Christmas festivals and super shopping
Feeling bah, humbug? Amazing Christmas festivals and markets and world-class shopping await on the Virgin Trains east coast route...
Head here for… magical Christmas spirit – sparkling lights, skating and fairgrounds will make the most Scrooge-like feel festive
London has more Christmas festivals than you can shake a cracker at…
Shop for last-minute gifts at the cute-as-a-button wooden chalets at the Southbank Centre Christmas Market on the southern banks of the Thames. Here you can also fill your belly with food from the many street stalls and take in a show such as this year’s rock ‘n’ roll Christmas with Elvis standards.
The Hyde Park Winter Wonderland is another Christmas classic in central London. See the park transformed into a captivating landscape of lights and rides. Ride the giant observation wheel. Or lace up your skates for a whizz round the UK’s largest open-air ice rink.
You can also ice skate at historic Somerset House. The rink is set up in the picture-postcard courtyard. As well as the traditional festive session, there are club and gig-themed late night skates.
Can be reached from: Newcastle, Berwick, Edinburgh, York, Darlington and Durham.
Head here for… a magical place that just feels Christmassy and has some great one-off shops for special gifts
York at Christmas is like something from an old Hollywood movie starring Bing Crosby. It has a festive X-factor that makes you hug into your partner, with already picture-postcard streets made prettier.
St Nicholas Fair sees the centre of York taken over by cute wooden chalets selling food and gifts. Browse the stalls for presents as the smell of roasting chestnuts and Bratwurst hangs in the air.
Treat yourself to a hot chocolate from a stall and wander down the medieval Shambles – a narrow street of leaning timber-framed buildings.
Yorkshire’s Winter Wonderland can be found just a park-and-ride-away at the Designer Outlet – enjoy an ice skating session on the outdoor rink after picking up some gifts for those label-lovers on your list.
Can be reached from: London, Peterborough, Stevenage, Edinburgh, Newcastle and Berwick.
Head there for…. Amazing shopping – the biggest John Lewis outside London, boutiques a-plenty and retail high-street heaven
Whether you’re buying for a gadget-loving dad, fashion-forward daughters, trainer-loving lads or mums who need pampering – Leeds is the shopping capital of the north.
Find a swanky new John Lewis – the biggest outside London – at the new Victoria Gate shopping centre. Victoria Gate puts a modern twist on the Victorian arcades Leeds is famous for. It opened in October at a cost of £165million.
It’s part of the Victoria Estate shopping area that also includes the Victoria Quarter shopping arcades. The arcades are home to Vivienne Westwood and Harvey Nichols for extra-special gifts.
Quirky gifts are best sought from the Corn Exchange – a hub of alternative shopping and culture.
Can be reached from: London, Peterborough, Stevenage, Grantham, Retford, Doncaster, York, Darlington, Durham.
Head here for… Quaint Christmas markets, fairground fun and world famous New Year celebrations
Edinburgh at Christmas and new year really is magical – like something from a fairy tale.
Wander around the Christmas markets for foodie treats and last-minute gifts. Foodies will love the Scottish Market with its stalls selling some of the finest grub from local producers.
Handmade gifts of a crafty or quirky persuasion can be found at the European Christmas Market – alongside sizzling Bratwursts in buns for those who are hungry. Both markets are easy to find, in or not far from Princes Street Gardens.
Big wheels, carousels and ice skating await at Santa Land in Princes Street Gardens, the perfect reward for little people who waited patiently while you’ve shopped.
Stick around for Hogmanay for some world-class New Year celebrations – think street parties and fireworks exploding over Edinburgh Castle.
Can be reached from: London, Peterborough, Stevenage, Grantham, Retford, Doncaster, York, Darlington, Durham, Newcastle and Berwick.
Head here for… amazing shopping just 1 hour from York – with high-street favourites, department stores and cool independents
Find the best of the high street under one roof at the Intu Eldon Square in the city centre – from Boots and Debenhams for smellies and suchlike to John Lewis and M&S for clothes and homey gifts.
For one-off shops and designer boutiques check out Grainger Town – an historic part of the city centre. Find the best in high-end menswear at End clothing or browse Fender Stratocasters at JG Windows.
Newcastle has many other cool shops. Find quirky gifts – such as a Lego version of the Tyne Bridge – at UpSide Down Presents, or bag top memorabilia for footie fans at The Back Page.
Arty gifts can be found at gallery-meets-shop the Biscuit Factory. It holds festive weekends through to mid-December with gift ideas from over 200 artists and makers.
Can be reached from: York, Edinburgh, Darlington, Durham, Doncaster, Retford and Doncaster.