There’s a chill in the air and twinkling lights all around while the fruity scent of warm mulled wine drifts across the breeze. This is Christmas in Bristol!
There are so many festive things to do in Bristol – from popular Christmas markets and craft fairs to winter-inspired attractions and dazzling displays.
We’ve lived in Bristol for nearly a decade now. What follows are all the things we look forward to most once December rolls around.
So, read on to discover the best of Christmas in Bristol, including festive things to do in the city, what you should eat at the Christmas markets and even festive day trips you can enjoy if you fancy getting out of the city for a day or two. Bring on the tinsel!
Festive Things To Do in Bristol
From inspirational museums and amazing attractions to thrilling live entertainment and spectacular celebrations, here are our favourite festive things to do in Bristol at Christmastime. Fingers crossed you’ll be well and truly in the Christmas spirit by the end of this list!
Shop at ALL the Christmas markets
November 3rd – December 23rd 2023
Bristol is a big city so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that there are a number of Christmas markets that spring up across the city throughout the festive period.
They’re the perfect opportunity to pick up unique gifts (some homemade), as well as beautiful decorations and tasty treats.
But more on Christmas markets shortly… it’s such an important part of Christmas in Bristol that it warrants its own section of this local festive guide!
Meet Father Christmas throughout the city
It’s not just Christmas markets that Bristol is greedy over… if you have children, there’s also ample opportunity to meet Father Christmas in Bristol too.
Here are a few places where you should head to see Father Christmas in Bristol 2023:
- Santa’s Grotto at Cabot Circus
- Santa’s Enchanted Ice Castle at Cribbs Causeway
- Santa’s Grotto at Bristol Zoo Gardens
- At Tyntesfield’s Victorian Christmas event
- On board the Bristol Ferry Boats
Have a very Victorian Christmas at Tyntesfield
December 2nd 2023 to January 3rd 2024
The National Trust has always been great at decorating its old manor houses and castles with impressive Christmas decorations.
And Tyntesfield on the outskirts of Bristol is so stunning at this time of year!
This year, the Tyntesfield staff are hosting a Victorian Christmas, complete with traditional decorations, storytelling, games and festive food. It’s a beautiful event and especially worth it if you’ve never been to Tyntesfield before.
Head to Treefest at Saint Mary’s Redcliffe Church
December 6th to December 10th 2023
For just a few days at the start of December, you can visit Saint Mary’s Redcliffe Church for free and see over 100 individually decorated Christmas trees!
Each one is designed and decorated by charities, schools and local businesses from the area and it promises to be a feast for the eyes… tinsel, fairy lights and all manner of other decorations included! You can even vote for your favourite tree.
Go in search of the best Christmas displays in Bristol
If you’re looking for stunning (and popular!) Christmas displays in Bristol, here’s where you need to go:
- Bristol City Centre: See the giant Father Christmas at Cabot Circus, gaze up at the twinkly reindeer at Quakers Friars, wander along the German Christmas Market stalls on Broadmead and look up at all the colourful candy canes at The Galleries shopping centre.
- Clifton Village: Not only do the shops look incredible in this most luxurious part of Bristol but so do the houses! We love shopping here and then wandering along the streets in search of our favourite decorated houses.
- Christmas Steps: Okay, so the Christmas lights here are a lot more understated than our other suggestions… but… come on! Seeing fairy lights hanging up over somewhere actually called the Christmas Steps? There’s something truly magical about it, am I right?!
- Cribbs Causeway: From a huge outdoor ice rink and magical ice castle to twinkling fairy lights and designer shop displays, Cribbs Causeway and its Winter Wonderland is sure to get you in the festive mood this year.
Christmas Shopping in Bristol: Where To Go & What To Buy
To witness Bristol’s sensational Christmas shopping first-hand, here’s where you should head… and what you should buy if you love Bristol!
Cabot Circus, The Galleries and Cribbs Causeway
Cabot Circus, The Galleries and Cribbs Causeway are the three most well-known and popular shopping centres in Bristol.
Although they’re home to mostly chain stores, your Christmas shopping will probably always start and end with one of these shopping districts.
For a more local and beautiful shopping centre experience, head to Clifton Village.
With its eclectic mix of upmarket boutiques and covered arcades, you’ll find a huge array of gifts you and your friends and family will love.
