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Twinkling lights, giant Christmas trees, festive markets selling crafts and hot mulled wine - these are just some of the things you can expect to see and do when getting away during the winter holiday season.
With so much going on, it’s a wonderful time of the year to escape with your family and make some memories for life. You may fancy a cosy country break with long winter walks or a seaside adventure the whole family will love - thankfully, there’s something out there for every family and budget.
There are so many exciting UK cities and picturesque villages to explore, so we’ve researched the best UK winter escapes for you. As always our recommendations come from our Mumsnet forums so we know we’re getting a range of destinations that have been sampled by families just like you. We also cross-check these with travel websites to make sure we’re recommending breaks that cater for families.
Here are the 10 best Christmas breaks in the UK.
Where to travel in the UK at Christmas: a roundup
Best overall Christmas break: Adventure at Celtic Manor
Best luxury Christmas break: Spa stay at the Grove
Best budget Christmas break: Weekend in York
Best Christmas break for older children: Sightseeing in London
Best city Christmas break: Magical Edinburgh
1. Best overall Christmas break: Christmas adventure at Celtic Manor Resort
Celtic Manor Resort, Cardiff | Check availability
If you’re looking for festive celebrations combined with fun outdoor activities to keep the whole family happy - and maybe a trip to the spa when Mum and Dad need a rest - Celtic Manor Resort in Cardiff has everything you may need for a Christmas family break.
The five-star family resort sits on a lakefront in Newport and is set on more than 2000 acres of parkland. It boasts a huge range of restaurants, bars and cafes offering different cuisines, with a fuss-free children’s menu so you can try and avoid any meltdowns at mealtimes.
There’s no chance of them getting bored either, with a host of activities on offer, from swimming in the indoor children’s pool and mini golf to treetop adventures for older children, as well as tennis, biking trails, archery and air hockey. The hotel has plenty going on to help you get in the Christmas spirit too - you can order a gingerbread house to be delivered to the room, and book a Santa’s tea party or a festive afternoon tea.
If all this sounds exhausting, there’s also a kids’ club and babysitters on site, so your children can be cared for while you take a much needed rest in the spa, work out in the gym or enjoy a quiet drink in the bar. The hotel also hosts a variety of Christmas parties during the festive period. Be aware though that you have to pay for parking during your stay.
Mumsnet users say
“Two places I have heard good things about but not been to myself are Bluestone (self-catering) and Celtic Manor (hotel). Both have a lot of Christmas activities on-site plus lots of places to visit close by.” cwtchcariad
“Last year instead of loads of presents we took the children to Celtic Manor for a few days just before and were home for Christmas Eve. It was wonderful!” Mumof5x
2. Best luxury Christmas break: Enjoy a family spa break
While holidays with kids are rarely relaxing, Christmas is a great time to escape with your loved ones and enjoy a bit of luxury.
Hotels like The Grove in Chandlers Cross, Hertfordshire, are family friendly and offer treats for the adults too. Children stay free and there's a kids' club on site and a babysitting service (at an extra cost), a playground and woodland and nature trails for exploring. Other activities include swimming, archery and a forest school.
Staying there over Christmas, you can expect carol singers, a chance to meet Santa’s reindeer, Christmas art and crafts, mulled wine and live music. At The Grove, parents can make the most of any child-free time to play golf, go for wintery walks or relax in the pool and sauna or have a treatment in the spa.
Other spa hotels recommended on our Mumsnet forums include Chewton Glen Hotel and Spa, a five-star luxury hotel in New Milton, and Rudding Park in Harrogate, which both offer magical Christmas escapes, action-packed activities for kids and the opportunity to take a bit of child-free time to relax or enjoy a quiet coffee - a treat in itself!
These breaks are luxury though so they come with a high price tag - and the chances are you’ll love it so much, you’ll never want to leave!
Mumsnet users say
“If you really want to spoil yourselves and experience an absolutely amazing spa, then consider Rudding Park, just three miles from Harrogate station.”Ricekrispie22
3. Best budget Christmas break: A festive weekend in York
York | Find a hotel
We all know Christmas is an expensive time of the year, but thankfully you can get away for a few days without breaking the bank. Packed with history and character, York has so much to offer during December that you can easily spend hours just wandering around the pedestrianised city streets taking in the sights and soaking up the atmosphere.
The streets are lit up with twinkling lights and children can enjoy looking at festive window displays in the shops and restaurants, and listening to buskers. York is also well known for its Christmas market where Alpine chalets line the streets offering up stocking fillers and tasty street food and mulled wine to warm you up. If you can stretch your budget, you can watch a pantomime or take in a Christmas concert at York Minster, the city’s iconic Gothic cathedral.
