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Cotswolds at Christmas: Markets, Things to Do & More [2024]

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The image shows the Cotswolds at Christmas.
A cottage in the Cotswolds covered in snow at Christmas.

The Cotswolds at Christmas is a magical location for a merry break with family and friends; it’s the perfect place to disconnect from our busy daily routines and soak up all of the festive fun across the many picturesque towns and villages.

Come to think of it, the quaint cottages kind of look like gingerbread houses, too.

Having explored the Cotswolds in winter pretty extensively after living in Stratford-upon-Avon for a number of years, I know this area like the back of my hand.

The image shows Arlington Row in the Cotswolds covered in snow during Christmas.

In this guide, I’m going to share all of the best Christmas markets in the Cotswolds, heaps of things to do in the winter and which annual events to check out.

I’ll also recommend some great places to stay – both hotels and cottages – and cover some FAQ’s at the end.

Where are the Cotswolds

The image shows a house covered in snow in the Cotswolds during Christmas.

The Cotswolds covers more than 2000km and is distributed across six counties, primarily concentrated in Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire.

The journey from the southern to the northern part of the Cotswolds typically requires around 1 hour and 30 minutes by car.

The central and northern regions house the majority of the most popular villages.

Below is an interactive map so that you can see the exact location.

What to expect from the Cotswolds in December

The image shows cows in a field in the Cotswolds.

  • Weather: In the Cotswolds, December is part of the winter season, so you can expect it to be pretty cold. Temperatures usually range from around -2°C to 8°C (36°F to 46°F), but they can drop lower, especially at night. Some years see plenty of snow which can add to the festive atmosphere and create picturesque scenes.

  • Number of Visitors: The Cotswolds are a popular destination year-round, and Christmas is no exception. While it might not be as crowded as the peak summer months, you can still expect a fair number of visitors, especially in popular towns and villages.

  • Prices: You can expect prices to be higher than usual over the Christmas period, as this is a highly sought-after part of England that exudes festivity and magic.

  • Booking in Advance: Given the popularity of the Cotswolds during the Christmas season, it’s advisable to book accommodations, dining reservations, and any planned activities well in advance. This can help you secure your preferred options and will certainly save you from last-minute stress or limited availability!

Best Christmas markets in the Cotswolds

Bath Christmas market

The image shows a Christmas market.

Location: Bath Abbey and the surrounding areas

Dates: Thursday 23rd November – Sunday 10th December 2023

Bath Christmas Market is one of the best in the area and is a highly anticipated annual event with a lot to offer.

The market is usually set up in the heart of Bath’s historic city centre – around Bath Abbey – with the picturesque Georgian architecture and the Roman Baths providing a unique and stunning backdrop for the event.

The market typically features a variety of stalls from local artisans, designers, and businesses, and you’ll be able to find a diverse range of stunning handmade crafts, gorgeous jewellery and heaps of festive clothing.

You’ll also find that Bath Christmas Market often includes entertainment such as live music, carol singing, and other performances, making it a lively event that provides a great atmosphere.

Cheltenham Christmas Market

The image shows a Christmas market.

Location: Along the Promenade and Long Gardens in front of the Municipal Office

Dates: December 8th – December 24th 2023

Similar to Bath, Cheltenham put on a good show when it comes to Christmas markets.

With over 80 huts to zig-zag around, it’s the perfect place to pick up a few handcrafted Christmas gifts and indulge in a German hot dog and a sticky toffee apple!

What’s also great about this market is that because it’s in Cheltenham, you can catch the old-fashioned Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway from Broadway.

This is a great 2-for-1 activity and is certainly one of the most romantic things to do in the Cotswolds.

They also have a special Santa experience in December.

Broadway Christmas market

The image shows a Christmas market.

Location: Broadway high street

Dates:  Friday 24th November & Friday 1st December

Broadway is one of the bigger villages in the northern Cotswolds and has a little Christmas market and late-night shopping event every year.

