Even in darkest December, the UK has an abundance of fun and free things to do. Fill your yuletide with Santa parades, city tours, a fabulously festive cabaret show– and lots more
Diaries at the ready! These free events for December 2021 include lantern trails, art workshops, dance classes, and the chance to see one of the UK’s best-loved choirs perform live.
December is often a pricey month, but luckily it’s packed with free events too – whether new art exhibitions, guided nature walks or world-class live music. Naturally, many of these fantastic freebies are Christmas-themed, with lashings of seasonal sparkle – but others encompass everything from Japanese culture to Bhangra dancing, so there really is something for everybody.
Here’s our pick of the best free things to do in December 2021, with a mix of in-person and virtual happenings; enjoy them with family and friends or take a well-deserved moment all for yourself.
1. Tour Bath’s best bits
Free Walking Tour of Bath – daily, except 25 December
With its ornate Georgian architecture, lively Christmas market and twinkling festive lights, Bath is always magical in December – an ideal destination for days out and mini breaks. If you visit this month, don’t miss the daily walking tours by the City of Bath Honorary Guides: these two-hour trips have been operating since 1934, and are completely free (no tipping allowed). Booking is essential, and the route is wheelchair-accessible.
2. Discover the next Clarice Cliff
Christmas Independent Ceramics Market, London – 12 December
For that one-of-a-kind Christmas present, this eclectic market in Walthamstow, London, will bring together over 100 potters and ceramicists – featuring both established creators and graduate makers alike. You’ll be able to purchase pieces directly from the artists who made them, while scoping out new talents and a wide range of styles. Even if you’re not here to buy, this is the place to pick up some pottery pointers and ideas for free, in a creative and vibrant setting.
3. Get the kids in the kitchen
Kitchen 2.0: A Virtual Cooking Series for Kids – 20 December
With all those sweet treats and festive bakes on the menu, December is the ideal time to get children interested in cooking – so bravo for chef Laura Carbonneau, whose online cook-alongs will return this month. Suitable for kids aged 8+ (with adult supervision), the sessions are designed to teach basic skills and techniques in the kitchen, while working to create something delicious.
4. Meet a Scottish Saint Nick
Edinburgh Christmas Santa Parade – 4 December
With a stirring accompaniment by the Stockbridge Pipe Band, Edinburgh’s annual Santa Parade always has a distinctly Scottish twist. As ever, his sleigh will be pulled by Cairngorm reindeer, and escorted by a band of merry elves – alongside the Tunnock Van laden with sugary treats. This motley band will travel from Saunders Street to Inverleith Park, where you’ll find a mini funfair and charity marquee, plus a chance to meet Saint Nick in his grotto.
5. Join a festive singalong
Boundless Festive Food and Singalong, Peterborough – 1 December
It won’t be a Silent Night at Peterborough’s Milton Golf Club: Boundless’s 2021 event calendar comes to a festive finale with a Christmas singalong on 1st December, and everybody is welcome. You’ll be Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree with all the traditional carols and pop favourites of yesteryear, plus a raffle, quiz and refreshments. A great opportunity to meet other Boundless members, and banish any Bleak Midwinter blues.
6. Enter the jungle
Green Rooms houseplant market, London – 11 and 12 December
From delicate blooms to near-unkillable cacti, find your perfect houseplant at this botanical market, held at Mercato Metropolitano in London’s Elephant and Castle. Featuring 20 green-fingered businesses, it’ll be full of experts offering their tips and tricks, and plentiful Christmas shopping ideas. If you buy a plant, ask the vendor how to divide or propagate it: soon you’ll have plenty more, all for free!
7. Have fun at the fair
Ormskirk Frost Fair, Lancashire – 5 December
Featuring over 70 festive-themed stalls, Ormskirk Frost Fair brings together top-quality artists, craft makers, woodworkers, jewellers and more – for a one-stop Christmas shopping event. Alongside the gifts, cards and decorations, there’ll be an abundance of seasonal food and drink, plus live music and entertainment for families. It’s open all day (11am–4pm) in the market town of Ormskirk, and parking is free, too.