Mumsnet users recommend staying at the YHA York to keep costs down. A 4-star hostel, it doesn’t offer you the same luxury, activities or amenities you’ll get at the likes of Celtic Manor but it has a restaurant and large, clean bedrooms and, at a much lower price, you’ll be left with more money for shopping and eating your way around this magical city.
Mumsnet users say
“We have had some very good deals at YHAs both York and Brighton were particularly good. You can get Premier Inn rooms from £30 a night. Big breakfast for £10, kids under 16 eat free. I'm sure there are other comparable budget hotels, we are just big Premier Inn fans, and they are everywhere, usually fairly central.” Ted27
4. Best Christmas break for older children: Sightseeing in London
London | Find a hotel
What better way to embrace the festivities than taking a trip to the capital city? There’s so much to do in London during the Christmas season, even older, sometimes harder-to-please children will find something fun to do.
You can take them skating at one of the ice rinks around the city, such as Hampton Court Palace and Somerset House. Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park has the biggest outdoor rink in the UK and there’s plenty of other stuff to do there for children of all ages. Afterwards, you can explore the Christmas market stalls, enjoy some food and drink and make your way round the rides. There’s even a circus!
Other Christmas markets can be found at the likes of Leicester Square and Covent Garden, and you can take a walk to see the famous lights and decorations on Regent Street.
If, somehow, your children get bored there’s a host of other activities and sights on offer, including taking a ride on the London Eye, visiting the Tower of London, spotting celebrities at Madame Tussauds or heading to the West End to see a show, such as Frozen.
Be warned though, you’ll need to be prepared to walk lots and expect crowds as London will be busy at this time of the year. Also, if you plan to enjoy the huge range of attractions on offer you’ll need a fair bit of spending money too.
When it comes to accommodation in London, there are so many to choose from but our Mumsnet users recommend looking for somewhere with a central location, easy access to public transport and big family rooms.
Mumsnet users say
“I stayed here [Radisson Blu Edwardian] recently on a deal. It was really pleasant. I went with my teenage daughter. Right in the centre of seven dials (Covent Garden). It will be festive around there at Christmas. I would definitely stay there again.” OnTheNatureOfDaylight
5. Best for a weekend Christmas break: Visit beautiful Bath
Bath | Find a hotel
A popular choice on our forums for a weekend getaway at Christmas is Bath. A smaller city break than London, it is beautiful and has plenty of charm and history to explore.
Stroll around Bath’s iconic streets and buildings which are lit up by magical illuminations, then pull on your boots and take to the ice rink at the Royal Victoria Park. Closeby, children can also play Glow Golf, a mini golf course which is decked out with Christmas lights.
For a bit of history and culture, you can take in the beautiful sights of Bath Abbey and visit the Roman baths. And if you need to do a spot of shopping, you can head to Bath Christmas Market, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, where there are more than 170 chalets spread across the Georgian streets selling food, drink, crafts, decorations and jewellery.
Families will also enjoy the Enchanted Garden of Light at The American Museum & Gardens, an magical after-dark light display. For somewhere to stay, check out some of our Mumsnet recommendations for family friendly hotels in Bath, including Abbey Hotel, Bath Mill Lodge Retreat and Apex City of Bath Hotel.
Mumsnet users say
“Just come back from Bath, found it absolutely delightful. We did a Treasure Trail which was great fun (solving clues etc). We stayed at Bath Mill Lodge Retreat, just outside the city centre. It offers luxury lodges for one night- worth a look.” leccybill
6. Best city Christmas break: Explore magical Edinburgh
Edinburgh | Find a hotel
Edinburgh is a city that really knows how to do Christmas and New Year. The Scottish capital fully embraces the atmosphere starting with festive celebrations and moving on to a big party at New Year.
A city break here offers so much. Wander along the historic Royal Mile and see Edinburgh Castle colourfully lit up at night. You can also check out the lights and sounds at the Royal Botanic Gardens, which offers a magical after-dark experience the whole family will enjoy.
The city is packed with culture and history with museums and galleries to visit and plenty of shops for finishing off your Christmas shopping. There’s also Christmas markets to wander around and attractions, like ice-skating, to enjoy. And who can forget Hogmanay? Edinburgh’s famous New Year celebration, with a torchlight procession and an unforgettable street party to bring in the new year.