On two consecutive Fridays, you’ll find extended opening hours of the village and its wonderful selection of unique gifts, ideal for spreading holiday cheer among your loved ones.

The atmosphere is alive with holiday celebrations, street performers, charming pony sleigh rides, live musical performances, and a vibrant assembly of seasonal shoppers.

Shops remain open from 5:30 pm to 8:30 pm, welcoming everyone to partake in the festive revelry.

Don’t forget to keep an eye out for shops that generously offer complimentary mince pies and mulled wine as you enjoy the merry occasion!

Burford Christmas market

The image shows a Christmas market.
The image shows a Christmas market.

Burford was one of the first towns I ever visited at Christmas in the Cotswolds so it forever remains in my mind as a magical Cotswolds town that twinkles up the hillside.

It’s a similar size to Broadway – so not huge – but also usually has a sweet little Christmas market pop up during December.

You’ll find a good selection of stalls for all the usual hand-crafted Christmas gifts and a great atmosphere whilst people enjoy the festive spirit.

Bourton-on-the-Water Christmas market

If smaller Christmas markets are more your thing then head to Bourton-on-the-Water – and don’t forget to check out the Christmas tree which sits in the middle of the river Windrush…with all its lights on… an accident waiting to happen or?

Well, so far so good anyway.

Bourton-on-the-Water really is a small Christmas market by comparison to the Bath and Cheltenham, but it’s a pretty riverside Christmas market in the Cotswolds that is great to pop by if you’re in the area and want a more intimate experience.

Other Christmas markets in the Cotswolds to consider

The image shows a Christmas market

The list above includes a mix of large, medium and small Christmas markets, but if none of those takes your fancy, then the list extends to those below:

  • Stow-on-the-Wold
  • Cirencester
  • Moreton-in-Marsh
  • Gloucester

Best things to do in the Cotswolds at Christmas time

Visit Sudely Castle Spectacle of Light…

The image shows  Sudely Castle light trail in the Cotswolds at Christmas.
The image shows  Sudely Castle light trail in the Cotswolds at Christmas.

Dates: 24th November – 30 December 2023

Sudeley Castle is great any time of year and well worth adding to your Cotswolds itinerary, but you’ll have hit the jackpot if you’re visiting at Christmas.

An array of colourful lights pour over the Castle and an enchanting light trail leads through the grounds, with twinkling lights hanging from every tree in sight.

Each year, the Spectacle of Light at Sudeley Castle has a specific theme that guides the light installations and overall atmosphere.

These themes can range from historical narratives to whimsical fantasy, showcasing the creativity and innovation of the event’s organisers.

This year, it’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz!

As you reach the end of the magical Christmas walk, there are plenty of festive treats to tuck into, and of course the obligatory mulled wine.

Be sure to book your tickets in advance, as the event is always popular.

…Or Blenheim Palace Festival of Light

The image shows  Blenheim Palaces light trail in the Cotswolds at Christmas.

Dates: Friday 17th November – 1st January 2024

Blenheim Palace has also jumped on the bandwagon and created its own event – the Festival of Light.

I won’t ramble on too much about what it is, because it’s essentially the same as Sudeley Castle’s Spectacle of Light, but it’s worth including as it’s located on the eastern edge of the Cotswolds – not too far from Oxford – which may be better suited to where you’re staying.

Whichever one you choose, they’re both great activities in the Cotswolds at Christmas!

Indulge in a tasty Christmas day lunch in the Cotswolds

The image shows a table ready for Christmas dinner.
The image shows a Chistmas dinner.

Some people see cooking at Christmas as one of the fun parts that everyone mucks in to help with, before passing out in that pretty relatable Christmas food-comer state.

However, if you’re not one of these people, then fear not, as some of the best hotels in the Cotswolds put on a superb Christmas lunch, as well as numerous pubs and restaurants.

These include, but are by no means limited to:

Go ice-skating on Cheltenham’s outdoor ice rink

The image shows people ice-skating around a Christmas tree.

I mean, does anything scream it’s nearly Christmas more than gliding around an ice rink with Christmas songs playing in the background?

