Britain’s best Christmas events in 2021

The majestic interior of Blenheim Palace. Credit: Richard Haughton @Sony Music

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 festive shows, discover the events getting us into the spirit this December

Immerse yourself in the Nutcracker story at Blenheim Palace

Peacocks in The Nutcracker trail. Credit: Richard Haughton @Sony Music

From now until 3 January, the State Rooms of Blenheim Palace will be decorated with garlands, Christmas trees and ornaments for its new Nutcracker experience. Wander through the candy-cane Kingdom of Sweets, come face to face with the Nutcracker Prince or take a look at a music box with a difference. There’s also a magical light trail in the grounds to round off the festive fun.

Roll up, roll up for a circus extravaganza

Ringmaster Willy Whipsnade and ‘Peanut’. Credit: Dan Tsantilis

The world-class performers of Circus 1903 return to London’s Southbank Centre for three weeks this Christmas (until 2 January). The extraordinary show evokes the glamour and drama of the golden age of the circus with awe-inspiring performances by strongmen, contortionists, acrobats, musicians, knife-throwers and much more. Plus, sensational puppetry from the award-winning team behind War Horse puts elephants back in the ring as never seen before. You won’t want to miss this, now a mainstay on the London stage over the festive period.

Gaze at the magnificent Christmas tree at Windsor Castle

Visit Windsor Castle until 3 January and you can see the magnificent 20-foot-high Nordmann Fir tree in St George’s Hall, taken from Windsor Great Park and dressed in twinkling decorations. Visitors will also be able to enjoy a special pantomime display showing costumes worn by The Queen (then Princess Elizabeth) and her sister Princess Margaret as teenagers performing in annual pantomimes at the castle between 1941 and 1944.

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 15-foot Christmas tree in the Great Gallery. In the Royal Dining Room, the table will be laid with pieces from a silver service presented to George V and Queen Mary in 1935 to mark their Silver Jubilee. This year, Christmas events are themed around Mary, Queen of Scots, so you can find out how Mary and her court would have spent Christmas 400 years ago.

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.

Enjoy animal magic at ZSL London Zoo

Until January 3, visitors to ZSL London Zoo will be able to experience a festive themed trail, in which children help Santa research what the animals would like for Christmas. Sure to appeal to smaller visitors, the brand-new fantastical wonderland sweet shop will present a dream-like vision of confectionery: clouds of candy floss, a marshmallow meadow and a forest of candy canes. There will also be Christmas animal talks and a traditional carousel.

Visit Christmas past at Hampton Palace

Step into the festive spirit and explore time and space in Hampton Court Palace’s dazzling new after-hours light trail, featuring a magical display of clocks, moons, planets and sundials, until 3 January. 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 (until 9 January), and join the palace’s historic cooks as they demonstrate a selection of festive recipes in Henry VIII’s kitchens (until 2 January).

Have a colourful Christmas at the Eden Project 

Christmas at the Eden Project in Cornwall promises to be a spectacular experience in an ever-changing landscape of shadows and light. Until 30 December, 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. A Big Band playing all the festive favourites ups the Christmas cheer.