How to celebrate Christmas in 2018

The countdown to Christmas has begun. Here’s our guide to some of the best ways to celebrate the festive season across the UK…

From ornately decorated stately homes to spectacular light shows, discover the events getting us into the festive spirit this December.

Experience a Cinderella story at Blenheim Palace

© Richard Cave

From now until 6 January, the State Rooms of Blenheim Palace will be decorated with garlands, Christmas trees and ornaments for its new Cinderella experience. Enjoy Afternoon Tea in the stepmother’s drawing room, wander through the ugly sister’s room or go take a look at Cinderella’s gown. The Long Library has been transformed into a glass-inspired ballroom,  and you can dress up in the Stables to recreate your very own fairy tale Cinderella moment.

Take a photo in Queen Victoria’s sleigh at the Royal Pavilion

The Royal Pavilion’s spectacular Banqueting Room table has been laid with Georgian style desserts and the palace has been transformed with festive decorations. Come and see the replica of Queen Victoria’s sleigh in the Music Room and take Christmas photos to remember the day. Christmas at the Royal Pavilion is on until 1 January.

Gaze at the magnificent Christmas tree at Windsor Castle

Visit Windsor Castle until 6 January and you can see the magnificent 20-foot-high Nordmann Fir tree in St George’s Hall, taken from Windsor Great Park and entirely dressed in gold decorations. Visitors will also be able to enjoy the special exhibition A Royal Wedding: The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, which includes The Duchess’s wedding dress and there will be family-friendly performances of The Princess and the Pantomime, taking place on 7, 8 and 9 December.

Enjoy a Christmas festival at the Palace of Holyroodhouse

© David Cheskin

Until 6 January, the Palace of Holyroodhouse will be decorated with twinkling garlands and a shining Christmas tree. Visitors can enjoy homemade mince pies, Christmas cake and mulled wine or treat themselves to a Christmas-themed afternoon tea in the Café at the Palace. On 15 December, the Palace’s Christmas Festival Day will include a Christmas trail and decoration-making workshops, and on 10 and 11 December, the Scottish Vocal Ensemble will provide an evening of Christmas carols in the Great Gallery.

Have breakfast with Santa at Holker Hall

Holker Hall will not only be beautifully decorated for Christmas, but it’s open for two more weekends for lots of festive fun. There’s a meet and greet with Father Christmas on 8-9 December or on 15-16 December come and have breakfast with Santa. A buffet breakfast will be followed by biscuit decorating, a story by the Holker fire and a visit from Santa with a small gift.

See the Snowman at the Peacock Theatre

©Tristram Kenton

Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without The Snowman. Raymond Briggs’ classic children’s book is wonderfully interpreted by the Birmingham Repertory Theatre Company at the Peacock Theatre. Faithful to the original but with some lovely dance routines and additional comical and festive touches – such as the Fred Astaire snowman and Christmassy ballerina – this is essential pre-Christmas fare to get both big and little kids in the spirit.

Visit Manchester’s Ice Village

Cathedral Gardens in Manchester city centre has been transformed into an icy domain with an Ice Sculpture Cave, Ice Bar, Ice Rink, Santa’s Grotto, and a Woodland Market with market stalls, live entertainment, and winter games and activities. The main attraction at the project undertaken by Hamilton Ice Sculptors is the Ice Cave: a minus 10 degrees world with over 100 amazing hand carved ice sculptures.

Let it glow at ZSL London Zoo

Until January 1, visitors to ZSL London Zoo will be able to experience a brand new, festive themed illuminated trail.The zoo will be transformed with its very own fantastic after-dark experience created in partnership with Raymond Gubbay Limited and designed by Culture Creative, the team behind ‘Christmas at Kew’. The outdoor festive trail will offer something for everyone as visitors follow a mile-long path scattered with twinkling lights with lots of surprises and treats along the way. Don’t miss the glowing fountains as the iconic penguin pool dances in time to much-loved Christmas classics.

Visit Christmas past at Hampton Palace

Hampton Court Palace will be filled with yuletide cheer, as it celebrates Christmas traditions from the past and present through the eyes of its Edwardian grace-and-favour residents. Join in the fun with Christmas Present, Christmas Past until 6 January, a new live offer which will transport visitors back to 1906, where the palace community are preparing for Christmas. From singing carols around the tree to telling spooky ghost stories, discover the centuries old traditions they’re drawing upon to inspire their festive play.  Meanwhile, in the kitchens, the historic cookery team will be busy at work with live culinary demonstrations, showcasing the evolution of Christmas dinner as we know it today.

The popular Hampton Court Palace Festive Fayre (7 – 9 December) will  return this year, with the building’s historic courtyards set to be filled with over 80 stalls featuring mince pies, mulled wine and a host of treats guaranteed to set mouths watering. Visitors can also enjoy the backdrop of Henry VIII’s former home as they skate back in time with the return of the ice rink to the palace’s Tudor West Front (23 November – 6 January).

Experience a Victorian Christmas at Kensington Palace

Experience a royal Victorian Christmas at Kensington Palace – the birthplace of Queen Victoria. The palace will be transformed with music, lanterns and decorations, and on selected dates, visitors will be able to meet Queen Victoria and Prince Albert and discover why yuletide was such an important time for their family. Family-friendly events include designing your own festive card (8-9 December) and traditional Christmas music from the Prince Regent Band on original Victorian brass instruments until 1 January.

Listen to carols at candlelight at the Tower of London

Get into the seasonal spirit at the Tower of London as the famous fortress plays host to a Victorian Christmas. From 27-31 December, visitors will discover how modern impressions of Christmas were shaped in the era of Dickens and Queen Victoria as the Tower comes alive with all the fun and festivities of the mid-19th Century. The popular ice rink is also back and on 8 December Carols by Candlelight promises an evening of traditional Christmas hymns performed in the atmospheric Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula.

Have a colourful Christmas at the Eden Project 

Christmas at the Eden Project in Cornwall promises to be a spectacular all-new experience in an ever-changing landscape of shadows and light. Until Christmas Eve, visitors will be met with pockets of glowing colour, a myriad of dancing lights as they make their way down towards the world-famous Biomes. Along the way they will discover playful light installations and effects and watch a moving kaleidoscope of colour projected across the lush slopes of the outdoor gardens, all to a backdrop of live festive music.