From Pugmas in Manchester, to the UK’s biggest ice bar in Nottingham, England is bursting with exciting Christmas ideas. So whether you feel naughty or nice, there’ll be something here for you.
1. London: become a Christmas decoration
These snow globes on Southbank make YOU the Christmas decoration. Clever, eh? They’re part of Wintertime, Southbank Centre’s twinkly Thames-side festival which also features a rooftop sauna, a cider lodge and market stalls selling everything from cheese fondue to boozy hot chocolate. Just across the river, rebellious little Carnaby Street has bucked the trend and gone for a tropical light display. How pretty is this?
2. Nottingham: visit the UK's biggest ice bar
Nottingham is the proud recipient of the UK’s biggest ice bar. More than 15 tonnes of ice has been chipped and chopped into festive sculptures and Narnia-like scenes. Even the cups are made of ice. It’s the centrepiece of Nottingham’s Winter Wonderland, which also has a Sur la Piste après ski lodge, an ice rink, night time entertainment and market stalls.
3. Brighton: go palace skating and clock burning
Brighton ramps up the seaside fun at Christmas with skating at the Royal Pavillion (until 14 January 2018), and all manner of festive parties and alternative events. The Burning the Clocks festival (21 December) is the biggest, and celebrates the winter solstice, regardless of faith. It takes place on the beach with a parade of luminous willow lanterns and concludes with a huge firework show.
4. Aylesbury: see a neon menagerie at Waddesdon Manor
This is how you do a festive house display. Artist Lauren Booth has created The Electric Menagerie, which includes a giant illuminated dragon, neon goats and a flea circus. There’s also the Willow Lantern Walk and the Waddesdon Imaginarium, which is projected onto the front of the manor. If this doesn’t make you feel Christmassy, nothing will.
5. Norwich: be dazzled by tunnels and tiaras
The Tunnel of Light returns to Norwich this Christmas, and this time it’s adorned with a glittering tiara. Pay a visit and bag yourself the best selfie in town. Norwich has got it going on elsewhere too, with vintage craft fairs, free rides on a 1965 routemaster and a retro Christmas party night at Sprowston Manor house. Better hang on to that tiara.
6. Rochester: enjoy a guaranteed snowfall
Is there a more Christmassy scene than this? Rochester’s fairytale cathedral and castle are the perfect backdrop for a Dickensian Christmas market. It’s bustling with shopping stalls, lamp-lit parades, and characters from local boy Dickens’ much-loved stories. Plus there’s carol singing, Father Christmas, and even a guaranteed snowfall. From 2 - 3 December and 8 - 10 December.
7. Manchester: try a Christmas dinner wrap
Christmas is taking Manchester by storm this year. From Hinterland, an immersive arctic dining experience in Stretton with hot tubs in a giant tipi village, to Elf the Musical at the Lowry theatre. Dog-lovers shouldn’t miss Pugmas, which celebrates Christmas through the medium of pugs. Yes that’s a thing. And there’s one of the biggest and best Christmas markets in the UK to explore too. There’s even a burlesque revue and Christmas Dinner in a Yorkshire pudding wrap. What more could you want?
8. Cheltenham: eat your way down a promenade
Let’s face it, a huge part of Christmas is eating till you burst. So head down to Cheltenham in the Cotswolds for a good old nosh. Full of festive foodie atmosphere, the smell of mulled wine and sizzling sausages, the vibrant market town is especially mouth-watering at this time of year. More than 40 stalls of gourmet grub stretch along the town's promenade, and we recommend you visit them all.
9. Winchester: grab gluhwein and gifts
Well someone’s planning a Christmas party in Winchester – look at all that Gluhwein! Pop down to one of the prettiest markets around and join in the festive fun. Only the crème de la crème of British food, gifts and exhibitors sell their wares here and it’s all wrapped by a traditional ice rink. Add the cathedral and it looks just like a Christmas card. Anyone remember those? Before Snapchat.
10. Oxfordshire: get mind-blown at Blenheim
Singing Christmas trees and sparkling hedgerows? Cascades of fire and luminous boats? Step through the looking glass and into Christmas at Blenheim Palace. This stately home has pulled out all the stops to stunning effect. Don’t miss the giant water fountain which soars into the night sky and the fibre optic lawn. There’s even a handy place to toast your own marshmallows. It’s harder than you think.