From the iconic Christmas markets you need on your radar to the hotels to book for cosy Yuletide vibes and festive afternoon teas not to be missed, this is your ultimate guide of Christmassy things to do, see, eat and drink in the UK this year.
Where to stay
NoMad Hotel, London
Located in the heart of Covent Garden, NoMad’s first foray into UK hotel destinations encapsulates everything you need for a true ‘treat yo’self stay’. Its three-storey glass atrium is decked with hanging plants galore, and the mix of Twenties Art Deco and New York design influences make it a feast for the eyes (and ‘gram). The central location offers the very best of theatre, shopping and dining, making it the ideal spot for a winter staycation in which you plan to cram in a plethora of festive fun.
The Hoxton, London
With locations in Southwark, Holborn, and their original London spot of Shoreditch, the Hoxton Group offer the best of home away from home comfort made 10/10 chic. Their Shoreditch residence features 9 individually designed rooms dreamt up by local artists, offering a unique stay with benefits such as flexi check in and breakfast in bed or in a bag if you’re on the go! Psst. Their rooftop bar and restaurant Maya is a treat for the senses, serving Mexican-inspired dishes made with locally sourced produce.
The Lygon Arms Hotel, Cotswolds
Nestled in the village of Broadway, Worcestershire, this four star luxury hotel is well known on Instagram for its period charm, cosy fireplaces and in-house spa, perfect for rainy days or a true white Christmas (manifesting this). With rooms in the main house, annex, courtyard and cottage at an array of price points, there’s something for everyone, no matter what you’re seeking from a festive break. The hotel includes a bar and grill, afternoon tea and cocktail menu,
meaning you can truly tap out from the outside world for a few days and enjoy being pampered to the max.
The Royal Crescent Hotel and Spa, Bath
Hunker down with your nearest and dearest at The Royal Crescent Hotel & Spa this Christmas and lap up the Georgian charm of this quintessentially British city. Bursting with character, their 45 bedrooms overlook either the historic Royal Crescent lawns or the hotel’s secluded gardens and make for the ultimate cosy 5* experience.
The Gleneagles Hotel, Scottish Highlands
From the cosiest to grandest of bedrooms, The 5* Gleneagles Hotel has 205 beautiful bedrooms and 28 luxury suites for the perfect night’s sleep amongst the cleansing countryside air of the Scottish Highlands. With onsite activities such as horse riding, off road driving, golf, fishing as well as a spa and wellness haven to relax you to the max, Gleneagles is the perfect end of year destination for ultimate escapism.
Middleton Lodge Estate, North Yorkshire
This beautifully restored family-owned country estate is set in 200 acres of parkland making it the perfect backdrop to embrace a slower pace of life and lap up the charm of the Yorkshire countryside. Five minutes from the historic market town of Richmond, Middleton Lodge Estate is the perfect base for a Northern adventure that will leave you refreshed and well-rested. Plus its estate-to-plate sustainable menu is a feast for the senses!
Beaverbrook Town House, Surrey
Nestled in the heart of the picturesque Surrey Hills, this luxurious country house hotel rekindles the spirit of a bygone era of English high society. Its flamboyant decor features over 500 pieces of art from across the globe making it a must-visit for art geeks and interior design fanatics. Their Japanese Grill and Art Deco cocktail bar is the height of sophistication and one to book if you’re hoping to wow a special bestie or your deserving significant other.
The University Arms, Cambridge
The classic Edwardian interiors of the iconic University Arms are just one reason to visit this Cambridge classic at Christmastime. Wander the River Cam, enjoy the cosy pubs en route and curl up in the library with a mulled wine and cosy read (may we suggest Two for Joy by Zoe Sugg and Amy McCulloch.)
Hotel Una, Brighton
If you fancy a little festive sojourn to the seaside this Christmas, check in at Hotel Una- one of the most under the radar hotels in Brighton. Positioned just a stone’s throw away from the famous West Pier, in and amongst all the best festive goings on the city has to offer and with convenient nearby parking (v hard to come by in these parts), Hotel Una is a hidden gem indeed! Looking for a little extra luxury? Reserve one of their spa rooms or cinema rooms for the ultimate R&R.
