Things to See & Do in Leeds this Festive Season

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Things to See & Do in Leeds this Festive Season
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Looking for activities to get you into the Christmas spirit this December? Or fun events to keep the kids entertained throughout the two-week break? Then look no further. Whether you’re a resident or a visitor, there are plenty of things to do in Leeds during the festive season.

From Christmas markets and Santa visits to live shows and unique dining experiences, here are our top picks for 2023. We’ve included ideas for all ages and interests, and both indoor and outdoor activities. So whatever you’d prefer, get ready to experience Yorkshire’s biggest city at the most magical time of year…

What to do in Leeds this Christmas

Explore the city’s Christmas markets

For the first time in four years, Christmas markets have returned to Leeds. They’re open every day until 22nd December and this time around, there are more stalls than ever before! Across 13 zones, you’ll find 120 timber huts selling handmade decorations, artisan gifts, local cheese, confectionary and more. There are also various hot food stands offering German bratwursts, crepes and Yorkshire pudding wraps, plus several outdoor bars. On top of that, kids can take part in this year’s Nutcracker Trail – solve the clues to win a voucher to spend at the markets.

Have some fun in Millenium Square

Located at the heart of the city centre, Millenium Square is well known for its winter festivities. In fact, this year’s markets are largely an expansion of this area’s popular Bavarian-style stalls and covered ice rink. Want to give it a try? Hire skates and penguin skating aids for children as needed. You can also book 1:1 weekend skating lessons to hone your skills, though these are limited. Alternatively, you may prefer a ride on the Wheel of Light – an illuminated Ferris wheel providing a birds-eye view of Leeds. Either way, you certainly won’t get bored here!

Take the kids to meet Father Christmas

Looking for things to do in Leeds this Christmas with your little ones? If they’re still young enough to believe in the magic of Saint Nick, why not pay him a visit? There are grottos in the White Rose Centre and the Merrion Centre’s Candy Cane Club, which offers SEND sessions. The Mansion at Roundhay Park is also hosting Santa Claus experiences, while the Thackray Museum is combining visits with activities and crafts. Just bear in mind that many of these experiences have to be booked online in advance, so check first to avoid disappointment.

Spend the day Christmas shopping

If some retail therapy is more what you had in mind, Leeds is the place to be this festive season. The city centre is home to multiple shopping centres featuring all of your favourite high street brands. Meanwhile, the stunning Victoria Quarter houses designer brands and luxury boutiques – and it’s decorations are a must-see in December. After something a little bit different for your gift recipient? Visit trendy Kirkgate Market or Leeds Corn Exchange to browse independent retailers, including vintage clothing outlets, record shops and more.

Treat yourself to festive afternoon tea

Need a break from all the shopping? If you’re partial to sandwiches and sweet treats, then we’d highly recommend booking a festive afternoon tea. 5-star Dakota on Russell Street is a great option, serving up turkey and cranberry sandwiches alongside mini yule logs. The Crafthouse also offers weekend afternoon tea with limitless prosecco. Or for a truly luxurious experience, The Ivy in Victoria Quarter is the obvious choice. Otherwise, plenty of places are offering Christmas-themed bottomless brunches, like Manahatta, All Bar One and Canary Bar.

See a live show at one of Leeds’s top venues

Attending a pantomime is an annual ritual on many families’ to do lists. This December, Snow White is showing at Carriageworks Theatre, with no shortage of laughs and audience participation. Or for something a little different, how about the high-energy Robin Hood: The Rock ‘n’ Roll Panto at City Varieties Music Hall? Offering a twist on a classic tale, this show is full of chart-topping anthems! Don’t fancy the panto? Catch iconic Oliver! The Musical at Leeds Playhouse or see The Nutcracker performed by Northern Ballet at Leeds Grand.

Watch classic festive films on the big screen

Seeking fun things to do in Leeds this festive season with your partner or a friend? This month, you can see your favourite festive films on the big screen! Several cinemas are hosting throwback screenings, but our favourite has got be Everyman. Situated in the Trinity complex, this place sets itself apart from other venues with comfy sofas and food served to your seat. There’s also a cocktail bar for the grownups – perfect for date night or an after work treat. Book online to see Love Actually, Home Alone, Die Hard, Elf and more in Sony 4K now.

Visit Harewood House

Whether you’ve visited this magnificent stately home before or not, seeing it at this time of year is an unforgettable experience. Just a 20 minute drive from the city centre, explore Harewood House’s beautifully decorated, majestic State Floor. Or take a stroll beneath twinkling trees in its ancient woodland, followed by a festive workshop – there’s wreath making, knitting and more! For families, this year’s nostalgic Great Time Travelling Christmas exhibition is a must-see, as is the Father Christmas Storytime event. They also serve scrumptious afternoon teas!

Experience Stokeld Park’s Winter Illuminations

A little further afield, near Wetherby, you’ll find one of the country’s biggest light festivals – Stockeld Park’s Winter Illuminations. And although this isn’t technically something to do in Leeds this Christmas, we promise it’ll be worth the trip!

Visit after dark to see awe-inspiring light projections, animated installations and other special effects within the Enchanted Forest. Or challenge your family and friends to solve the twinkling Yew Tree Maze with 2 miles of twists and turns. Who will reach the middle first? There’s also plenty of play areas for the kids, an ice skating rink and Santa’s grotto visits. Better still, there are tiered packages to suit your needs, so you’ll only pay for the activities you’re interested in.

And that’s it – 9 great things to do in Leeds this December for both adults and kids alike! Which ones will you choose?

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