12 (Fairly) Festive Things To Do Near London: December 2023

Looks like this article is a bit old. Be aware that information may have changed since it was published.

12 (Fairly) Festive Things To Do Near London: December 2023
It's A Narnia Christmas in Kent. Photo: Leeds Castle

London has some fantastic things to do at Christmas, but as these festive events show, it's worth leaving the capital sometimes too. Browse our Beyond London section for ideas for other day trips and weekends away.

LIGHT TRAILS: Forests, palaces, gardens and castles close to London are holding their own light trail and illumination festivals this winter, including Kew Gardens' sister property, Wakeshurst in Sussex. This is our pick of winter light trails in south east England — in addition to the light festivals in London.

CHRISTMAS TREE FARMS: Fancy picking your own Christmas tree this year? Whether that means doing the hard work of digging it out from the ground yourself, or simply selecting picking it up, ready-cut from the place where it grew, get yourself to one of these Christmas tree farms close to London.

ROCHESTER DICKENSIAN CHRISTMAS FESTIVAL: Rochester has a wealth of Dickensian fare all year round, but it really plays up to the author's local heritage at the annual Victorian Dickensian Christmas fair. Some people get into costume for the event, but it's not mandatory. Along with the many stalls in the streets and special events taking place inside the local shops, street entertainers amuse the crowds, while a candlelit parade and open air carol concert also take place in the olde worlde town. 2-3 December (Kent)

RETRO FOOTBALL SHOW: And now for a break in our scheduled festive programming, to bring you the Essex Retro Football Show. Head to the Loughton Club to browse and buy all manner of football memorabilia including programmes, stickers, cards, books, magazines, badges, shirts and Subbuteo. 10 December (Essex)

WINCHESTER CHRISTMAS MARKET: London has an absolute abundance of its own Christmas markets, but if you want to get out of the capital for your festive retail therapy, we suggest hopping on a train to Winchester. The Christmas market is set in the grounds of the Cathedral, making for a beautiful backdrop, with all manner of gifts, decorations, food and drink sold from the traditional wooden chalets. It does get busy, so we suggest going on a weekday if you don't want to be shuffling through the crowds elbow to elbow. Until 21 December (Hampshire)

BURNING THE CLOCKS: Brighton marks the shortest day of the year with Burning the Clocks, which brings local people together to parade lanterns through the city before burning them all on a beach bonfire, to mark the end of the year. Up to 20,000 people turn up to watch. Browse other things to do in Brighton, and remember that the beautiful Royal Pavilion ice rink is open throughout December too. 21 December (East Sussex)

CHRISTMAS AT AUDLEY END: The Audley End Miniature Railway goes all out for Christmas, with a ride on the Polar Express to visit Santa's workshop. Meet elves, reindeer keepers, forest fairies and Mother Christmas — and Santa himself might even come to see you on the train. Until 24 December (Essex)

TULLEY'S CHRISTMAS EXPERIENCE: After going all out for Halloween, Tulley's Farm has a complete transformation for Christmas with loads of activities including ice skating, gingerbread decorating, a Christmas circus, a 3D cinema, an elves' magical forest and storytime with Father Christmas. Exhausted just thinking about it to be honest. Until 24 December (West Sussex)

NARNIA CHRISTMAS: Step into a storybook at Kent's Leeds Castle, which hosts A Narnia Christmas, bringing The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe to life. Visit snowy woodlands inside the castle, sit on the White Witch's sleigh, and meet characters as you go. Until 1 January

ALICE IN WONDERLAND: From one classic story to another, Painshill Park on the London-Surrey border has an Alice in Wonderland trail — ideal if you want to get the family outdoors and away from the festive madness for a while. Follow a trail around the picturesque parkland looking out for some familiar Lewis Carroll characters as you go. Until 7 January

READING WINTER WONDERLAND: Described as a 'smaller version of Winter Wonderland in London', Reading Winter Wonderland offers fairground rides, a covered ice rink, Santa's grotto, food and drink stalls and the like. It's a good excuse to ride the Elizabeth line too. Until 7 January (Berkshire)

HOGWARTS IN THE SNOW: The Warner Bros Studio Tour pulls out the stops at Christmas; the Great Hall set is transformed for the Great Yule Ball, and the fake snow used in the films blankets the model of Hogwarts and its grounds. Those more interested in the filmmaking side of things can learn about the different types of fake snow used, depending on the effect required. You can warm up with a butter beer afterwards. Until 14 January 2024 (Hertfordshire)

Last Updated 04 December 2023