Travel UK

Travel || Best UK Cities for a Christmas Mini-Break

Happy November 1st everyone! As soon as Halloween is over, I feel like it’s acceptable to start getting excited for Christmas. I mean, it’s only 52 days away! If you’re like me, you are going to start your Christmas planning and shopping asap! 

So here are my picks for the best UK cities for a Christmas mini-break: 

1. London

london

Londoners can be a bit unfriendly and Scrooge-like, but I think Christmas brings out the best in people (most of the time). Londoners are also spoiled for choice when it comes to both Christmas markets and ice-skating. There’s Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park and Winterville in Victoria Park. Both have their merits, and you can click on them both to read my past reviews.) My personal favourite ice-skating rink in London is the one outside the Natural History Museum. 

2.  York 
york-the-shambles

My soon-to-be new home is perfect for a winter mini-break. The Shambles and York Minster are gorgeous as is, but when you layer them with fairy lights and Christmas cheer, it’s like a Dickensian dream come true! You can catch a carol service at York Minster, see the ice sculptures on Dec 12th  and 13th on the “Ice Trail” or ice skate in northern England’s biggest outdoor ice rink.

3. Nottingham 

Sam’s old alma mater! Nottingham has a Winter Wonderland to rival any in the UK! Nottingham Winter Wonderland is in the Old Market Square (from the 19th of November). So you can start your Christmas shopping early, or just stock up on some seasonal treats. This Winter Wonderland will be returning with a bigger ice rink than any in the past! 

4. Cardiff
cardiff

I happened to be in Cardiff in the run up to Christmas in 2014 and it was absolutely lovely. Whilst I didn’t go in the chair swings that famously crashed into each other one year, I did go ice skating at the their lovely rink. If you venture out of the city a tad St Fagan’s has some fun Christmas activities as well! 

5. Leeds

Leeds is famous for their German Christmas market (Christkindelmarkt). This market is the most established German Christmas market in the UK. The market will be in Millennium Square from the 11th of November to the 18th of December. Try to visit Leeds for Christmas on December 12th to catch the Christmas Lantern Parade (beginning at 5:30pm at the Kirkgate and winding it’s way to  Victoria Garden at 6:15pm). 

6. Oxford
oxford

Oxford is beautiful at Christmas, but I especially recommend touring some of the colleges to see them decked out for the holiday. Christ Church, in particular, had some stunning trees set up around their dining tables. It was very Hogwarts-esque. I’ve been to Oxford during the holidays a few times now, and they have a lovely winter market. And I swear the centre of town smells like roasting chestnuts throughout December! 

7. Lincoln

In December, the beautiful medieval square by the cathedral in Lincoln is filled up with more than 250 Christmas market stalls. During the market weekend, you can even go into the cathedral in the evening and here the choir singing festive tunes. The German glรผhwein stall at the Lincoln market hails back to the original Lincoln Christmas market as an export from Lincolnโ€™s twin city Neustadt an der WeinstraรŸe.

8. Edinburgh 
edinburgh

Edinburgh just oozes atmosphere at all times, and it would be perfect for a picturesque Christmas! And with local attractions like the Ice Wall and the Christmas tree maze, what’s there not to love? There’s the ice rink at Princess Street Gardens and the Christmas market. Or just delay your Edinburgh trip a tiny bit and go for Hogmanay instead! 

9. Grassington, North Yorkshire 

I have to admit that I haven’t been to Grassington; however, I have read A LOT about it at Christmas time. And since we’ll be in York for the holidays this year, I am hoping that it will finally be the season that we make it there. The town has an annual Dicken’s festival, so picture your normal Christmas market, but with all the traders in period costume. Sounds awesome, right? Maybe I’ll even find the town Scrooge! 

10. Helmsley, Yorkshire 

Another to-visit for my York based Christmas adventures (a theme to this list besides Christmas!) Helmsley has their annual Christmas tree festival with huge amounts of trees decorated in different themes, with town shop windows to match! 

For some more UK-based winter travel inspiration, check out Great Little Breaks

Are you going anywhere for the holidays? 

*** This post was in collaboration with a brand but all opinions expressed here are my own*** 

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  • Laura Torninoja

    Ahh, I would absolutely love to visit York in the Christmas time! I’ve only been there during the summer and can only imagine how beautiful it would be with all the christmas lights and decorations… x

    Laura // Middle of Adventure

  • I love most towns at Christmas, it just makes them so magical! Seeing York in the winter will be so lovely for you! Alice xx

    http://www.woodenwindowsills.co.uk

  • I was in York the other weekend, I bet it’s gorgeous at Christmas. I also used to work in Nottingham and I’m probably a bit biased but I used to hate Christmas as we heard the same few songs on repeat all day from the ice rink in the Old Market Square – maddening.

    Lisa | Not Quite Enough

    • Haha, I know exactly what you mean – I used to work in a department store and during Christmas, we played the same soundtrack on loop and we all started to think we’d go a bit mad! x

  • I would like to go to any of those places, not going to happen but it would be nice if I could although Tim and I are going to Port Macquarie in weeks time for a couple of nights away, which I am looking forward to

  • Oh my gosh! I was just researching Christmas markets in Europe last night! London showed up as one of the best ones in Europe and so did Lille (where I am studying) ๐Ÿ™‚ So happy you wrote this, because I was considering trying to make my way back to London before Christmas so that I could visit their markets! So many markets to visit though..

    • You definitely have to come back to London, but you’re so close to Germany at the moment that it would be a shame to miss out on a famous German Christmas market! x

  • I’m so excited to spend time in London and Paris while it’s all decorated for Christmas! Thanksgiving is truly one of my favorite times in Paris, because everything is all Christmasy, but the Christmas crowds haven’t fully arrived yet.

    When do you and Sam move to York?

    • You’re going to have the most amazing trip! I’m quite envious of it!

      We move a week from yesterday! Eek! x

      • Our trip was phenomenal, but I’m so bummed I wasn’t able to meet you.

        • Really unfortunate timing on both of our parts! I can’t wait to read about your trip though! x

  • I’d add manchester, their christmas market is awesome and spans a big part of the city so it doesn’t get super crowded.

  • This is such a great list! Bath and Winchester in Christmas time are my favorites as well. The Christmas markets are just amazing xx

  • Great list and great that my old hometown – Nottingham made it on there! I agree, I love the Nottingham Christmas market!

    • I know you’d mentioned it before, but I’d forgotten that’s where you were from! When do you think you’ll make your first transatlantic flight with the little one? x

      • My plan is when she is three months – it is really important to me to show her off to the family and for them to spend time with her. So probably February-ish.