station
When: From late November
Make merriment in Manchester
After discovering Manchester’s buzzing festive markets, why not head to Dunham Massey Park, which transforms into a wonderful world of winter charm at Christmas. Follow the illuminated paths and discover mesmerising vortex tunnels, the enchanting tunnel of light and magical deer with sparkling coats of fairy lights. Warm up with mulled wine, hot chocolate and toasted marshmallows around the fire before indulging in festive fun on the traditional fairground rides, including a Victorian carousel.
Where: Dunham Massey Park is located in Greater Manchester, a 35-minute journey from Manchester City Centre by car. Alternatively, from Manchester catch the CAT5 bus or go by train to Dunham Massey Hall (less than a 10-minute walk from the park).
When: 2 November – 30 December
Glow Wild in West Sussex
What: The Glow Wild winter lantern festival is a spellbinding trail that takes place at Wakehurst, a beautiful botanic garden and country estate in southern England. The event brings trees, ponds and forest floors to life with hundreds of glowing lanterns, torches of fire and magical soundscapes.
Where: Wakehurst Estate is located in West Sussex – approximately one hour 15 minutes from London by rail.
When: Thursday to Sunday, 21 November to 22 December, 4.30pm-8pm
Epic Illumination in Oxfordshire
What: Oxfordshire has so much rich history and culture to offer, and will be bustling with all things Christmas this winter. At Blenheim Palace (the birthplace of Winston Churchill), the Illuminated Christmas Lights Trail will be brighter than ever before with lasers, projections, and thousands of pea-lights. From the delicate and twinkling to the grand and spectacular, the Formal Gardens will light up once again for a festive journey of exploration and wonder. The surrounds of the Palace will be transformed into a magical wonderland for Alice in the Palace, a festive indoor trail designed to leave you with a grin like a Cheshire Cat.
Where: Blenheim Palace is located in Oxfordshire – approximately one hour 30 minutes from London by rail.
When: 22 November - 5 January
Enjoy a German Christmas market in England’s heartland
What: Not only is Birmingham's Frankfurt Christmas Market the UK’s largest outdoor market, but it also claims the title as the biggest authentic German Christmas Market outside of Germany and Austria! The festival takes over the city’s Victoria Square, offering up tasty German treats like schnitzels, bratwursts, and glühwein and a variety of stalls selling traditional Christmas gifts. There’s also live music at the bandstand to get you in the swing of the season’s festivities.
Where: Victoria Square is located in Birmingham – approximately one hour 20 minutes from London by rail.
When: 7 November - 23 December (daily), 10am-9pm
Christmas Market magic in Edinburgh
What: Tumble into a magical winter wonderland in the centre of a fairytale city. Edinburgh's Winter Festivals bring Edinburgh's Christmas and Edinburgh's Hogmanay together in a magical explosion of twinkling lights, enchanting sounds, mouth-watering flavours and lots of fun and laughter. At the city’s traditional Highland Christmas, you’ll find everything from Scottish produce and mulled wine to handcrafted Christmas gifts and goods.
Where: all across Edinburgh – approximately three hours 30 minutes from Manchester and four hours 15 minutes from London by rail.
When: 16 November - 4 January
Be joyful and jolly in Glasgow
What: Glasgow is a lively, bustling city that’s full of character, striking architecture and fascinating museums (many of which are free!). Join the city as it celebrates the holiday season with Glasgow Loves Christmas, a series of events in the heart in the city that includes Christmas markets and festive entertainment ranging from films and live music to roller discos and cabaret!
Where: all across Glasgow – approximately 45 minutes from Edinburgh and three hours 10 minutes from Manchester by rail.
When: 25 November - 23 December
A Winter Walk in Southwest Wales
What: With 870 miles of coastline and three National Parks, Wales might be even more spectacular when dusted with snow, making it the ideal destination for wintery fun. Revive your senses with a brief and beautiful mile-long lakeside walk, then get into the Christmas spirit back at Tredegar House as it’s dressed up in traditional decorations and filled with music and merriment, throughout for a truly festive experience.
Where: Tredegar House is located in Newport – approximately one hour from Cardiff
When: Selected dates from late November