Are you looking for things to do over Christmas in Bristol? Read on for the best places to find festive cheer this season!
With lights strung over Park Street, Millenium Square turning into a mini winter wonderland and the smell of festive food wafting all over Cabot Circus once the Bristol Christmas market opens, there’s nowhere better to spend the season than the West Country city.
In this article, I’ll go into the best things to do in Christmas in Bristol, with options for families, couples, friend groups or solo activities!
Things to do in Christmas in Bristol 2022
These Bristol Christmas activities run throughout November, December and some into January – if you’re visiting Bristol in winter, there’s a high chance that you’ll be around for some of them!
Cabot Circus Christmas Market
The Cabot Circus Christmas market has been going on for years – I remember coming here for a festive drink back when I was at university!
I just visited the 2022 market and it was incredible to see it back in full swing (when I lived in Bristol again in 2020, it was shut!).
Even in November, it felt like the festive season had well and truly begun!
The Cabot Circus Christmas Market consists of over 40 stalls, extending from Cabot Circus mall all the way down a pedestrian street.
There’s a bar at either end, where you can purchase hot chocolate (Baileys optional!), mulled wine or German beer.
From the stalls, you can shop for Christmas presents for your loved ones – from West Country cheeses to Turkish bowls, there are some unique present ideas here, and you’ll directly support local businesses.
If you’re visiting with kids, there are a few rides here, although if the children’s rides are your main priority, I’d advise Vintage Winter Wonderland – more below!
Vintage Winter Wonderland at Millenium Square
Millenium Square sits just back form the harbourside, close to Bristol Aquarium, and it’s one of the best things to do in Bristol at Christmas with kids!
The square is full of festive rides, including a carousel and dodgems – and while the Ferris wheel is open year-round, it’s just back from the square, taking 12 minutes to traverse the full circle, and you can take in beautiful views of the West Country city from the top!
I think that this attraction is very much tailored to families, but some of the rides are great for adults too – I love the dodgems and the wheel!
There are a few stalls where you can enjoy various food options (I even spied a fully vegan stall this year!) delicious drinks, including mulled wine and hot chocolate, although if you’re with a group of friends and want to enjoy some beverages, I’d recommend heading to Cabot Circus’s market instead.
(So basically, Cabot Circus = better for Christmas shopping and drinks, whereas Millenium Square = better for rides and games – although there is some crossover!).
Panto at Bristol Hippodrome
If you’re British, you’ll know all about the panto – the creme de la creme of all the festive events!
Seeing the pantomime is of my favourite Christmas traditions and something that I recommend every international traveller to the UK to experience if they’re spending the holiday season here!
Bristol Hippodrome, sitting in the heart of Bristol Old City, is the city’s theatre that has an annual pantomime. This year, it’s Cinderella – the story of the woman who loses her shoe at the ball and meets her Prince Charming!
Running from 4th December to 31st December, this is definitely one to catch!
Catch a festive show at Bristol Old Vic
Bristol Old Vic is another theatre in the city that hosts festive plays every year!
In 2022, it’s the Nutcracker. This incredible festive story about toys coming to live is ideal for any kids (age 7+) or big kids who want to see a fantastic spectacle and get in the festive spirit!
If you have younger children, dive into a winter wonderland with Belle and Sebastien, which is set in the snowy mountains. You can buy panto tickets for the Old Vic here.
Winterland at Propyard
Propyard is an events venue located close to Temple Meads train station.
This winter, Propyard has been transformed into “Winterland”, offering not just an indoor ice rink but also ice bumper cars, a festive market with plenty of crafts, mulled wine and cider, hot chocolate and festive cocktails and Christmassy food.
It’s perfect for family fun, but also for groups of mates who want to take to the ice rink – or it’s even ideal for a Christmassy date night!
Bristol Cathedral Carol Services
For a classic festive celebration, check out Cathedrals by candlelight at Bristol Cathedral.
Listen to festive readings, belt out your favourite Christmas classics and take in the story of Christmas as you spend a wintery evening at the cathedral.
Carols by Candlelight take place on 16th and 17th December and cost £11-£24.
Cribbs Winter Wonderland with Paddington Bear
As Santa and the elves are a little busy this time of year, Paddington Bear has taken residence at the mall, Cribbs Causeway!
Instead of a grotto, Paddington is residing in a tipi and telling kids a variety of Christmas stories. At other points of the day, he’ll also be walking around and greeting everyone.
Plus, you can attend marmalade-making sessions where you’ll learn about creating the sweet spread.
Ice rink at the mall, Cribbs Causeway
Also at Cribbs Causeway is the outdoor ice rink.
