Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your nose… Oh yes, Christmas in Sussex is as magical as any Christmas song. Full of glittering light trails, Father Christmas meet-ups, and Christmas markets full to the chalet rafters with handmade gifts and warming mulled wine, it’s deliciously easy to get swept up in the Christmas spirit as you make the most of everything this festive season has to offer.
It’s not just big, twinkly events, either. Oh no, from wintry walks through the frost-covered countryside to festive swims in the totally cobweb-clearing sea, Christmas in Sussex is an unforgettable experience for those who want to wrap up warm and bask in the fresh air. You’ll also find some uber-warming country pubs during your travels where roaring fires, mulled wine, and decadent roasts boast the true essence of this indulgent season.
Itching to pull on your most outlandish Christmas jumper as you blast some Michael Bublé? Here’s our complete guide to Christmas in Sussex…
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Oh, how we love a Christmas market. There’s just nothing better than browsing incredible handcrafted gifts while sipping on mulled wine and stuffing mince pies and cheese samples in your face – holiday bliss!
Well known for its festivals, Brighton’s Christmas festival is no exception, with St Peter’s Plaza turning into an epic winter wonderland full of festive cheer – and a giant Christmas market that runs between Friday the 17th of November until Christmas Eve. Traditional with a capital T, the Christmas market promises stall after stall of glorious Christmas gifts, mouth-watering German bratwursts, and enough hot chocolate to warm you to the core. You’ll also find an Apres Ski Bar for that all important mid-shopping tipple – cheers!
The Eastbourne Christmas Market is an utter feast of festivities in the heart of East Sussex. Christmas music fills the air as stalls laden with homemade treats and unique crafts beckon. Kids (and big kids) will love the many festive rides and street performers that pepper the jolly streets, all with a merry backdrop of Christmas lights and a seasonal nip in the air.
Giving you a head start on filling the stockings, the Chichester Indoor Christmas Market will be bringing the festive spirit on Sunday the 19th of November. A fantastic range of independent retailers and creators make up the 100 stalls, from jewellery and glassware to artisan cheese and homemade pickles. The Chichester Indoor Christmas Market really is ideal if you want to support local businesses this Christmas.
The much-loved monthly Wadhurst Farmers and Crafters Market enjoys a festive face lift in December, when it transforms into a Christmas market on the first and third Saturday of the month. Over 30 stalls pop up and provide a cornucopia of choice, whether you’re at the Christmas market for fresh bread to pair with your artisan cheese or beautiful handcrafted gifts you won’t find anywhere else – not to mention the many foodie stands to keep the hunger well and truly at bay.
Whether you love shouting “He’s behind you!” while watching a pantomime or climbing aboard a steam train to meet Santa, Christmas in Sussex is full of fabulously festive events the whole family can enjoy.
Your chance to meet Santa while also enjoying a mesmerising steam train journey through the crisp countryside, Bluebell Railway’s Santa Specials are back and better than ever. You’ll get a compartment all to yourselves (complete with mince pies and chocolate coins) as you chug-chug your way to Santa’s Workshop where you’ll meet the jolly man himself. Kids will get a Christmas present with the ticket while adults enjoy a glass of Christmas punch on the platform.
Going big for Christmas for over 30 years, Fishers Farm is the first and last word in festivity. The Santa’s Grotto will be welcoming wide-eyed little ones as they enjoy some gingerbread decorating before meeting Santa (if you’re on the nice list). Make sure to stop by the Fishers Farm Panto for a classic and raucously fun retelling of Cinderella. Of course, alongside the festivities, you’ll have total access to the rest of the theme park so the kids can let off some steam after all the candy canes.
Created by an award-winning events team, the famous Tulleys Christmas Experience returns for another year of Yuletide magic. From reindeer flying schools and singing chickens to a magical elf forest and Santa’s sleigh ride (and much more), there is an entire Christmas scroll’s worth of festive activities to get stuck into during your visit. All ages are catered for from toddlers and teens and everything in between – even adults will love the Christmas circus and fascinating facts about reindeer – did you know the Finnish have a unit of distance based around how often reindeer stop to go to the bathroom?
Sleeping Beauty: The Pantomime
Continuing their hot streak of classic, Christmas pantos, Worthing Theatre is back with their dreamiest performance yet! Oh yes, bringing this beloved tale to life with amazing special effects and out outrageous shenanigans, this raucous Christmas show is sure to delight any and all who venture to the Worthing Theatres and Museum. Performances run throughout December, with BSL, dementia, and relaxed performances ensuring everyone can enjoy the show.
As darkness falls, wrap up warm and head out to see Sussex illuminated by twinkling lights and astonishing displays, from gardens cloaked in colour to trains covered in glittering bulbs.
