Brought to you by


All you need to know about Kent in Christmas 2023

Penshurst Place twinkles at Christmas
Penshurst Place twinkles at Christmas

Grab your scarf and mittens and join us as we explore a dozen of the county’s most festive towns this Christmas, complete with a sleighful of wonderful things to see and do, buy and eat at this most special time of the year

Great British Life: River Medway at Allington near Maidstone in winter. Credit GettyRiver Medway at Allington near Maidstone in winter. Credit Getty

Christmas 2023 in​ Maidstone

Timeless Traditions

Will it be a new pony or a lump of coal in your stocking this Christmas? Find out as Santa returns to his cosy library at Maidstone Museum from 10am to 4pm on December 2, 9 and 16 to listen to your family’s Christmas wishes. Children can receive an early gift and families are welcome to snap their own photos during the visit. Slots will need to be booked online in advance and families are advised to book consecutive slots for more than one child. Once reserved, Santa’s trusty elves will email the tickets out to children in November. museum.maidstone.gov.uk

Community Fun

Get Christmas off to a flying start with a cabaret-style evening at The Maidstone Singers’ Christmas Concerts, taking place on December 12 and 13 at St Martin’s Church. Gather around the table with loved ones to enjoy harmonies and sing-along festive carols. This year the choir is joined by TMS Sinfonia, a local string quartet. The evening includes a feast for the ears, a free beverage on arrival, light buffet refreshments and invigorating audience participation. The group’s Christmas Concerts have been running for many years and are always a popular event, filled with heartwarming, festive fun. Tickets are £15. tickets@themaidstonesingers.org.uk

Winter Walk

It may not be a partridge in a pear tree, but on a winter walk through Mote Park, you’re likely to spot any number of winter finches and thrushes, and over-wintering birds that stay to nest and raise their young here in the spring. Strolling around the 30-acre lake and meandering through the park’s woodland will make it feel as though you’ve entered a jaw-droppingly gorgeous winter wonderland. It’s the perfect place to take the dogs and spend some quality time with family this festive season. The park is open daily, including Christmas and New Year, from 8am til dusk.

Great British Life: Canterbury charity wreath-making workshops. Credit The Fifth TrustCanterbury charity wreath-making workshops. Credit The Fifth Trust

Christmas 2023 in Canterbury

Community Fun

Get into the festive spirit by taking part in a charity wreath-making workshop, hosted at the cosy Vineyard Café at Elham Valley Vineyard on November 28 and December 5 from 6.30pm - 9.30pm. Expert florist Jo Taylor will guide you in creating stunning wreaths using natural materials and decorations. Tuck into delectable mince pies and enjoy a warm beverage as you work. All the funds raised will be reinvested into The Fifth Trust, a Kent-based charity supporting over 160 adults with learning disabilities. Places fill up quickly, so be sure to book one soon by calling 01227 832022.

Winter Walk

For a revitalising winter stroll, head to Goodnestone Park, just outside of Canterbury. The gardens are open daily from 10am to 4pm. Weave through woodland paths and take in the rich aromas of the walled garden and the regal character of the arboretum and gravel garden. Even in the colder months, there’s a bounty of beautiful sights to behold. Guests can also book online a place on one of the garden’s sensory and craft walks, which include gentle strolls around the gardens and explorations into mindfulness crafts including nettle cordage and flower printing. Take part and you should leave feeling refreshed and inspired. goodnestonepark.co.uk

Spectacular Shopping

Start crossing names off your Christmas shopping list, with a stop at Happy & Glorious on Burgate. Explore their range of beautiful British-made gifts, from candles to soap diffusers, jewellery, accessories and ceramics. Fudge fans should call at The Fudge Kitchen at 16 Sun Street. Build your own box selection to present as a gift, discover delicious plant-based confectionary perfect for vegans, or purchase a gift voucher for the Kitchen’s Fudge Making Experience – it's great fun, incredibly messy and offers the chance to eat an unlimited amount of fudge – what could be better?

