It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas here in Bristol, and we are so ready to embrace the festivities. Just like last year, 2023 has had its fair share of ups and downs, but we want to end things on a high! So hit play on the Xmas playlist, fish out the fireworks for New Year’s Eve, and dine at some exciting new restaurants. Have a jolly ol’ time with our guide to the best things to do in Bristol this December.
1. Grab yourself a Christmas tree
Unless, of course, you’ve started already, December is the time for Christmas decorations. Climb into the attic and collect that big dusty box overflowing with baubles, tinsel, fairy lights, stars and bunting. Whether you’re bulk buying from the supermarket or meticulously hand-making your own, you’re going to need a centrepiece to tie the room together. There are plenty of places all around Bristol, luckily, where you can buy a Christmas tree or two.
2. Take this winter light trail ‘with a twist’
Use all your senses at this unique winter light trail by Leigh Court. Taking place across two weekends (December 9, 10, 16 and 17), The Lumosphere features 10 unique installations, each centred around a different theme – like fluid, sharp, soft or spectrum. Utilising sensory lights, textures, scents, soundscapes and videoscapes, you’ll have to use all your senses. The experience itself should last between 45 to 60 minutes, with tickets costing £12.50 for an adult and £8 for children. To learn more head here.
3. Help the homeless by dining at local Bristol restaurants
Several Bristol restaurants have signed up to help support the homeless this winter. Signing up to StreetSmart, a voluntary £1 donation will be added to every diner’s bill to support local homelessness projects during December. Since starting in 1998, it has raised over £12 million for homeless and vulnerable people in the UK. Last year, a portion of the funds raised went to Caring in Bristol and Help Bristol’s Homeless.
Those involved include Secret Bristol favourite’s Lucky Strike, Wilsons and Pizzarova, as well as A.B.O.E, Bertha’s, Bokman, Bosco, Box E, Bulrush, Caper & Cure, Cotto Wine Bar & Kitchen, COR, Harbour House, Harvey Nichols, Little Hollows, Marmo, Pasta Ripiena, Rocksalt, Snobby’s and Sonny Stores. To learn more head here.
4. Hit up Bristol Christmas Market
It’s not a well-done December without a Bristol Christmas Market trip. The sprawling annual event has taken over Broadmead, this year expanding to Quakers Friars too, until December 23. There are over 50 festive stalls selling gifts, festive treats, unique crafts, and more, alongside numerous bars. You’ll also find Christmas Igloos and Ski Gondolas, a 15m high Ferris wheel, a candy-themed escape room, a reindeer sleigh ride, appearances from Santa himself, and so much more!
But there’s more than one Christmas market around Bristol worth your time. The immensely popular Bath Christmas Market runs from November 23 to December 10. Meanwhile, Christmas at St Nick’s Markets is on from December 14 to Christmas Eve.
5. Go to Bristol Beacon’s massive ‘Housewarming’
It’s been five long years, but Bristol Beacon is almost back! On December 2, an all-day free-to-attend party will take place across the entire venue to celebrate its reopening. The Housewarming will feature an all-Bristol line-up – including the likes of Doreen Doreen, Krust, Ishmael Ensemble, Lady Nade and Elles Bailey – with every inch of the newly refurbished venue explorable.
If you can’t make it down, well don’t worry, the events space is back for good. And Bristol Beacon is filled up with brilliant things to do this December, from Annie Mac (Dec 9) to Kate Rusby (Dec 17). On December 8, a very special performance featuring two of the UK’s best-loved and iconic animated films, The Snowman and Wallace & Gromit: The Wrong Trousers, will be screened with live accompaniment from a professional orchestra.
If you ask us, Christmas is nothing without the music; it just wouldn’t be the same without traditional Christmas carols and modern Christmas songs. Mariah Carey is synonymous with the season these days. So how about listening to a classical rendition of All I Want For Christmas at The Mount Without (December 23)? Plus, everything from The Little Drummer Boy to Let It Snow.
More of a fan of Silent Night than Last Christmas? See a string quartet perform Christmas carols at St Mary Redcliffe Church on December 29. Playing the likes of Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, Joy to the World, O Holy Night and more. Oh, and did we mention all these concerts were performed under the gentle glow of candlelight? To get your tickets to these Candlelight Christmas Concerts head here.
7. Jump on the ice
December means the arrival of winter (bleurgh), but not everything about the season is depressing. Several ice skating rinks have popped up around Bristol this month, for a most magical activity everyone can enjoy. So whether you see yourself as the next Torvill and Dean, or you’re more of a Bambi on ice, it’s time to grab your skates this December. From year-round Planet Ice near Cribbs Causeway to the return of Bath on Ice, see here for the best places to ice skating in Bristol this Christmas.