8. Catch a live concert
Royal Opera House Live at Lunch, London – 3 and 13 December
Twice a month, artists from the Royal Opera House perform small lunchtime recitals for free, with tickets on a first-come-first-served basis. The 45-minute programme could encompass ballet, opera or a mini concert; it’s always a surprise, and always a thrill to see the performers up-close. The final two events of 2021 take place in December, at the Linbury Foyer and Paul Hamlyn Hall.
9. Take a walk on the wild side
British Wildlife Photography Awards exhibition, Falkirk, Scotland – until 16 January
The touring exhibition of the British Wildlife Photography Awards is now showing at Falkirk’s Callendar House – a spectacular chateau-style mansion. Celebrating the best of amateur and professional nature photography, the awards reveal the diversity of British flora and fauna: a must-see for all nature lovers and photography enthusiasts. With its arboretum and landscaped gardens, Callendar Park is also lovely for winter walks.
10. Find a present from the past
Leeds Vintage Market – 4 December
While it’s free to enter, be warned: this quirky vintage market may inspire a spending spree, especially if you’re hunting for Christmas gifts. It’ll be full of glamorous fashions from the ’50s and ’60s, as well as military memorabilia, bric-a-brac, furniture, sewing patterns and more – with side-shows including live music, singers and swing dancing. It’s all held in the beautiful Victorian Leeds Kirkgate Market, from 10am to 4.30pm.
11. Be arty at the RWA
RWA Scribble and Sketch, Bristol – 4, 11 and 18 December
Crayons, paints and glitter-glue at the ready: RWA’s Scribble and Sketch workshops are packed with creative arts-and-crafts fun, and the whole family is invited. They’re held every Saturday, at various locations throughout Bristol – and led by creatives from the RWA, the city’s oldest gallery. Though sessions are suitable for all ages, children must be supervised. All materials are supplied, and there’s a lively community atmosphere.
12. Bring the tots to Tring
Toddler time at Tring Natural History Museum – until 17 December
School’s out for Christmas, but the learning continues at Tring NHM, with its free daily ‘Toddler Time’ programme. Suitable for kids aged 3–5, the events include activities and games throughout the museum, but older children are welcome too (and will find lots to enjoy). The themes change every day, including Daring Explorers, Ocean Adventure, Find your Friends, Butterfly Quest and Birds Song. Great rainy-day fun, and there’s no need to book.
13. Watch a seasonal spectacle
Coventry Christmas Cabaret – 16 December
As Coventry’s 2021 City of Culture tenure draws to a close, there’s just time for one final show: the Christmas Cabaret, which promises a ‘musical, poetry and dance extravaganza’. Hosted by Emilie Lauren Jones (the city’s first poet laureate, and an accomplished performer) it’ll feature high-quality acts from across the Midlands and take place at Warwick Lane’s Methodist Central Hall. Suitable for children aged 12+.
14. Create a masterpiece in Brighton
Collage Club Brighton – 7 and 21 December
Combining friendly company, great beer, and lots of colourful creativity, Brighton’s Collage Club meets twice a month at the Hope & Ruin pub – with all materials supplied for free. It’s fun, informal, and no collaging experience is necessary: you can create or decorate anything you choose, and simply drop in from 6–9pm. Look out for free drinks and prize giveaways, too.
15. Explore to a seasonal soundtrack
Magical Music Weekend at Tredegar House, Wales – 18 and 19 December
If you’re a National Trust member, you’ll enjoy free entry to this entertaining weekend at Tredegar House, Newport. Local musicians and community groups will be performing throughout the mansion and gardens, lighting up the afternoon with their carols and festive favourites alike. Also this month, don’t miss Tredegar’s Christmas Craft Trail and the Cotyledon Food and Drink Market – both free.
16. Master some Bhangra moves
Bhangra Dancing Master Class, online – 3 December
Originating from the Punjab, Bhangra dancing is best-known for its energetic Bollywood choreography and colourful costumes – so this free masterclass will certainly put a spring in your step. Suitable even for absolute beginners, it will feature traditional music and drumming, while the teacher (from the Punjabi Theatre Academy) will explain the stories and significance of each dance.