Great British Life: The Little Green Bookshop's Mia Rodriguez, marketing manager, Jacqui Delbaere, owner and bookseller and Tim Jenkins, artist and bookseller. Credit The Little Green BookshopThe Little Green Bookshop's Mia Rodriguez, marketing manager, Jacqui Delbaere, owner and bookseller and Tim Jenkins, artist and bookseller. Credit The Little Green Bookshop

Christmas 2023 in ​Herne Bay

Food and Drink

Bring loved ones together with an indulgent Christmas meal at Miller & Carter. Enjoy seasonal delights from their two-course festive menu from November 30 to December 24, or celebrate the big day in style with their new succulent Christmas Day steak experience. Reserve a place at millerandcarter.co.uk. The King Ethelbert Inn offers a stunning menu of traditional pub classics, perfect for replenishing energies after a winter stroll around Reculver Towers. For a pawsitively purrfect Christmas celebration, stop by The Cosy Cat Café for a spot of afternoon tea and to meet the adorable 12 resident fluffballs. Book by calling 01227 639635.

Spectacular Shopping

A must-stop Christmas destination when shopping for any book lover is The Green Little Bookshop located on Herne Bay’s high street. It stocks a vast collection of fiction, non-fiction and children’s books, as well as local artwork, cards and homeware. If you’re looking to let someone know just how much you appreciate them, a hand-tied bouquet from Wild Daisy Florist is the perfect way to express just how much they mean. Visit in-store for help with finding the perfect arrangement. The shop also offers a delightful range of plants - an ideal gift for burgeoning plant mums - and other delightful, unique present ideas.

Timeless Traditions

Explore a delightful exhibition about the Kentish Hooden Horse – wooden hobby horses that were once conveyed from house to house during winter - at The Seaside Museum this festive season. The exhibition will be accompanied by a talk, Meet the Curator Day and an enthralling Hoodeners performance. The show will run from November 18 until January 13. The Museum is open Tuesday to Saturday from 11am to 3pm. Activity sheets are available for children to use as they explore the museum and there are ideas for kids’ activities to do at home during the break available on their website. It’s the perfect way to keep the whole family entertained this Christmas. theseasidemuseumhernebay.org

Great British Life: Snow is falling...Folkestone in winter CREDIT Getty ImagesSnow is falling...Folkestone in winter CREDIT Getty Images

Christmas 2023 in ​Folkestone

Gift Shopping

For Christmas cheer and wonderful wit, greetings-card publisher Objectables (objectables.co.uk) in the Old High Street sells a variety of cards for every occasion, many of which are sure to raise a smile from the recipient. Sitting in cobbled Rendezvous Street, Moda (modafolkestone.com) stocks an eclectic mix of home decor, quirky gifts, cards, prints and jewellery with owners, Amy and John, focusing on sourcing and curating a product range that includes items unique to the store. You can never really go wrong if you give a books at Christmas – especially if it’s carefully chosen. Well-informed staff at The Folkestone Bookshop (thefolkestonebookshop.co.uk) will help you match titles to recipients, so you should be able to cross a few names off your Christmas list with a visit here.

Festive food and drink

There’s a new location for popular bistro, Marleys, (marleysfolkestone.co.uk) as it moves to 2-4 South Street. Renowned for its breakfasts, you’ll also find lunch and dinner here, with a menu based on locally grown produce, with of course a festive twist at this time of year. The team at Sotirio’s (sotiriosfolkestone.com) have been busy crafting an indulgent festive menu, which includes decadent dishes and the promise of a seasonal sense of occasion. At Rocksalt (rocksaltfolkestone.co.uk) there’s a Festive Party Menu for a sit-down celebration, along with a Bowl Food selection for larger, more informal gatherings. At this time of year, the pièce de résistance is its Christmas Lunch menu, so take a look and book now ahead of the crowds if you’re interested.

Timeless traditions

No festive season would be complete without a visit to the pantomime (altogether now: ‘Oh yes it would!’ ‘Oh no it wouldn’t!’) and Folkestone has a couple to look forward to. The Folkestone-Hythe Operatic and Dramatic Society will be showcasing the magical fairy tale, Sleeping Beauty, from December 15 to 29 at The Tower Theatre (towertheatrefolkestone.co.uk), complete with romance, comedy, great songs and exciting visual effects. Head to Leas Cliff Hall if you fancy lashings of audience participation at Beauty and The Beast from Dec 8 – 31 (atgtickets.com), while – away from panto – a dazzling afternoon of festive nostalgia is promised at the Neil Sands Christmas Memories concert – we’re told there’s even falling snow to look forward to. For a magical onscreen staging that’s tutu good to miss, make your way to Folkestone Quarterhouse, where the Royal Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker will be shown from Dec 12-17 as part of The Royal Opera House Live scheme (creativefolkestone.org).

