Whether you want to whisk your loved one away, take your little ones to meet Santa, enjoy a magical family day out, or simply relax before the big day, Bury St Edmunds & Beyond is the ideal place.
The town takes on a magical quality in the lead up to Christmas with award-winning festive food, independent shops and high street brands for Christmas gifts, fun events and a variety of cosy places to snuggle up and stay.
New for Christmas 2023
Live screening of Peter & the Wolf in the Abbey Gardens 7-10 December
The Oscar®-winning short film, Peter & the Wolf (certificate U) will be screened in a covered, all-weather auditorium in Bury St Edmunds Abbey Gardens, accompanied by live performances from Orpheus Sinfonia between Thursday 7 and Sunday 10 December.
The delightful, animated modern adaption by Breakthru Films, recreates Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev’s 1936 classic symphonic fairy tale bringing the classic story of Peter and The Wolf brilliantly to life. It recounts a magical world in which little boys can find the strength and courage to overcome their fears and the ever-present dangers that surround them.
This much-loved tale has resonated deeply with over five generations of children, enchanted by its power and sense of fun. This fantastical version by prize-winning director Suzie Templeton was produced using a classic stop-motion animation technique for TV and DVD as well as for screening theatrically worldwide accompanied by a live orchestra.
There will be a selection of food and beverage stalls in the Abbey Gardens and blankets can be brought in if particularly sensitive to cold weather. The 45-minute screenings from Thursday 7 to Saturday 9 December will begin at 1pm, 3.15pm, 5.30pm and 7.45pm, while on Sunday 10 December they will be from 1pm, 3.15pm and 5.30pm. To book tickets priced at £15 for adults and £8 for a child, under 5s free of charge but must have a ticket, visit www.whatsonwestsuffolk.co.uk/peterandthewolf call 01284 758000, or book in person at The Apex in Charter Square, Bury St Edmunds.
Free town centre skating rink 14 December – 3 January
Our Bury St Edmunds BID, the arc Shopping Centre and Bury St Edmunds Town Council have partnered to bring a family-friendly, synthetic ice skating rink to Bury St Edmunds from 14 December to 3 January. With a capacity of up to 25 people per session, the free to use ice rink will be located in the town centre Charter Square.
Provided by Odin Events, the rink will be one of the most advanced available giving the closest possible experience to real ice but without the environmental impact and high energy use involved in keeping a rink frozen. It will provide icy entertainment regardless of what the weather brings.
Every member of the family can enjoy the rink, even if they have never tried ice-skating before as a number of skate-aids will be available to help beginners. Families can just turn up and skate at the open sessions without having to worry about booking or hiring skates.
The ice rink will be part of the Christmas in Bury St Edmunds Experience from a partnership hosting a variety of events from mid-November and through December. It will also be supporting Gatehouse, which operates the town’s food bank, as its charity partner.
The rink will officially open on Thursday, 14 December from 11am. Check online for daily opening times but note it will be closed on Christmas Day. Given the size and capacity of the rink and that it is free of charge, entry will be on a first come first served basis and at times there may be a need to queue.
The Snowman – Live in concert at St Edmundsbury Cathedral 22 December
Experience the timeless story and enchanting music of The Snowman this Christmas, in the stunning surroundings of St Edmundsbury Cathedral on Friday, 22 December.
Bought to life by musical maestro Richard Wetherall, a string quartet and narrator, The Snowman – Live in Concert is a storytelling treat for little ones and grownups alike based on Raymond Briggs 1978 picture book of the same name.
Two 55-minute performances are at 5pm and 7.30pm, tickets can be booked online priced at £15 per person.
Festive events November and December
St Edmundsbury Cathedral Christmas market 23 – 25 November
St Edmundsbury Cathedral will once again hold a Christmas Market from Thursday, 23 November until Saturday, 25 November, between 10am and 4.30pm daily. Around 50 stallholders from Suffolk and beyond will showcase their products and hand crafted
goods in the beautiful setting of the Cathedral. In addition to the shopping experience, there will be daily entertainment for visitors. Free entry.
Beer Festival 24 – 26 November
The annual Winter Beer Festival will take place in the Constitutional Club 24 – 26 November when the West Suffolk branch of Camra will team up with the Club to play host for this free entry event. Session times will be 24 November 3pm-11pm; 25 November 12noon-11pm and 26 November 3pm-10pm. Pre-book tickets online at www.conclubbse.com.
