The Christmas holiday doesn’t always have to be spent at home. If you’ve spent a large chunk of the last 18 months stuck within your own four walls then chances are that you might like to get away over the festive season. Plus, it might be nice to have someone else do all the hard work for you!
There are lots of options for family Christmas breaks in the UK from short breaks and city escapes to countryside retreats and luxury family hotels where your every need is catered for. Whichever you choose, a Christmas staycation in the UK will not disappoint.
If you are planning to travel over Christmas then make sure to pre book well in advance.
We’ve rounded up some of our favourite festive breaks for the whole family to enjoy. Just remember to tell Father Christmas that you’ll be out of town!
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Christmas in London
London has to be one of the best places for a magical Christmas in the UK. The capital is busy year-round but when it comes to Christmas, it really shows its festive spirit. This post shares all you need to know about Christmas in London with kids.
The city centre dazzles with thousands of pretty Christmas lights, the shops turn out their best window displays and the capital’s social calendar is packed with family-friendly festive shows.
One of our favourite things to see during the Christmas period is the Circus 1903 at the Southbank Centre. Ice skating rinks pop up around town (we love the ones at the Natural History Museum and the Tower of London) and there are free daily carol concerts held around the famous Norwegian Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square.
If you fancy something quite special, you can enjoy afternoon tea with a festive theme. And, if you want to take part in that great British Christmas tradition of a bracing walk, then London also delivers from the manicured gardens of Regent’s Park to the wilds of Hampstead Heath.
If you’re wondering where to stay in London with kids over Christmas then take a look at these options.
Christmas in York
If you are looking for the perfect place for a UK Christmas break with kids then look no further than the beautiful and historic town of York. While there is no bad time to visit this city, Christmas in York is a very special time and in 2017 York was actually voted the UK’s most festive city.
The St Nicholas Christmas Market – an award winning market takes places annual in the town square and offers a variety of Christmas market stall classics as well as more local offerings especially with artisan food, drink and festive treats. There are also plenty of great Christmas lights in York especially those inside the Museum Gardens.
For foodies, why not consider having a festive afternoon tea at a York institution, Betty’s Tearoom, and for a more traditional experience then head to Fairfax House where they will decorate the historic property with traditional Christmas displays.
And of course no matter what time of year you visit no visit to York is complete without heading inside the beautiful York Minster, which in December will be decorated for the season.
If you’re looking for somewhere to stay in York for your Christmas celebrations then take a look at the options below:
Chosen by Leona, Wandermust Family
Christmas in Oxford
Oxford is pretty in every season but there really is something special about the city during the Christmas holidays.
Firstly there’s the Oxford Christmas Market. Held between December 5 – 21 on historic Bond Street, this is the place to come for a great big dose of Christmas cheer. There are choirs singing carols, independent traders selling the perfect Christmas gift from wooden stalls, and brass bands playing your favourite xmas songs.
Away from the market, many of the university colleges stage choir and orchestral performances over the Christmas period.
For a luxury Christmas break, head to Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, owned by celebrity chef Raymond Blanc. They offer a Christmas package, which includes a six-course set dinner on Christmas Eve and a set menu on Christmas Day. Even if you don’t stay, however, this luxury hotel hosts a variety of festive events from Christmas cookery demonstrations to carol concerts.
For something a little more child-friendly, head to Blenheim Palace and be dazzled by their brilliant lights festival. The illuminated trail features over a million lights, lasers and seasonal sounds. A Christmas market is also held outdoors. For 2021, you can also book tickets for The Story of the Nutcracker, held inside the Palace.
For ideas on where to stay in Oxford over Christmas, take a look at the suggestions below.
Christmas in Winchester
Winchester gets my vote as a great family destination for a Christmas break. The city is home to a beautiful Christmas market (complete with ice rink!) set against the backdrop of the medieval cathedral, which puts on carol services and festive shows during the festive holiday
After wandering the market, you could head slightly out of town to the Science Centre for some seasonal experimentation, or happily wander the ancient streets (Wolvesey Castle is great to explore, and the child-friendly City Mill is definitely worth a visit – lookout for the otters!) and finish off any Christmas shopping.
Afterwards head to a child-friendly pub to warm up by the open log fire and play a few board games before dinner; The King Alfred is ideal! There are plenty of family-friendly restaurants to choose from too including The Stables, Three Joes or River Cottage.
