12 Christmas Cities to Explore


There is nothing more magical than shopping at a UK Christmas market in the run-up to Christmas. With the smell of nutmeg, cinnamon and spice in the air, markets can be a festive and fun way to get in the mood for this special time of year, even if you’re just browsing. And after hours of Christmas shopping, enjoy a merry and cheap night out in one of our 12 UK cities and celebrate this holiday season in style.

Here are our top 12 Christmas cities to explore this year:


  1. London

By Day

The capital city is a marvellous place to explore during the winter. London Bridge City Christmas market,  held on the banks of the River Thames, offers a combination of homemade gifts and delicious food sold from German-style chalets. Jump on the tube to London Bridge for a memorable day of Christmas shopping and mulled wine drinking.

By Night

Skate under the stars this Christmas at the Skylight rooftop playground in Tobacco Dock, London. Entry to the rooftop ice skating rink is free, with a 45 minute skating session only £10 and skate hire included. Until the 7th of January 2018, locals and tourists can spend a few hours perfecting their ice skating, or see if you’re a dab hand at ice hockey as you look over London. With festive tipples on offer and cosy blankets, head to the Skylight rooftop in London for a magical Christmas night out.


  1. Belfast

By Day

Warm up in Belfast over a cup of hot chocolate as you explore the incredible continental Christmas market, held in Donegall Square. Returning for the 13th year, ‘travel’ across the globe as you wander past the international traders. With Irish bars offering local tipples, there is no better way to experience Northern Ireland at Christmas.

By Night

Head to Santa’s Grotto in Victoria Square this December and let the little ones meet Father Christmas himself in the heart of Belfast. Open until 6pm throughout December, head to victoriasquare.com for full details. Entry is £6 and includes a special Christmas present.


  1. Birmingham

By Day

Find yourself a festive bargain at the Birmingham German Christmas market. Open daily until Christmas Eve, 10am till 9pm, get your Christmas shopping sorted in one magical day of festive fun.

By Night

As the winter sun turns in for the night, head to the Birmingham Magical Lantern Festival at Kings Heath Park until the 1st of January. An award-winning spectacle, this year the lanterns will feature a huge gingerbread house and handmade replica of the iconic Birmingham Central Library. Tickets start at £10, with all proceeds going to charity.


  1. Edinburgh

By Day

Explore a frozen world at the Ice Adventure: A Journey Through a wintery Scotland each day until Christmas Eve 2017. Ice and snow sculptures guide you through Scotland’s history in -10C and simply take your breath away! Tickets are from £7, with entry up until 9:30pm.

By Night

Edinburgh takes the countdown to Christmas to the extreme this year with an exciting new free event. The giant Advent Calendar will be projected onto General Register House, with 25 glimpses of Edinburgh Winters from the past revealed one by one, during the lead up to Christmas. Viewing takes place from 5:30pm to 10pm every day.


  1. Manchester

By Day

Prepare to be merry at the Manchester Christmas markets each day until the 20th of December. Based in Albert Square, in front of Manchester Town Hall, the wooden stalls await with festive treats, and plenty of gift ideas to entice you. Focusing on its northern charm, the Manchester Christmas Market will include Yorkshire pudding burritos, rose gold shimmering Prosecco and the hugely popular Christmas dinner sandwich from grilled cheese experts, Northern Soul.

By Night

Throughout the first half of December, Salford Quays will be lit up by the UK’s biggest outdoor digital lights festival. The event is totally free and includes stunning interactive exhibitions like LED light shows that change with your breath and robots that share stories of Mancunians. There’s even a curated exhibition of lights from the Blackpool Illuminations! As it’s open until 10.30pm, there’s plenty of time to enjoy it until the last night on 17th December.


  1. Bristol

By Day

Enjoy a foodie’s festive dream at the Bristol Christmas market. Once again the Bristol Christmas Market will return to the heart of Bristol Shopping Quarter. Chalets start popping up around in November, selling authentic arts, crafts, gifts and an array of mouth-watering festive goodies. The market will entertain locals and tourists alike right up until Christmas Eve.

By Night

If you don’t catch a festive treat during the day, as the evening sets in, make sure to try Bristol Kitchen, a zero waste restaurant which has recently opened in The Galleries in Bristol. Bristol Kitchen donates any unsold food to local homeless shelters in Bristol such as 1 Jamaica House, who operate on a 24-hour basis. Owners, Ruby and Mumtaz of Bristol Kitchen, hand deliver the meals in takeaway bags, allowing them to see first-hand the difference their donations make.


