Where to Spend Christmas in the UK?

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Reem Mohamed

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13 December, 2023

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6 mins read

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To many, the holidays are the best time of the year! It’s the time of year when you enjoy yourself, spend your days with loved ones, and indulge in all the holiday treats and rituals. Getting comfy in your cosy socks, hot chocolate in hand with your favourite movie playing in the background, Christmas truly is the happiest season! 

As an international student, sometimes you find it hard to fly home for Christmas, or the holidays in general. Which, on a student budget and with a student schedule, is understandable. However, you should not let that tiny mishap steal your Christmas joy! 

In an effort to share the holiday spirit with you, we want to make sure you do not spend Christmas alone or in any subpar mood! So, we’re coming to you with this list of places to spend Christmas in the UK as an international student who’s finding it hard to fly home this year, let’s dive in!

Where to Spend Christmas in the UK?

‘Tis the season to be jolly, and we’re here to make sure of it! So, you couldn’t secure a ticket home and are stuck in the UK for the holidays? Well, you’re in luck! The country has no shortage of places for you to feel the magic of Christmas and enjoy this holiday season to the fullest. Here are some of the best places to spend Christmas in the UK!


Christmas in Edinburgh starts early; from November and all the way through January, the city is dressed up in its best Christmas clothes! If you’re staying in the UK over the holidays and you’re somewhere close to Edinburgh or can afford a trip there, then you should definitely go! There is so much for you to do in Edinburgh during the season, from fairs and rides to markets and events, no shortage of fun detected! 

Nothing says Christmas spirit more than an Edinburgh Christmas! You can go ice skating, walk through the enormous Christmas market in Prince Street Gardens, enjoy the Christmas Tree Maza, and walk around Scott Monument which is packed with fun fair rides, carnival games, and comfort food vendors. If you have time and can stay in the city until New Year’s Eve, you can catch Hogmanay in Edinburgh, which is one of the biggest celebrations in the UK!

Christmas in the UK


This is the UK city where history and Christmas spirit merge beautifully creating a picturesque holiday scene! Like most UK cities around Christmas time, Bath is also known for its unique Christmas market and all the handmade goods it has to offer and the delicious food sold there! Another one-of-a-kind Bath Christmas feature is the Christmas Tree Carol Trail, where you can try to spot the 10 trees, each decorated in a unique musical theme.

The city’s Roman Baths are dawned with Christmas decorations, which makes for a lovely holiday picture. There’s also an ice rink and glow-in-the-dark mini golf in Royal Victoria Park, an annual pantomime at the Theatre Royal, and plenty of other holiday festivities to keep you entertained. 


This city literally comes alive with the Christmas spirit! York is widely known for its Christmas markets, Christmas fairs, and overall jolly Christmas festivities! You can start your festive journey in York at St Helen's Square, where the city’s towering Christmas tree resides, then make your way towards St Sampson’s Square and Parliament Street where the famous market stalls of the city’s renowned St Nicholas Fair await you! 

With one of the best Christmas markets in the UK, a festive spirit to rival all else, and Christmas decorations straight out of a fairytale or a storybook, York is definitely one of the best places to spend Christmas in the UK, even for just a day trip!


We talk a lot about Christmas markets and how every city has its own unique one. Birmingham, however, takes the cake for the UK city with the best Christmas markets! When thinking about Birmingham, you wouldn’t really expect a festive, cheery, or holiday-friendly city, and we’re here to prove you wrong! If you’re in or near Birmingham during Christmas, we definitely recommend you spend the holidays there, and here is why!

Outside of Germany and Austria, Birmingham hosts the largest authentic German Christmas market, which attracts over five million visitors and consists of the Birmingham Frankfurt Christmas Market and the Craft Market. The market is a great place to stock up on gifts and Christmas decorations, go ice skating, and enjoy festive holiday drinks, performances, rides, and games! 


The English capital gets a place on our list as a great place to spend Christmas in the UK! London absolutely shines during Christmas; markets, lights, decorations, events, ice skating, and festive spirits set the city afire during the holiday season. London is one the best spots in the UK to do your Christmas shopping, with a diverse Christmas shopping scene and some great holiday markets.

Christmas in London is stunning with decorations and lights adorning the city’s streets, squares, and parks. If you are studying in London and can’t go home for the holidays, spending your Christmas in the city is not the worst thing! You can attend the city’s famous Winter Wonderland festival, take a walk through Covent Garden at Christmas, and watch the city in all its Christmas glory.