Lainston House is the perfect way to enjoy Christmas morning if you are looking for a budget-busting special Christmas treat. For a less extravagant option try the lovely Old Vine which also boasts family rooms.
More options for places to stay in Winchester can be seen below:
Chosen by Emma, Bavarian Sojourn
Christmas in Edinburgh
Edinburgh is most famous for its annual Hogmany celebrations at New Year but it’s also a fun place for a Christmas break. In fact, Scotland’s capital celebrates the festive period with six weeks of entertainment in the heart of the city centre.
Starting in mid-November and running until early January are festive shows, rides, concerts and more. The Christmas Market is held in East Princess Street Gardens alongside a festive fairground and a children’s market full of gifts and toys. Visit Santa’s Grotto and meet the man himself.
Don’t miss panoramic views of the festive celebrations from the top of the Big Wheel or the chance to ice skate at St Andrew Square.
The Castle of Light takes place at Edinburgh Castle and Edinburgh Zoo hots its colourful Christmas Nights event from the middle of November through to January 2. The Botanics hosts a number of Christmas events and there are plenty of seasonal shows too; this year there’s the Snow Queen at the Royal Lyceum, Hansel and Gretel at the Brunton Theatre and the Kings Panto is performing Sleeping Beauty.
All in all there are lots of ways to celebrate the most wonderful time of the year in Edinburgh!
For ideas on where to stay in Edinburgh, from holiday cottages to hotels, see below:
Christmas in Northumberland
Northumberland is a magical destination to visit for a Christmas getaway, especially if you are looking for something a little less commercialised and with plenty of space.
You can take a Winter stroll through Kielder Forest (you might even spot reindeer if you are lucky), join a Christmas Eve Carol Concert in the Great Hall at Matfen Hall, explore the Winter Playground at Alnwick Garden or enjoy drinks by a roaring fire in one of the regions many country pubs.
I have three accommodation recommendations for a Christmas break in Northumberland. The first is the cosy cottage, Craster Reach Cottage in the sleepy village of Craster managed by Sykes Cottages. High Hemmel Cottage is another Skyes Cottage property and comes a hot tub (hot tubs are always a good idea!).
If you’re looking for a luxury Christmas break then Matfen Hall, a luxury four-star resort. Maften Hall also offers Christmas packages that look lovely.
For more ideas on where to stay, take a look at the below options:
Chosen by Sam, NorthEast Family Fun
Christmas in Bath
Bath is one of those cities that is special no matter what time of year you visit but at Christmas time it really is truly magical. The streets come to life and sparkle with festivities.
Bath is already extremely famous for the Roman Baths and its Christmas markets, which run from the end of November to mid December. But as well as these, the city also offers families plenty more things to do over the festive period, from the beautiful Victorian carousel and the traditional pantomime at the Theatre Royal Bath to carols by candlelight and the outdoor ice rink, Bath on Ice.
If you are looking for somewhere family friendly to stay in Bath to celebrate the big day then we can highly recommend Hoseasons Bath Mill Retreat. The Hoseasons is located a short drive away from the park and ride that takes families into the city centre and offers a range of family-friendly lodges.
In Bath itself, Bailbrook House Hotel is a luxury hotel housed in a Grade II listed building. They offer two and three night stays over Christmas including a traditional Christmas dinner and the option to stay for Boxing Day.
For more accommodation ideas in Bath, take a look at the options below:
Chosen by Anna, Twins and Travels
Christmas in the Peak District
Rolling hills dusted with snow, and old pubs serving real ale in front of a roaring fire decorated with holly. This is the England I love, the place we call home, and there’s no better place to spend a Christmas break in England than in the Peak District.
Wrapped up in scarfs and woolly hats, we love nothing better than a family walk in the Peak District with kids. Our favourites are the Nine Ladies Circle through Stanton Moor Peak, or the walk starting next to The Robin Hood pub in Baslow, with spectacular views from Birchen Edge.
At this time of year, there’s a good chance of snow on the hill tops, and if you’re very lucky, there may be some sledging opportunities! If you’re hoping for a white Christmas then take a look at the Peak District.