Gara Rock, Devon
From a Coastguard Station and Lookout in the 1840s to a RAF headquarters during the Second World War, Gara Rock is bursting with history and stories from the past, all whilst wrapping you up into its modern day, cosy interiors. The hotel has one rule and one rule only: “make yourself at home”, embodying the enchanting nature of this magical destination on the unspoiled South Devon coastline.
Polurrian on the Lizard, Cornwall
Perched above its own secluded beach, the hotel is located on the South West Coast Path, offering access to countless walking trails, hidden coves and Polurrian Cove- the hotel’s own sandy beach, a short 10 minute stroll down the cliff. With 12 acres of land to explore, panoramic sea views, an indoor pool and hot tub and outdoor tennis court, the hotel blends active fun with relaxation, making it the ideal getaway for outdoorsy types and homebodies alike.
Adare Manor, County Limerick
Dine in the Michelin star restaurant, play your way through the extensive golf course, return to a state of zen in the spa or simply curl up by the fire with your beau and a bottle of bubbly in this award-winning, luxury hotel and never want to come home. With indulgent bedrooms, historically-inspired art and furnishings, marble en-suite bathrooms, and beautiful views from every window, a stay at Adare Manor is the equivalent of treating yourself like the A-lister you are inside.
Mount Juliet, Co. Kilkenny
Sucker for love? You need to stay at Mount Juliet. Built overlooking the River Nore by the first Earl of Carrick, the hotel is named after his beloved wife, Lady Julianna Butler and cultivates the beauty of their love and that of the Irish countryside. The hotel has two residences: The Georgian Manor House and Hunter’s Yard, both offering a haven-like-retreat for couples and families alike. The vast grounds are the Hotel’s pride and joy, perfect to explore at your own leisure or follow one of the four trails that showcase the very best of the estate.
Gliffaes Hotel, Powys, Wales
Tucked away in the Brecon Beacons National Park and surrounded by the rolling hills of the Black Mountains, this hotel is a nature lover’s dream. Set in 33 acres of stunning grounds and mature woodlands, Gliffaes boasts its own stretch of river Usk and a 19th Century arboretum. Its 23 individually decorated rooms are cosy and perfectly warming during your winter stay, with sizes and suites to suit all parties. And finally, listen up bookworms! Nearby town Hay-on-Wye is described as the ‘town of books’ and is famed for its secondhand and antiquarian bookshops.
📍Gliffaes Rd, Crickhowell NP8 1RH
Llys Meddyg, Newport
Nestled in Newport, Pembrokeshire, this luxury family and dog friendly Hotel is furnished with deep sofas, warming fireplaces, inviting bathtubs, and original, local art across its cosy rooms. Head out and see the turquoise water of The Witches Cauldron, visit St Davids, the smallest city in Europe or catch a film or performance at the Theatr Mwldan in Cardigan.
Stock Exchange Hotel, Manchester
Set within the former home of the Manchester Stock Exchange, the hotel’s collection of forty rooms, signature suites and a stunning top floor residence have been thoughtfully designed for the ultimate boujie break. With Edwardian Baroque architecture throughout, it makes the perfect location for a special occasion or extravagant Christmas celebration.
📍4 Norfolk St, Manchester M2 1DW
Titanic Hotel, Liverpool
Located on Stanley Dock Liverpool and minutes away from the city centre, this once bustling warehouse has undergone a dramatic transformation to its current 4* hotel and spa status, all whilst preserving the beautiful Victorian charm and architecture that set its interiors apart from the rest. Each spacious bedroom features the original windows overlooking the historic Port of Liverpool, making for the perfect cosy spot to enjoy a mulled wine and lap up all this city has to offer. PS. The Spa recently won Best Sustainable Spa and Best Luxury Spa Retreat!
