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Jingle Rails!

We’ve found some memorable Christmas days out by train for friends and family – and don’t forget you can save with a Railcard

For many, the festive holiday season is the most wonderful time of the year, an opportunity to wind down from work, indulge a little more than usual and spend some quality time with family and friends.

If you’re looking for inspiration for good times with loved ones, you’re in the right place – we’ve picked out our favourite Christmas days out for 2023, all of which you can get to by train.

And on that note, don’t forget to book your tickets with your Family & Friends Railcard – you and 3 other adults will be able to travel for 1/3 less, with 60% off rail fares for up to 4 kids travelling with you, too. Happy holidays!

Festive 2FOR1 (nationwide)

One of the best things about travelling by train is that you can get 2FOR1 entry at some of the best attractions in Britain all year round with National Rail’s Days Out Guide – and that includes the holiday season.

There are a whole host of festive-themed experiences for you to choose from this year, with Leeds Castle hosting a Narnia-themed installation, Hampton Court Palace setting up a food and gift market for its Festive Fayre, and Hobbledown Heath transforming itself into “Santa’s Secret Village”.

And that’s just a small taste of what’s out there. You can discover more 2FOR1 Christmas adventures here.

Festive England

London Christmas Markets

The magical thing about London is that there are Christmas markets everywhere you turn. You have, for instance, Christmas Under the Canopy at King’s Cross, which is the place to be for food and drink. Meanwhile, in the heart of the West End, there’s the European-themed Christmas in Leicester Square, perfect for families and friends who are hunting for gifts.

Elsewhere, by the South Bank, there’s the Winter Market, where you can grab a mulled wine and enjoy a scenic view of the Thames. If you have time, you can also check out Christmas in Covent Garden and, not far from London Liverpool Street, the Old Spitalfields Christmas Market.

Nearest stations: London Kings Cross, London Liverpool Street

Bournemouth Christmas Tree Wonderland

For a lovely festive day out in the seaside town of Bournemouth, look no further than the dreamlike Christmas Tree Wonderland. This glittering and colourful trail will have you and your crew singing “O Christmas Tree, O Christmas tree” every time you come up close to one of the 100 or so trees and illuminations dotted throughout.

Highlights this year include a 3D Walkthrough Tree, a very tall Colour Changing Tree of Light and the 20-metre long Animated Tunnel. There’s also a Christmas market, where adults can enjoy mulled cider and kids can savour sugary goodness at the Sweet Emporium.

Nearest station: Bournemouth

Nottingham Winter Wonderland

Ice rink? Done. Toboggan? You bet! Observation Wheel? No problem. Ice skate path? Er, that’s a new one, but sure. We could go on but, in short, Nottingham seems to be going all out this year with its Winter Wonderland(external link, opens in a new tab).

On top of the above, you’ve got a Christmas market in the Old Market Square where you can pick up some gems for Christmas Day. There are lots of options for food and drink here, too. For a wintery vibe, the ski chalet-themed Sur La Piste or the Ice Bar is recommended, while Altitude is ideal for hungry families and groups of friends (it is advisable to book all of these in advance).

Nearest station: Nottingham

Festive Scotland

Edinburgh Christmas Market

Most of the time, East Princes Street Gardens is a lovely slice of calm in the heart of Scotland’s charming capital. During the winter, however, the gardens are completely transformed into the buzzing, brightly lit home of Edinburgh’s Christmas Market(external link, opens in a new tab).

It’s a big one, too, with around 70 or so stalls selling everything you need for a memorable day out with kids and/or pals, as well as a Helter Skelter and Big Wheel for added fun. There’s also the Festive Family Funfair in nearby West Princes Street Gardens and the Christmas Ice Rink in George Street.

Nearest station: Edinburgh

Glasgow Winterfest

Split across St Enoch Square – handily close to its namesake shopping centre – and George Square, which isn’t too far from the banks of the River Clyde, Glasgow Winterfest(external link, opens in a new tab) is the city’s annual Christmas extravaganza.

On the traditional side of things, you’ve got stalls, rides – including a carousel – an ice rink and festive bars. On the alternative side, there’s a community hub, a silent disco – where you can all dance to your own festive tunes – and a sensory and quiet zone, perfect if your kids or friends have sensory needs.

Nearest stations: Glasgow Central, Glasgow Queen Street

Aberdeen Christmas Village

If you, your brood and your best friends are passionate foodies, you’ll be happy to hear that this year’s new addition to Aberdeen’s annual Christmas Village is the gastronomically-themed Village Square. Think German bratwursts, Dutch pancakes, hot chocolate and mulled wine (among others).

As for festive experiences, making their debut this year – alongside Aberdeen Christmas classics like the open air ice rink, the helter skelter and the Candy Cane Bungee Trampoline – are the Ice Fun House and the Ferris Wheel. For gifts, head to the Curated in the Quad Christmas Market.

Nearest station: Aberdeen

Festive Wales

Cardiff Christmas Market

In the mood to shop on your big Christmas-fuelled day out? Then you’ll want to pay Cardiff’s Christmas Market(external link, opens in a new tab) a visit, where you’ll be greeted by over 70 stalls solving that perennial problem of finding unique, meaningful and fun gifts for family and friends. There’s also plenty of festive food and drink on offer to keep you warm and sated throughout.

If you have time or are in Cardiff for more than a day, then do make a beeline for Cardiff’s Winter Wonderland(external link, opens in a new tab). From the fairground and the ice walk to the bar made more or less entirely from ice, there’s a lot more seasonal fun to be had in the Welsh capital.

Nearest station: Cardiff Central

Christmas at Erddig

With opportunities to have breakfast or supper with Santa Claus himself, decorating baubles – which you can take away to hang on your own tree – and over 1,200 acres of land to explore on a crisp winter’s day, the 18th-century country house Erddig(external link, opens in a new tab) makes for a lovely Christmas day out.

On top of all of that, there’s festive food to tuck into, a handy gift shop where you can pick up stocking fillers and a “reverse grotto” where you can donate food and toiletries (Christmas, after all, is as much about the giving as it is the receiving).

Nearest station: Wrexham Central

Swansea Waterfront Winterland

Swansea’s much-loved Waterfront Winterland(external link, opens in a new tab) returns to Museum Park – close to the National Waterfront Museum and Swansea Museum – with more up its sleeve, promising you, your youngsters and your best buds a fun-filled festival day out in the coastal city.

In addition to regular crowd-pleasers, such as the ice rink, giant wheel and Alpine Village, this year sees a new ice jet ride dubbed the only one of its kind in Europe added to the event. Expect all the lights under the sun, from lasers and lanterns to neon, as you hit top speeds of 50mph!

Nearest station: Swansea

Plan Your Journey

Family & Friends Railcard

  • For up to 4 adults travelling together with up to 4 kids

  • Just £30 for 1 year or £70 for 3 years

  • 1/3 off rail travel for adults and 60% off for kids

Find out more about the Family & Friends Railcard. (external link, opens in a new tab)