Autumn is on the wane and the festive season dances ever closer, bringing with it the promise of sparkle and joy. While there is a reassuring certainty in its inevitable arrival, no one experiences this time of year in quite the same way. 

For some, the season wouldn’t be complete without a visit to a Christmas market while others seek contentment in the beauty of a winter’s walk or revive themselves with a bracing dip in the sea. There are those who find the festive feeling among light trails, at concerts or in the deep satisfaction of creating a bespoke gift for those they love and cherish. And because no two people experience this time of year in exactly the same way, this blog winds its way through four different ideas to help you find your festive feeling, each offered with a view to ensuring that everyone can enjoy the season in a way that brings them joy.

For Christmas Market Aficionados

A small child between two young women in traditional Norwegian costume at the Norsk Folkemuseum's Christmas fair

This year sees the return of Christmas markets to London, Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham as well as to the smaller cities of Exeter and Bath. Over on the European mainland, travellers can call into any of the well-known festive markets in Cologne, Brussels, Bruges, Vienna, and Lille, but for something different to get you in the festive spirit we’ve pulled together the following festive events  for you to explore:

  1. The Christmas fair at Oslo’s Norsk Folkemuseum. While the city’s main festivities happen at the Winter Wonderland Christmas Market on Karl Johan Street, this smaller market — which takes place during the first two weekends of December — offers visitors the chance to experience a Norwegian Christmas through the ages and comes complete with craft, food stalls and even music and folk dancing sessions.

  2. Keeping with the quirky theme, the highlight of Salzburg’s venerable Christmas market is the Krampus run, a feat which sees the mythical horned creature — renowned in Austrian folklore for scaring poorly behaved children — race through the streets of the city’s famous Old Town during the evening of St. Nicholas’s Day on 5th December.  

  3. Finally, if you just want to get a leg up on your Christmas gifts without all of the crowds, the Virtual Cumbrian Christmas Market could be right up your street. From local produce and gifts to activities, dining experiences and breaks, this market lets you gift the best of Cumbria this season — all without leaving the comfort of your home. 

For Fresh Air Fiends

Lights and illuminations at Christmas Tree Wonderland, Lower Gardens, Bournemouth

The crowds and buzz of a Christmas market don’t necessarily appeal to everyone; indeed, for some the only way to truly feel the season is to get out and about in the great outdoors. If you’re this way inclined, the below options give you all the fresh air you need to feel your festive best:

  1. Follow a light trail. From Cornwall, Devon and Dorset and onward to Bath, Windsor and beyond — including London’s Kew Gardens, Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Gardens, Cardiff’s Bute Park and Northern Ireland’s Hillsborough Castle — illuminated trails are just the thing for setting a slightly quieter festive tone.  

  2. Go on a winter walk. Whether you pick and choose a destination renowned for its paths and scenery — think Hadrian’s Wall Path or the Pennine Way national trails in Cumbria, any of the North Norfolk Coast’s seaside paths, the Wolds Way of East Yorkshire or just a shorter route near to where you live, there is nothing like a wintery walk to clear your head.

  3. With walking in mind, head to Brighton on the shortest day of the year to take part in the Burning the Clocks festival. This offbeat occasion encourages participants to reflect on the imminent turning of the year by joining a lantern parade through the city and down onto the seafront, where participants cast their lamps onto a huge bonfire. If you’re game, stay on in the city just a few days longer to take part in its famous Christmas swim. And speaking of, Brighton isn’t the only place to take a Christmas dip in the sea. If a bracing, briny jolt is what it truly takes to get you in the festive mood (we won’t judge), Bournemouth, Weymouth, Bude, Hunstanton and many, many other places around the country all play host to their very own Christmas or Boxing Day swims.

For Culture Buffs

The interior of Norfolk's Holkham Hall, decorated for Christmas

If the thought of the great outdoors leaves you feeling cold — if Christmas just isn’t Christmas unless there’s a little culture involved — then these slightly more refined options might be more your thing:

  1. Visit a stately home. Whether you opt for Liverpool’s Sudeley House, Norfolk’s Holkham Hall or Devon’s Saltram House — or any of the many other grand residences or estates around the country — a visit to a beautifully decorated stately home brings a dash of elegance, art and history to any festive agenda.

  2. Consider a Christmas concert. Likewise, those musically inclined can completely unwind to the strains of Schubert at Southport’s Cake & Classical Music event, which happens on the first Monday of every month and — during this festive season — falls on 4th December. But if you want a bit more bounce, consider the City of Hull’s Brass Band Concert, which takes place on 26th November, or the Pan Nation Steel Orchestra’s Christmas Concert on 9th December. And of course — just like North Norfolk’s Felbrigg Hall — almost every destination will have its very own carol concert, so be sure to check your local listings. 

  3. Make for a museum for a magical festive experience. For those after something a bit more quirky, the Ulster Folk Museum in Northern Ireland’s County Down offers an authentic Ulster Christmas experience — complete with an on-site pub, Christmas cake and Father Christmas — while Belfast’s C.S. Lewis Festival offers a very Narnia take on the festive feel.  

For Creative Crafters and Thoughtful Givers

A Christmas wreath and wreath making materials on a wooden table

For many, there’s no better way to feel the spirit of the season than through the act of thoughtful giving and the below options offer a creative outlet for your generosity:

  1. Wreath making workshops are a popular seasonal activity and this year, many destinations — including Bath and Liverpool — are hosting sessions. For something different, we head back to the Ulster Folk Museum for a zero-waste approach to crafting with a rag wreath-making workshop.

  2. Not a wreath person? In Greenwich, you can paint your own piece of pottery, but for something that lights up the dark winter nights, there are also lantern-making workshops across the country — from Reading and Rotherhithe and beyond — with Poole offering an intriguing macrame option.  

  3. Consider Bath and North East Somerset’s Share & Repair service.  Whether you’re looking to pass on an old and much-loved toy or vintage piece clothing, this local service runs repair cafes through the month of December and beyond, enabling you to take a thoughtful and sustainable approach to giving the whole year round.    

  4. But if you just want to treat yourself, then visitors to Richmond upon Thames can try their luck by opening a door of VisitRichmond’s Advent Calendar. Just a click offers a chance to win a host of goodies from local businesses, attractions and hotels in this leafy part of London.

A spark on the horizon that grows brighter and closer day by day, the festive season is fast approaching. With this range of options and activities to choose from — from markets and trails to crafts and ideas for thoughtful gifting — there’s something to bring joy to everyone this time of year, whoever you are, whatever you like.