The 5 Best UK Cities To Visit At Christmas With Kids

Wondering where to go this Christmas with the kids to really help you get into the festive spirit? If you can’t stretch to the ultimate Christmas experience of visiting Santa in Lapland, you’ll be pleased to know there is so much on offer in the UK.

From Christmas markets to Christmas lights and Santa’s Grottos, a Christmas city break in the UK offers a wealth of Christmas activites for families.

With 2020 being the year of the virtual Christmas, we’re really hoping that Christmas 2021 will see things open up again so that we can enjoy some of these fabulous Christmas things to do with our loved ones. But with so many top cities in the UK, which are the best UK cities to visit at Christmas with kids?

It feels like 2021 will be the year of staycations in the UK, but if you’re visiting the UK from abroad, you can check out any visa requirements you might need for visiting the UK at Byevisa.

If you are planning  more than just a weekend break at Christmas, you might want to also check out these Christmas breaks in the UK for families.

Covent Garden at Christmas.

Covent Garden at Christmas

Which are the best UK cities to visit at Christmas with kids?

It really is hard to narrow the choice down to the best UK cities to visit at Christmas with kids. There are more and more UK cities with Christmas markets these days so if that is your thing, make sure to check out these best UK Christmas markets.

If you’re looking for outdoor Christmas activities for families, then we have a complete guide to the Christmas light trails in the UK. It’s one of our favourite Christmassy things to do.

Maybe a Christmas Panto is more your thing? Rest assured, each of these top UK cities has something for everyone.

We have picked 5 of our favourite UK cities to visit at Christmas with kids as they all offer so many family-friendly things to do at Christmas. They truly stand out as the best Christmas cities in the UK.

Tower Bridge at Christmas.

Tower Bridge at Christmas

London

As you would probably expect from the UK’s capital city, London is the best Christmas holiday destination in the UK. It is also one of the best Christmas cities in Europe.

There are so many amazing things to do at Christmas in London with kids. There is usually something new and different every year as well as all of the traditional Christmas things to do with kids. Make sure to check out some of these hidden gems if you want to get away from the crowds.

One of our favourite things to do at Christmastime in London is to take the kids ice skating. Some of these London ice rinks have the most amazing backdrops like the Natural History Museum or the Tower of London. If you visit the latter, warm up afterwards with a hot chocolate at the Coppa Club – one of London’s best igloo restaurants.

Winter Wonderland in London’s Hyde Park is one of the best Christmas markets in Europe. Don’t miss the other London Christmas markets while you are wandering around seeing the sights. You’re bound to see some of the spectacular London Christmas lights on your travels too.

We’re not forgetting the Harry Potter fans visiting London.  Warner Bros Studios transforms at Christmas into Hogwarts in the Snow. It’s a truly magical experience.

Break up your days with lunch and dinner at one of these child-friendly restaurants (including kids eat free options) or treat yourselves to a Great British afternoon tea. Some of them are even Christmas themed.

Christmas in London with kids

Christmas lights on London’s Regent Street

Edinburgh

The Scottish capital city, Edinburgh, is one of the most beautiful cities in the UK. Wander the cobbled streets of the Old Town including the famous Royal Mile and the beautiful Victoria Street. Soak in the Christmassy vibes over the Christmas period. Edinburgh is simply magical and up there with the best European cities for Christmas.

Edinburgh’s Winter Festival puts on a great show over Christmas with the star of the show being the Edinburgh Christmas markets which are a huge draw for so many people. The Christmas stalls and fairground rides sit nestled below the beautiful Edinburgh Castle and it is a truly spectacular sight at night when it is all lit up.

There is usually a six week programme of events on the run up to and over the Christmas period, much like the famous Edinburgh Festival with a variety of Christmas themed shows.

Get away from Edinburgh city centre to the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh’s New Town where you’ll find a beautiful Christmas light trail or enjoy Christmas Nights at Edinburgh Zoo where you might have a chance of seeing Santa.

Edinburgh really is a fantastic UK Christmas destination but it gets even better at Hogmanay (New Year). Stick around if you have the time. It’s the biggest celebration of the year in Scotland.

With so much going on, you can check here what’s on in Edinburgh over Christmas and New Year.

Fireworks over Edinburgh Castle.

Fireworks over Edinburgh Castle

Manchester

Manchester is one of the best cities for Christmas markets in the UK. It has the largest Christmas market in the UK which is spread over several markets around the city. The largest of them is located in Albert Square next to the Town Hall. Make sure to climb the steps of the tower (all 173 of them) for the best views of the market.

The Manchester Christmas lights include a giant Santa as well as other light sculptures around the city centre. Take a walking trail to spot them all.

Other Christmassy things to do in Manchester city centre include the Ice Village where you may want to pay a visit to the Santa’s Grotto or the in-store Christmas events at Selfridges department store as well as the UK’s largest indoor fairground, Winter Funland.

Just a little way out of the city centre you will find Lightopia at Heaton Park. A little further still but just as worthwhile are the Lanterns at Chester Zoo and the Christmas light trail at Dunham Massey. For steam train enthusiasts there is the Santa Train ride on the East Lancashire Railway.

Manchester Christmas markets.

Manchester Christmas markets

Birmingham

Birmingham is home to the largest authentic German market outside of Germany and if that’s not a reason to visit Birmingham at Christmas, what is? You can browse the multitude of Christmas stalls selling everything from handmade Christmas trinkets and decorations to Gluhwein and Bratwurst.

If you are visiting the market with kids, there are also fairground rides and an ice rink. To take the winter theme one step further, head to the Tamworth Snowdome where little ones will enjoy a true winter wonderland. There’s a Christmas snow trail, Christmas village and a Santa show.

If you’re a fan of the Polar Express movie, you need to check out the Birmingham Polar Express train ride which aims to recreate the magic of the movie on a steam train.

An hour’s drive from Birmingham (but well worth the drive) you will find Blenheim Palace. The Blenheim Palace Christmas light show is truly spectacular (like Christmas at Kew).

Birmingham at Christmas.

Birmingham at Christmas

York

York is one of the prettiest cities in the UK with York Minster at its heart. It is one of the best UK cities to visit at Christmas and has been named the UK’s most festive city. It’s also very easy to visit on a day trip from London by train.

There is a distinct medieval charm to York at Christmas with York Cathedral, the largest of its kind in northern Europe, dominating the skyline. Head down the historic, narrow lanes and enjoy the shop windows with their Christmas displays and twinkling lights.

Just a stone’s throw from the cathedral is where you will find the York Christmas market. Thor’s Tipi at the end of Parliament Street is the place to go to rest your weary legs after a day wandering around York. Grab a mulled wine and enjoy the festive atmosphere. The Yuletide Village in the Shambles Market is also worth popping into to see some beautiful local arts and crafts.

If you still have more energy left, head to Yorkshire Winter Wonderland which is home to the largest outdoor ice rink in the north east. To experience a bit of Christmas past, visit York Castle Museum and wander around Kirkgate, their beautiful recreation of a Victorian street. There is usually a performance of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and an opportunity to visit Santa.

Heading out of York city centre you will find the elegant Castle Howard and its Illuminated Trail.

These are our recommendations for the best places to visit in the UK at Christmas. Do you have any you would like to add?

Other highly rated places to spend Christmas in the UK

  • Oxford
  • Nottingham
  • Bath
  • Cardiff
  • Leeds

The 5 Best UK Cities to Visit at Christmas with Kids.

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