📍Stanley Dock, Regent Rd, Liverpool L3 0AN
Things to do
Ice Skating at The Natural History Museum
Set against the magical backdrop of the Waterhouse building in South Kensington, ice skating at The Natural History Museum is a highlight of the season. Surrounded by twinkling fairy lights and frost-covered trees, embrace every stumble at one of London’s most enchanting outdoor attractions. After a 16-year run, this will be the final Ice Rink at the NHM as the five-acre garden will be turned into a hub for urban wildlife, so get your skates on before it goes for good.
Watch a Christmas Film at Luna Winter Drive-In Cinema
The Holiday, Love Actually, Elf, Home Alone or Last Christmas – whichever festive film has your heart, Luna Winter Cinema has the best classics across some of the most prestigious locations in the UK. Cosy up to watch the big screen from the comfort of your own car Hollywood glamour style or if you’d rather stick to an indoor venue perhaps watching Kevin McCallister at Kensington Palace is more your jam? Book your tickets and order in your snacks asap.
B Bakery Christmas Afternoon Tea Bus Tour
Hop onto the classic red routemaster London bus for a tour of the city’s best sights and Christmas lights (if you hop onto a later departure time) whilst savouring a Christmassy afternoon tea. For 2021, the menu includes chocolate and vanilla cupcake, choux pastry with pistachio cream and cranberry compote served alongside classic scones with clotted cream and jam and Brigit’s teas. Tickets from £45. Tours take place at 12:00, 12:30, 14:30, 15:00 and 17:30. Book a spot here!
See Hogwarts in the Snow, London
Get into the spirit of things at the iconic Warner Bros Studio Tour as the famous Harry Potter set gets its annual festive makeover. See the Great Hall transformed with glittering Christmas trees, wreaths and garlands and wander round Diagon Alley’s snowy cobbles. New for 2021, the Forbidden Forest is looking particularly stunning, covered in a blanket of filmmakers’ snow. Tickets get snapped up quickly so don’t sleep on your Butterbeer folks.
Hogwarts in the Snow runs from 13 Nov – 16 January 2022.
Cambridge Evensong at King’s College Chapel (and Christmas Eve service!)
Whether you’re local or visiting from afar, the King’s College Chapel bops new and old are guaranteed to get you in the mood for a mince pie. Like a scene plucked straight from Home Alone, pull up a pew in the 15th century chapel and enjoy the angelic tones of the mixed voice choir as they burst into song every Sunday at 15:30. The live Christmas service ‘Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols’ has been going strong for the past 90 years but was recorded last year in the face of Covid-19. Places are subject to availability (and long queues on the night) so book yourself a spot online asap, or try one of their cosy weekend services for the perfect sunday night plans in the beautiful honey-hued city of Cambridge.
The Nutcracker at The Royal Albert Hall
Tuesday 28 – Friday 31 December 2021
Is it really Christmas without The Nutcracker? Birmingham Royal Ballet are returning to The Royal Albert Hall after a year away for a more magical performance than ever, accompanied by the creme de la creme of period costumes and a world class orchestra for a quintessentially Christmas treat the whole family can enjoy.
Enchanted Woodland Walk at Ashridge House, Hertfordshire
Be at one with nature as Ashridge House lights up for its most magical winter yet. The former King Henry VIII residence and dream wedding venue is gearing up for its Enchanted Woodland Walk as we speak – a 45-60 minute trail around the magnificent grounds decked out with spectacular illuminations. If you fancy a bite to eat ahead of your promenade through the grounds, the Feasting Forest will be open for festive snacks and beverages on the go or you can go all out with a two-course set menu at 7:30pm for £55pp and £25 for children. The Enchanted Woodland Walk runs from November 26 – January 9.
Christmas Markets, Manchester
It’s one of the biggest events in Manchester’s calendar and after scaling back last season in light of the pandemic, the capital of the North is back with even more festive clout to make up for missed celebrations.