The many beautiful gardens in Sussex come alive with light and colour in the festive season as every bush, bed, and tree is dressed to the nines in celebration of the season. Home to the largest Victorian glasshouse in the world, Kew Gardens are well known for their big approach to gardening and Christmas is no different. Glow Wild is an annual explosion of light and colour as installations light up the incredible gardens, with 2023 marking the celebration's tenth anniversary. While exploring this magical garden in Haywards Heath, keep an eye out for the UK’s largest Christmas tree, which stands tall at a whopping 37m and requires no less than 1,800 lightbulbs to decorate it (get your lightbulb changing jokes ready for your visit).
Ready to enter an entirely new world this Christmas? With a jaw-dropping array of Christmas lights, projections, and interactive installations, Leonardslee gardens is a Christmas lights display with a difference. Follow the winter trail through the enchanting trees as you marvel at the planets and moons that shine above you, peppered with otherworldly lanterns and sculptures. Make sure to bring your cosiest coats and accessories, as this magical trail lasts over an hour in the crisp winter’s air.
As if steam trains weren’t magical enough, Bluebell Railway has gone one step further and covered one of their fabulous trains in Christmas lights – you literally can’t miss it! Climb aboard and zip through the countryside surrounded by dazzling light and Christmas music or head to one of the spots along the train’s journey to see the spectacular show whiz past in a blur of colour and light. It really is a totally unique experience.
One of the biggest light displays in Sussex, Light Up Trails turns Cowdray Park into a kaleidoscope of colour, with trails leading through an incredible array of multi-sensory displays. Walk through laser forests, alongside shimmering ponds, and marvel at the magical ‘Night before Christmas’ projection, all under the spellbinding figure of the castle ruins. Alongside the otherworldly displays, Santa’s Grotto, street food, and a funfair add to the pure magic of the event.
Put down the mince pies, it’s time to shed the Christmas jammies and fireside warmth in favour of a swimsuit and the refreshing embrace of the North Sea. Oh yes, with a stunning array of beautiful beaches, Sussex is perfectly positioned for this most wacky of Christmas traditions. Some of these beaches are nice and close to London so you can embark on a Christmas swim wherever you are!
Brighton beach sees hundreds of possibly mad swimmers running into the waves on Christmas Day every year, with encouraging spectators ready to reward participants with fluffy towels and hot chocolates. On Boxing Day, a great sea of people wanting to refresh after a day of festive feasting hurtle into the water at Eastbourne to raise money for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (wetsuits are welcome at this one).
For those looking for a total reset as you kick off 2024, head to Hastings for the annual New Year’s Day swim, which always has a great turn out and raises money for Hastings RNLI. If you prefer a more controlled setting for your festive dip, Arundel Lido is welcoming eager swimmers on Christmas Day, Boxing Day, and New Year’s Day, providing a heated outdoor pool for your celebration.
When it comes to Christmas, food really is at the heart and soul of the season, whether it’s a labour of love in the kitchen on the big day or copious amounts of festive grub when out and about exploring.
Eat out at Christmas
Offering festive afternoon teas (complete with snowball macarons and Christmas cake) in the lead up to the big day and a five-course extravaganza on the day itself, Wingrove House in Alfriston has Christmas dining all tied up in a most delicious bow! Bringing both festive tapas to the menu as well as party menus and a four-course Christmas Day lunch with all the trimmings, the Duke of Sussex in Cheswick is perfectly placed to avoid the dishes this Christmas – you can even grab a free glass of prosecco if you visit them during an off-peak time! Looking for a historic setting to unwind with a mulled wine in hand? The Bull in Ditchling boasts two open fires, a festive feast menu featuring spiced winter fruit Bakewell, and a Christmas Day menu that will have you rolling home – a true sign of a very merry Christmas.
Eating at home from home
While eating out is always great fun, sometimes it’s nice to surround yourself with friends and family at home where Christmas lunch can be paired with raucous conversation and riotous rounds of Pictionary and charades. When it comes to stocking up for Christmas, Sussex’s larder has you well and truly covered. The many fabulous vineyards are ready to ply you with all the bubbles and smooth reds, while farm shops and delis such as Rassasy and Battle Deli provide all the treats and foodie delights for the table, from fresh veg to enough cheese to last until next Christmas!
With incredible coastal scenes and rolling countryside, Sussex is a walker’s paradise at any time of year, but there’s just something extra special about winter walks. Wrapping up in countless layers, frost clinging to the grass underfoot, rosy cheeks bundling into a fire-warmed pub, the delights of winter wanders never cease to amaze. In West Sussex, rural scenes create the perfect backdrop to your Christmas Day walk. Stroll along babbling rivers, up and down devilish valleys (don’t worry, only in name), and around glassy lakes and ancient towns.
In East Sussex, the iconic coast provides a jaw-dropping setting for your seasonal strolls as you follow the path of the Seven Sisters and explore the historic coast along the Saxon Shore Way. You’ll also find some ancient woods and buildings to explore during your walks, which make for a lovely reprieve from the wintry winds.
Ready to celebrate Christmas in Sussex? Explore our cosy holiday cottages and start planning the ultimate festive holiday.