From dazzling outdoor light trails and moving festive concerts, to bustling festive markets and pantomimes, there’s lots of magical events happening this Christmas in Durham.

Check out our guide below to ten of the top unmissable festive experiences to enjoy with family and friends this Christmas in Durham.

View of Durham Market Place with stalls and people during the annual Christmas Festival

1. Durham Christmas Festival

Experience a Christmas festival like no other, as Durham City is transformed into a winter wonderland, filled with fun festive entertainment and top shopping opportunities. Explore over 200 stalls from local businesses, producers and artists, alongside festive entertainment and performances across the weekend.

When? Friday 2, Saturday 3 and Sunday 4 December.

Where? Various venues across Durham City centre. 

View of the 1900s Town at Beamish Museum during Christmas with a tram

2. Christmas Daytimes at Beamish, The Living Museum of the North

Experience Christmas of the past at Beamish, The Living Museum of the North, follow the Elf Trail and see if you can spot the naughty elves hiding around the museum, try traditional delicious yuletide treats, and see how Christmas was celebrated throughout history.

When? 26 November to 24 December, various days. 

Where? Beamish, The Living Museum of the North, Beamish, DH9 0RG.

Christmas Choir at Durham Cathedral

3. Christmas at Durham Cathedral

Experience the joy of the festive season at Durham Cathedral with Advent and Christmas services. Throughout December there are many wonderful concerts, events and services the whole family can enjoy. See the lights on the 25ft tall Norwegian Spruce tree turned on at the Lighting of the Tree and Blessing of the Crib, soak up the atmosphere as Durham Cathedral Choir perform at Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, or attend a special screening of The Snowman with Shaun the Sheep!

When? Various days and times throughout December. 

Where? Durham Cathedral, Durham City, DH1 3EH. 

View of the collections hall at Locomotion Railway Museum

4. Festive Science at Locomotion

Come to Locomotion this festive season for a lovely bunch of activities to get involved with. Follow the festive trail, try out festive colouring in, and catch the science show: Light and Ice as you explore the wonders of light and ice. 

When? Every day throughout December (closed 24 - 26 December) Science Show only 19,20, 23, 27 and 30 Decemeber and 2-3 January 2023.  

Where? Locomotion Railway Museum, Shildon, DL4 2RE.

View of a sign with Christmas Santa hat on the Reindeer Trail at High Force Waterfall

5. Find the Raby Reindeer at High Force Waterfall

Wrap up warm and enjoy a wintery walk with the family to High Force Waterfall. Collect Christmas clues along the way and see if you can find Rudolph and his friends as you head towards the incredible sight of High Force Waterfall. It's a great activity for enjoying the outdoors with the kids this winter and also seeing High Force Waterfall when its at its most powerful, especially after heavy rainfall. 

After your walk why not cosy up by a roaring fire in High Foce Hotel and tuck into a hearty lunch? Or treat yourself to a luxury hot chocolate.

When? Every day, 10am - 3pm from 26 November to 31 December. 

Where? High Force Waterfall, Forest-In-Teesdale, Durham Dales, DL12 0XH.

View of Ushaw Historic House at Christmas by Catlin Ward

6. Illuminating Ushaw: Land of Enchantment

Wrap up warm, pull on those winter boots and head out to explore Ushaw: Historic House, Chapels and Gardens after dark at their annual sparkling light trail. 

The grounds of Ushaw will be filled with colour and joy at Illuminating Ushaw as you walk through sparkling tunnels of light, and see trees lit up with vibrant colours alongside dazzling outdoor art. 

When? 3 - 18 December, various days and times.

Where? Ushaw: Historic House, Chapels and Gardens, Ushaw Moor, DH7 7DW.

Panto cast in full costume at Consett Empire Theatre

7. Panto is back! 

Christmas pantomimes are back to spread cheer and laughter this festive season.! For many the annual trip to the panto has become a family Christmas tradition, and in Durham you’ll be spoilt for choice of which show to see. Oh no we won’t… Oh yes you will!

Relive the enchanting tale of Sleeping Beauty at Gala Durham, or go on adventure with Aladdin at Consett’s Empire Theatre. 

When? Various days and times, from 23 November 2022 to 8 January 2023 (Sleeping Beauty). 1 to 31 December, various days and times (Aladdin). 

Where? Aladdin at Empire Consett, DH8 5AB and Sleeping Beauty at Gala Durham, DH1 1WA.  

View of the Bowes Museum at dusk during the Christmas Market with carousel.

8. The Bowes Museum Christmas Market

Soak up the atmosphere at The Bowes Museum's feel good event of the season, with festive foods, crafts and music. Browse a fantastic range of independent traders and stallholders with taste bud tempting food, drink and hand made gifts. And don't forget no visit to the Christmas Market is complete without stepping inside and exploring inside this wonderful museum.

When? Friday 16, Saturday 17 and Sunday 18 December, 10am - 4pm. 

Where? The Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle, DL12 8NP.

group of people admiring the nativity scene at The Auckland Project

9. The Winter Experience at The Auckland Project 

Experience a Christmas like no other at The Auckland Project! Explore and enjoy a series of festive spectacles across the Winter Experience including a monumental 18th century Neapolitan Nativity scene, a beautiful flower garland in Auckland Castle throne room (featuring over 30,000 dried flowers from the castle's walled garden), 100 Christmas trees and a gingerbread version of Bishop Auckland town. Plus you'll find lots of festive workshops and family activities to try out. 

When? 18 November to 31 Decemeber, various days and times. 

Where? The Auckland Project. Bishop Auckland, DL14 7PG.

Santa and Elf onboard the Christmas Train at Weardale Railway

10. Weardale Railway Christmas Trains

All aboard the Christmas Weardale Railway train! Festive trains are back on track at Weardale Railway, with special Christmas services running throughout December. Complete with Santa and his elves, festive food and drink, all the decoration trimmings and sacks full of yuletide cheer. 

When? Various days and times, from 3 - 23 December. 

Where? Weardale Railway, Stanhope, DL13 2YS.

Want more inspiration? Check out our dedicated Christmas events in Durham guide

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