This year the hub for festivities will move to a new location at Piccadilly Gardens (known as Winter Gardens for the festive period) with plenty of market stalls, food stalls and yuletide bars to enjoy. The world-famous Christmas markets will fill six other central locations across the city: St Ann’s Square, Exchange Square, New Cathedral Street, King Street, Market Street and Cathedral Gardens. Whether you fancy warm cookie dough pudding, smoking cocktails, locally brewed ale, Yorkshire pudding wraps, pancakes or gourmet pizza, chances are you’ll be able to get your hands on all of it at one of these festive pit stops. For the first time in the market’s history, the site will include a stage with live DJ sets and bands throughout the season.
Open from November 12 – Dec 22, with Winter Gardens remaining open until January 3.
Christmas Festival, Brighton
The Brighton Christmas market returns bigger and better than ever for 2021. Running from 26th November – 31st December, you can soak up the festive atmosphere and enjoy some of the best locally sourced food and drink the city has to offer. It’s not Christmas until you’re fondling a Bratwurst.
Free entry. Opening times Monday to Saturday, 11am – 11pm. Sunday: 11am – 6pm
St Nicholas Fair, York
For a fair that looks like it’s straight from the pages of a Dickens’ novel, look no further than York. There’s no better way to start your Christmas than with a leisurely stroll amongst the charming alpine-style chalets lining the streets of Parliament Square. Shop for hand-crafted trinkets and stocking fillers and have a go on the vintage carousel before resting your legs in Thor’s tipi with a luxury hot choc or something stronger.
18th November – 23rd December, Parliament Square and St Sampson’s Square.
Sunday – Thursday 10:00 – 18:00 and Friday & Saturday 10:00 – 20:00.
Christmas Market, Edinburgh
After a two- year hiatus, East Princes Street once again hosts one of the UK’s best loved family-friendly Christmas markets.
With three locations across Edinburgh you can book tickets for Santa’s Grotto, the Christmas tree maze and ice skating or simply make the most of the market stalls full of festive treats, gifts and twinkling lights. Book ahead for Santa’s Grotto, Christmas Tree Maze and popular rides such as The Big Wheel and Star Flyer to avoid disappointment.
East princes Street November 20 – January 4, 10:00 – 22:00
Santa Land West Princes Street Gardens November 19 – January 4, 10:00 – 22:00
George Street November 19 – January 4, Mon – Fri Midday – 22:00, Saturday & Sunday 10:00 – 22:00
Please visit the website for further details and exceptions to opening dates & times.
Winter Wonderland, London
From Christmas markets and delicious street food to ice bars and circus shows, there’s a smorgasbord of festivities and wonderment to get you in the festive mood at Winter Wonderland 2021. Whether you’re looking for all the fun of the fair or you’re purely invested in the culinary delights, the Winter Wonderland extravaganza is the ultimate destination for the whole family. Running November 19 – January 3, pre-booking required.
With its high ceilings, chandeliers, gilt-frame paintings and historic charm, dining at Berners Tavern is like stumbling onto a film set slap bang in the middle of Fitzrovia. As one of London’s most bookable hangouts, you can expect to be rubbing shoulders with the rich ‘n’ famous and fabulously fashionable whilst you’re sinking a few hand-crafted cocktails in the lobby. Here’s hoping Ryan Gosling will magically appear as you’re tucking into your equally handsome dessert. *Slides into coat pocket for mistletoe*
For Instagram worthy interiors and photo ops aplenty, Mayfair’s Sketch is a must at Christmas time. Serving afternoon tea in the playful pink-hued gallery (they were way ahead of millennials on that one) complete with velvet scalloped armchairs and tongue in cheek wall art, this is one of the quirkiest venues in the city. You’ll be waited on hand on foot with a fleet of well-dressed experts including a personal tea master and caviar man. If an enchanted fairytale setting is more your vibe, check out The Glade for lunch or The Parlour for a sophisticated brunch spot. PS leaving the premises without taking a group selfie in the iconic toilet pods is illegal.
