Chester's festive season is a spectacular time filled with parades, performances, sumptuous food and drink and one of the finest festive markets in the country. Here's a Santa's sackful of ways to get into the spirit.

Great British Life: The spellbinding Lanterns and Light festival at Chester Zoo. (c) Chester ZooThe spellbinding Lanterns and Light festival at Chester Zoo. (c) Chester Zoo

Lanterns and Light

This year a festive favourite is back with new elements as Chester Zoo partners with Sony Music to present Lanterns and Light. A natural evolution from the venue's beloved lanterns festival, Lanterns and Light promises visitors a bigger, better and brighter experience filled with sound and light installations. Guests can expect to see magnificent displays featuring orangutans, lions, dolphins and even the long-extinct woolly mammoth, all set to a festive soundtrack. There is a host of new features at Lanterns and Light such as festive fairground rides, marshmallow toasting, a larger-than-life pea-lit stag, 3D projections and the towering winter cathedral. Running from November 17 to December 31, Lanterns and Light promises to be a firm festive favourite.

The Marvellous Market

Chester’s Christmas Market is consistently ranked as one of the best in the UK and Europe. The attraction (November 17 to December 21), has been running for more than a decade and gets bigger and better every year. For those seeking an extra special gift, there are more than 70 festive huts filled with homemade, local, and artisanal wares such as jewellery, crafts, decorations, artwork and produce, alongside a smorgasbord of delicious food and drink (including mulled wine, of course). The market is open from 10:30am to 6.30 pm Sundays to Wednesdays and 10.30am to 8pm Thursdays to Saturdays, meaning you can visit during a day’s shopping, or even make a night out of it while enjoying the sparkling lights dotted around the city and on the magnificent Christmas tree in the Town Hall Square.

Great British Life: A time of light: Christmas at the Cathedral. (c) Marketing CheshireA time of light: Christmas at the Cathedral. (c) Marketing Cheshire

Christmas At The Cathedral

Steeped in religious history, Chester Cathedral has been celebrating Christmas for centuries. Recent years have seen the Cathedral’s festive celebrations grow and grow, and now the events held at this medieval marvel are firm favourites in the city’s Christmas calendar. Beginning on November 23 with a choral evensong followed by a sparkling lights switch-on celebration, the much-loved Christmas Tree Festival returns until January 7, giving plenty of time to feel the festive spirit, even after the big day. There is a host of other fantastic Christmas events at the cathedral throughout the coming months including The Final Spirit of Christmas – a night of carols, readings, music, and poetry featuring stars of the stage and screen; performances of the Dickens classic A Christmas Carol; Sunday brunches with Santa; Christmas classics performed by candlelight and the return of The Snowman Tour, which this year features a performance of the beloved Aardman animation Wallace and Gromit: The Wrong Trousers. All of these events will be running alongside the Cathedral’s calendar of services and exhibitions.

The Streets Come To Life

November 30 will see the streets lit up as hundreds of local school children present their handmade lanterns during the annual Lanterns Parade. Then, on December 7 and 14, there are the Winter Watch parades – a spectacle of lights and colourful characters dating back to the1400s. On December 15, the Winter Watch parade coincides with Saturnalia when Roman soldiers light up the city. Expect weird and wonderful characters, fire-breathing, rambunctious Romans and a lot of lights.

Don’t be late to the ball

This year's festive production at the multi-award-winning Storyhouse is Cinderella. Running from December 1 to January 6, the show promises to be a family-friendly spectacle full of pop favourites and magical moments. Top tip: Storyhouse members get access to discount tickets and a host of other benefits. You can find out more at

Great British Life: Santa is in residence in the Enchanted Grotto at the Grosvenor Shopping Centre. (c) Marketing CheshireSanta is in residence in the Enchanted Grotto at the Grosvenor Shopping Centre. (c) Marketing Cheshire

Visit Santa in Winterland

Chester’s Business Improvement District is bringing back the big man this year with a distinctly Cheshire twist. From November 24 to December 24, the Grosvenor Shopping Centre hosts Santa’s Enchanted Grotto, which this year has the theme Alice in Winterland. Guests are invited to help Lewis Carroll’s classic characters embark on a journey to find Father Christmas after he falls down the rabbit hole. Experiences start at 10am and there are SEN and autism-friendly sessions on December 1, 2, 9, 18 and 20 from 10am to 11am. The Enchanted Grotto is always popular so make sure to book at

Explore Christmases past at the Castle

Christmas at the Castle is a celebration of Christmases past. Presented by English Heritage, this free event is a way to tap into the spirit of Christmas across time with carols in the courtyard, visits with Saint Nicholas and some intriguing insights into how Christmas was celebrated during the medieval and Victorian eras. It’s also a perfect opportunity to explore this historic landmark including the Agricola Tower and the medieval chapel. The event takes place on Saturday, December 2 from 11am to 3pm, and from 4pm to 6:30pm for an after-dark experience. Dogs are welcome too.

Great British Life: Get your red suit on and join in the Santa Dash. (c) Marketing CheshireGet your red suit on and join in the Santa Dash. (c) Marketing Cheshire

Dashing through the snow (maybe)

The annual Santa Dash in Chester is a sight to be seen. This charity fun run, on Sunday, December 3, sees thousands of Santas dashing through the streets of the city to raise money for two local charities: the Hospice of the Good Shepherd and the Countess Charity. Athletic Santas are invited to run on their own, as a family, or with friends or colleagues as a way to support the Hospice and the Countess, in memory of someone special. Participants will receive a medal and a Santa suit and there is plenty of festive entertainment on the day to keep you going. The Santa Dash is a wonderful celebration of Chester’s Christmas community spirit. Register at

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