8. Swing into this dazzling Indian restaurant
Mowgli is known for ‘fuss-free’ Indian cooking that is healthy and packed with fresh flavour – and, after several delays, it will be arriving in Bristol on December 1. Expect a menu loaded with fresh, healthy, flavour-packed dishes with tonnes of vegetarian and vegan options. Especially firm favourites like the Bunny Chow – a fruity, hot, chicken and potato curry served inside a bread loaf; a classic Goan fish curry; and an Indian chip butty with fenugreek-kissed turmeric fries.
Bristol’s Old City is filled with Georgian-era buildings, iconic street art, modern eateries and Bristol’s oldest pub. Discover all this and more on this self-guided audio tour. Stopping at traditional breweries, pubs and places to eat along the way this December, you’ll also learn fun facts, like how the city began and happened to the now ruinous Bristol Castle. Who doesn’t love a bit of random pub trivia? To get your tickets head here.
10. Bust some moves at the roller disco
Propyard will bring a winter roller disco, where you can glide beneath neon lights and a shining disco ball, from November 25 – December 23. Covering 400sqm of space to groove about, tickets cost £11 for a 45-minute skate session, but keep an eye out for the Winter Social events! These adults-only parties drop the lights down low and invite some awesome DJs along – like GotSome, DJ Emma and Felix Joy. Also at Winterland, you’ll find a retro arcade, boules meets crazy golf and cosy ski lodges.
11. Witness Longleat’s glow-up with The Festival of Light
The Festival of Light returns with more life-size lanterns than ever (until January 7), exploring a world where it is “always winter and never Christmas”. We’re talking about Narnia of course. Step through the wardrobe and discover a world of illuminated characters, from the mighty Aslan to the bewitching White Witch. You’ll also discover show-stopping worlds of treasured Children’s tales like Cinderella, Peter Pan, The Wizard of Oz, and Winnie the Pooh.
But everywhere you go at Longleat, you’ll discover Christmassy surprises. From Britain’s biggest singing Christmas tree – lit up with over 88,000 twinkling lights – to the Santa Train, which will journey to the North Pole where Father Christmas is waiting in his grotto. Meanwhile, the phenomenal light show at Longleat House will bring the historic facade to life each evening, synchronised to festive music, as well as an all-new 60m fountain display on Half Mile Pond.
12. Watch a ‘first-of-its-kind’ drone light show
We all expect Bristol to become extra colourful at Christmas, but this December, something unique is happening. A ‘first-of-its-kind’ drone light show will light up Bristol skies on December 19, 20 & 21. The team behind this year’s Eurovision and London New Year’s Eve shows launches Evolution, taking audiences on a journey through time and space. Using cutting-edge technology, the show starts with the Big Bang and then journeys to the origins of conscious life on Earth. In addition to the main event, audiences can revel in festive fun with fairground rides, music and a food village with local traders. Learn more here.
13. Buy the Bristol Monopoly board
Stuck for gift ideas? Well, there’s a brand-new Bristol Edition of Monopoly that’s just come out! Plenty have criticised it for its over-reliance on BS8 locations, but there’s still plenty to love… From unique Chance and Community Chest cards to iconic locations like Ashton Gate, Finzels Reach and SS Great Britain, get a taste of being a Bristol property baron!
14. Take a winter walk at one of the UK’s most stunning natural landmarks
You might only know it for its cheese, but Cheddar is also home to the UK’s largest gorge. At almost 400 feet deep and 3 miles long, you can walk all around the craggy cliffs and pinnacles of Cheddar Gorge. The cliff-top walk leads up one side of the gorge and down the other. Just remember to climb Jacob’s Ladder to the Lookout Tower on your way around – with some staggering views of Somerset, on a clear day, you can see for miles across the Mendip Hills.
Many experienced rock climbers also head to Cheddar Gorge to test themselves – with over a thousand routes to try – but those less experienced can learn on the 50ft high outdoor climbing wall. You can also head underground into Gough’s Cave, once home to our ancestors tens of thousands of years ago. These mysterious cave chambers are full of secret caverns, incredible vistas, and stalagmites and stalactites.
15. Ring in the New Year in style
Wow! We can’t believe 2023 is almost over. It’s been a blast! There are going to be hundreds of New Year’s Eve events taking place across the city – too many to all name here. But just a taster of events includes the New Year’s Eve House Party at Bristol Old Vic – complete with mirror ball dance floor, boogie-inducing live music, a non-stop silent disco, confetti cannons, street food stalls, cocktail bars and more. Meanwhile, Hospitality will be taking over Motion for probably the city’s biggest NYE rave. We’ll be updating here with the best New Year’s Eve events in Bristol very soon.