Leeds-List: The Best & Most Insightful Guide to Leeds

Everything You Need to Do in Leeds This Christmas

· Andrew Emery · Christmas

Christmas is coming – and yule love every minute!

Lotherton Christmas Experience

The Leeds Core Bus Network is made up of 18 bus lines for services that run every 15 minutes or better. With new colour-coded bus lines, maps and real-time info at bus stops, travelling around Leeds has never been easier. Find out more.

Christmas comes but once a year, so you’d better make the most of it!

Leeds is overflowing with Christmas spirit this year. The city is making up for lost time with a fabulous festive programme of street markets, light installations, food festivals, craft events, pantos and more. Expect old favourites to make a welcome return, along with plenty of new events and surprises in store – there’s loads of stuff for families to enjoy too. The most wonderful time of the year is set to go with a real bang.

Chow Down

Chow Down Night

Credit: Tom Martin

Chow Down’s festive offering is a surefire winner. Head down to Temple Arches for fabulous music, an ever-shifting array of hand-picked street food vendors and a great range of drinks. They’ve stepped it up for Christmas with a new purpose-built bar, heated ski lodge, cosy tipis, rooftop curling and a new taco residency that’ll have you lining up for second helpings. It’s family-friendly too, so why not book in for Sunday breakfast with Santa?

Chow Down’s Winter Village will be Temple Arches until Friday 31st December 2021.

The Christmas Adventure

Stockeld Park Santa Breakfast Panto

The kindly elves at Stockeld Park will pull out all the stops this Christmas. Their Christmas Adventure sees the Winter Illuminations take over the Enchanted Forest, creating a gorgeous, twinkling wonderland for you to explore. Those same lights will render the Snowflake Maze truly magical, a labyrinth made from over 2000 yew trees. Add in Santa’s Grotto, a panto breakfast and real life reindeers for the ideal festive family day out.

The Christmas Adventure will be at Stockeld Park from Saturday 20th November 2021 until 4th January 2022.

Upon a Christmas Wish

Harewood House Upon a Christmas Wish

Credit: Tom Arber

Harewood House becomes even more spectacular when the most wonderful time of the year rolls around. The interior is turned into a place of whimsy and delight as you follow an immersive story created by ‘connoisseurs of make-believe’ Lord Whitney in collaboration with poet Toby Thompson. No spoilers, but expect theatrical sets, shadow play and clever use of both light and poetry. They’re also offering festive afternoon teas and twilight visits.

Upon a Christmas Wish will be at Harewood House from Saturday 13th November 2021 to Monday 3rd January 2022.

The Leeds Big Wheel

Leeds Big Wheel

What goes around comes around – and the Leeds Big Wheel is back for 2021. This truly impressive 110-foot Ferris wheel will light up the sky from its traditional vantage point in Victoria Gardens, giving all those who climb on board a breathtaking vista of the city. It’s the best way to get a birds-eye view of the festive lights, but it’s also a feast for the eyes in its own right, with over 25,000 LED lights creating an almost hypnotic display.

The Leeds Big Wheel will be at Victoria Gardens from Friday 16th November to Friday 31st December 2021.

Golden Gallopers Carousel

golden gallopers carousel

A drop-dead gorgeous vintage carousel called Golden Gallopers has become a firm favourite in Leeds over the Christmas period. You’ll find it back on Cookridge Street this winter. It’s no run-of-the-mill carousel, however, as this beauty has a story that goes back to the Victorian era. Originally made in 1884, it has been lovingly restored and now adds a dash of flair and romance to Christmas in Leeds. Get on board with your kids or a loved one and watch the city blur.

The Golden Gallopers Carousel will be at Cookridge Street from Friday 19th November to Friday 31st December 2021.

Thor’s Tipi Bar

Thor's Tipi Leeds

Channel your inner viking with a day, afternoon or night at Thor’s Tipi Bar. Heck, it’s the festive season, make it an all-dayer! Thor’s is returning to Victoria Gardens, the ideal place to get all snug when it’s getting a bit glacial outside. Warm yourself up in front of the roaring open fires with mulled wine and cider, beers and more. Bring the little ones along too – they’ll be all over the hot chocolate stall, just make sure you don’t order them a boozy chocolate shot!

Thor’s Tipi Bar will be at Victoria Gardens from Friday 19th November 2021 to Sunday 2nd January 2022.