Hotels can get booked up at this time of the year so make sure to plan ahead. Our Mumsnet recommendations include the Grassmarket Hotel, offering a central location for all your sightseeing, The Radisson Blu Hotel, close to the Royal Mile and with a spa for relaxing, and Motel One, where children stay free.
“I can recommend the Grassmarket Hotel. Really central. One wall of the room has a large map of Edinburgh, opposite wall is made up of Beano covers. Free coffee in reception.” cdtaylornats
7. Best coastal Christmas break: Escape to Cornwall
Cornwall | Find a hotel
With its sandy beaches and picturesque coastlines, Cornwall may not be an obvious choice for a Christmas break but if you’re looking for long coastal works, breathtaking views mixed in with some festive magic it could be the place for you.
A popular place to visit in Cornwall is Mousehole, near to Penzance, a charming village with a harbour and cobbled streets, which comes alive at Christmas. The whole town decorates their homes, gardens and businesses, and people flock to see the beautiful twinkling lights and displays.
Falmouth and Fowey are also lovely places to visit at this time of the year and you can go for brisk, windy walks on the beach before warming in front of a fire with a hot chocolate or a mulled wine.
If you’re looking for accommodation in Cornwall that has plenty to offer for the kids at Christmas, Watergate Bay, set on a beach near Newquay, is a popular choice on our Mumsnet forums. Also in Newquay is the Bedruthan Hotel and Spa, a hotel on the cliff tops offering beautiful views and plenty for the children to do. Polurrian Hotel in Mullion is another hotel offering a good base for seaside activities and adventures.
Mumsnet users say
“Polurrian Hotel is fantastic. It has up to two hours free childcare in the Four Bears Den. We liked the extra touches, such as Breakfast Club on Sundays where nannies collect the children for breakfast while you and your DH can have breakfast in bed with the morning papers. Little children love the 'mouse safari' (little stone mice hidden around the hotel and grounds) and climbing Crocodilla! As well as indoor and outdoor swimming pools, there’s a play area with swings and a slide, tennis court, a family cinema and a games room.” Ricekrispie22
8. Best Christmas break for babies and toddlers: Visit Crieff Hydro in Scotland
Crieff Hydro | Check availability
Family-friendly hotel, Crieff Hydro, in Crieff, Scotland transforms into a Winter Wonderland in December. Two-night Christmas breaks include daily entertainment for the kids, such as crafts, games, quizzes and movies, as well as hot toddies for the adults and gingerbread men for the kids. There’s also free daily childcare if you want a bit of time to relax.
The hotel offers some Christmas activities too which you can do at an extra cost - children can meet Santa at his grotto and also enjoy a reindeer experience. You can also stay over Christmas for three nights starting from Christmas Eve or a New Year escape to bring in 2023.
Set on 900 acres, the hotel has plenty of other family-friendly amenities too, with over 60 activities, including rock climbing, zip-lining, swimming, golf, hiking and archery, for keeping everyone busy. There’s also a fun adventure playground, childcare (at an extra cost) for children aged 2-12, as well as a spa for some child-free time.
Some customers claim the hotel looks a bit tired in parts and, if you want to use the pool, make sure to check if you need to book first as it may get fully booked during busy periods.
Mumsnet users say
“Crieff Hydro is family oriented and ticks all your boxes. It's a really lovely place and there is the option of the hotel or self catering houses.” StarryNightSparkles
9. Best Christmas break for animal lovers: A festive Safari in Kent
Imagine waking up on Christmas Day to see lions roaming outside your room. Port Lympne Hotel and Reserve in Kent offers a special Christmas break that you and your family will remember for a long time.
You can choose to stay in one of 11 different accommodations, including a luxury four-star hotel, a treehouse high in the woodland or in one of the special lodges set within the animal’s habitats, allowing you to see some of the animals up close, including the resident lions, tigers, wolves and rhinos. Set in 600 acres on the Kent coast, there are 700 rare and endangered animals to see during your stay. Some of the accommodation comes with its own golf buggy too for getting around!
The two night festive break starts on Christmas Eve and once you’re done exploring the estate, taking in the incredible views and wildlife, there’s a sunset choir and a special guest from the North Pole arrives.
Throughout your stay you will enjoy delicious meals in the restaurant and you can personalise your break to add your own special touches. Before you leave, your children can get to experience some incredible animal encounters.
Costing from £2995 for four guests, it’s an expensive break, especially when you may have to pay extra for animal experiences, but it will be a Christmas your children will be sure to remember forever.
