During the festive season, the quaint city of Durham transforms into a winter wonderland. It is the perfect place to spend some magical days over winter, and the small winding streets and the prominent cathedral look straight out of a picture book. If you’re lucky enough to visit the city during a snowy spell, the atmosphere will be even more festive. The twinkling Christmas lights reflected in the frosty streets are enough to get anyone in the Christmas spirit!
If you’re planning on spending some time in the small university city this winter prepare to be spoilt for things to do! From light shows to wreath making, Durham has a lot to offer to get you in the Christmas mood. What’s more, there are plenty of hotels in Durham city centre, so you will be right in the centre of the action, with many festive attractions at your fingertips! Let’s have a look at the top things to do this winter so that you can make the most of the festivities in and around Durham.
1. Enjoy a festive light switch-on
Every year, Durham’s Christmas light switch on sets the bar for the rest of the festivities to come. This year, the grand event will take place in Durham’s Market Place on the 28th November. 2019’s display promises not to disappoint, with hundreds of people expected to attend and enjoy to spectacle.
2. Marvel at Durham Lumiere
If you really want to see a spectacle this Christmas, then the Durham Lumiere is an unmissable event! It takes place between the 14th to the 17th of November and this year marks the ten-year anniversary of the UK’s largest light festival — so you can be sure they’ll pull out all the stops! In previous years, visitors have been wowed by the bright, bold, and creative artworks created with light. From neon sculptures, to huge projections onto buildings, the art pieces flood the city in light and wonder. This year, there will be 37 artworks, 26 of which will be outside the ticketed area and available to view at any time. Viewing the pieces in the ticketed area is still free of charge, but you will have to book your space in advance to guarantee your entrance and avoid overcrowding.
3. Take a step back in time
A mere 20-minute drive outside Durham city centre, you’ll find Beamish, the living museum of the North. Beamish is a whole lot of fun all year round and a great place for a family day out, but over Christmas this living museum becomes even more magical. Beamish provides everything you could need to feel like you’ve been transported into a Christmas of the past. Attractions include Beamish Bazaar (the perfect place to shop for traditional trinkets), a fairground, an ice rink, and a 1950s welfare hall, where you’ll find festive games, crafts, and music.
4. Try your hand at wreath making
If you’re feeling particularly crafty this Christmas, why not try your hand at traditional wreath making? Not only is wreath making a fun activity, but you get something out of it that you can proudly hang on your door for all to see! There are many Christmas wreath making sessions to choose from in Durham this season, including one that takes place at the beautiful Durham Cathedral on Thursday the 12th December, with help from a local artist.
5. Catch a show
You simply can’t go through the whole festive season without seeing a live show. No matter your taste, Durham has something that you’re bound to enjoy. If you’re in the mood for some side-splitting laughter, make sure you catch a Christmas panto. This year you can see Aladdin at the Gala Theatre and Cinema; A-Lad-In-Panto at Alun Armstrong Theatre; Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs at The Forum Theatre, Billingham; Jack & The Beanstalk at the Darlington Hippodrome; and Goldilocks & the Three Bears which is also on at The Forum Theatre, Billingham.
If panto isn’t your scene, relax and enjoy a show from the Durham cathedral choir instead. The yearly event, ‘Christmas with Durham Cathedral Choir’ is taking place this year on Saturday 14th December at 7:30 pm. The evening promises to be full of festive classics and will undoubtedly put you in the Christmas spirit! Find tickets and more info here.
6. Shop ‘til you drop
Finally, it wouldn’t be Christmas without some top-quality Christmas shopping! If you’re looking to squeeze in some gift buying when you visit Durham, be sure to attend Durham City’s traditional Christmas fair. This year, the fair will take place between the 29th November and the 1st December and will be packed full of festive treats! As part of the festivities, there will be a Regional Food and Drink Producers’ Market, which will include over 30 different vendors. With additional festive markets taking place in Durham Market Hall and the Market Place, you’ll be spoilt for choice!
With all of these options and many more festive treats in store, there’s never been a better time to get away from it all and explore the historic market town of Durham!