Where’s Santa’s Hat? The arc Shopping Centre 24 – 25 November and 1-2 December
Theatre Royal’s Christmas Cabin is returning to the arc Shopping Centre this year over the weekends of 24-25 November and 1-2 December. The audience will find Älva and Santa in Santa’s living room, but the house is in disarray! The Boxing Day Hide and Seek World Championships are looming and although cosy and Christmassy, things are a bit awry. To make things worse, Santa has lost his hat and can’t deliver his presents without the help of Älva, a mouse and the children in the audience.
The interactive performances are perfect for 2 – 7 year olds and their grown-ups.
Relaxed performances on Friday 24 November 11am; Saturday 25 November 3pm; Friday 1 December 3pm and Saturday 2 December 11am. These have reduced capacity to allow everyone a little more space to feel comfortable to get up and move around. Those with additional or sensory needs may find these more enjoyable. Touch tours 2.30pm on 25 November and 1 December, must be booked in advance. The Christmas Cabin can accommodate wheelchair users.
Tickets priced at £4 – £6 per person, can be booked online at www.theatreroyal.org/shows/wheres-santas-hat.
Panto time 24 November – 14 January
This year’s pantomime at Bury St Edmunds Theatre Royal will be Snow White running from 24 November until 14 January featuring Dame Judi Dench as the voice of The Magic Mirror.
Upon the death of her father, Princess Snow White has inherited the throne of Buryland. However her wicked aunt, Lady Lucretia, declares that Snow White is too young to lead and insists on serving as Queen until her niece turns 21. But rumours abound, Lucretia plans on staying Queen! Snow White fears for her life. All hope seems lost… until one day, deep in the woods of Bradfield, Snow White makes some surprising new friends who will protect her no matter the cost.
For details and to book online visit www.theatreroyal.org or for special performances email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01284 769505. Tickets for the 2pm Gala performance on 3 December include fun and fancy dress before the show, ice creams, programme, goodie bags for the children, drinks, and light nibbles. Please note: Dame Judi Dench will not be at the theatre in-person.
Seasonal Market 3 December
Bury St Edmunds Seasonal Market on Sunday 3 December (10am-4pm) will include over 90 talented makers, bakers, brewers and crafters with stalls set up in the Buttermarket and Cornhill area of the town centre. Browse a wide range of local products including fruit and vegetables, clothing, ceramics, candles, jewellery, needlecraft, cards, personalised goods. The market is an ideal opportunity to pick up a unique gift and support a small, independent business while enjoying festive music and seasonal goodies.
Christmas with St Edmundsbury Cathedral Choir 9 December
Get in the Christmas spirit at St Edmundsbury Cathedral’s annual celebratory concert with the Cathedral Choir on Saturday, 9 December (6pm-7.45pm). The boy and girl choristers and adult singers will present a range of festive choral music, including a chance for the audience to sing some favourite seasonal carols. Tickets can booked online priced from £8 to £18 per person, under 5s free.
Snow Much Fun at the arc shopping centre 10 December
Go along to the arc Shopping Centre in the centre of Bury St Edmunds on Sunday 10 December (11am-3pm) for a special Christmas meet and greet with everyone’s favourite Snow Queen, her sister and their frosty friend. The snowy friends from Arendelle will be visiting the arc to say ‘hello’ and take selfies with everyone in front of the centre’s light-up bauble. There will also be festive face painting.
A Very Merry Scavenger Hunt 17 December
Join two cheeky Christmas elves for a very merry scavenger hunt around the arc Shopping Centre in Bury St Edmunds town centre on Sunday 17 December between 11am and 3pm. Figure out all of the clues to receive a Christmas treat from the elves and drop your completed trail sheet into the arc’s red post box to be entered into a prize draw. If you can’t make the date, visit the arc Shopping Centre website between 18 and 21 December to download a digital version of the trail sheet, solve the riddles and you will still qualify for the prize draw www.arc-burystedmunds.com.
Christmas Escape Room daily excluding Christmas Day
Elves get ready to puzzle your way out of a new catastrophe at the Christmas escape room experience at The Evidence Room in Bury St Edmunds. You’ll need all your wits about you, your skills and your smarts, to get out of this pickle. Available seven days a week (excluding Christmas Day) 10am-10pm. Book online at www.evidenceroom.co.uk, tickets £30 per person.