Bristol Christmas Markets
We’ve already alluded to the fact that Bristol has a lot of magical Christmas markets… well, here’s where you need to go (and when!) this year:
- Broadmead: Bristol’s main Christmas market in the city centre runs from November 3rd to December 23rd this year. Pick up a wide array of gifts, decorations and street food.
- Corn Street: Head inside the covered market and glass arcade of St Nick’s market on Corn Street between November 17th and December 24th to shop with independent Bristol businesses.
- Harbourside: Wander along the 60 waterfront stalls at the Harbourside on select weekends between November and December to buy gifts and decorations made by local artists and creators. Note: The 2023 dates are yet to be confirmed, so this market may not happen this year.
What To Buy When Christmas Shopping in Bristol
Here are some of our favourite Bristol-themed gifts and local businesses worth supporting this year:
- Some beautiful Bristol blue glass
- Anything Banksy related
- Anything Wallace & Gromit inspired
- Bristol Pounds
- Bristol Cider Shop Hamper
- 6 O’Clock Gin
- Guilberts Chocolates
- Zara’s Chocolates
- The Bristol Giants children’s book
- The Treasure Island novel
- Bristol Lido spa vouchers
- Hot air balloon experience day
- Anything else Bristol-themed!
Christmas Eats in Bristol
From buzzing bars and restaurants to tasty street food and Christmas market treats, here are some of our favourite places to eat and things to eat during a magical Christmas in Bristol.
Festive Season at The Ivy Clifton Brasserie
November 14th 2023 to January 3rd 2024
The Ivy Brasserie in Clifton is another excellent luxury restaurant in Bristol’s most sought-after neighbourhood.
Here, you can tuck into a number of seasonal dishes washed down with Christmas cocktails, mulled cider, gingerbread lattes and more.
Plus… The Ivy is renowned for its Christmas decorations too as giant wreaths, Christmas trees and twinkling fairy lights adorn the front of the building, so you’re sure to get in the Christmas mood here!
Festive Afternoon Tea at Patisserie Valerie
2023 dates not yet confirmed
Although Patisserie Valerie is a large chain and can be found throughout the UK, we couldn’t resist writing about their festive afternoon tea – it’s sublime!
You’ll be treated to things like turkey and cranberry sauce sandwiches, mini yule logs and chocolate éclairs. You can even take home a box of homemade mince pies afterwards!
Head to Cribbs Causeway for this indulgent treat – and then visit the Winter Wonderland afterwards for ice skating and après ski lodges.
Festive Menus at The Botanist Bristol
From November 22nd 2023
Roast turkey, maple pork belly, Christmas pudding and apple and plum crumble are just some of the dishes you can expect.
But if you go for the Indulgent Festive Menu, you can enjoy four delicious courses, as well as a glass of Prosecco on arrival and luxury chocolate truffles to finish for a very affordable £34.95 per adult.
Christmas Pies at Pieminister
From November 15th 2023
Pieminister is fast becoming a British staple serving traditional pie and mash… but Bristol was the city that kicked things off!
At this time of year, Pieminister serves their Christmas pies, which are charmingly named, such as ‘The Cracker’ (turkey, ham, cranberry, parsnip and sherry), ‘Mistle Moo’ (beef steak, bacon and port), ‘Deer Santa’ (venison, bacon, red wine and green lentil), ‘Christingle’ (honey roast parsnip, chestnut, cheddar and leek) and ‘Good Elf’ (vegan “turkey”, cranberry, port and thyme).
And yep… they even have gluten-free versions! Are you drooling yet?
Bristol Christmas Market Food
Aside from delicious sit-down festive dinners, you should also pick up some of Bristol’s best Christmas market food. Here’s what we recommend:
- Yorkshire Pudding Wrap: Choose from turkey, beef or pork and see your roast dinner wrapped up in a giant Yorkshire pudding with all the trimmings. A total mess to eat but delicious! You can grab one at the main Bristol Christmas Market in the city centre or at Millennium Square.
- German Sausage: The Bristol Christmas Market is fantastic and pulls out all the stops when it comes to German Christmas food. Choose from bratwurst, currywurst, bockwurst and more!