Between the months of November and January, there is an ice rink at the Imperial Gardens in Cheltenham – which is conveniently located by the Christmas market, too.

Whether you’re spending Christmas in the Cotswolds with family or a loved one, ice skating is always a great laugh – mainly a laugh at those who deck it on the ice – but still, a laugh nonetheless.

Tip: in 2022, Cheltenham took a break from hosting the ice rink, so be sure to double-check the local council website before heading there just for this.

Watch the Christmas lights be switched on

The image shows a Christmas tree with strings of lights.
The image shows a boy walking under Christmas lights.

I know I said nothing screams Christmas like ice-skating to Christmas songs, but I think I need to retract that statement, as the Christmas light switch-on probably trumps that.

If you’re visiting the Cotswolds in winter for the entire Christmas period – which is quite possible with many companies now adopting flexible working policies – then you may be able to catch the Christmas lights being switched on in one of the many villages, towns, or cities across the Cotswolds.

If you love a vibrant atmosphere then we’d recommend heading to larger cities/towns such as Bath, Cirencester, or Gloucester.

However, if you prefer a less crowded festive affair then places like Tetbury, Stow-on-the-Wold and Burford also host events for switching on the Christmas lights in the Cotswolds.

The image shows the Cotswolds at Christmas.
The image shows a car with Christmas lights on.

Here is a little more detail about some of the best locations:

  1. Cheltenham: The Promenade and Montpellier areas in Cheltenham usually have beautiful Christmas light displays. The switch-on event often features live entertainment, music, and a festive atmosphere.

  2. Cirencester: The Market Place in Cirencester is known for its festive lights and a traditional Christmas market. The switch-on event is accompanied by seasonal stalls and activities.

  3. Broadway: This charming village often has a delightful Christmas lights display along its historic streets. The switch-on event here is known for its community spirit and festive cheer.

  4. Bourton-on-the-Water: With its picturesque riverside setting, Bourton-on-the-Water is a wonderful place to experience the Christmas lights switch-on. The village often hosts events, including a late-night shopping evening.

  5. Stroud: Stroud’s Christmas lights are another attraction to look out for. The local events may include a switch-on ceremony along with street markets and entertainment.

  6. Moreton-in-Marsh: This market town usually features festive lights that add to its charm during the holiday season. The switch-on event here can offer a cozy and festive atmosphere.

  7. Tetbury: Tetbury’s Christmas lights switch-on event often includes live music, entertainment, and a festive market. The High Street is a focal point for these celebrations.

  8. Stow-on-the-Wold: Stow-on-the-Wold is known for its traditional Christmas lights display. The switch-on event here can be a memorable experience in the heart of the Cotswolds.

  9. Burford: The medieval town of Burford often hosts a Christmas lights switch-on event that enhances the holiday spirit in this historic setting.

  10. Winchcombe: This Cotswold town usually has a switch-on event that features festive activities and lights decorating its charming streets.

Enjoy an arts and crafts afternoon with wreath making

The image shows someone making a Christmas wreath.

All I have to say here is don’t knock it until you try it, guys!

Ok, I have slightly more to say…

Wreath making is therapeutic and a great festive bonding experience for you and your family/friends/loved ones to do at Christmas.

In between all of the mince pies and mulled wine, you’ll learn how to craft – what will hopefully be – the best Christmas wreath on the street and will be thoroughly impressed by your inner arts and crafts king/queen.

Whether you want to take home your hand-made wreath to hang upon your own door or give it as a gift made with love, you’re guaranteed to leave feeling a little more festive and ready for Christmas!

Some great places to give wreath-making a try are:

  • Daylesford Farm Shop in Kingham
  • Ellenborough Park near Winchcombe/Cheltenham
  • Broadway Tower in Broadway

Discover the most picturesque towns and villages sprinkled with snow

The image shows the Cotswolds at Christmas.

The Cotswolds are littered with picturesque villages – in fact, it’s one of the main reasons that people choose to take a break there.