Great British Life: A traditional Christmas dinner is on the menu at The Sun Inn, Faversham CREDIT Frankie JulianA traditional Christmas dinner is on the menu at The Sun Inn, Faversham CREDIT Frankie Julian

Christmas 2023 in Faversham

Festive Food and Drink

Cinnamon is the spice of the festive season and for a sweet treat Cherans Bakery (cherans.com) is home to delicious cinnamon buns, waiting to be devoured - don’t be surprised to see plenty of other seasonal treats on offer here in the run-up to Christmas. With its roaring fire, the Sun Inn (sunfaversham.co.uk) makes for the cosiest of Christmas settings. Having sourced the best local ingredients, its chefs have created menus for everyone to enjoy, with a traditional Christmas dinner for culinary purists, plus plenty of other tempting options. And any self-respecting foodie has to head to the fabulous Macknade food hall, where you’ll find everything you need for feasting – if you’re after 10 different types of pasta, four different types of fruit curd, plus cheese, chocolate, local meat, drink, fruit and veg and edible gift ideas, this is where you’ll find it (and see our food opener on page xx for details of its hampers). macknade.com.

Winter Walk

Faversham is, of course, home to Shepherd Neame, Britain’s oldest brewer, and this walking tour of the brewery’s pubs is perfect for winter. Starting and finishing at the Brewery Shop in Court Street, it takes in the nine historical pubs in the medieval market town (including the aforementioned Sun Inn, and the Bear – both have welcoming open fires and the latter believed to be Faversham’s oldest surviving pub). You’ll head off at a gentle pace, with the route measuring approximately 2.5 miles – allow an hour for the trip, or longer if you want to sample a warming drink or two along the way…it would be rude not to! Walk details and dates for the festive brewery tours: shepherdneame.co.uk

Shopping

You’ll tick off some presents on the list at Barley Mow (Instagram: @barleymowgift) in Court Street. This popular shop sells gifts, accessories and items for the home along with cards and toys. Similarly, No 77 (no77.co.uk) sells stylish pieces from Denmark, Holland and France – often one-offs and with something for everyone. Down at Standard Quay, there’s a plethora of antiques and vintage emporia to explore, plus Harley’s Place a shop whose staff are passionate about the health and wellbeing of our four-legged friends. Treats, toys and other doggy goodies can be found here and online harleybearscocobites.co.uk.

Great British Life: Last year's lantern-lit parade in Whitstable CREDIT Andrew Hastings @ImagedrumLast year's lantern-lit parade in Whitstable CREDIT Andrew Hastings @Imagedrum

Christmas 2023 in Whitstable

Community Christmas

The highly anticipated WhitSparkle Ball is back for 2023 and with live music and a DJ, it promises to be even bigger and better this year. Taking place on November 18, it’s a community fund-raising event, with money raised from ticket sales and the raffle going towards the Christmas lantern parade that take place in the town on November 25. Although a relatively new fixture on the town’s Christmas calendar, it’s quickly become a popular date for all ages, one that sees local singers, school children and families taking to the streets, for a festive excursion full of light and laughter. It certainly puts a capital C in a ‘Community Christmas’! Find out more on the Instagram page @whitsparkle

Festive Food and Drink

Food wise, the town’s eateries offer pretty much all you could ask for in the run up to Christmas. Head chef at independent and family-run, Samphire (samphirewhitstable.co.uk), Mark O’Brien, ensures this beautiful bistro serves up a treat every day…all making best use of Kentish produce, including seafood. If you want to make more of the location, stay at The Marine Hotel, (marinewhitstable.co.uk) which has a festive menu available from mid-November along with a five-course Christmas Day menu. Fed up of turkey talk? VC Jones, (vcjones.co.uk) was voted one of the best fish and chip shops in the UK by The Times newspaper – and is rated very highly by us here at Kent Life too!

