The twinkling lights, the warm embrace of festive traditions, and the snug charm of cosy settings – these are the enchanting elements that British Christmas films beautifully capture.
Transporting audiences to the heart of Britain’s diverse landscapes and cultural riches, these films not only get one into the holiday spirit but also inspire travellers to explore the whimsical wonders of Britain during this holiday season.
Love Actually: A London Love Story
For his film director’s debut, Richard Curtis came up with so many beautiful plots that he couldn’t choose and combined them all into one film. And now these nine touching and amusing love stories, which make the most incredible dreams a reality, have become just as integral a part of the holidays as a festive tree and the smell of gingerbread cookies. Finding yourself at these filming locations can feel as real as your own biography: it’s the bench on South Bank, overlooking Millenium Bridge and St Paul’s Cathedral, where little Sam talked about his first love, or Grosvenor Chapel in Mayfair where the church choir sang “All You Need is Love” to the newlyweds. The endless Poplar Road where the Prime Minister knocked on every door in search of his Natalie. From Trafalgar Square to the Tate Modern, the film showcases both famous landmarks and hidden gems like St Luke’s Mews, which is just a short walk from Portobello Road Market where some bespoke Christmas gifts can be found. Those who fancy some luxury Christmas decorations and personalised gifts can shop at Selfridges which appears in the film when Harry buys a gift for his secret lover.
Last Christmas: Christmas Eve in London
Set against the backdrop of London, “Last Christmas” captures the story of personal growth and romance. London’s Covent Garden, Natural History Museum ice rink, and the Millennium Bridge reveal the city’s festive spirit, inspiring visitors to do some Christmas shopping or to have amazing experience while skating at the Museum. Regent Street and Piccadilly Circus come alive with holiday magic, sparking wanderers to explore the capital’s vibrant streets during this special time.
Paddington 1 & 2: Heartwarming Adventures, London
Though not a traditional Christmas film, “Paddington” warms hearts during the festive season. Paddington Station’s iconic statue and picturesque backdrop invite travellers to embark on their own adventures. From the charming streets of Primrose Hill to Hatfield House’s grandeur, the film’s locations inspire wanderlust. Additional places include the Notting Hill residence of the Browns family, which was effectively portrayed in Primrose Hill (close to London Zoo and Camden Lock). Hatfield House in Hertfordshire, which played the role of the interior corridors of the Geographers Guild, is another location.
The Holiday: A Journey Between Continents, Shere, Surrey and Cornwell, Oxfordshire
“The Holiday” sweeps viewers into a cross-continental adventure. The idyllic English countryside, portrayed in Surrey and Oxfordshire, contrasts beautifully with sunny California. The villages of Shere and Godalming, where the British part of the film was shot, in real life look exactly the same as they do on the screen: the fields, hills, cobblestone streets, houses with colourful shutters and moss-covered roofs, the White Horse pub with a history dating back to 1450 – exists in reality, although it’s even harder to believe in this than the romantic plot of the film with its twists and two happy endings.This rustic cottage which inspired Iris’s home in the festive comedy, located in Holmbury St Mary, Surrey, is now available for rent on Airbnb. If this cottage isn’t available, there are plenty similar cottages in various regions of England that one can consider renting, such as Brimscobe, Gretton in Gloucestershire, Bretforton, and Stow on the Wold, among others. The allure of the Cotswolds, depicted through Cornwell Manor, sets the scene for a lovely cosy lunch, invites winter explorations amidst timeless beauty.
Nativity: Coventry’s Comedy Gem
“Nativity” delivers laughs in the heart of Coventry. The film portrays the city’s vibrant atmosphere, cultural offerings, and historical attractions. As the birthplace of the film’s director, Coventry’s artistic experiences, including the Belgrade Theatre and the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum, showcase the city’s rich heritage. Its festivals and events celebrate everything from music to literature throughout the year, inviting travellers to immerse themselves in Coventry’s lively scene.
While London forms the backdrop of “Bridget Jones’ Diary,” the Cotswolds steal the show with their enchanting allure, providing the setting for a party at Bridget’s parent’s home. The charismatic village of Snowshill, with its stone cottages and rolling hills, invites visitors to experience its year-round charm. Stoke Park in Buckinghamshire offers a touch of romance, providing an ideal escape for a festive weekend.
A Christmas Carol: Warwick’s Ghost Tale
Warwick’s Lord Leycester Hospital takes centre stage in the adaptation of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” This medieval gem, with its exceptional architecture, adds a ghostly charm to the story. Combining Warwick‘s splendour with east London’s Rainham Hall, the adaptation offers a unique blend of history and drama.
The Princess Switch: Switched Again: Edinburgh and Glasgow’s Festive Fantasy
Vanessa Hudgens returns in the sequel, transforming Glasgow and Edinburgh into the fictional realm of ‘Belgravia’. The stunning Glasgow Cathedral and Leith’s Mimi’s Bakehouse provide a magical setting. Scotland’s enchanting landscapes bring the holiday spirit to life, setting the stage for exciting adventures.To fully embrace the Christmas spirit and feel like a royal, guests might consider accommodations like the Grand Central Hotel in Glasgow, where a harmonious blend of Victorian design and contemporary amenities awaits. Alternatively, in Glasgow, One Devonshire Gardens, A Hotel Du Vin, is renowned for its exceptional dining experiences. In Edinburgh, travellers can opt for The Witchery by the Castle, situated just beside Edinburgh Castle, or the Balmoral Hotel, which offers breathtaking views of the city and promises an excellent lodging experience.
The “Downton Abbey” Christmas Special: Elegance Across Britain
“Downton Abbey” captivates audiences with its aristocratic charm. Filmed across stunning British locations, including Highclere Castle, Alnwick Castle in Northumberland, used for filming various outdoor scenes, and Inveraray Castle, an iconic visitor attraction in Scotland, served as the exterior of Duneagle Castle – the series transports viewers to the splendour of England and Scotland. In the enchanting realm of British castles, exciting experiences await. This December, Highclere Castle beckons with a splendid array of festive events, all open for early bookings. And Alnwick Castle invites to embrace the magic with an early bird treat – tickets for The Alnwick Garden Winter Light Trail are now on sale.
Doctor Who TV Series: Welsh Wonders
The enchanting landscapes of Wales have played host to the iconic British science fiction TV series, “Doctor Who.” This popular TV series has embarked on captivating journeys across the country, especially during its cherished Christmas specials. Cardiff, the vibrant capital of Wales, has emerged as the epicentre of a few “Doctor Who” productions, welcoming the TARDIS to its city streets and charming parks. Visitors can enjoy strolling through the very locations where the Doctor’s adventures unfolded, feeling a connection to this timeless series. Roald Dahl Plass in Cardiff Bay is a splendid public plaza paying homage to the famous writer Roald Dahl. This picturesque setting has graced the screen in multiple “Doctor Who” episodes, inviting travellers to immerse themselves in the show’s rich narrative. Caerphilly Castle, a majestic fortress boasting medieval architecture and expansive grounds, provided a backdrop for several “Doctor Who” episodes, making it a must-visit destination for fans and explorers alike.