10 of the best hidden gem Christmas events in Bristol and Bath, including great days out, festive drinking, markets, cheese (lots of it) and carols with a twist.
Cities like vibrant Bristol and beautiful Bath do Christmas very well indeed, their streets bustling with market stalls by day and awash with partygoers by night. But what if you’re looking for something a bit off the beaten track? There are plenty of hidden gems for you to discover this Christmas and New Year.
1. Celebrate the solstice with a cocktail
Do you like to complain about the commercialisation of Christmas? This one’s for you. Abandon the high street and tap into your inner druid instead. From 4.30pm on Thursday 21 December (marking the year’s shortest day/longest night), HMSS will welcome guests to celebrate the solstice with a Stonehenge inspired cocktail which even contains a chip of prehistoric stone. Herbal, zesty and chilled, The Green Manalishi cocktail also includes Bacardi Carta Blanca, hemp orgeat, lime, and aloe vera oil. Drink the darkness away and dream of summer.
Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Whiteladies Gate, Whiteladies Road.
2. Gingerbread decorating at Hobbs House Bakery
Hands up who bakes biscuits for the tree that always get eaten before the big day? Not just us then. This year, join Father Christmas (yes, the big man himself) at the Hobbs House Bakery Cookery School on Thursday 21 December for a free evening of gingerbread decorating, and take home a delicious decorated biscuit for your tree. Fingers crossed it’ll be late enough in the day for your spoils to hang in there for just a few more days…
Hobbs House Bakery, North Street, Bristol BS3 1JL.
3. Walk the Bath Skyline
Most of us put on a pound or two this season (those mince pies aren’t going to eat themselves, are they?) plus it’s all too easy to stay indoors when the temperature drops. Blow away the cobwebs with a brisk 6-miler and be rewarded with views beyond compare. See Bath from up high, through meadows and ancient woodlands to secluded valleys, all just a short stroll from the city centre. Perfect for a big family yomp before you all strangle each other.
Bath Skyline, Bathwich Hill at Cleveland Walk, Bath.
4. Après ski without the ski
If adventuring up a mountain just for something mulled doesn’t appeal, then this will make you very happy. Forget skiing and go straight to the après bit with wintry drinks served at alpine lodges in both Bristol and Bath this year. Take a break from Christmas shopping while you warm yourself by the fire, sitting at fur-lined benches in snug hideaways decorated with vintage skis. Enjoy hot chocolate, mulled cider and wine while you keep up your strength munching on mountain snacks. All those snow sports really take it out of you, don’t they?
Apres Bar Bristol is open 11am-11pm until 16 January 2018, Millennium Square, Bristol BS1 5DB.
Apres Ski Bar is open 10am–11pm until 20 December, Abbey Hotel North Parade, Bath BA1 1LF.
5. The Most Popular Art Exhibition Ever!
No, that’s not journalistic hyperbole but the name of the Grayson Perry exhibition at Bristol’s Arnolfini. On show for the first time outside London, this major exhibition features over 25 of Perry’s latest works – ceramics, cast iron, bronze, printmaking and tapestry – and continues his interest in combining delicate craft with scenes of contemporary life. Admission is free and there is no need to book, making this exhibition an ideal antidote to the madness of the festive season.
Grayson Perry: The Most Popular Art Exhibition Ever! Tuesday – Sunday, 11am-6pm (closed Mondays) until 24 December.
Arnolfini, Narrow Quay, Bristol BS1 4QA.
6. Eat, drink and watch classic movies
Christmas is all about a) eating loads of amazing food, and b) watching classic films, right? Combine these two fine activities at the Gourmet Picture Company’s Bath events this year. Top chefs Rick Stein and Tom Kerridge are taking up residence for a fortnight in a cosy Christmas theatre in Royal Victoria Park, Bath, curating three-course meals (including ice-cream at the interval) for gourmet movie goers to enjoy while watching films such as Elf, Die Hard and It’s a Wonderful Life. And for a post-Christmas treat? How about The Hangover on New Year’s Eve? You’re welcome to bring your own, of course.
Tickets £45. Various dates until 31st December. The Gourmet Picture Company, Royal Victoria Park, Bath.
7. An American Christmas in Bath
If you’re curious to know how our American cousins celebrated Christmas then head to the American Museum in Britain. This year’s festive exhibition, ‘A Little Party Never Hurt Nobody’, is a jazz age-inspired Christmas extravaganza where you can discover what Americans did to let their hair down in days gone by. Enjoy glitz, glamour and decadence with a Gatsby-esque tree in the Central Hall, while a 17th century home in Massachusetts offers more modest thanksgiving festivities. The museum’s season finishes on Sunday 17th December, closing with an afternoon of family fun – see the choir performing in and around the Museum, make festive Christmas cards, and pop in to see Santa in his grotto before he zooms home to the North Pole.
Admission from £4.50. The American Museum in Britain, Claverton Manor, Bath BA2 7BD.
8. Let there be cheese!
For some, the C-word doesn’t stand for Christmas, but instead for cheese. From classic Stilton to cheddar studded with cranberries, no festive season is complete without it. If you’re a cheeseaholic on the hunt for something new for your Christmas cheeseboard then Cheese Fest is a mature and melty dream come true. Visiting the city for the first time, Cheese Fest brings fromage from the UK’s best cheese makers and traders, making it the perfect Christmas present for your tastebuds.
Tickets from £4. 16 and 17 December, 10am-6pm.
Motion, 74-78 Avon Street, Bristol BS2 0PX.
9. Last minute shopping, market style
The Sunday market at Bristol’s Tobacco Factory is a legendary celebration of local food producers all year round. At Christmas they take this up a notch or seven, with over fifty stalls selling locally produced food, drink, gifts and crafts, plus mulled cider, roasted chestnuts and festive singing from local choirs. Not got your tree yet? (Well done!) Get hold of a top quality Nordmann Fir from local crew, Ali & Joe’s Christmas Trees.
Tobacco Factory, 16, 17 and 24 December, 10am.
Raleigh Road, Bristol BS3 1 TF.
10. Sing a song of Christmas
Christmas just ain’t Christmas without carols. If you’re fed up with the same old songs on radio rotation then get out there and see some live music instead. These two top options in Bristol this Christmas will get your fingers popping quicker than a bottle of festive fizz. The London Community Gospel Choir will be performing at the Christmas Spiegeltent on Bristol’s harbourside on Sunday 17 December. Expect an uplifting collection of gospel, swing beat, R&B and soul music – these are harmonies to warm your heart. If vintage is your thing, The Marionettes are a 1940s 3-part harmony trio who will be singing at the New Bristol Brewery on Friday 22 December. Join them for rosy-cheeked merriment while you rock around the Christmas tree.
The London Community Gospel Choir, 17 December, 8pm. Tickets from £22. Christmas Spiegeltent, Waterfront Square, Off Canons Way, Harbourside, Bristol BS1 5LL.
Ding Dong Merrily on High, The Marionettes are singing, 22 December, 7pm. Tickets £3. New Bristol Brewery, 20A Wilson Street, Bristol BS2 9HH.