Lights wrapped around pillars of a building in Edinburgh, Scotland

The Best Christmas Towns in the UK

How do you imagine your dream Christmas? Are you one of those people who relishes the chilly weather and dreams about those snowy skies, long nights by the fire, and hot chocolate (or some mulled wine)? If a postcard-perfect Christmas is what you’re dreaming of, the UK is a fantastic place to spend the holiday season.

While you won’t be spending much time on the beach, sometimes bundling up and enjoying a Christmas spent strolling through markets, feasting on traditional Christmas dinners, and experiencing some local culture while you’re at it is the way forward. If you’re travelling to the UK this holiday season, spending Christmas in one of these charming Christmas towns in the UK is your ticket to festive joy!


Travel to: England


What is Christmas like in the UK?

Christmas (December 25th) is celebrated as a time for families to come together and celebrate the season. Many families will have a Christmas lunch in the afternoon followed by visiting extended family or taking a walk through the town – you’ll find most UK towns on Christmas Day alive with happy families! 

The UK also observes Boxing Day, which takes place on December 26th and is a public holiday. If you’re planning on doing some shopping on your trip, be sure to check what will be open and closed in your destination – not many shopping centres will be open on Christmas Day, but Boxing Day usually brings great sales (and large crowds, so prepare accordingly).

Travellers should expect December temperatures in the UK to be an average of 7ºC (45ºF) to 2ºC (35ºF), and don’t be surprised if you run into some rain – it is the UK, after all!

Oxford

Known as “the city of dreaming spires,” Oxford can certainly provide some of that holiday magic to travellers passing through for the season! The town glows with twinkling lights from mid-November until Christmas, and there’s much to see and do for solo travellers, families, and everyone in between. Head to the Museum of Natural History and learn about the animals who used to call the region home, or take things the traditional route and stroll through the Oxford Christmas Market. 

Sunset from South Park, Oxford in Winter
A wintery sunset in Oxford | © Tejvan Pettinger/Flickr

You’re never far away from a classy cocktail or big night out in Oxford – it’s one of the most famous student cities in the world, after all! However, during the holiday season many of the students return home, which means the city’s population actually decreases significantly and you may enjoy fewer crowds in local businesses. Don’t miss the covered market – it’s been selling treats and trinkets to locals and travellers since 1774!

Bath

Bath is a Christmas destination that truly offers something for everyone! Travellers who want to spend their Christmas strolling through some of the most beautiful architecture to be found in the UK can do it here, and the Bath Christmas Market (from November 28th to December 15th) is full of great food and attractions, there’s also some adventure to be had.

Visit Cheddar Gorge for some cave exploration or hiking across clifftops, explore Longleat, the UK’s first safari park, or spend some time with the family ice skating outdoors or playing mini-golf. If you’re looking to check something else off your bucket list, the iconic Stonehenge is less than an hour’s drive away!

Christmas lights overhead in Bath, UK
No matter where you go, you can be sure you’ll find Christmas lights! | © Cloud/Flickr

Manchester

One of the biggest and best-known Christmas markets in the entire UK, visiting Manchester is sure to fill even the grinchiest traveller with holiday glee! The market consists of over 300 stalls selling international food, drinks, and handcrafted gifts, all set under the twinkling glow of the millions of Christmas lights you’ll find all over the city.

Manchester is a major city in the UK, so travellers who prefer city breaks to rural retreats will be happy with the shopping, culture, and entertainment to be found here. Visit the Ice Village; a gorgeous display of ice sculptures that also includes a chilly ice bar (kept at around -10ºC!), a brand new ice skating rink, and, of course, a chance to meet the big man himself, Santa Claus. 

A christmas market outside Town Hall, Manchester, UK
Manchester’s Christmas markets are seriously impressive! | © Jennifer Boyer/Unsplash

Bristol

Ready to celebrate #Bristmas? From early November when the Christmas lights are turned on (which is, in itself, an event!) right through the main event, Bristol is filled to the brim with fantastic and fun-filled Christmas events.

Visit Clifton Village, a favourite shopping and dining destination, and watch as the towering Christmas tree’s lights are turned on, go skating at the largest outdoor ice rink in southwestern England, take a workshop on printing your own wrapping paper and greeting cards, or take a traditional steam train journey. If you love nothing more than planning trips chock-full of adventure and activity, Bristol is the place for you this Christmas!

A woman standing at a Christmas market stall in Bristol
A Christmas market in Bristol | © Flickr

Edinburgh

Why have just one day of Christmas fun when you can have six weeks of it? In Edinburgh, that’s exactly what you’ll find – from bumper cars to visits with Santa to bars, concerts, and fireworks displays, there’s not much you can’t do in Edinburgh for Christmas! If you’re staying in Scotland for a while, or you’re passing through town before Christmas, don’t miss Light Night.

This event, which usually takes place in mid-November, is the city’s way of kicking off the Christmas celebrations for the upcoming weeks. Make sure you stay for the grand finale – a large pyrotechnics and fireworks display featuring Santa flying overhead! 

Lights wrapped around pillars of a building in Edinburgh, Scotland
Edinburgh gets into the holiday spirit like nowhere else! | © Graham Campbell/Unsplash

There’s not much cozier or more comforting than the UK at Christmastime! From Manchester’s bustling markets to Bath’s beautiful serenity, there’s something for everyone to enjoy in the UK for the holidays. While you’re there, make sure to participate in local traditions, spend an afternoon in a cozy pub, and explore a Christmas market or two – and of course, it wouldn’t be Christmas in the UK without some mulled wine!

Where would you most like to visit in the UK for the holidays?

Maggie is a life-long traveller who, after three years abroad, has returned home to Toronto, where she works as a Content Editor at TourRadar. When she's not reading, writing, or dreaming about her next trip, you can find her talking at length about her dog to anyone who'll listen.

Mountain peaks in Glencoe, Scotland
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