Lotherton’s Christmas Experience

lotherton christmas

Credit: Leeds Museums and Galleries

A reliably magical day out for the family, Lotherton’s Christmas Experience sees the grand Edwardian house become a playground for children who still believe in the magic. Wander the twinkling lights of the woodland walk with interactive stations and discover the Fairy Dell or stop for a drink in the Yuletide Yurts and watch a magic show. Santa will be waiting in his cabin to decide who’s been naughty and who’s been nice, while there are crafting elves on hand too.

Lotherton’s Christmas Experience runs from Sunday 27 November 2021 to Sunday 2nd January 2022.

Bedknobs & Broomsticks

bedknobs broomsticks

Credit: Johan Persson

The Disney classic Bedknobs & Broomsticks will be brought to theatrical life at The Grand this Crimbo – and it promises to be a doozy. The fantastical and fabulous tale of the Rawlins children and their adventures with trainee witch Eglantine Price takes them from London streets to the beautiful briny sea. This adaptation will include the original, indelible Sherman Brothers songs, along with new lyrics and music by Neil Bartram and Brian Hill. Not to be missed.

Bedknobs & Broomsticks comes to Leeds Grand Theatre from Wednesday 8 December 2021 to Sunday 2nd January 2022.

Ice Cube Skating Rink

ice cube leeds

Fancy taking to the ice in Millennium Square this Christmas? Then you’d better get your skates on because Ice Cube is making an appearance earlier than usual. It’s a 400-square metre ice rink in the heart of the city, with a transparent roof so the Christmas lights can twinkle above you as you draw patterns on the ice. It’s open for public skating every day, but on Saturday and Sunday mornings, the ’Penguin Club’ gives kids a chance to learn to skate safely.

The Ice Cube Skating Rink launches at Millennium Square on Friday November 26th until Friday 24th December 2021.

Beauty & The Beast Rock ’n’ Roll Panto

City Varieties Rock n Roll Panto - Red Riding Hood

Credit: Ant Robling

The Rock ’n’ Roll Panto at City Varieties is a definite highlight of the Christmas calendar and this year they’re breathing new life into the one-and-only Beauty & The Beast. Expect the traditional tale to take on a completely different form, with panto-level gags, lots of audience participation and the injection of singalong rock anthems. It’s a blast for both grown-ups and kids, complete with explosives, smoke effects and a few surprises too.

Beauty & the Beast Rock’n’Roll Panto comes to City Varieties Music Hall from Friday 26th November 2021 to Sunday 9th January 2022.

Leeds Corn Exchange Christmas Market

corn exchange xmas

Credit: Amy Heycock

A brand new festive market is coming to Leeds Corn Exchange this year. It’s masterminded by the people who brought us Rum Fest and the Gin Fair, so you know it’s going to rock. Expect rotating food and drinks from the likes of Raclettemenot, OnaRoll, Masroi Egyptian Street Food and more, along with bars, games, live music, local DJs, masterclasses and booze tastings. North Brew Co. will add a local flavour to the beer range. Cheers!

Leeds Corn Exchange Christmas Market will run for six weeks from Friday 19th November 2021.

Wendy & Peter Pan

Wendy & Peter Pan

You might feel you’re familiar with the story of Wendy & Peter Pan, but the Playhouse’s take on the classic gives it a completely fresh spin. While JM Barrie’s timeless original focusses on Peter, this new production is told from Wendy’s point of view. Peter, Tinkerbell and Tiger Lily are all present and correct, but not as you know them – the latter is now a ninja. Expect stunning sets, anime-style projection and, of course, lots of flying.

Wendy & Peter Pan comes to Leeds Playhouse from Thursday 18th November 2021 to Sunday 22nd January 2022.

Christmas at Temple Newsam

Temple Newsam Christmas

Credit: Leeds Museums and Galleries

Put a pep in your festive step at Temple Newsam this Christmas. There’s plenty to do from late November right though to the New Year, including a whole new illuminate trail that will bring the garden to life after dark. You’ll pass huge baubles as you wander through tunnels of light to the fire glade. Keep a keen eye out for Father Christmas because he’ll be in attendance. Feeling the chill? Grab a hot chocolate or spiced winter warmer to keep the cold at bay.

Christmas at Temple Newsam runs from Friday 26th November 2021 until Sunday 2nd January 2022.

A Very Curious Christmas

thackray christmas show

Thackray Museum of Medicine doesn’t do run-of-the-mill Christmas events. This year they’ve got a brace of brilliantly skewed entertainment lined up for you. First up, Lord Foppletwig’s Christmas Contraption Show will combine magic, music, stunts and Victorian hilarity aimed at families. For something a little darker, enjoy cocktails and canapés while pathologist Dr Suzy Lishman dissects Santa’s body. Is it the real thing? You’ll have to wait and see…

Lord Foppletwig’s Christmas Contraption Show runs from Saturday 11th December until Sunday 19th December 2021. Dissecting Santa is on Friday 17th December 2021.

