Visiting Blenheim Palace at Christmas is like seeing all the festive sparkle and magic you know and love… on steroids.
There’s fairytale-inspired glitz and glamour inside, thousands of twinkling fairy lights and fun projector shows outside and even row upon row of Christmas market chalets in the courtyard with the palace’s grand facade as their backdrop.
Read on for all the reasons why your UK bucket list simply MUST have Christmas at Blenheim Palace on it. And the top tips you need to know for your first visit…
A Brief History of Blenheim Palace
Stunning Blenheim Palace sits on the edge of the Cotswolds in Woodstock; 40 minutes north of Oxford and roughly 2.5 hours from London.
It’s everything you can expect from a country mansion: Grand. Picturesque. Ornate. But not royal.
Here are nine facts you need to know about Blenheim Palace and its rich history:
- Blenheim Palace was built in the early 1700s by the 1st Duke of Marlborough, John Churchill and became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987
- Following a victory against Louis XIV of France in the Battle of Blenheim in Bavaria in 1704, John was gifted his title and an extensive amount of land by Queen Anne with which to build a suitable home on for his newly established dukedom
- However, within just a few short years, this gift became a source of royal and political conflict, and in 1712, financial support for the project was stopped resulting in the palace falling into disrepair and near total ruin
- Marlborough was later exiled to Europe for three years and racked up huge debts
- It wasn’t until the marriage of the 9th Duke of Marlborough to American railroad airess Consuelo Vanderbilt in 1895 that the palace and the family’s wealth were saved and restored
- In 1874, none other than Winston Churchill (grandson of the 7th Duke of Marlborough) was born at the palace
- Similarly to Highclere Castle in Newbury, Blenheim Palace is still a family home to this day – but to the 12th Duke of Marlborough
- It’s the only non-royal country house in England to hold the title of palace
And one more fun fact:
Did you know that a scene from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was filmed here?
A rather Harry Potter-esque tree by the side of the lake played host to an iconic Pensieve scene involving Harry’s Dad and Snape as teenagers. You know the one…
The tree really does look like it flew straight out of the pages of Harry Potter. When Scott and I saw it along the Illuminated Trail (even before we knew about its stardom), we said straightaway that it looked like something out of Harry Potter. Admittedly we had the Whomping Willow in our heads… but eh, close enough 😉
But you didn’t come here for Harry Potter filming locations. You want to know about Christmas at Blenheim Palace…
Honest Review: Is Christmas at Blenheim Palace Worth It?
In a word: “Yes”. But we didn’t appreciate the £10 parking fee.
There’s a lot to see at Blenheim’s Christmas event – from a fairytale wonderland inside the palace to a stunning illuminated trail through the gardens and even a good sized Christmas market selling festive gifts, crafts and food.
Tickets are pricey. You need to pay separately for the garden trail and the palace experience and with a £10 parking charge added to this, it’s close to £100 per couple – and more for a family!
In our opinion though, this felt worth it given just how much thought and pizzazz has gone into all the decorations. But we definitely don’t agree with the £10 parking fee. Given Blenheim Palace is out in the country, most people will drive to it, so we do think this is a little unfair.
For those of you wanting to save a few quid, there is a Park & Ride service close by but even this costs £7 when booked officially through Blenheim Palace and See Tickets.
Parking charges aside though, Christmas at Blenheim Palace is a total UK bucket list activity. Here’s why…
Christmas at Blenheim Palace 2019: Alice in the Palace
Every Christmas, Blenheim Palace is totally bedecked with glittery fairytale pixie dust.
From unique light projections outside and of course the illuminated trail, (more on that later though), inside the palace is REALLY where the magic takes place.
The theme changes with each year but it’s always magical!
For 2019, Alice in Wonderland has taken centre stage…
and Cinderella was the theme for last year:
The experience runs through several of the grandest rooms downstairs. And to be honest, it’s difficult to find the right words to describe to you just how magical everything looks.
So instead, we’ll share some photos!
When you first arrive, you’ll be shown into the rather grand entrance hall and foyer of Blenheim Palace. This is where you’ll find a number of glittering Christmas trees and your first glimpse into just how much thought has gone into the Alice in Wonderland Christmas theme.
We know it’s difficult but don’t forget to also admire the building behind all the Christmas sparkle. From statues and figurines of famous people to marble flooring and towering pillars, the Baroque architecture here just totally explodes out of every nook and cranny!
Throughout the Alice in the Palace event, you’ll find row upon row of stunning Christmas trees. And if you look closely, you’ll find Alice-inspired decorations galore.
And gold! Lots and lots of gold!
The fairytale and Alice-inspired theme also continues under the Christmas trees. And you’ll wander through a weird and wacky Hall of Mirrors, which is perfect for framing your next Christmas card photo. Ahem, or not…
BRB! Just frolicking into Wonderland in search of Alice and the White Rabbit…
After tumbling into Wonderland through the very Instagrammable arches, you’ll see yet more glittering Christmas trees and even more Wonderland-inspired Christmas decorations. Anyone else getting serious interiors envy right now?