Mumsnet users say
“Port Lympne zoo in Kent springs to mind. If you stay in the accommodation with the private viewing areas of the wolf/lion/tiger enclosures they are very luxurious (some of the other accommodation is more basic), and you also get two days access to the park with a gold buggy to drive yourself round. It's absolutely amazing, but does cost around £1000 per night! I thought it was worth every penny though.” SantaSue
10. Best countryside Christmas break: Visit the cosy Cotswolds
Cotswolds | Find a hotel
Picturesque towns and villages, gorgeous landscapes and cosy pubs make the Cotswolds a beautiful place to visit over Christmas. You can wrap up warm for long winter walks around the gorgeous countryside and cosy up in front of a log fire at one of the many charming hotels.
There’s plenty of stuff to keep children happy too. Sudeley Castle in Sudeley is lit up colourfully at Christmas time, with lights hanging off the trees and an enchanting light trail leading you through the grounds. If you want to venture a bit further, Blenheim Palace, which sits on the edge of the Cotswolds, also has a Christmas lights trail and a market.
You can enjoy a festive afternoon tea in one of the little villages and if you want to do a spot of shopping there are plenty of independent boutique shops for picking up something unique. For a big Christmas market, you could head to Bath or Cheltenham, but some of the villages also put on their own, including Burford and Bourton-on-the-Water.
Christmas can be a busy time of the year for the Cotswolds - and parking in the little villages and towns can be tricky - so make sure to plan ahead and book any meals or activities.
For something a bit special at Christmas, our Mumsnetters recommend staying at the Calcot Manor & Spa, a luxury spa hotel suitable for families near Tetbury, or Woolley Grange, which is another great family friendly hotel with a spa, a free children's club and babysitting services. For self-catering, Lakes by YOO offer lakeside woodland cabins set on the Lechlade Upon Thames.
Mumsnet users say
“Calcot Manor, Watergate Bay, The Alexandra, Polurrian Bay, South Sands, Chewton Glen, Lime Wood should all fit the bill. At a slightly lower price point you could try Ickworth, Woolley Grange, The Elms, Moonfleet Manor.” Sleepthieved
Where’s the best place to celebrate Christmas in the UK?
For all round fun for the whole family at Christmas, head to Celtic Manor Resort. There’s a huge range of activities that will keep kids of all ages entertained and plenty of festive fun to be had too, including a Santa’s tea party or a festive afternoon tea.
For a city escape, stroll around a Christmas market, take in beautiful light displays, visit Santa and take to the ice in London. The city has everything your whole family could need - children both young and old will enjoy the huge variety of sights, lights and attractions on offer.
What to do with kids during the Christmas holidays
Thankfully, there’s plenty of options for entertaining kids during the festive season, just make sure to think ahead as some places need booking in advance. Some of the most popular activities include:
visiting a Santa's grotto
going to see a Pantomime
gliding around an ice-skating rink
taking a walk around a magical light trail
going on a Christmas train ride
As it’s already an expensive time of the year, you can fill the rest of the Christmas holidays with cheap activities like playdates at the park, baking and decorating festive gingerbread men or, if there are lots of houses locally that go to town on their Christmas lights, why not take a walk or drive around to see the magical displays? A great free activity to get you in the festive spirit.
Which city has the best Christmas market in the UK?
When it comes to Christmas, who doesn’t love browsing around stalls looking for gifts and stocking fillers, eating street food and sipping on Glühwein? We love a good Christmas market in the UK, and we have lots of great ones to choose from.
Bath Christmas market comes up a lot on our Mumsnet forums, while others recommend the bigger markets in Birmingham and York for getting into the festive spirit.
Best Christmas markets in the UK: editor's picks
How we chose our recommendations
Recommendations by real parents
We always start our research at the Mumsnet forums. With over 10 million users a month, we know we’re going to get a host of suggestions for great destinations and hotels that will cater for a range of needs and budgets. And, best of all, they’ve already been there and done it.
Expert guidance and traveller reviews
We then consult the experts to make sure we’re recommending a destination that is suitable for families. This means cross-checking hotels with travel sites like Hotels.com, TripAdvisor and Booking.com to ensure they cater for a family’s needs.
We also check what consumers say, including the negative comments so that we can give a balanced review.
Finally, to make sure we were finding the best UK Christmas breaks we looked out for destinations and hotels that won awards and came highly recommended, until we were left with a list of ten UK getaways to suit every budget this Christmas.
Why you should trust us
We work hard to provide unbiased, independent advice you can trust. We do sometimes earn revenue through affiliate (click to-buy) links in our articles. This helps us fund more helpful articles like this one.