Christmas in Leeds starts off with the Leeds Lights Switch on, which lights up the sparkling 100ft Leeds Wheel of Light in preparation for the festivities. Christmas markets, Santa's grotto, and spectacular performances from the Northern Ballet and Opera North are all part of the Christmas celebrations in Leeds, which is a marvel during the holiday season! 

Being one of the UK’s largest shopping destinations, Christmas shopping in Leeds hits different! You get to shop in the city’s historic arcades and shopping centres while being totally immersed in the Christmas spirit. Leeds is an often overlooked place to spend Christmas in the UK, but if you’re studying there or anywhere nearby, be sure to drop by this gorgeous city and reap all those holiday discounts! 


Much like the English and Scottish capitals, the Welsh capital has also earned itself a spot on the list of the best holiday destinations in the UK! There is nothing better than a traditional Welsh Christmas, which you can easily experience in Cardiff at the St Fagans National Museum of History or Cardiff Castle, which is home to a Santa's grotto and several Christmas parties.

Cardiff Bay is a sight to behold during Christmas time with fairy lights reflecting off of it, making it shine for the holidays. You can enjoy Christmas performances, ballets, and plays while in the city during the holiday season. Cardiff also has its fair share of Christmas markets, festivals, and decorations, and is all geared up with the holiday cheer! 


Nottingham’s annual Winter Wonderland extravaganza at the Old Market Square in the city centre is what makes it shine as a great place to spend Christmas in the UK! This event attracts millions of visitors every year, is the biggest Christmas market in the East Midlands with over 70 stalls, and it features everything from an ice rink to an observation wheel, bars, live entertainment, a Christmas market, and food and drink. 

The rest of the city also hosts smaller Christmas markets, and is all adorned with Christmas decorations and lights. If your university happens to be somewhere in or near Nottingham, then it will do you good to spend the holidays there, especially if you won’t be able to fly home. 


Glasgow comes alive during Christmas! The Scottish city goes all out for Christmas and brings all the festive cheer to its people. If you’re feeling lonely during the holidays, a trip to Glasgow is set to make you feel a whole lot better! The city is known for its Christmas fairs that take over Glasgow’s main squares and offer visitors a variety of food, drinks, games, rides, and entertainment.

The city is filled with small Christmas markets, decorations, ice skating rinks, workshops, performances, comedy shows, and other events throughout Glasgow all season. The city is a great place to buy pretty unique and quirky Christmas gifts that you won’t find anywhere else! Glasgow truly is magical around the holidays, and you should definitely experience that!


We’ve you the best for last! Often referred to as the ‘UK Capital of Christmas’, Manchester is one of the top Christmas destinations in the UK. An Ice Village, a giant Santa Clause, and the Winter Funland at Trafford City can all be found in the festive city of Manchester, which begins its holiday celebrations in November and continues until the New Year. 

The Christmas markets in Manchester are some of the best in the UK, providing visitors with everything they need to amp up their Christmas spirit, from food, drinks, and mulled wine to gits, decorations, lights, and all the Christmasy knickknacks that make the holiday season worth it. The Winter Gardens at Piccadilly Gardens has its own festive events, live performances, and tasty delicacies! Needless to say that if you’re anywhere near Manchester this holiday season, you have to stop by!

Christmas time is meant to be enjoyed to the fullest, and we’re on a mission to make sure that it is! So, do not let your failed trip home this holiday season stop you from getting into the Christmas spirit and reaping the joys of the season! If you’re staying in the UK this Christmas, use this as your guide and galavant your way through all the Christmasy UK cities; make the best of your season! 


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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the most Christmasy place in the UK?

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Birmingham, York, London, Glasgow, Leeds, Winchester, Bath, Belfast, Liverpool, Edinburgh, and more make the list of the most Christmasy places in the UK for you to spend your holidays at!

What to do in the UK for Christmas?

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There are many things to get up to in the UK during Christmas, including visiting Christmas markets, ice skating, attending plays and performances, going on a Christmas getaway, and getting your fair share of Christmas shopping done. Some events you can attend in the UK during Christmas include Christmas at the Royal Albert Hall, Country Living Christmas Fairs, The Nutcracker at the Royal Opera House, and Festive afternoon tea at Easthampstead Park.