Top Ten Christmas Events in Oxford 2023_Hero

Top Ten Christmas Events in Oxford 2023

Nov 29, 2023

Step into a winter wonderland as we unwrap the festive magic nestled within the historic heart of Oxford. In this enchanting city where centuries-old charm meets contemporary cheer, the Christmas season unfolds with an array of delightful events.

Amidst the festivities, it’s an ideal time to step out from the Old Parsonage or the Old Bank Hotel and embrace culture and theatre. From twinkling lights casting a warm glow on cobblestone streets to the harmonious melodies of choirs echoing through ancient cathedrals, and cosy pubs by the river with a whisper of mist and a warm fire, Oxford exudes a Dickensian charm that is truly magical.

Join us as we guide you through the top ten Christmas events in Oxford, where each moment sparkles with the spirit of the season. Whether you’re a local seeking new traditions or a visitor eager to experience the city’s yuletide charm, this curated list of things to see and do around Oxford promises to make your holiday season merry and bright.


1) Illuminated After-dark Light Trail and Sleeping Beauty


Where: Blenheim Palace
When: 17th November 2023-1st January 2024

Infusing this UNESCO World Heritage Site with festive sparkle on a grandiose scale, Christmas at Blenheim comprises two sensory experiences, one in the grounds, the other weaving through the palace rooms. A brand-new illuminated light trail is a masterpiece of sparkling lights in their thousands, glowing tunnels, laser projections, water fountains, and sweeping musical scores. Inside, a reimagining of the classic Sleeping Beauty story takes you from uplifting gifts for Aurora’s christening (represented via Christmas trees) to the evil fairy’s lair, spinning wheels and the castle in a 100-year slumber.

Why: This is undoubtedly Oxfordshire’s finest showpiece, a spectacle of light, sound and imagination. If you want drama, it has water fountains dancing to music and ropes of light shooting up trees. For magic, there are carpets of colour and a feast of fluorescence among the foliage. It’s all wrapped in warming festive cheer, too, with wooden huts selling mulled wine and marshmallows to toast over fire pits. It’s also only eight miles from the Old Parsonage Hotel – a short 20 to 35-minute car journey and easily accessible by bus, too.

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2) Jack & The Beanstalk Pantomime

Where: Oxford Playhouse
24th November 2023-7th January 2024

Expected of any panto, the Beaumont Street theatre promises family entertainment, top to tail with fee-fi-fo-fum antics. The storytelling begins with Jack growing some mysterious beans, and continues with the fearless lad climbing his beanstalk to face the giant in a festive extravaganza.

Why: The Oxford Playhouse is a stalwart of Oxford’s theatre scene. In this production, there’ll be singing, dancing and plenty of laughs, alongside lots to cheer about and baddies to loudly boo – an absolute treat for children and nostalgic fun for adults, too.

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3) Oxford City Christmas Market 2023

Where: Broad Street, Oxford City Centre
30th November-23rd December

Green and red canopies housing stalls loaded with handcrafted gifts and artisanal crafts will bring a festive ambience to Broad Street in the weeks before Christmas. Entertainment will revolve around choirs, bands and fairground rides, and there’ll be seasonal food and drink, from hand-warming gluhwein to bratwurst and gourmet offerings.

Why: The market couldn’t have a more convenient city centre location, just a few steps from the Radcliffe Camera and the Old Bank Hotel on the High Street. It makes for a three-for-one experience. You could browse the goods and festive-themed bites at the stalls, enjoy photo opportunities at Oxford’s most iconic landmark, then pause awhile for afternoon tea or drinks at Quod.

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4) Handel’s Messiah Concert

Where: The Queen’s College, Sheldonian Theatre
1st December, 7 pm

‘The Choir of The Queen’s College Oxford’, the ‘Academy of Ancient Music’, and an impressive line-up of soloists will be bringing the arias and choruses of Handel’s Messiah to vivid life in this evening concert.

Why: The event continues the established collaboration between the finest choral singers and an orchestra with a world-acclaimed reputation. Together, they’ll be directed by Owen Rees, Director of Music at The Queen’s College, who is both energetic and persuasive. Previous performances have sold out months before the event and early booking is advised, so keep in mind for 2024 too!