- Lebkuchen: Otherwise known as gingerbread, Lebkuchen takes a few different forms. When browsing Bristol’s Christmas markets, look out for Lebkuchenherzen (“Lebkuchen Hearts”), which is hard gingerbread shaped like hearts and decorated with icing. Cliché but a must.
- Mulled Wine: Whether it’s German Glühwein, Finnish Glögi, Belgian Vin Chaud or any other form of mulled wine, you simply must wash down all your delicious Christmas food with a cup of this warming, Christmassy drink!
Festive Day Trips from Bristol
For even more Christmas magic, try some of these festive day trips from Bristol…
Go to a Christmas concert under Concorde at Fleet Air Arm Museum
December 15th 2023 ~ Journey time from Bristol: 1.5 hours (approx.)
Wandering among historic planes and aircraft memorabilia might not be everyone’s first choice when it comes to a #MerryBristmas.
But here at Wanderers of the World, we’re big fans of bringing the unusual and unique to you.
At Fleet Air Arm Museum in Yeovilton, you can step back in time and even step on board the FIRST British-made Concorde. How awesome is that?
Plus, the museum is also hosting a Christmas concert event this year to add even more “wow” to your Christmas. But this Christmas concert is no ordinary concert as it takes place under Concorde’s sprawling wings!
This year, the concert is taking place in the evening on December 15th. Did we mention you’ll be treated to mince pies and mulled wine on arrival?
Have an enchanting Christmas at Westonbirt Arboretum
November 24th to December 23rd ~ Journey time from Bristol: 50 minutes (approx.)
Each year, the staff at Westonbirt Arboretum place lights, music and other attractions among the trees to turn the arboretum into a magical Christmas wonderland.
It’s beautiful and really does make for a magical evening… especially for couples!
This year was the first time we visited together and the first time Scott was seeing it. And I have to say, it’s bigger and better than ever these days!
Not only is there the illuminated trail through the trees to enjoy, which this year follows the journey of mystical fairies, but there is also an entire Christmas village complete with food and mulled wine stations, fairground rides, market stalls and an indoor picnic area.
Go underground: Christmas at Cheddar Gorge & Caves
November 11th to December 24th 2023 ~ Journey time from Bristol: 50 minutes (approx.)
Each year, the Cheddar Gorge & Caves play host to special Christmas events.
Underground, you’ll find Father Christmas and his elves busy in his workshop, as well as storytelling and carolling events.
This might be one just for the kids but doesn’t it sound enchanting?
Plus! Bring your dog along with you this year and they’ll receive a free treat from the Cheddar Paws Bakery… where do we sign up?!
Go underground again: Christmas at Clearwell Caves
From December 1st 2023 ~ Journey time from Bristol: 50 minutes (approx.)
Similarly to Cheddar Gorge, Clearwell Caves in Gloucestershire is also home to a unique underground Christmas experience.
Inside the caves, you’ll find stunning displays and Christmas decorations dotted throughout, which this year tell the story of ‘The Very Hungry Polar Bear’.
You’ll also find Father Christmas and his elves, Christmas market stalls and an underground cafe serving tea, cake and hot chocolate among other tasty festive treats.
We went a few years ago as a couple and loved it!
While you’re in the area, why not take a wintery walk through enchanting Puzzlewood nearby?
Head to the Festival of Light at Longleat
November 11th 2023 to January 7th 2024 ~ Journey time from Bristol: 1.5 hours (approx.)
Of all the Christmas day trips from Bristol you can take, Longleat’s Festival of Light simply must be up there!
By day, you’ll be able to safari through all of the usual animal enclosures as normal.
But once the sun goes down, you’ll see the castle and its grounds lit up with magical light and sound displays.
There’s a different theme each year. When we visited a few years ago, the theme was all around the Chinese New Year. This year, the theme is based on C.S. Lewis’s infamous book: ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’.
See a spectacle of light and music at Sudeley Castle
November 24th to December 30th 2023 ~ Journey time from Bristol: 1.5 hours (approx.)
We’ve been fans of Sudeley Castle’s special events for years now and their Spectacle of Light event is perhaps the most magical of them all.
On select evenings throughout December, you can follow beautiful illuminated trails and hear enchanting music throughout the castle’s grounds and even see the castle itself lit up in rainbow colours.
If Christmas lights are one of your favourite things about this time of year (like us!) then this is a must-see!
