It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, here in beautiful Bristol… For the last few weeks, I’ve been out and about exploring some of the best things to do in and around the city, as part of Visit Bristol’s #MerryBristmas celebrations and I have 12 festive treats in store for you; from seasonal markets to senesational light displays!
So pour yourself another mulled cider and settle in because here’s your ultimate guide to exploring the best of Bristol this Christmas.
(Some of these experiences were gifted, as part of Visit Bristol’s press campaign. All views and opinions are my own).
Tobacco Factory Christmas Market
As a South Bristol girl through and through, browsing the Tobacco Factory market has become a weekend tradition of mine. But at Christmas, this local market gets an added touch of sparkle, with over 50 food and festive craft stalls to explore.
In keeping with the South Bristol vibe, the Tobacco Factory Christmas Market is all about “keeping it local” with hand-crafted, quality gifts and delicious street food to warm your belly – including some great veggie and vegan options.
While you’re in the area, be sure to explore North Street with its eclectic mix of independent stores, coffee shops and bars, not to mention some of the best street art in the city.
When to go: Open every Sunday (10am-2:30pm) until Christmas.
Price: Free to visit.
Arnos Vale Christmas Film Screenings
Arnos Vale is one of Bristol’s hidden gems and the perfect spot for a weekend wander. But this beautiful Victorian cemetery also puts on a fantastic programme of events, including seasonal film screenings in their atmospheric Anglican Chapel.
This year, they’ll be showing four festive favourites: Elf, Gremlins, The Nightmare Before Christmas and (to end the age-old debate about whether or not it’s a Christmas film…) Die Hard! What better setting to sit back with a mug of hot chocolate and get lost in a Christmassy movie?
When to go: Elf – Dec 6th & 7th; Gremlins – Dec 6th & 8th; The Nightmare Before Christmas – Dec 8th (SOLD OUT), 19th & 20th; Die Hard – Dec 7th & 20th.
Price: £10 per ticket. Check film times and book your tickets here.
Victorian Christmas Weekend aboard Brunel’s SS Great Britain
Brunel’s SS Great Britain is Bristol’s most popular tourist attraction and a fascinating place to explore all year-round. But for one weekend only, in December, you can step aboard and immerse yourself in a unique Victorian-style Christmas.
Come and meet the costumed characters, listen to carol singers, and see the dockyard transformed into a beautiful winter wonderland.
There will also be festive crafts, including a Victorian print workshop, and you can learn all about the history of the ship in the Dockyard Museum and explore the passenger decks and cabins for yourself.
Read more: Stepping back in time at Brunel’s SS Great Britain
When to go: 7th-8th December (10am-4:30pm)
Price: Online prices include a 5% discount: Adult £16.15 / Child (3-16 years) £9.50 / Students & Seniors £14.25 / Family (2 adults & 2 children) £44.65 / Under 3’s Free
Treefest at St Mary Redcliffe Church
If you’ve ever set foot in St Mary Redcliffe Church, then you’ll know just how spectacular this Gothic building is… Now, imagine it filled with more than 100 fabulously decorated Christmas trees and you’ve got yourself TreeFest.
St Mary Redcliffe invites a wide range of community organisations, schools, and local businesses to decorate and display their own Christmas tree in the church to help raise awareness of their work, whilst raising money for local causes. Come along to see the trees in all their festive glory and vote for your favourite!
When to go: 3rd – 7th December (10am until 5pm). There will be late opening on the evening of Thursday 5th December. This will be a celebration of music, with opportunities for anyone who wishes to participate, and refreshments.
Price: Free but this is a charity event, so they do invite donations to support the local charities taking part.
St Nick’s Night Market
Tucked away along cobbled fairy-lit streets, right in the heart of the Old City, St Nicholas Market (or St Nick’s as it’s affectionately known) is a long-standing favourite amongst Bristolians.
By day, it’s known for its world-class street food and quirky market stalls but for one night only, in December, St Nick’s opens up for an evening of festive celebrations, live music and more.
Shop for unique, hand-crafted Christmas gifts, enjoy the local DJs and bands, and try some of the best street food in town. The Night Market spills out on to the surrounding streets of the Old City, with many of the local bars and restaurants joining in on the fun, so this is one night in the Bristol calendar not to be missed!
When to go: 6th December (5-10pm).
Price: Free to visit.
A Very Victorian Christmas at Tyntesfield
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to experience Christmas like the Victorians did? Well now you can find out…
This year, the National Trust’s Tyntesfield is inviting visitors inside for A Very Victorian Christmas – a unique immersive experience that’s sure to get you in the festive mood. See the iconic house of the Gibbs family like you’ve never seen it before; decked out in seasonal decorations, with traditional games, storytelling, dancing and carols for guests to enjoy.
But the festivities don’t stop there – Tyntesfield is hosting a wide range of other festive events, including wreath-making, horse and carriage rides around the historic grounds, and traditional Christmas concerts in their beautiful chapel. Find out what’s on and how to book your tickets here.
When to go: ‘A Very Victorian Christmas’ is running from 23rd November – 5th January. Tickets must be pre-booked online and go on sale on a weekly basis, for visits the following week. Check here for available times and tickets.
