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Liverpool 1hr 24 minutes
Durham 1hr 12 minutes
Hull 58 minutes
This year Leeds is going big for Christmas. There are markets, light shows, concerts, festivals and enough festive cheer to delight the elf freak in your life.
Wander beautiful Leeds city centre while enjoying stunning light projections, film, dance, music, street and theatre performances. This year the extravaganza is celebrating 100 years of social change since (at least some) women got the vote. Highlights include Leeds Civic Hall becoming a canvas for mind-bending digital projections, giant humanoids scaling rooftops and public spaces, a dragon appearing on the Queens Hotel. With 60 art events across 10 zones, there’s plenty more wonder besides.
If you are unaware of Leeds Lights then get ready to book a train ticket today. The switch on is a celebratory, celebrity affair but the big draw is the lights themselves. Leeds was the first council to design, make and maintain its own lights and it continues the crowd-pulling tradition to this day. So, join the throng, watch the switch on and firework display, and then settle into a stunning stroll across this beautiful Northern bauble.
Head to Millennium Square for a healthy dollop of Bavaria as the square transforms itself into a scenic winter village for the festive season. This is Leeds’ Yule epicentre with twinkling chalets stalls selling handcrafted toys, jewellery, Christmas decorations, a carousel, speciality food and drink and the Alp Chalet serving authentic German food and drink in cosy surroundings.
Every year Leeds Winter Market features brilliant independent designer-makers and artisan food producers. Head here for stalls filled with high-end craft, one-off vintage items, unique stocking fillers and some amazingly tasty, locally-sourced morsels.
Winterfest promises 130 stalls offering a wide variety of ethical produce – including cakes and chocolate – hot takeaway food, make-up, clothing, jewellery, skin care, pet treats and gifts galore.
Victoria Gardens is going Nordic this year with its (deep breath) Viking-inspired, pop-up tipi bar. Settle down by a cosy log fire to enjoy wholesome BBQ foods washed down with ales, mulled wine, hot cider, hot chocolate, prosecco and more.
That’s not all that’s on offer this Christmas in Leeds; there’s a Magical Lantern Festival at Roundhay Park (25-27 November), Kirkgate Market is offering a Christmas Vintage Fair (1 December), children’s Christmas films (every Saturday in December) and school carol concerts throughout the month. On top of all that, there are even more events at Abbey House Museum, Leeds Art Gallery, Leeds City Museum, Leeds Industrial Museum and Kirkstall Abbey. This Christmas, Leeds leads the way.
Manchester – 1hr 16 minutes
Newcastle – 1hr 3 minutes
Leeds – 18 minutes
York is slap bang in the middle of the TransPennine Express network so it’s always a handy destination for travellers. Which is just as well, as this medieval walled city – which is packed with charm on any regular day ratchets up the magical-realm vibe to full-on-festive come Christmas.
Fact is, if you love this season with elf-like abandon then York is definitely the place for you. And even if you’re usually a bit meh about the whole thing, you’ll be transformed into a carol-humming reindeer junkie. York and Christmas go together like sprouts and bacon bits and this promises to be its best Yuletide ever.
This is why York is lighting the way for Santa this year. Expect weekends of festive fun with music from local brass bands and choirs. All experienced as you wander through chalets decked out in twinkling lights. You’ll also find this little lot:
This year’s St Nick’s Fair is all set to be great for gifts. There are 150 stalls selling jewellery, ceramics, homewares, crafts and local produce. You can even buy your tree here with a first-ever showing from Stockeld Park – Yorkshire’s biggest Christmas tree cultivators. And, with extended late-night shopping opening on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays; you can even top it all off with a warming glühwein.
Did someone mention warming glühwein? Because this is the place to come and get it. Head here to lounge around a roaring fire in cosy furs. They’ll be serving up BBQ food, homemade sweet treats, spicy hot chocolate, mulled wine and Christmas cocktails. The perfect way to sign off a Christmas spree.
Watch candles light the way in this magical service of music, readings and prayer for Advent. The service starts in darkness and, slowly, light begins to flood in as the candles are lit from one person to the next. This hugely popular event is open to, and free, for all, but make sure to get there early.