It’s situated in the midst of the winter wonderland, perfect if you want to explore the festive area as well or if some people in your group would rather watch the ice skating rather than do it yourself!
Sessions run for 30 minutes and the rates include skate hire.
A Christmas Carol at Arnos Vale Cemetery
For something a little darker, head to Arnos Vale Cemetery over the festive period.
Arnos Vale Cemetery is one of the best Bristol hidden gems – it’s a gothic graveyard with tombstones dating back to the 18th century and older.
At Christmas time, they play Charles Dicken’s “A Christmas Carol”, but with an eerier twist!
It’s on from November 17th – December 2nd at 7:30pm and is run by the Red Rope Theatre Company.
It’s recommended for children aged 14 years and over and adults due to the scarier themes.
Avon Valley Christmas Days
It feels like just yesterday I was writing about Avon Valley’s pumpkin patch, but over the Christmas period they have a got a fun festive trail.
Ideal for children, Avon Valley Adventure Park’s Christmas Days include Santa’s Toy Shop and Santa’s Sleigh Surprise Show, enjoy the Magical Forest illumination trail, learn the best wintery recipes in Mrs Claus kitchen and even make reindeer food!
Avon Vally is about a 23 minute drive from Bristol City Centre or you can take the X39 bus.
Piste Clifton is a pop-up Christmas Après-ski-themed bar.
Ideal for festive drinks, Piste Clifton serves up mulled wine, plenty of beer and has a wonderful Alpine setting.
You’ll feel like you’re on Mont Blanc by visiting Piste Clifton – but it’s very much in Bristol, and it’s open until 31st January for post-Christmas fun too!
Victorian Christmas Weekends
If you’ve ever wanted to learn about how Victorian people spent their Christmasses, head to the SS Great Britain this festive season!
The Victorian Christmas Weekends take place in December, and they’re an immersive experience, perfect for kids (and adults!), all about how people celebrated the holidays in the 19th century!
Christmas lights walk
There are a few excellent Christmas light walks around Bristol.
Corn Street has a wonderful love-themed installation, whereas Park Street and the Bristol Shopping Quarter are lit up with twinkling angels and reindeer.
There are always some lights in Bristol too, and while the Clifton Suspension Bridge is lit up year-round, it’s still magical at Christmas!
If you want to tour some of Bristol’s best house light displays, you can join this Facebook group which has a map of all the best Christmas displays throughout the city and South Gloucestershire, including some magnificent houses which have turned into a complete winter wonderland.
Westonbirt Enchanted Christmas
If you’re looking for themed trails, head to Westonbirt.
Westonbirt is a National Arboretum with trees from all over the globe, and during the festive period it transforms into an enchanting light walk.
You can take some time to stroll through the enchanting Christmas trail, with cheeky elves ready to welcome people and a Christmas village with seasonal food and some gifts.
Westonbirt is about 40 minutes from Bristol – public transport isn’t really accessible so it’s best to drive.
Festival of Light at Longleat
The Festival of Light at Longleat is a must for families or anyone who wants to get involved in the festive spirit!
With thousands of twinkly lights, this festive family trail has been delighting visitors for years.
This year, it’s Roald Dahl themed, with lights focused on all of the famous author’s books!
Booking is essential to see this display of festive light, and it’s best to reserve your spot quickly.
Longleat is about an hour’s drive from Bristol.
Christmas at Cheddar Caves
The largest gorge in England, Cheddar Gorge is a must-visit place in the West Country.
There are lots of things to do in Cheddar, but one of the main ones is Cheddar Caves.
At Christmas time, Gough’s Cave becomes a storage space for lots of Santa’s toys, and the big man himself is around to greet any visitors!
It’s a lovely Santa’s grotto that’s perfect for kids.
Plus, walk through a replica of Santa’s workshop, with elves checking the naughty and nice lists and servicing Santa’s sleigh.
Cheddar sits about 45 minutes from Bristol, on the other side of the Mendip Hills.
Wookey Hole’s Christmas Display
If you want a really fun festive day out in Somerset, you could also head to Wookey Hole’s Christmas Display, which is located close to Cheddar.
The caves are lit up with a majestic lights display and there’s another Santa’s Grotto – it might be a bit difficult to explain how he’s in two places at once to your little ones, but they’re both well worth visiting!
Best Christmas activities in Bristol!
If you’re looking for some holiday cheer in Bristol, there’s nowhere quite like Bristol!
With trails with delightful decorations, peaceful gardens, skating rinks and places to buy seasonal drinks, Christmas in Bristol is a completely magical experience!