Gift Shopping

The Harbour Market (harbourmarketwhitstable.co.uk) is home to various independent businesses offering a diverse mix of artistic styles, with gifts for every budget. It’s a spot where you can browse, chat to local craftspeople and pick up some special Christmas presents. At the heart of the high street for more than 50 years, George’s Whitstable Stores (georgeswhitstable.com) is known as an Aladdin’s Cave of treasures, with items including a vast range of jigsaw puzzles – perfect for keeping the family busy on wet Twixtmas days! In Harbour Street, you’ll find gifts, plants, and homewares at Jane at Graham Greener (grahamgreener.com) – she offers everything from a simple bouquet to a service that’ll see her coming to dress your home with festive flowers and foliage.

Great British Life: Carnival of the Baubles credit Love AshfordCarnival of the Baubles credit Love Ashford

Christmas 2023 in Ashford

Community Fun

The spectacular Carnival of the Baubles is back for 2023 and will see Ashford Town centre hosting a colossal community Christmas celebration on Saturday November 25. The stunning nighttime parade will this year have an ‘enchanted forest’ theme and will be led by the five-metre-tall puppet ‘Farrah the Fox’. The event also features a festive market, lantern making workshop, music on the bandstand, street entertainment and the highlight of the evening - the big light switch on. The fun begins at 5pm in Elwick Place with the parade heading up to Bank Street. Afterwards there will be a family friendly party at the Coachworks. Loveashford.com

Something Special

Nothing evokes that feelgood festive factor more than rolling up your sleeves and making your own yuletide decoration that will (hopefully) last for generations. Craft enthusiasts will have the chance to do just that when glorious country mansion, Godinton House, opens up its Great Hall to host Christmas wreath-making workshops. The sessions, on December 2 and 3, will be led by Kent florist Caroline Miller and see participants creating a handmade wreath to grace the front door or perhaps the mantlepiece above a roaring fire. Tickets cost £65 per person and includes all materials plus tea and coffee, mince pies and home-made cakes. godintonhouse.co.uk

Enchanted Experience

The Rare Breeds Centre in Woodchurch will be holding its Truly Magical Christmas event for another year this December. Families can visit Santa and his cheeky elves in his enchanting grotto, where they can have their photos taken by a professional photographer with the big man himself- and receive a gift. There will also be plenty of other events to enjoy, including gingerbread decorating and a Christmas reindeer Trail. Event will be open on selected days throughout December. While you’re there why not blow off the cobwebs with a winter woodland walk within the centre’s spacious grounds? Tickets from £14.95 for adults, £17.50 for children. rarebreeds.org.uk

Great British Life: Hark: a harp! Hear one at the Sevenoaks Philharmonic Society's Christmas concert (c) GettyHark: a harp! Hear one at the Sevenoaks Philharmonic Society's Christmas concert (c) Getty

Christmas 2023 in ​Sevenoaks

Magical music

What better way to kick off the Christmas season than with a concert, complete with seasonal sounds (including a harp) and a wonderful choir? Head to St Nicholas Church at the top of the town on December 2 for a performance by Sevenoaks Philharmonic Society, where the programme includes Benjamin Britten’s lovely Ceremony of Carols. Seats are unreserved and tickets cost from £15. sevenoaks-philharmonic.org.uk. For something different, settle in for A Jazzy Christmas, 8pm, Dec 10 at The Ship Theatre, with new arrangements of festive favourites arranged by Paul Edis and performed by Jo Harrop – she of the richly-toned voice - and a nine-piece band. Tickets £22. eventbrite.co.uk

Food and drink

Plenty of pub options in Sevenoaks for anyone who wants to hand over Christmas cooking to someone else this year. The 17th-century White Hart (brunningandprice.co.uk) has a great reputation for roasts and is close enough to Knole Park to allow for a good walk after you’ve eaten. Miller & Carter at Riverhead (millerandcarter.co.uk) is offering traditional fare throughout the season, opening on Christmas Day, too, when in addition to the ubiquitous turkey you’ll find Surf & Turf is on the menu. The Rose & Crown, Dunton Green (vintageinn.co.uk), will also be opening its doors on the 25th. Desserts including a sticky toffee Christmas Pudding and a berry pavlova will be on offer – and no one will expect you to do any washing up afterwards…