No matter which town or village you’re staying in, you’ll almost certainly be surrounded by dozens of other – totally jaw-dropping – little towns and villages in the Cotswolds.

Below are our personal favourites that I think you’ll also love.

Castle Combe

The image shows Castle Combe.

Castle Combe is one of the most photographed locations in the Cotswolds – and probably the UK – regardless of the time of year.

It’s a small picturesque town that has had no development since the 1600s and has little more than a few tea rooms, yet it’s well worth visiting to snap a picture of the infamous bridge over the river Windrush with cobbled cottages in the background covered in snow.

Bibury

The image shows Bibury in the Cotswolds at Christmas covered in snow.

Bibury rivals Castle Combe in popularity, and I am never quite sure which one sits in the first place.

Regardless, Bibury is idyllic – particularly when it’s covered in snow.

In fact, I think Bibury may be my favourite place in the Cotswolds at Christmas.

Tip: You can head to The Catherine Wheel or The Swan Hotel for lunch in Bibury if you’d like, however, we recommend avoiding these and venturing 5 minutes down the road to Coln St Aldwyns, where you’ll find The New Inn.

Stanton

The image shows Stanton in the Cotswolds at Christmas.
Stanton

Stanton is yet another gorgeous and sleepy village that – although we are yet to see it – would look beautiful with a dusting of snow.

We highly recommend heading to The Mount Inn pub which is perched along the hillside in Stanton and offers generous views over the Cotswolds.

Lower Slaughter

The image shows Lower Slaughter in the Cotswolds covered in snow at Christmas.

The teeny and tiny village of Lower Slaughter is the perfect place for a Christmas walk; its riverside houses lay silently beside the river Windrush in total serenity, with small bridges that cross from the road to the pathway at various points.

Splurge on a late night Christmas shopping trip

If you’re anything like me, then there is always that one or two…or maybe three, gifts that you have forgotten to get or simply can’t seem to find.

Or, perhaps you’ve had a long and hard year and want to treat yourself while you’re on your Christmas break.

Either is fine, we aren’t here to judge.

Luckily, there are some great places to go Christmas shopping in the Cotswolds.

Bath is by far the best – and again, that isn’t just because I am a huge fan of Bath – I promise

But because there are tonnes of mainstream and small boutique shops to pick up some goodies.

Plus, Bath really goes all out with their Christmas lights and it feels absolutely magical.

Alternatively, Cheltenham, Cirencester, and Gloucester also have a nice mixture of mainstream and independent shops with a lively atmosphere.

However, if you prefer shopping in predominantly independent shops with fewer crowds, then Broadway, Chipping Campden, and Stow-on-the-Wold are all great options for unique – and often hand-crafted – gifts at Christmas.

Book onto the Christmas pantomime

The image shows people watching a Christmas pantomime.

Who doesn’t love a good panto? especially at Christmas!

It’s always guaranteed to get you laughing and spread nothing but festive cheer as you all stand to sing some of the best Christmas songs at the end!

If you enjoy big events, then head to a panto in Bath or Gloucestershire however, if you prefer a small and intimate viewing then check out Stroud or Chipping Norton.

Embark on a snowy walk along the Cotswolds Way

The image shows sheep in the Cotswolds at Christmas.

It’s a tradition in my family – and probably many others – to set off on a long Christmas day walk ahead of eating your body weight in Christmas goodies – and with a network of trails sprawling across the hills that offer some of the best views in the UK, the Cotswolds is the perfect place for it.

The Cotswolds Way spans 102 miles and starts in Chipping Campden and finishes in Bath, so you’ll likely only want to do a section of the walk.

Luckily, there are many circular routes which include the Cotswolds Way, including some of these best Cotswolds walks that cover a range of distances for different abilities.

Treat you and your loved ones to a festive afternoon tea

The image shows a pot of tea and cake.
The image shows piece of cake.