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5) Lantern-led Tours


Where: Oxford Castle & Prison
1st-31st December

In December only, tours of Oxford Castle & Prison will be led by the flickering glow of a lantern. You’ll hear tales from the city’s 1,000 years of history and descend into the bowels of the cells and crypt.

Why: These special tours are for a limited time, and invite you to step into the city’s shadowy past in the most atmospheric of ways. Visiting at this time of year also grants you a panorama of Oxford’s wintry lights painting the sky when you climb the 101 steps to the top of St George’s Tower within the castle.

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6) Bach’s Goldberg Variations

Where: St Giles’ Church
When: 5th December, 4 pm

On Woodstock Road, a late-afternoon concert will see the church’s 16-year-old junior organ scholar, Benjamin Grønlie, performing Bach’s most popular keyboard work to raise money for a new organ.

Why: St Giles’ is next door to the Old Parsonage. In less than a minute’s walk, you could be seated in a 12th to 13th-century place of worship, listening to a virtuoso performance by an emerging young talent. It’d make for an easy stop-by before concluding the day with dinner at Gees up the road.

Discover more here.


7) Jon Rowland – Ancient and Natural Spaces: A Personal Journey

Where: Wolfson College, University of Oxford
Until 8th December

Displayed in the Levett Room and Florey Room, this exhibition of recent paintings by Jon Rowland draws inspiration from nature, particularly Scottish and French landscapes, and the artist’s emotional response to the impact of coronavirus followed by the freedom to travel once more.

Why: While speaking to Jon, he said that the aim of this exhibition was to create original, contemporary art that is grounded in ‘place’ – similar to the art collections across our hotels. He added: “I tend to work in series, with references to locations that are abstracted, revealing themes of colour, movement and space.”

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8) Christmas at Christ Church

Where: Christ Church Cathedral
13th December & 15 December, 8-10 pm

Brimming with both festive cheer and deepfelt nostalgia, this is a mix of Christmas music and carols, with Christ Church’s world-renowned choir leading the singing. Booking is essential. Family concerts, advent carol services, a Macmillan fundraiser and a Viennese Christmas Spectacular (8 pm, 17th December) will also be raising the cathedral’s barrel-vaulted roof throughout December.

Why: Ingrained with a true taste of tradition, Oxford’s famous annual celebration of Christmas is matched by wonderful Gothic and Romanesque surroundings. Before the singing, you might like to join a lantern-led guided tour – every day at 4 pm between 29th November and 22nd December (booking is recommended at Otherwise, you could explore at your own pace, discovering where scenes from Harry Potter were filmed and the Christ Church Picture Gallery.

Discover more here.


9) Christmas Carol Concert

Where: University Church of St Mary the Virgin
When: 15th December, 7pm

With Oxfordshire Choral Society Opus 48 performing traditional festive music and Benjamin Britten’s Ceremony of Carols, this is a musical celebration of Christmas at its most soul-singing traditional.

Why: The church has been a place of worship for more than 1,000 years, the spiritual heart of Britain’s oldest university. You can feel this history pulsing through the building. The concert also gives you the opportunity to hear the premiere of a new piece of music by Oxford-based composer, Christopher Churcher.

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10) Colour Revolution, Victorian Art, Fashion & Design

Where: Ashmolean Museum
When: Until 18th February 2024

A major exhibition in central Oxford dispels the myth that Victorian Britain was all dark and monochrome. It highlights how artists and designers at the time embraced the new and revolutionary use of colour, with dazzling dresses and ornate furniture, accessories, jewellery and avant-garde artwork on display.

Why: Less than a ten-minute walk from both the Old Parsonage and Old Bank hotels, there are only a couple of months left to explore the oft-overlooked vibrancy of the 19th century, as seen through the explosion of colour in the collection.

During the quieter winter months, the Ashmolean Museum turns into a haven of warmth and comfort. Its well-heated galleries provide plenty of opportunities for reflection and quiet contemplation, plus the museum is a visual feast for the senses with vast collections that span millennia. The museum’s holdings include Egyptian mummies, Roman mosaics, Pre-Raphaelite paintings, and works by renowned artists like Raphael, Van Gogh, and Picasso.

Discover more here.