Right… let’s follow Alice through this teeny tiny door to see the absolute stars of the show…
This is the White Rabbit’s home. He likes clocks. Lots and lots of clocks. Also carrots. Carrots make an appearance A LOT. We’ve purposefully cropped out some of the room on the right. The White Rabbit was sitting in one of the chairs and he was only slightlyyyy creepy. Okay fine… he was very creepy and took away from the Christmas magic a bit so we cropped him out. Our sincere apologies Mr Rabbit.
Never read the books or seen any of the movies before? Fear not. Blenheim Palace lovingly retells the story as you move from room to room so you can learn (or just refresh your memory) on what the heck is going on…
Lime green and bright pink as a colour combo? Yes please says my teenage self. This is Caterpillar. He likes to get stoned and create psychedelic hallucinations… but don’t tell the kids alright?
Next up is the eclectic Dodo. We especially liked his paradise for the fantastic mirror pond in front of him, which was just perfect for reflecting the oil paintings inside the room.
Something you’ll also notice when wandering down storybook lane is the sheer amount of ‘Drink Me’ and ‘Eat Me’ references. They stand towering next to Christmas trees…
And under the Christmas trees. They’re also on top of spectacular marble topped dressers in several different rooms.
Did we mention they’re everywhere?
But something that we really weren’t expecting was the huge table and key in the centre of all this wackiness. As you may (or may not know), Alice shrinks down super small during her ‘Drink Me’, ‘Eat Me’ adventures and so we were also made to feel TINY during the experience. Pretty cool, eh?
The room with the Cheshire Cat was one of my favourites. Not only does this totally look like an artist’s impression of the fairytale…
But there were actual tea cups in the flower arrangements! Tea cups! I guess we know what’s coming soon as this is clearly a big clue…
But before we get to all the Mad Hatter craziness, we first met the Red Queen and her stack of card men… who like to climb things. Probably to paint the roses red.
Now I know the Red Queen is supposed to be scary and all that. But this sight is enough to give even me nightmares, let alone any children in the room. Sorry kids. This is one mean old scary looking woman…
Who apparently likes to play a rather barbaric game of flamingo croquet where the balls are cute little hedgehogs.
But alas we have come to the final room we’re allowed to see inside Blenheim Palace at Christmas. They have most definitely saved the best until last in the shape of the Mad Hatter’s extravagant and pink-hued tea party. Where tea pots are out of this world…
And towering cakes look like they’ll topple over any second next to delicate china cups.
Sitting down to tea at the Mad Hatter’s tea party is obligatory. No excuses.
When wandering around this last room, I’m pretty sure you’ll be furiously scribbling notes on how to decorate your own dining room at home. Oh… just me? Okay.
How could we forget the singing roses? I’m not sure why they were in attendance at the Mad Hatter’s tea party but it’s cool with me.
Hooray! We found Alice… just casually chilling next to a Christmas tree where there’s room on the bench beside her for little ones and yet another prime Christmas card photo opportunity.
But just when you think you’ve seen everything inside the palace, you’ll now wander along a row of twinkly Christmas trees overlooking the palace’s courtyard… before heading inside the chapel where you can leave a Christmas wish on a magical Christmas tree.
Our Final Thoughts About Alice in the Palace
From seeing our photos, I hope you can agree that Blenheim Palace have really gone to town on the Alice in Wonderland Christmas theme this year.
Honestly, it’s absolutely incredible to see in the flesh. And big kids alike will be running around with smiles plastered from ear to ear in all their giddy Christmas glee.
This was easily the most magical part of our whole Christmas experience at Blenheim Palace so it’s not to be missed!
Blenheim Palace Christmas Lights & Illuminated Trail
Once you’ve finished feeling enchanted by the inside of the palace, the huge Blenheim Gardens and Estate play host to yet more sparkly magic.
This time in the form of a mile long illuminated trail.
Sweeping tunnels of twinkly lights, bright neon laser beams, hundreds of bedecked Christmas trees and even a rainbow coloured waterfall are just a snapshot of what there is to see during this trail.
Once again, we’ll let some of our photos do the talking…
It’s busy at the start of the Blenheim Palace Illuminated Trail. But when the Blenheim lights look this pretty, can you really blame them?
Blenheim Palace have really tried to use all the interesting features of the gardens and estate. From lighting up the boat house to resemble Frosty the Snowman’s abode / a neon Penguin Paradise…
To stunning bridges and water features.
Don’t forget to take a wander through the fluorescent pink Galaxy Grove (sponsored by Galaxy Truffles)!
And at the end, you can watch a stunning light projector show at the back of Blenheim Palace.
Our Final Thoughts About Blenheim Palace’s Illuminated Trail
Although this is a stunning trail, we couldn’t help but compare it to the trail we did at Westonbirt Arboretum a few weeks before.
The trail at Blenheim Palace is bigger and flashier but it’s also much more crowded. And actually because of the size of the grounds they’ve tried to cover, there were quite long stretches of the walk that actually didn’t have anything happening at all apart from maybe a couple of lights in the trees.
This means that some of the magic gets lost along the way, whereas at Westonbirt, it felt like there was something around every single corner.