The best thing to do after a long winter walk is to warm up in front of a fire at one of the many old and characterful pubs with your favourite tipple and some home cooked mince pies. And make sure you head to Chatsworth House for their beautiful Christmas displays.
Lots of pubs offer accommodation, or there’s a range of B&Bs across the National Park. But a better way over the Christmas season is to get the extended family together and rent a farm cottage with self catering facilities and a home from home. Sykes cottages is a good place to look.
For more accommodation options in the Peak District, take a look at the options below:
Chosen by Jenny, Travelynn Family
Christmas in Newquay
For a Christmas break by the sea, head to Newquay in Cornwall. Not only will you be able to enjoy plenty of wintery walks along the coast, you can even take a Christmas Day dip in the ocean! But if cold water swimming is not your thing, don’t worry, the town puts on a host of Christmas events. Plus, it really is one of the prettiest places to escape to in the UK.
The town hold an annual three-day Christmas celebration, usually at the start of December, with live music, a lantern parade and Santa’s grotto. This is also when the Newquay Christmas lights are turned on. If you visit mid-December then you can see Santa at Newquay Zoo on the 14th and 15th of December and then win prizes on the candy cane trail.
While you’re in Newquay, it’s well worth exploring more of Cornwall at Christmas. The village of Mousehole is home to the best Christmas lights display in Cornwall, with some 7,000 of them illuminating the harbour. The Eden Project is introducing an after-dark Festival of Christmas this year with choir concerts, mulled wine, an ice rink, Christmas jumper swap shop and more. Cornwall also boasts plenty of local Christmas markets to visit including those at Fowey and Padstow.
Just outside of Newquay is Watergate Bay, a truly lovely hotel overlooking a two-mile-long golden beach and views over the Atlantic. The hotel has family rooms and are offering a four night tinsel break that includes carols around the bonfire.
The Headland, an enormous Victorian stately home that featured in the film of Roald Dahl’s The Witches, is also a great family hotel. For Christmas the hotel is festooned with fairy lights and real spruce trees. Enjoy excellent food (including Christmas lunch), cosy cottages, entertainment and Fistral beach on your doorstep.
For more ideas on where to stay in Cornwall at Christmas, take a look at the options below:
Christmas in the Lake District
For festive scenes like those usually found on Christmas cards head to the Lake District for the holidays. If Christmas surrounded by snow dusted mountains and frosty forests sounds like your kind of place then here are some of the best places to spend Christmas in the Lake District.
Grasmere, named after Lake Grasmere, is a pretty Cumbrian village. This is where William Wordsworth once lived and where England’s most famous gingerbread shop can be found. It’s been in business since 1854!
Keswick is the most northerly major town in the Lake District and is where Beatrix Potter used to holiday. It’s a pretty market town well located for exploring the neighbouring valleys of Borrowdale and Buttermere. Keswick is gives you access to Catbells, a popular mini-mountain with hikers.
The pretty town of Ambleside sits between two fells meaning visitors have lots of opportunities for forest and hill walks. The town has pubs aplenty plus lots of book and gift shops, perfect for Christmas shopping. During the run up to the holidays, Ambleside hosts its annual Christmas lights and fireworks display. Bridge House is well worth a visit and you should make the walk to discover Stock Ghyll Force, the 70ft waterfall.
Hawkshead is a delightful town to explore, in part because the cobbled lanes are a car free zone. Expect a warm welcome from the many inns and restaurants. Hawkshead is where Wordsworth went to grammar school and where Beatrix Potter would visit during the summer, you can see a selection of her original drawings and illustrations in the Beatrix Potter Gallery. An annual Christmas fair is typically held in early December.
Some family-friendly hotel options in the Lake District include the Yan at Broadrayne near Grasmere. They have rooms that sleep four, as well as pet-friendly rooms, and offer Christmas and New Year packages.
The Wild Boar is about 20 minutes drive from Ambleside and sits on the quieter edge of the National Park. As well as individually styled bedrooms the hotel has an on-site micro-brewery and smokehouse. The Kings Arms Hotel in Ambleside has cottages that would be perfect for Christmas.
For more ideas on where to stay in the Lake District, see these options below:
2 thoughts on “10 ideas for fun family Christmas breaks in the UK 2021”
We are French but we live near Winchester and yes, the Xmas Market is very pretty!
It sounds so festive, I do love a Christmas market!
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