If there’s a Grinch in your life then this is the best festive restorative there is. The York Minster Choir perform a mix of classical and Christmas music giving you the chance to join in with Christmas Carols. Book your tickets now – it doesn’t get more Christmassy than this.
Amazingly, there are even more festive activities in York this Christmas, there’s the Made in Yorkshire “Yorkshire Yuletide Village” (15 November – 23 December), Christmas events at York Castle Museum and York’s Chocolate Story and, of course, pantos! For a free guide to Christmas in York call the Visitor Information Centre on 01904 550099, email firstname.lastname@example.org or check out Visit York’s website.
Sheffield 51 minutes
Leeds 48 minutes
Liverpool 36 minutes
From the indie chic of Afflecks Palace to the hyper style of Selfridges, Manchester is matchless when it comes to Christmas shopping. There are miles of shops in the city with enough scope to find something for the most pernickety of gift getters, so there’s no need to get (wait for it) present tense in Manchester.
Before you get your shop together though, let’s get your Yule on. Without wanting to get too dictatorial about the whole thing, you need to see this. Stars of stage and screen come out in force for the switch on, topped off by a glorious firework display above the city’s iconic Albert Square and its handsomely Gothic town hall.
This year Santa Claus is bringing brilliant food and drink to Manchester. Bratwurst, that subtly spiced German sausage, is a regular favourite here but that’s not all that’s on offer. There’s also Hungarian goulash, Spanish paella as well as a good old-fashioned hog roast. And it’s not just meat fiends who are being served – there are plenty of mouth-watering veggie and vegan options on offer, too.
In addition to feasting, the Christmas Markets also have you covered for gifts. There are more than 300 stalls and chalets spanning the city centre, and all of them packed with expertly made gifts, crafts, jewellery, clothes and toys. As well as brilliant local suppliers, you’ll also find European producers who offer everything from fine amber jewellery, handcrafted leather bags and top-quality bonsai trees, to handmade Belgian kitchenware and French soaps.
If you think this is a totally radical revival of an 80s catch phrase we have some bad news. No, this is the internationally award-winning, multi-record-breaking production that sees your favourite characters from the Wizard of Oz explore the notion of good and evil through the medium of a smash hit Broadway musical.
Imagine the scenario: you head to Manchester, take a wander around the twinkling Christmas markets, get all your pressies sorted, watch the fireworks illuminate the town hall, grab some wonderful street food, wipe the sauce off your face and go and are thrilled by a performance of Wicked. How’s that for a brilliant Christmassy day out?
Leeds 1hr 27 minutes
York 59 minutes
Darlington 32 minutes
This Christmas there are plenty of standout events taking place across Newcastle. It’s well worth a trip.
Sage Gateshead is hosting an enchanting performance of this brilliant Macaulay Culkin caper. You have to experience this classic 80s movie this with every gag, tumble and splash of aftershave accompanied live by John Williams’ delightful score.
Get Skating at Life on your winter checklist pronto! Head to Life Science Centre where the ice rink is open every day except Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year's Day. There's no need to book if there’s fewer than 10 people; just turn up, pay and skate away.
Stack shipping container village is getting an addition this winter: Hadrian’s Tipi. This offers everything a hardened Christmas shopper would want from a rest stop: log fire? Check! Cosy snug seating areas? Check! Well-stocked bar of hot and cold drinks? Check! Outside there’s a winter beer garden with Christmas trees, atmospheric lights and outdoor shelters to protect you from the elements.
Christmas in Newcastle wouldn't be complete without a visit to Fenwick – it’s a wonderful, age-old tradition. As well as offering the finest shopping around every year this Geordie icon unveils its beautiful Christmas window, with moving characters, a one-off soundtrack and twinkling lights. This year's theme is top secret but will be unveiled in early November. There’s also an incredible 12,000 sq ft Christmas World and the news just in is that Santa will be there too!
So there you have it… there are plenty of things to get up to this festive season so why not get the diary out and start planning your Christmas trips today? Your train tickets are available right here.