Almost every town and village in the Cotswolds will have a restaurant or tea shop that will offer afternoon tea – the most well-known and popular being Huffkins – a previously independent and family-run business that has grown into a chain across the Cotswolds and Stratford-upon-Avon due to its popularity; that comment alone should say enough about how great Huffkins is.

However, I have made it one of my tasks to try out as many different places for tea, coffee and cakes as I pootle around the Cotswolds and have since had my fair share of afternoon tea.

So, here are some alternative places to Huffkins that also deserve some of the limelight:

  • Burford House in Burford
  • Lucy’s Tearoom in Stow-on-the-Wold
  • Wesley House in Winchcombe

Christmas events in the Cotswolds in 2023

Every year there are tonnes of great events all across the Cotswolds.

Here are the ones to look out for in 2023:

  1. The Cotswolds Christmas Fair at Daylesford Farm Shop: gift and food stalls, raffles and games

    Dates: 6th – 9th November

  2. Enchanted Christmas at Westonbrit Arboretum: an illuminated light trail and a visit to Santa Claus

    Dates: 24th November & 15th December

  3. The Flight Before Christmas: Santa Grotto Experience at Cotswold Airport

    Dates: 25th November – 24th December

Useful tips and information for visiting the Cotswold

The image shows the Cotswolds with a frost.

  1. The best way to get to and travel around the Cotswolds is by car

  2. Most car parks are free in towns and villages

  3. Almost all towns and villages have public toilets, some of which charge a small fee to use – so make sure you carry some change

  4. A lot of the shops are closed on a Sunday

  5. Always book ahead for activities and meals out as the Cotswolds is very popular

  6. Most pubs are dog friendly

  7. Avoid travelling to well-known locations on a Saturday, as even though parking is free, you probably won’t get a space!

Best places to stay in the Cotswolds at Christmas

The image shows hot chocolates by the fire.

Best Cotswolds Christmas Cottages

Hawford House

Just around the corner from Stow-on-the-Wold is Hawford House – a self-proclaimed traditional and luxurious honey-stone house with a modern twist that is pretty damn incredible!

From its large and open plan kitchen of dreams to the master bedroom that features a silver freestanding bathtub, it is the perfect place for large groups wanting to spend Christmas in the Cotswolds in style.

Check prices: Hawford House

Little Tithe

Close to Morton-in-Marsh is Little Tithe – a traditional gated cottage from top to bottom, filled with all of the necessities such as a log burner, island kitchen, and king-sized beds to enjoy a cosy Christmas break.

Little Tithe sleeps up to 8 people, making it the perfect group stays at a slightly more affordable price than Hawkford House.

Check prices: Little Tithe

The Old Candle Shop

Also situated in Morton-in-Marsh is The Old Candle Shop – an absolutely gorgeous 2 bedroom/2 bathroom period conversion that sleeps up to 6 in the centre of Morton-in-Marsh.

The interior features some brightly coloured wall panelling and a hot tub, making it the perfect homely base for an intimate Christmas break for a couple or a small group.

Check prices: The Old Candle Shop

Almsbury Farm Shop

Situated near the idyllic town of Winchcombe is Almsbury Farm House and it’s absolutely huge!

Hosting up to 14 guests, this utterly amazing house is great for large groups, yet also benefits from the option for a couple to stay separately in the nearby annexe for those moments when you love your family/friends…but just need a moment of peace and quiet.

Almsbury Farm House also welcomes dogs, meaning no one misses out on the Christmas fun in the Cotswolds!

Check prices: Almsbury Farm House

Best hotels

The Broadway Hotel

The image shows the Broadway Hotel.

The Broadway Hotel is a charming mid-range establishment.

The hotel stands out for its distinctive rooms brimming with character and has garnered acclaim for its exceptional culinary offerings.

For those seeking warmth during the winter months, a communal area with a crackling fireplace awaits, providing the perfect cosy haven for relaxation.

Situated in a central area, the hotel offers the convenience of complimentary on-site parking.

Moreover, the hotel extends a warm welcome to pets, allowing them to accompany you on your journey.