Also, because Westonbirt’s trail is smaller and more intimate, it’s also more interactive than the trail at Blenheim Palace as children (and big kids!) can make their own music by banging drums and things like that.
You just don’t get the same interactive experience at Blenheim Palace… but you do get flashier photos for your Instagram and nothing can stop this from still being the ultimate UK bucket list activity. Even if you only choose to go once in your lifetime!
Christmas at Blenheim Palace: 11 Top Tips for First Time Visitors
The tips we’ve provided below are based on our own experience of visiting Blenheim Palace at Christmas in December 2019.
We hope they prove useful to other first time visitors… so you can avoid some of the mistakes we made!
1. Book way in advance (like in June!) to get the best days and times
Tickets for Christmas at Blenheim Palace go on sale as early as June.
If you’re like us, you’re definitely not thinking about Christmas AT ALL during that time but it does pay to think about this Christmas event.
To get your pick of the best days and times to visit, you should book as far in advance as you possibly can. This is a crazy popular event and books up… FAST!
2. But don’t worry if you’re slinging margaritas in the Bahamas in June because…
You can still get tickets once the autumn/fall months hit. We hadn’t heard about this event until we saw it mentioned on another travel blog at the end of September.
Low and behold we were able to book tickets without any major issue. We didn’t get our first choice of date and we did have a long wait between Alice in the Palace and the Illuminated Trail BUT we’re happy we still got decent tickets despite our festive disorganisation.
3. Arrive before dark to see the palace by day and at sunset
We’d booked to see Alice in the Palace at 4.20pm so we chose to arrive just after 3pm in order to roam around some of the gardens in the daylight and check out the Blenheim Palace Christmas market before seeing inside the palace.
This seemed to work well for us as we got a chance to see the palace and its surroundings by day AND at sunset.
Note: If you decide to do this as well, remember that the formal gardens close at 4pm as that’s when the trail lights start to get switched on.
4. Timings aren’t severely strict
If you’re anything like me then you’ll think that everything has to happen either early or bang on time. And if you’re anything like me then you also think that establishments as grand and proper as Blenheim Palace would be the same.
WRONG! Don’t worry too much about being a little early or late for each event.
We had tickets to see Alice in the Palace at 4.20pm but were allowed in up to fifteen minutes before. And we’d booked 7.40pm for the Illuminated Trail but were allowed on as early as 7.10pm.
Likewise, they were still letting people on the trail a full hour after their booked time. Hopefully this info will save you a bit of stress regarding timings.
5. Ensure you’ve set aside about an hour for Alice in the Palace
We took our time inside the palace but still managed to see everything within about 45 minutes.
But this was without little ones in tow and with spending just a few minutes queuing to get in.
So we’d recommend setting aside around an hour for inside the palace (and maybe a bit longer if you need to take into account accessibility and/or little legs).
6. Save around 90 minutes for the Illuminated Trail
The Illuminated Trail runs for one mile but feels so much longer when you’re on it. We spent about an hour on the trail but were walking a little faster than others.
If you have children and/or accessibility issues then you should definitely set aside around 90 minutes for the trail – or longer if you plan on stopping at the various hot chocolate and mulled wine stations around the trail.
7. Wear decent walking boots or wellies
We wore trainers during our visit thinking it would be gravel paths the whole way around. Although there was some gravel, most of the paths were either concrete or au naturel, and thus, prone to a lot of mud and puddles.
This was a little tricky in the dark sections so we’d recommend wearing walking boots or wellies, so you don’t have to worry about splashing about in mud and puddles and can focus fully on the twinkly lights.
8. Don’t forget your umbrella and raincoat
You are in England in winter after all…
9. Remember that you have to pay for parking in advance
We didn’t realise this until actually booking our tickets and were taken by surprise.
To park at the palace, you have to pay an additional £10 per car. This must be booked in advance as you’ll be asked to show your car parking ticket when you arrive.
There is also a Park & Ride option nearby, which costs £7.
10. Some parts of the illuminated trail aren’t suitable for prams and buggies
Some of the trail is uphill and there’s a section of tunnelling lights, which seems to wind its way uphill and over tree roots.
Although there are sometimes alternative paths and staff on hand to help, you may find that pushing a pram or buggy is pretty tough in some places.
Being such a family-focused event, this surprised us and we’re still hoping it’s something they might change next year.
11. Don’t miss out on a FREE Blenheim Palace annual pass
When you book the Christmas at Blenheim Palace event, you’ll be given the option to donate the cost of your ticket to the Blenheim Palace Heritage Foundation Charity and receive a free annual pass for doing so.
This doesn’t cost you anything extra and is perfect if you want to come again. We’d recommend a summer visit so you can see the gardens in full bloom!
Are you heading to Christmas at Blenheim Palace this year? Do you want to go next year… or some day? Have you already been? Either way, we’d love to hear from you! Feel free to jot down a few thoughts, opinions, notes, poems etc in the comments below…
Looking for more things to do in the UK at Christmas? Here are some of our other festive blogs:
- Stepping Back in Time for A Very Victorian Christmas at Tyntesfield, England
- Christmas in Bristol, England 2019: Your Festive Guide Full of Cheer
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