17. Come together for Christingle
Peterborough Cathedral Christingle Service – 19 December
Christingle services will be taking place throughout the UK this month, combining nativity readings, live carols, and traditional Christingle oranges for all the family. One such venue is Peterborough Cathedral, which will offer an afternoon of prayer and reflection in its magnificent nave (from 3pm). All visitors are welcome, but the event is ticketed to ensure social distancing.
18. Start a good habit for 2022
Mindful Monday Yoga, online – 27 December
After the excesses of Christmas, our thoughts turn to New Year’s resolutions – but why wait until January to get started? Your body will thank you for joining this muscle-stretching, mind-soothing online yoga class, which is suitable for both beginner and intermediate levels. The hour-long Zoom session is live from Florida at 9pm GMT: ideal for unwinding before bed.
19. Spot some vibrant winter wildlife
Guided Nature Walk at Moss Bank Park, Bolton – 13 December
Stretch your legs in Bolton’s Moss Bank Park, with a free wildlife-watching walk hosted by its volunteer rangers – offering fresh air, good company and plenty to see. The group meets outside the café (10.30am) for an hour’s gentle stroll, keeping an eye out for robins, squirrels, wagtails and more. The winter berries are red, the holly is thriving, and the skies are alive with local and migrating birds.
20. Put on your dancing shoes
Brighton Dome Festive Fun Day – 11 December
Christmas has come early! With live music, carols, a kids’ disco and hat-making workshops, Brighton Dome’s Festive Fun Day is always a cracker. Suitable for children of all ages, it’s ideal for a play-date with energetic tots: there are three sessions throughout the day (each lasting two hours), and advance booking is essential. The perfect place to debut your family’s matching Christmas jumpers...
21. See a star-studded choir
Choral Concert East Kilbride, Scotland – 11 December
The Glasgow Phoenix Choir, one of the UK’s foremost choral groups, will be performing a free carol concert in East Kilbride’s Moncreiff Parish Church – a fantastic opportunity to see this illustrious collective sing live. The group’s previous credits include the musical ‘Chess’, Glasgow’s Commonwealth Games, the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall, and many more. This will be a very special evening indeed.
22. Bring a Christmas classic to life
History in Action at Old Royal Naval College, London – 19 December
Families can step inside A Christmas Carol with this interactive drama session, aimed at children aged 5–10. Led by professional actors, it’ll be a bright and engaging introduction to the Dickens classic. Also this month at ORNC, the free Make History workshop puts Victorian Christmas crafts in the spotlight, with all materials and tuition provided (12th December; ages 5+).
23. Brighten up your December
Lanterns & Lights, National Maritime Museum Cornwall – 18 December until 2nd January
Until the new year, Cornwall’s National Maritime Museum will be lit with lanterns, fairylights and garlands galore – a beacon of levity on even the gloomiest day. Follow the sparkling star trail between the Flying Flotilla and extensive boat collection, or join a Christmas-themed Make and Take craft class (12–3pm daily). Admission is complimentary for visitors who’ve visited the museum in the past 12 months, and both events are free to join.
24. Listen to some toe-tappers
Lee Vasey Big Band Concert, Norwich – 5 December
From Beyonce to the Blues, Mustang Sally to Living la Vida Loca, there’ll be a tune to get everyone dancing at this free gig in Norwich. Lee Vasey and his Big Band have been performing professionally all over the UK for years, and 5th December marks their return to The Brickmakers – the town’s foremost indie music venue. All ages are welcome, and the music runs from 2–4.30pm.
25. Find a new perspective
Windowology: New Architectural Views from Japan, London – 1 December to 22 April
In celebration of the humble window, this new exhibition will reveal their significance in Japanese culture – whether as an architectural statement, a frame for a picturesque view, or simply a way to wave to neighbours. Curated under the direction of architect and critic Igarashi Taro, it’s the latest addition to the design-themed programme at Japan House London – whose library, talks and travel services are also completely free to enjoy.
Do more with Boundless
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