Where to Stay in Bristol in December
If you’re staying in Bristol for a romantic night or two, then here are our recommendations for the best places to stay in Bristol in December.
Each hotel offers something a little different but they all have one thing in common. They’re perfectly situated so you can experience the best of Bristol at this most magical time of year.
The Bristol Hotel on Prince Street
Found close to all the Harbourside Christmas market action and some of the city’s most buzzing bars and restaurants is the aptly named The Bristol Hotel on Prince Street.
What we love about The Bristol Hotel:
- Generous 12pm check-out time
- Duck down duvet bedding
- A romantic couple’s package of champagne, chocolate-dipped fruits, breakfast for two and an even later check-out time is available to book… perfection!
Bristol Harbour Hotel & Spa on Corn Street
The Bristol Harbour Hotel & Spa can be found within the old part of the city centre and close to all the Christmas action at St Nick’s Market.
What we love about this hotel:
- The building used to be a bank and now the bank vaults in the basement house a spa… so historic!
- The hotel’s spa is stunning, complete with indoor pool, hydrotherapy pool, sauna, steam room and modern gym
Berkeley Suites on Berkeley Crescent
Home to all manner of grand Georgian buildings, Clifton is one of the most sought-after neighbourhoods throughout all of Bristol. The Berkeley Suites seek to capture the grand and picturesque vibe of Clifton by the bucketload. At Christmastime, Clifton Village comes alive with some of the best decorations and displays in the city – so a stay here is sure to be magical!
What we love about the Berkeley Suites:
- Fully equipped suites with kitchenettes and open-plan living rooms
- High-quality decor and furnishings for a luxury getaway
- Individually decorated so you never know what theme to expect (even if you stay here multiple times!)
Weather in Bristol in December
The weather in Bristol in December is like much of the UK at this time: cold and wet or cold and overcast. Sorry, but it’s true…
Average temperatures are between 4°C and 9°C but the rain and winds can make it feel a lot chillier than this.
You’re best wrapping up warm with layers that you can strip off and put back on as you wander around the shops or visit the city’s amazing attractions. You should also ALWAYS carry an umbrella with you as you never know when you might need it.
Bristol also has a lot of old cobblestoned streets throughout, so we’d also recommend wearing comfortable waterproof shoes as the stones can get quite slippery from all the puddles.
How To Get Around Bristol at Christmas
Although transport in the UK leaves a little to be desired compared to other European countries, Bristol is at least very well connected.
We wouldn’t recommend driving in Bristol if you can avoid it as parking, one-way systems, road works and tiny streets can be a bit of a nightmare… especially if you don’t know your way around.
But good news! There’s a huge bus and rail network to take you across Bristol and further afield… so do make use of that.
Plus, Bristol is perfectly situated to merge onto the M4 East or West and M5 North or South, so it’s pretty easy to get to a lot of places outside of the city as well.
Appendix: Previous Christmas in Bristol Things To Do
The following couple of activities don’t have confirmed dates for 2023 yet, which leads us to believe they’re not happening this year. Of course, we’ll update this blog post again should things change.
Warm up inside the après ski bar and lounge in Millennium Square
Whether your choice of beverage is a mulled wine or soda, beer or spirits, there’s no denying that chilling out inside the après ski bar and lounge in Millennium Square is relaxing, cosy and very festive!
Overhead heaters and fluffy blankets will keep you toasty warm while wooden benches and walls will make it smell like you’re sitting together inside a wooden cabin near the slopes. Lovely!
Hop on a Twilight and Illuminations Tour with Bristol Insight’s open-top buses
What’s Christmas without Christmas lights? Not sparkly or twinkly enough that’s what!
Bristol Insight is the city’s local open-top bus tour company. And this year, they’re doing something wonderfully romantic for Christmas…
On select weekends in December, you’ll be taken to all of Bristol’s top tourist sights as well as to some of the city’s best spots for seeing Christmas lights and displays.
Included in your ticket, children will receive gifts, adults will be given mince pies and all of you will be able to come back to use the bus tour again once they reopen in the spring.
So…. what does a Christmas in Bristol look like to you? What are you most excited to see and do first? We’d love to know so drop us a line or two in the comments below!
Did this get you into the festive spirit? Share the Christmas sparkle around now!