Check prices: Booking.com | Expedia.com

Burford – The Highway Inn

The image shows The Highway Inn in the Cotswolds.
The image shows The Highway Inn in the Cotswolds.

The Highway Inn is a character property with modern comforts in the very centre of Burford.

Parts of the building date back to 1480, meaning you’ll find sloping ceilings, wooden beams and the occasional creaky floorboard.

Yet, these all add to its charm.

You’ll find a roaring log fire with comfortable surroundings which is perfect during the festive period.

Particular rooms here are pet friendly, should you wish to bring your furry friend, however, you’ll need to consider a small fee.

If you’re looking for comfort, character and convenience, then The Highway Inn is perfect.

Check prices: Booking.com

Priory Inn

The Priory Inn is a historic building with stone walls and exposed beams and acts as both a restaurant and hotel.

It’s set away from the main hustle and bustle of Tetbury, yet everything that the town has to offer is within walking distance.

Upon arrival, you’ll find friendly owners who are happy to go the extra mile to ensure their guests have a pleasant stay.

In addition, you’ll find hand-made toiletries and local produce used in the restaurant.

Check prices: Booking.com | Agoda.com

FAQ

What is the most Christmassy Cotswold Village?

The image shows the Cotswolds covered in snow at Christmas.

Each little village in Cotswolds has its own unique charm and opinions are subjective, so it’s difficult to point out one village over another, but if I had to choose one then I would choose Bourton-on-the-Water.

It’s known as the Venice of the Cotswolds and exudes a magical charm during Christmas.

The quaint streets lined with traditional cottages are adorned with twinkling lights and decorations, with the added extra of the river that runs through the village, makes it super special.

That being said, many other Cotswold villages, such as Stow-on-the-Wold, Chipping Campden, and Broadway, also offer delightful holiday displays and events that create a festive atmosphere.

Exploring multiple villages during the Christmas season can provide you with a variety of Christmassy experiences, each with its own unique touches and traditions.

Where is the best place to go for Christmas in the Cotswolds?

The image shows a Christmas market.

Choosing the best place to spend Christmas in the Cotswolds depends on your preferences and the type of experience you’re after.

However, here are some of the best-voted locations with a recap of why and what’s going on there:

  1. Cheltenham: This larger town often hosts a variety of festive events during the Christmas season, including markets, light displays, and entertainment. Cheltenham’s elegant architecture and bustling atmosphere make it a great choice for a lively and spirited holiday experience.

  2. Bourton-on-the-Water: As mentioned earlier, Bourton-on-the-Water is known for its magical Christmas ambiance. The village’s lights, decorations, and riverside setting create a picturesque and enchanting atmosphere perfect for a traditional Christmas experience.
  3. Broadway: Broadway’s historic High Street is beautifully decorated during Christmas, and the village often hosts festive events and markets. Its charming architecture and cozy feel make it a top choice for those seeking a quintessential Cotswold Christmas.

  4. Cirencester: The “Capital of the Cotswolds” typically has a lively Christmas market, lights, and events that add to the holiday spirit. Its mix of history and modern amenities can provide a well-rounded Christmas experience.

  5. Stow-on-the-Wold: Stow-on-the-Wold often features a Christmas tree lighting ceremony and seasonal events. Its bustling market square and historic charm make it a lovely destination for Christmas.

  6. Tetbury: Known for its independent shops and antiques, Tetbury hosts Christmas events and offers a cozy and welcoming atmosphere during the holiday season.

  7. Winchcombe: This smaller Cotswold town often has a festive atmosphere with lights and seasonal events, making it a quieter yet charming option.

DISCOVER MORE BEYOND THE COTSWOLDS AT CHRISTMAS

The image shows the sunrise in the Cotswold at Christmas.

The Cotswolds really is one of the best Christmas breaks in the UK, so we hope you enjoyed reading all about the Cotswolds at Christmas with all the wonderful markets and things on offer.

If you want to discover more, then the below posts may be worth checking out:

Stay Wild Travels.

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