The UK’s best Christmas days out – from European-style markets to pop-up ice rinks

With Christmas Day just around the corner, ‘tis the season to make some magical memories with loved ones. Luckily for us, there’s a whole host of festive fun to be had out there across the length and breadth of the country.

From story time in a castle with Santa to Harry Potter’s studio tour to a festival of lights show to some European-style Christmas markets, there’s plenty of ways to embrace the festive cheer no matter your age or party size.

So, what are you waiting for? Wrap up warm and embark on a Christmas to remember with these festive days out…

Warwick Castle

Warwick Castle has transformed its grounds into a winter wonderland for its annual Christmas at the Castle event. Visitors during the day can admire the opulent traditional decorations festooning the Great Hall and State Rooms, as well as tuck into bratwurst, noodles or fish and chips from the Festive Food and Drink Village.

However, the fun really starts after it gets dark as the castle reopens in the evenings with a jam-packed itinerary.

We started off by toasting marshmallows over an open fire as Christmas tunes pumped and skaters glided around the large open-air ice rink in the shadow of Guy’s Tower. Younger guests can hire a penguin skate aid so they can join in the fun – older, less-confident skaters have to take their chances or stay rinkside with a hot chocolate or mulled wine.

Next we set off to follow an enchanting Light Trail that makes a 1.6-mile loop around the extensive gardens, which is tied into a charming tale about the importance of sharing, written by local author Sam Langley-Swain.

Children can spot the main character, a greedy prince who steals all the gifts for himself, along the trail then enjoy reading about him in an accompanying book. A mesmerising laser and projection display lights up the castle wall and we gasped with delight at the “dancing” globes that illuminate in time to music.

In the main courtyard, a 25-metre-tall light tree shimmered into the darkness. Stepping inside the castle itself, a special adventure was waiting, with children loving the chance to join together to help Santa’s elves fix his sleigh. They then listened to a story from Father and Mrs Christmas and were thrilled with a present to

thank them for their help. Reluctant to end the magic, we made a weekend of it by staying over in the Knight’s Village – Warwick Castle’s on-site cabins – where the next morning elves appeared again to wake us up for breakfast.

There was just time for another story with Santa – the big man is certainly kept busy! – before checking out and heading back to the castle to visit the daytime attraction Zog Playland and Winter Birds of Prey display.

How to book

Christmas at the Castle runs on various dates until 7 January. Stories With Santa runs until 24 December. Ice-skating from £11pp, light trail from £16.50pp, and castle entry and Stories With Santa is £38pp. Visit for details.

Hogwarts In The Snow, Warner Bros. Studio Tour London

Warner Bros. Studio tour London becomes even more magical at Christmas, with the stunning Hogwarts In The Snow exhibition.

Visit real sets from the iconic Harry Potter series and experience Christmas at Hogwarts. Walk through the Great Hall, which glitters with gold decorations from Harry Potter and The Philosophers Stone and visit the Forbidden Forest and Hagrid’s Hut. The giant model of Hogwarts Castle has also been dusted with filmmakers snow, and miniature snowmen have been hidden in the grounds for visitors to spot.

As part of the tour, you’ll learn secrets from the film sets, and get up close to real props, costumes and animatronics from all eight Harry Potter films.

If you really feel like splashing out over the festive period then limited places are available for Dinner in the Great Hall – a festive two-course meal eaten at the Hogwarts house tables with an exclusive after-hours tour.

How to book

Hogwarts In The Snow runs until 14 January 2024. Tickets are available at

Christmas Markets, various locations

Whether you’re shopping for unique gifts or just soaking up the festive atmosphere with a glass of mulled wine, a visit to a Christmas market is always fun. From the end of November, some of UK’s most historic towns and cities play host to European-style markets.

Winchester Cathedral Christmas Market is one of the most famous in Europe, with hand-picked stallholders offering unique gift ideas. It’s set in the grounds of the 1,000-year-old Cathedral and a programme of seasonal services and carol concerts run throughout December with everyone welcome.

Wasteless Wonderland in Oxford is a new market for 2023 and is all about sustainability. This unique event is the place to find good-for- the-planet presents, gift-making workshops, craft stations and live music. There’s also a Charity Super.Mkt pop-up store selling second-hand fashion while raising money for a number of good causes.

Birmingham’s Frankfurt Market has over 180 stalls selling traditional German food, drink and handmade gifts – plus there’s live music in Victoria Square.

How to book

You can find Christmas markets all over the UK, including Rochester in Kent, Edinburgh, Norwich, York, Manchester, Belfast and on London’s Southbank.

Festival of Light at Longleat, Wiltshire

Rediscover the magic of The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe and other treasured stories at Longleat’s annual lantern festival. It features more than 1,500 stunning hand-crafted lights, some over 15m high, which illuminate scenes and characters from some of the nation’s most-loved tales.

Visit the Wizard Of Oz in the Emerald City, see Peter Pan duelling Captain Hook and meet the mighty lion from Narnia, Aslan. You can also visit the real-life king of the jungle in Longleat’s drive-through safari, where a pride of African lions prowl alongside your car as you drive through their paddock.

In addition to the Festival Of Light, Longleat House is hosting a synchronised light and fountain show, which illuminates the stately home in time to festive music.

How to book

The Festival Of Light at Longleat runs until 7 January. Visit for details.

Ice skating, various locations

Nothing says Christmas like wrapping up warm and strapping on a pair of ice skates for a twirl around one the UK’s pop-up ice rinks.

The magical ice rink at Hampton Court Palace is set in the gardens of Henry VIII’s Tudor pile and overlooks the River Thames.

In Cornwall, the Eden Project has a glittering indoor ice rink nestled among its famous tropical bio-domes.

On the south coast, Brighton’s rink at the Royal Pavilion is powered entirely by green energy, making it one of the most environmentally friendly ice rinks in the country.

Meanwhile, the UK’s largest undercover winter ice rink Icescape Tropicana in Weston Super Mare holds family skating, quieter sessions and even disco party nights.

How to book

You can find out more details by going online and visiting the various locations mentioned above.

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