The Berkeley, London
What could be more quintessentially Christmas than blowing £79 on afternoon tea?
The iconic fashion forward Prêt-à-Portea is back at the Berkeley, this year paying homage to the legendary Iris Apfel, who celebrated her 100th birthday this year. Featuring festive treats and your choice of mocktail, mulled wine or champers alongside cakewalk showstoppers inspired by Ganni, Fendi, Stella McCartney, Balenciaga and Giambattista Valli, this is one front row you won’t want to miss.
The Churchill Arms, London
The most Christmassy pub in London? Sign us up! Every year, the famous boozer transforms into a festive spectacle, bedecked with twinkly lights and more fine fir specimens than your local garden centre (rumour has it they’re going for 100 trees this year). Even if you’re not stopping for their thai-fusion food, it’s worth a visit just to see it in all its festive finery.
Bob Bob Ricard, London
Expect 11/10 merriment here thanks to the ‘press for champagne’ button and a solid British and Russian menu. One of London’s most glamorous dining rooms offers comfort food fit for a special occasion from Caviar to Chicken Kiev, the signature Beef Wellington and Truffle and Champers Humble Pie. For anyone who cba to cook this Christmas, Bob Bob Ricard has it covered. Round up the fam and book in for a high-class festive feast complete with readily flowing bubbles on 25th December. Bottoms up!
Red Roaster, Brighton
A classic Brighton haunt because of its iconic bathroom mirror situation (iykyk), Red Roaster offers all you could need for the perfect brunch or Thai dinner from resident kitchen Lucky Khao after a day of Christmas shopping in The Laines. Finish with a portion of Churros and enjoy a winter wander on the beach for the ultimate festive day at the seaside.
20 Stories, Manchester
360° views? Tick. Central Manchester location? Tick. Dreamy cocktail menu? Tick. There’s little this 19th storey bar and restaurant can’t do. Their A La Carte menu offers a range of luxurious dishes worthy of any winter celebration, from lobster to linguine, beef to butternut squash, if you’re looking for the trendiest place in town for your ‘cheers’ boomerang then search no more. And if you fancy getting out of the house on the 25th, their dreamy Christmas Day menu can be booked at £120 for adults and £60 for children for a truly spectacular meal with no washing up required on your part. Truffled potato purée – need we say more?
Six Restaurant, Gateshead Quays, Newcastle
Geordies unite, Six is the place to be this festive season for all your ‘roast dinner but make it fancy’ needs. With a December lunch and dinner menu offering the finest of Christmas classics throughout the month of festivities, and an equally dreamy 3 course meal on the 25th of Dec itself, you’ll be spoilt for choice in this riverside location.
Café En Seine, Dublin
With a cocktail menu curated with the team behind Crucible, London- scientists behind some of the best cocktail bars in the world, FYI- the guys at Café En Seine certainly know a thing or two about hosting a very merry evening. Lit by warm bulbs and with gold accents as far as the eye can see, a visit here is perfect on a dark, cold evening when romance is of the highest priority. Their food prides itself upon being “honest, ethical and most importantly, delicious” and when curated by head chef Stephen Gibson, it’s hard to go far wrong.
The Ivy, various locations
Needing no real introduction, The Ivy is the epitome of a glamorous drinks and dining experience, making it the perfect destination for any celebration or festivity this Christmas. Their smart, casual dress code means there’s no pressure to go all out in ball gown chic, whilst still allowing you to look the part in the posh maxi dress you only get to pull out once a year. Psst: Their Christmas Cocktails and Seasonal Dishes are a feast for the eyes and stomach, too!
Browns, various locations
With 23 bustling brasseries, many in beautiful historic buildings and iconic locations across the country, Browns makes the perfect backdrop for family get-togethers and long overdue catch-ups as life returns to normal. From their specially created dishes made using fresh, seasonal ingredients, to expertly mixed cocktails overflowing with Christmas cheer, you’re guaranteed a special day with Browns.