Festive events beyond Bury St Edmunds
Ickworth Estate light trail until 26 November
Ickworth Estate will once again be transformed by colour and light into a magical ‘Light Nights’ landscape from 10 to 26 November. Enjoy a relaxed evening soaking in nature as you weave through canopies of trees, Italianate ever-greens and a gothic Victorian-esque stumpery. Across 17 nights the light trail is a celebration of Ickworth’s outdoors and the creative innovation that inspired the Earl Bishop’s visons for Ickworth Estate. New for 2023 is a trail taking in the cedar meadow and the front of the Rotunda.
Complete the evening with a visit to the West Wing Café and gift shop where you will be able to warm up with seasonal drinks and festive bakes as well as picking up some late-night gifts.
Pre-booking is essential with timed entry from 4.30pm to 8pm. Tickets are priced at £11.50 per adult (18 years+) and £9.50 per child (5 – 17 years, under 5s free) Monday to Thursday rising to £12.50 per adult and £10.50 per child Friday to Sundays. Book online at www.nationaltrust.org.uk/ickworth/whats-on.
Meet Father Christmas at West Stow Anglo-Saxon Village 2-3 December
Father Christmas will be making an early stop at West Stow Anglo-Saxon Village, near Bury St Edmunds on Saturday 2 and Sunday 3 December. The friendly village elf will be on site to ensure you have a wonderful experience, tickets include a craft workshop making Christmas decorations, as well as free entry to explore the Anglo-Saxon village and museum. You can also enjoy festive food and drink from vendors in the village. Timed tickets priced at £8 per child include a special Christmas Gonk to take away, accompanying adults are free of charge. Car parking charges apply at £3 for the day; assistance dogs only permitted in the Anglo-Saxon Village with last admission at 3pm. Times to visit Father Christmas are 11am, 12pm, 1pm, 2pm and 3pm. Booking essential either online at www.Whatsonwestsuffolk.co.uk or call the Apex Box Office on 01284 758000.
Experience a Dickensian Christmas at Kentwell Hall 9-10 and 16-17 December
Experience Christmas in a slower age at Kentwell Hall’s Dickensian Christmas in Long Melford, near Bury St Edmunds over the weekend of 9-10 and 16 – 17 December (10am-5pm).
The clock will be turned back to 1869 to create a rich tapestry of lively and enjoyable events for all ages. Meet costumed characters from the bygone era including local villagers and the Hall’s owner Captain Bence together with Mrs Bence, their children and other relatives as well as their household staff and cooks, who will be busy in the Great Kitchen.
Families can solve the riddle of the pantomime in the garden then watch performances of Jack & the Beans Talk in the Little Theatre. Father Christmas will be waiting to meet families in his grotto while Mother Christmas will help children write a letter to Santa Claus asking him to visit them on Christmas Eve. There will be singing and magic entertainment in the Music Hall and a Christmas trail in the stables. Suitable fare to sustain visitors during their visit will also be available in the tearoom.
For the best prices book online in advance at www.kentwell.co.uk/events/dickensian-christmas timed entry tickets are priced from £34.45 adults, £28.60 child (12-15 years) £22.75 (4-11 years) and £12.35 (1.5-3 years). Higher priced tickets can be bought at the gate on the day, discounts for season ticket holders.
Arts and Crafts Christmas Fair at Blackthorpe Barn until 10 December
Blackthorpe Barn in Rougham will once again be hosting six weekends celebrating some of country’s most talented artisans and craft makers with stalls to browse and buy from Saturday, 4 November until Sunday, 10 December (10am-4pm).
Located inside the vast 16th century thatched barn, the weekend event showcases carefully-selected makers selling their own high-quality items directly to visitors. This year there are many new makers alongside some popular regulars, each with intriguing pieces for sale. The mix of makers changes each weekend, so there is always something new to see. Stalls include woven and knitwear designs and textiles, ceramics, glassware, metalware, wood creations, natural beauty products, leather items, jewellery, books, baskets and much more. Small entry charge of £3 per person. For details visit www.blackthorpebarn.com.
Blackthorpe Barn’s free to enter Country Christmas Shop and Courtyard Café will be also open at the same time.
For more information about festive events in and around Bury St Edmunds, where to stay and other things to see and do, visit www.christmasinburystedmunds.co.uk.