  1. Cardiff

By Day

The Cardiff Winter Wonderland returns this winter, until Sunday the 9th of January 2018, with an incredible ice rink, authentic bierkeller and alpine village. This year, book online and take advantage of the off-peak ice skating tickets from £7 for a festive hour of skating. Head to the official website to book in advance and save more, cardiffswinterwonderland.com.

By Night

A Welsh White Christmas can be had at the Cardiff Christmas Market. Returning to the city until Sunday the 23rd of December, most of the exhibitors are small local businesses, whose products cannot be in high street shops. So, if you’re looking for something truly unique this Christmas, or you’d like to sample some of the traditional and authentic Welsh festive treats on offer, be sure to head to the Cardiff Christmas Market this year.


Picture by Antony Kelly

  1. Norwich

By Day

If you’re out and about in Norwich this Christmas, keep an eye out for the return of the spectacular Projections on the Castle. Awe-inspiring 70ft projections will present three different 10-minute shows, as you explore the city of Norwich over the holiday season.

By Night

Attracting tourists and locals of all ages, the Tunnel of Light is set to return to Norwich in 2017, bringing a glittering tunnel of fairy lights to the city once again. The ultimate festive selfie location, the Tunnel of Light is a much-loved, and free, festive attraction that helps everyone to get into the festive mood in the run up to Christmas. If you do take a selfie, remember to #MyTunnelOfLight.  


Picture: Carlisle Winter Wonderland (©D&H Photographers)

  1. Carlisle

By Day

Pick up a couple of festive gems at the Carlisle Christmas Market. From the 30th of November, a five day open-air festive market will be held in Carlisle, with stalls including Countrystyle Fruit & Veg, Big Pizza Pie, The Candy Bar and MP’s Coffee. Trading between 9am and 5pm for just five days, make the most out of this festive feast location.

By Night

Take a magical journey through the Carlisle Winter Wonderland and Santa’s Grotto at Carlisle City Centre. Entrance to the Winter Wonderland is free and the grotto is £5 per child and includes a Christmas gift from Santa. The festive event is open late until 8pm on Thursday the 21st of December, for those last minute Christmas letters to the North Pole.


Picture: Thors Tipi Instagram


By Day

Explore Thor’s tipi bar – a take on Yorkshire’s Viking heritage. Relax next to the fire pit and cover yourself with cosy throws. Serving up local draft ales, mulled wine and hot chocolate, enjoy the outdoor winter barbeque for delicious homemade food. Open right up until the 31st of December, escape the cold weather in Hull and relax Viking-style.

By Night

If you enjoy Christmas treats like  mince pies, mulled wine and turkey sandwiches, get ready for the Hull Street Food Christmas Nights. On Thursday the 14th of December for two days only, make your way to Zebedee’s Yard from 4pm till late, for lots of festive food, a brass band and even a Yorkshire pudding wrap.


Picture: Bath On Ice Instagram


By Day

Head to Bath on Ice, Bath’s outdoor ice rink for a family fun day out in the city. This year the rink will be 50% bigger and is located in Royal Victoria Park in the centre of Bath. Open until the 2nd of January 2018, get ready to perfect your technique on the ice. Prices start from £7.75 per person for one hour of ice skating.

By Night

Try your hand at Glow-in-the-Dark Mini Golf in Bath this Christmas. As part of Bath on Ice, see if you can make it around the course at only £5.50-£6.50 per person. From 4:30pm till late, getting a hole in one is going to be extra difficult in the dark. Grab some refreshments at the Alpine bar and enjoy a fun night out in Bath this season.


  1. Glasgow

By Day

Glasgow will be home to a number of Christmas Markets this year. St Enoch will return in 2017, offering a wide selection of festive gifts and delicious food until the 22nd of December. The George Square Market will feature a traditional carousel and iconic Big Wheel and is family-focused, with plenty of street entertainment. The George Street Christmas Market will be open from the 25th of November up until the 29th of December.

By Night

For a late night soft play and funfair experience head to the Glasgow Irn-Bru Carnival at The Scottish Event Campus, just outside Glasgow city centre. From Thursday the 21st of December through to the 14th January 2018, kids under 3 go free. Head to http://www.irn-bru-carnival.com to book online.

Prices and details for the above event are correct at the time of writing. Please check the prices before you go.