Price: Adult £16.50 / Child £8.25 / National Trust members go free (find out how to become a member).
‘Spectacle of Light’ at Sudeley Castle & Gardens
If you’re willing to venture a little further out, this Christmas, then you’re in for a real treat because Sudeley Castle & Gardens are putting on a spectacular light show like you’ve never seen before.
Located in the quaint village of Winchcombe, in the Cotswolds, Sudeley Castle provides the perfect backdrop for the enchanting ‘Spectacle of Light’ trail. Make your way through the magical gardens and admire the historic castle, illuminated in a spectrum of dazzling colours.
This year, the trail is Peter Pan themed, in support of Great Ormond Street Hospital, and the kids will love spotting Tinkerbell flitting about and even meeting Captain Hook himself! You can support the charity by writing your own wish ribbon to hang on a tree before you leave.
When to go: Nov 30th – Dec 30th
Price: Adult £16.50 / Child (3-15 years) £9.90 / Family (2 adults & 2 children) £46.20 / Under 3’s Free
Made in Bristol Gift Fair
Bristol is famous for its creative arts scene and ‘shop independent’ culture and nowhere does this better at Christmas-time than the ‘Made in Bristol Gift Fair’.
For three weekends only, the iconic Colston Hall plays host to talented local makers, from jewellery designers and artists to wood-carvers and sculptors. Come along to meet them in person and pick out the perfect, unique Christmas gifts for your loved ones.
When to go: Open Saturdays (10am-5pm) and Sundays (10am-4pm) for three weekends: 23rd-24th November; 30th November-1st December; 7th-8th December.
Price: Free to visit.
Located on Bristol’s beautiful floating harbour, Arnolfini is one of Europe’s leading art galleries and the perfect place to take shelter on a winter’s day.
For something completely different, this Christmas, visit the powerful ‘Still I Rise’ exhibition, which explores feminism, gender and resistance around the globe. With thought-provoking photo displays, artwork, and film, this is one exhibition that will stay with you, long after you’ve left.
When to go: ‘Still I Rise’ is exhibiting between 14th September – 15th December 2019 (Tuesdays to Sundays, 10am – 6pm) The ground floor of the Arnolfini, including the bookshop and cafe, is open daily (see visiting times here).
Price: Free to visit.
Wild Place Project
Wild Place Project, the sister site of world-famous Bristol Zoo, is fast becoming one of the city’s most popular attractions and it’s easy to see why. Located just off the M5 in South Gloucestershire, this enchanting wildlife park is the perfect place to explore over the Christmas period and has something for all ages to enjoy.
Step back in time at their newest exhibit, Bear Wood, where you can spot beautiful brown bears, as well as wolves, lynxes and wolverines, as you wander along elevated woodland walkways.
Elsewhere in the park, you can get up close and personal with giraffes, zebras, lemurs and even a cheetah. Not to mention some festive reindeer who will greet you on arrival! Wild Place Project is also a leading education and conservation charity and you can read all about their inspiring global work, as you tour the immersive African-inspired villages throughout the park.
If you’re visiting with kids, there’s plenty to keep them entertained with hands-on learning activities, barefoot trails, and even a giant climbing wall for the adrenaline-seekers.
If you’re struggling for Christmas gift ideas, why not consider adopting a bear or buying a behind-the-scenes animal experience for your loved one, whilst supporting the vital conservation work of the charity? Or for something completely different, book up an overnight stay in one of their exclusive Camp Baboon glamping pods and wake up amongst the wildlife!
When to go: Open daily 10am-4pm (closed on Christmas day and at 3pm on Christmas Eve).
Price: Saver tickets from just £5.72 are available throughout the festive period until 20th December, so book online for your discount! 10% of your ticket cost will support the charity’s conservation work.
The Harbourside Christmas Market
The Harbourside is at the hub of city life in Bristol and provides the perfect backdrop for the annual Christmas Market.
Browse more than 50 local-maker stalls along the waterfront and shop for the perfect, alternative Christmas gift ideas, from festive food items to unique Bristol prints and artwork, and even handmade gifts for your beloved pet!
When to go: Every weekend 23rd November- 22nd December (11am-5pm).
Price: Free to visit.
Enchanted Christmas at Westonbirt Arboretum
Westonbirt Arboretum sure knows how to put on a seasonal show. After the thrill of seeing its fiery foliage in the autumn, now you can see the forest lit up in an illuminated, festive trail!
Read more: Autumn at Westonbirt Arboretum
Enchanted Christmas returns to Westonbirt Aboretum, this year, and it’s bigger and better than ever. Follow the forest path, encountering dazzling light and sound displays, talking trees, and whimsical characters as you go.
Before you head home, warm up with a mulled cider or feast on some hot chestnuts in their cosy Christmas Village or pick up some hand-crafted decorations and stocking-fillers from the gift shop.
When to go: Open every Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 29 November to 22 December (4pm-9pm). Advance booking is essential and you will be given a time slot to visit.
Price: Adult £15 / Child (5-18 years) £7.50 / Concessions (students and job-seekers) £13 / Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum receive a 50% discount on tickets.