Play Hard

Durham Christmas Festival is back – with markets, carol concerts, festive food and street performers putting us right in the seasonal spirit

From Friday 3rd to Sunday 5th December, Durham will officially become Christmas city.

Written by Becky Hardy
Published 13.11.2021

Advertisement Feature

Christmas is back – and so is the Durham Christmas Festival.

After a disappointing festive season last year, we’re beyond excited to get right in amongst all the festivities this Christmas to make up for lost time. And Durham Christmas Festival is always our first port of call.

Opening on Friday 3rd December and running for three days, Durham Christmas Festival brings together four epic markets in one superbly seasonal city. With a Craft & Gift Marquee on Palace Green, the Regional Food Producers’ Market in the Cloisters of Durham Cathedral, a Festive Outdoor Market in Durham Market Place and Durham Market Hall, which will be open on all three days (and every day in December up to Christmas), there’s always – and we mean always – something for everyone here. And that’s before we’ve even mentioned all the dazzling street performances and live entertainment throughout the city.

In Durham this December, you’ll find more than 200 independent traders, businesses, artisans and designer-makers – all offering gifts, decorations, festive food, heart-warming drinks and special seasonal surprises. Think bright lights against crisp, dark skies, Christmas carols and scents of mulled wine and cinnamon. And, most importantly for us, the chance to interact with other people at this most wonderful time of year. In short, festive vibes for days.

Let us break it all down for you…


Mince pies, mulled wine, truckles of cheese, sizzling sausages, candy canes, sweet churros, brandy, cinnamon, toffee apple and gingerbread… for many of us, we can instantly imagine Christmas through the sounds, scents and flavours of the holiday season.

There are few better places to get that festive sensory overload than at a Christmas market – and few Christmas markets more jam-packed with foodie traders and drinks aficionados than Durham’s Christmas Festival.

Culinary kings and queens will want to make the Regional Food Producers’ Market their first port of call. Head to Durham’s magnificent cathedral and inside its cloisters, you’ll discover 24 of the region’s finest food and drinks producers – and plenty of opportunities to pick up some sweet and savoury seasonal snacks.

The Regional Food Producers’ Market in the Cloisters of Durham Cathedral and will open on Friday 3rdDecember from 10am to 5pm, Saturday 4th December from 9am to 5pm, and Sunday 5th December from 12.30pm to 4.30pm. 


Bright lights, Christmas music and smiles all round – Durham’s Christmas Festival promises to deliver in terms of its live entertainment offering, too.

As well as all the food, drink and shopping on offer here, the city will also be filled with the familiar sounds of the festive season – with buskers, choirs, orchestras and street performers adding to the feeling that this really is the start of Christmas. A particular highlight every year is Carols for All in Durham Cathedral, which takes place on both Saturday 4th and Sunday 5th December. Because, what says Christmas more than traditional carols sung in the most impressive seasonal surrounds?

But the best thing about Durham Christmas Festival, as opposed to a lot of other Christmas markets out there, is that it truly takes over the city and injects a real festive atmosphere everywhere you go. This – coupled with the fact that Durham is home to some of the most amazing bars, restaurants, pubs and cafés in the North East – means that whatever time you visit, you can easily stay in the city and make a whole day of it. And why not? After all, it is Christmas.


It’s why we go to Christmas markets, after all. Perusing the wealth of gifts, art, crafts and decorations in the crisp, winter air as you search for that perfect present is all part of the magic of Christmas. But it becomes one of our all-time favourite parts of the festive season when those gifts, art, crafts and decorations are handmade by local businesses and artisans.

That’s why Durham Christmas Festival ticks yet another box for us. The Craft & Gift Marquee on Palace Green will be home to 100 different small businesses from 3rd December – promising to be the place to find that extra-special gift which has had love, care, pride and attention to detail poured into its creation. So much more meaningful than your average high street buy, right?

But that’s not all, either. In Durham’s Festive Outdoor Market, you’ll find another 30 traders with plenty more gift ideas, clothing and homeware on their stalls. While Durham Market Hall also promises to be abuzz with excited shoppers browsing the 40 independent businesses, all selling presents, cards, gift wrap, jewellery, accessories, homeware, clothing and hobby supplies. There are also plenty of food and drink stalls dotted around too, as we know all too well how shopping can work up your appetite.

The Craft and Gift Marquee is open Friday 3rd December from 10am to 6pm, Saturday 4th December from 9am to 6pm, and Sunday 5th December from 10am to 4.30pm.  Tickets are £4 on the door, (or £3.50 if bought online in advance, via

 The Festive Outdoor Market is open Friday 3rd December from 9am to 5.30pm, Saturday 4th December from 9am to 5.30pm, and Sunday 5th December from 9.30am to 5pm. 

Durham Market Hall is open Friday 3rd December from 9am to 4.30pm, Saturday 4th December from 9am to 4.30pm, and Sunday 5th December from 9.30am to 4pm. 

Win 4 free entry tickets to the Durham Christmas Festival Craft and Gift Marquee on a day of your choice.

Whilst some areas of the Festival are free to attend – these tickets will get you into the Craft & Gift Marquee on Palace Green for a little festive shopping.

To be in with a chance of winning, visit our competition page

To find out more about Durham Christmas Festival – including travel information and Covid guidelines – and to buy your tickets, visit their website.

And for all the latest news and updates about the festival, follow the event on Facebook and Instagram.

Other stories by Becky Hardy

We explore the Hidden Harmonies in the latest exhibition at The Biscuit Factory, Newcastle

Becky Hardy

7 reasons to visit High Force Hotel and Waterfall, County Durham

Becky Hardy

After-dark culture crawl The Late Shows returns to Ouseburn, Newcastle upon Tyne and Gateshead this weekend – here’s what’s on

Becky Hardy

What’s on in May across the North East

Becky Hardy

Newcastle United Women’s next football fixture is at St James’ Park – here’s why it’s such a big deal

Becky Hardy

11 creative workshops and craft courses at The Biscuit Factory, Newcastle, this summer

Becky Hardy