Something special

Coolings Garden Centre on Rushmore Hill has long had a reputation as a destination in its own right and it comes into its own at this time of year, with food, gifts, a Christmas craft fair featuring southeast makers from Dec 1 – 3 and of course a fantastic selection of plants and horticultural paraphernalia. Sounds like just the sort of place for Santa to park his sleigh, and indeed you’ll find him in his very own grotto here, ready to confirm your place on his ‘nice’ list this Christmas. coolings.co.uk

Great British Life: Discover Father Christmas and more at Hospice in the Weald's Christmas Market in Tunbridge Credit: Hospice in the Weald/Chris UnderhillDiscover Father Christmas and more at Hospice in the Weald's Christmas Market in Tunbridge Credit: Hospice in the Weald/Chris Underhill

Christmas 2023 in Tunbridge Wells

Family Fun

For family-bonding time, nothing beats a trip to a Christmas show, and you’re spoiled for choice in Tunny this season, with two great pantos in town. From Dec 9-31, bustling arts hub Trinity presents Cinderella – a show packed full of music, romance and fun, aimed at audiences aged from five up (trinitytheatre.net). Meanwhile, there’s tradition with a touch of oo la la at the Assembly Hall Theatre. Beauty & The Beast is set in a cute French village and promises lavish sets, star performances, glittering costumes and plenty of audience participation. From 9-31 Dec (assemblyhalltheatre.co.uk). For very small children, the puppet and animation show Little Owl and the Christmas Lights (8-24 Dec) sounds enchanting (theamelia.co.uk).

Shopping with a difference

Support the wonderful work of Hospice in the Weald and pick up a treasure or two at one and the same time at the charity’s Christmas Market, taking place on Nov 25 & 26. You’ll find the Hospice’s gardens transformed, with marquees offering all-weather shelter and the stalls therein filled selling crafts, decorations, home décor, jewellery and fashion. There will be live Christmas music, refreshments – even a wreath-making workshop (pre-booking advised) – and, of course, Father Christmas himself will be holding court in his grotto. Sounds like the perfect one-stop shop to set visitors up nicely for the festive season. £5 donation suggested. hospiceintheweald.org.uk.

Tea-time treats

Want to put your feet up and revive with a brew after a hard day’s shopping? Tea time is the perfect time to do it. Tunbridge Wells is renowned for its elegance, and at Hotel Du Vin you can enjoy a Christmas afternoon tea, complete with mince pies, in a setting that once played host to Queen Victoria. (hotelduvin.com/locations/tunbridge-wells). Equally stylish, and with a lovely garden, is The Spa Hotel. On the High Street, the interior of The Ivy is a gorgeous confection of art-deco style glass and gold – perfect for glamorous tea washed down with a glass of fizz (ivycollection.com). On the same side of the street, Juliets is a much-lauded independent, renowned for its delicious (and generously sliced) cakes – from lime & coconut sunshine cake packed with tropical flavours to its salted-caramel billionaire’s shortbread. Vintage crockery, wooden tables and friendly service only add to the charm (julietsandmore.com).

Great British Life: Penshurst Place: a winter wonderland (c) Tim Jordan Penshurst Place: a winter wonderland (c) Tim Jordan

Christmas 2023 in Tonbridge

Light fantastic

You’ll find details of Tonbridge’s Christmas market in our feature from Visit Kent this month, but did you know that the Castle is also home to a beautiful light trail? From Nov 26 to Dec 30, you can walk through a dazzling display of illuminations, with sparkling lights transforming the winter landscape into a wonderland of colour and glow. Perfect for all ages, the trail around the castle and its grounds should take you around 45 - 60 minutes, allowing you to see the historic castle as never before at night and in all its glory. From £17.50 adults, £13.50 children. illuminatetrails.co.uk

House of Christmas

Penshurst Place just outside Tonbridge and ancestral home of the Sidney family is always worth a visit – and never more so than at Christmas, when it’s at its historic best. You’ll find wonderful walks with terrific views across the estate, the magnificent house itself to explore, the Porcupine Café and a shop full of Christmas-gift ideas - plus Santa himself will be here. There’s also a 25-minute show for all the family to enjoy, The Elf Who Lost his Voice, staged in the fully decorated medieval Baron’s Hall: Tickets cost £7.50.penshurstplace.com.