Lord Mayor’s Carol Concerts

rothwell temperance band lord mayor carol concert

Want to hear Christmas carols sung with true skill? Get yourself down to the wonderful surrounds of Leeds Minster on Thursday 16th December 2021 for the Lord Mayor’s Carol Concerts. This annual event will be introduced by Darius Battiwalla, the Leeds City organist, and will feature the Leeds Philharmonic Chorus accompanied by the Rothwell Temperance Band. Expect to hear those carol classics sung somewhat better than you get on your doorstep.

The 2021 Lord Mayor’s Carol Concerts are at Leeds Minster, 6.30pm on Thursday 16th December 2021.

The Nutcracker and I

nutcracker northern ballet

Credit: Nigel Norrington

The Nutcracker is often a huge Christmas spectacle, but this production – called The Nutcracker and I – proves that smaller is often better. It’s a two person show, with renowned pianist Alexandra Dariescu accompanied by a ballet dancer to conjure up an intimate but truly impressive show. What makes it magical are the hand-drawn animations that are digitally projected onto the stage, creating a marvellous, family-friendly multi-media day out.

The Nutcracker and I is at The Stanley and Audrey Burton Theatre, Northern Ballet, from Wednesday 22nd to Thursday 23rd December 2021.

Tinsel by Wrongsemble

toddler at show

Tinsel is a festive show that will be popping up all over Leeds in late December. It’s presented by theatre group Wrongsemble and tells the story of a boy who dreams of being the fairy atop a Christmas tree. While he can dance, sing and dress up a storm, he has to convince a host of sceptical baubles that he’s got what it takes. It’s just an hour long, so ideal for kids, and some locations will host crafting events inspired by the performance after the show.

Tinsel by Wrongsemble is at various locations from Tuesday 21st December until Thursday 30th December 2021.

Christmas at Left Bank

christmas craft market

There are Christmas events galore at Left Bank this year, kicking off with their night market. It will be packed with makers, crafters and artists. They have their own beer on tap along with mulled drinks and pizza. There’s a seasonal edition of the bonkers Bongo Jango night and, later in the month, the Art Sparkles Christmas Market arrives. If that’s not enough, there will be readings, drinks and food at Christmas by Candlelight on Sunday 12th December 2021.

Christmas events at Left Bank run from Friday 3rd December to Sunday 19th December 2021.

Dear Leeds

Dear Leeds Light Installation

Credit: Ben Bentley

One of the best light installations returns to Briggate this Christmas, and it’s bigger and better than ever before. Dear Leeds, which is inspired by Kate Ryrie’s poem of the same name, was commissioned by LeedsBID to help capture the essence of this magnificent city. A modern neon take on Christmas lights, it uses mirrored Dibond to create the illusion that the words are floating. It’s a must-see when you head to Briggate to pick up some presents.

Dear Leeds is on Briggate over the Christmas period.

Aladdin

Everyone’s favourite genie will be popping out of the lamp at Carriageworks Theatre this Christmas to assist Aladdin. Family fun is guaranteed with dazzling dance routines, songs for you to sing along to and jokes that will range from the groan-worthy to the genie-us. Join Aladdin’s magic carpet ride as he chases his destiny, his true love and uses his last wish to wish for 10 more wishes. Okay, maybe not the last one…

Aladdin comes to Carriageworks Theatre from Friday 26th November 2021 to Sunday 9th January 2022.

See What Santa Sees

See what santa sees

Visit Victoria Gate with your sprogs this December for a charming, interactive storytelling experience delivered by the big man himself. See What Santa Sees will bring his marathon Christmas Eve journey to life and illuminate the places he visits as he crosses the globe delivering presents to those who’ve made the ‘good list’. Take your elves along for this 360 immersive trip for the perfect pre-Christmas experience and get the whole family in the festive spirit.

See What Santa Sees runs from 11.00am-5pm on various dates from Saturday 4th December to Thursday 23rd December 2021.

Leeds Winter Market

leeds winter market

The largest independent winter market in Leeds is back this December for one day only. You’ll find over 100 indie stalls nestled inside the Royal Armouries, running the gamut from designers to artists, florists to jewellers, printmakers to wellness experts and more. There will be artisan food sellers here too, so you can try samples, fill up and get a flurry of unique gifts to take away. Don’t want to share? Stock up on a hamper and keep it to yourself!

Leeds Winter Market is at the Royal Armouries, 10.30am-5.30pm on Sunday 5th December 2021.