Festive Food & Drink

Whether you’re after a full Christmas blow out or something lighter to keep you going between shops, Tonbridge delivers. The Carpenters Arms on Three Elm Lane (carpentersarmstonbridge.co.uk) – open on Christmas Day for lunch – serves Yorkshire puds and roasties cooked in goose fat as part of its festive feast, with Christmas pud or lemon posset to round things off. If you’re looking for something lighter, Basil on the high street serves lunch-time frittatas and quiches, plus salads such as kale and sweet-potato salad (foodbybasil.com). Almost opposite, Finch House Café is great for soup, sandwiches, coffee and cake – their brownies are delicious (finchhouse.co.uk).

Great British Life: Explore the extravaganza that is TIME Christmas [Credit TIME]Explore the extravaganza that is TIME Christmas [Credit TIME]

Christmas 2023 in Rochester

Something special

Pucker up for a Christmas kiss as the Mistletoe Costumes Ball which will take place within the stunning surroundings of the Rochester Corn Exchange on December 1. Dress up in your Victorian finery or go as your favourite character from a Charles Dickens classic – Miss Havisham perhaps?) and prepare for an evening of dancing to a live band. A raffle will be held in aid of the Dickens Chalet Restoration Fund. Tickets from £22. The events is part of the Rochester Dickensian Christmas Festival. Find out more about the festival in Visit Kent's feature on page XXX Medwayticketslive.co.uk.

Spectacular shopping

Christmas decorations seem to get bigger, better and brighter every year and so when you’re shopping for your beautiful baubles or your festive fir tree the one place you have to visit is Rochester’s colossal ‘Christmastorium’ - Time Christmas. The seasonal showroom based on the Medway City Estate is packed with every kind of decoration you could dream of. Visitors will also be able to meet Santa at his newly refurbished home at Time Christmas for 2023. You will be greeted by one of Santa’s magical elves who will take you through the Time Christmas Wonderland to meet the man himself. Visit timechristmas.co.uk for all the details.

Timeless Traditions

Writing a letter to Santa to laud the fact you’ve been good this year while neatly shoehorning in your gift wish list is always a tradition at Christmastime. This year youngsters can head along to the Rochester Guildhall Museum in High Street, Rochester and write their letter to Father Christmas then post it in a special post box for the elves to take back to the North Pole. While you are there, can you find all the naughty elves on the shelves hiding around the museum? The event runs from December 9-23 and is free. visitmedway.org

Great British Life: Blow away those winter cobwebs with a walk along Dover's iconic White Cliffs (c) GettyBlow away those winter cobwebs with a walk along Dover's iconic White Cliffs (c) Getty

Christmas 2023 in Dover

Community Fun

Nobody can accuse Dover of shying away from festive celebrations. The annual Dover Winter Light Up will be returning to the town on December 2, with a fabulous lantern procession as well as food and drink, entertainment, Father Christmas, workshops and more. The event first took place in 2018 and has proven hugely popular with its huge lanterns in the shapes of animals, stars and other festive shapes. There will also be special entertainment and food stalls on the Port’s new Waterfront and Marina Curve. Follow @Port_of_Dover on Twitter and Instagram for updates. destinationdover.org.

A seasonal stroll

Ok, so it’s a given that you’re going to pile on the calories over the Christmas season so get some colour in your cheeks, blow off those cobwebs and head off for a bracing stroll along the White Cliffs of Dover. Walk towards the landmark South Foreland Lighthouse which was built during the Victorian age and was the first lighthouse of its kind to use electric lights and you’ll be met with serene winter wildlife views that will make for Instragrammable-tastic images. The visitor centre on Langdon Cliffs will be ready to warm you up after your walk with homemade soup and hot chocolate. nationaltrust.org.uk

Something special

Walmer Castle in Deal, a stone’s throw from Dover, will be hosting a brand new interactive light trail for 2023, which is set to bring colour, lights and merriment to families. With a host of light installations designed to fit in with the natural surroundings, visitors can allow the Christmas spirit to take over them as they immerse themselves in a world of seasonal sparkle and festive cheer. Expect surprises around every corner as well as festive food, warming cocktails and picture-perfect moments. The event will be on from December 1 to January 1. Tickets from £17 for children to £22.75 for adults. english-heritage.org.uk



BROUGHT TO YOU BY…

Kent Life Read more

Latest articles

More from Kent Life

BROUGHT TO YOU BY…

Kent Life Read more