Top UK Christmas shopping destinations, as chosen by you

We asked you for your top Christmas shopping destinations across the country, you sent us your favourites, and here they are!

Screen Shot 2014-11-26 at 11.53.13

Birmingham’s Bullring shopping centre is one of the largest in the UK, but this 21st century shopping mecca isn’t all the West Midlands City has to offer. Head over to The Mailbox for a taste of cutting edge fashion paired with contemporary art and furnishings. If the hustle and bustle isn’t for you, why not browse through some of Birmingham’s best independent offerings in the Grand Western Arcade or pick up something sparkly in the Jewellery Quarter.

Screen Shot 2014-11-26 at 14.34.01

10417520_720232888059867_20834247332345839_nFrom the somewhat Dickensian St Nicholas Christmas Fair to a bustling city centre and beautiful architecture, a shopping in York is a must this festive season. York city centre is pedestrianised, making browsing the wide array of boutique shops and markets easy. If you’re feeling really adventurous, check out the Medieval Market at Barley Hall for some truly one-of-a kind gifts.

Screen Shot 2014-11-27 at 14.17.18

Screen Shot 2014-11-27 at 14.08.50

With the likes of The Arndale centre with 240 shops, and even more in the bustling city centre, it’s clear that shopping is a topic taken very seriously in Manchester.  Head to the Northern Quarter, for the biggest selection of independent retailers outside of London, for that really special gift, and take advantage of late night shopping as hundreds of stores open their doors for longer hours at Christmas.

Screen Shot 2014-11-27 at 14.17.13

Screen Shot 2014-11-26 at 11.53.02

In addition to Edinburgh’s excellent Christmas market, there are some great places to shop in the vibrant Scottish capital this Christmas.

Check out our Top 5 Christmas Markets Countdown

Start off in the city centre, passing through all the essential shops on Princes Street and St Andrews Square. Move on to George Street and get your groove on with an exclusive selection of boutiques, showcasing the top names in fashion and jewellery. Don’t forget to stop for lunch in one of the many eateries in the area (shopping is thirsty work). Finally, for those who are a little harder to buy for, pick up some unique fashion or a rare book in one of the vintage boutiques of Grassmarket.

Screen Shot 2014-11-26 at 14.54.31

Screen Shot 2014-11-26 at 11.53.40

Okay, so you can find all the big names on London’s Oxford Street… but London has so much more variety to offer you intrepid Christmas shoppers this season. Carnaby Street, birthplace of the swinging sixties, features a great selection of bars and retail stores set back from the hustle and bustle of Regent Street. A short walk through Soho will land you in Covent Garden, with its vibrant selection of high street names and boutiques, as well as some stunning Christmas lights. For the more intrepid shopper, London’s regular markets become a buzz of activity over the festive period. Try Portobello Road Market (West London) or Spitalfields Market (East London) for something different.

Screen Shot 2014-11-26 at 15.15.30

3 Cool things happening in London this weekend

Screen Shot 2014-11-14 at 16.56.20
It’s getting colder out there, but that’s no excuse to batten down the hatches! There’s always a great selection of things to do in the Capital. Here’s our 3 favourite picks for the weekend.

Screen Shot 2014-11-14 at 17.00.51

3. Hyper Japan Christmas Market, Kensington Olympia

Dive into the best of Japanese culture at this unique take on the Christmas market. Browse unique toys and gifts, or bop along to some live music, including J-Pop and traditional drumming. Tickets from £8, nearest station: Kensington (Olympia)

Screen Shot 2014-11-14 at 16.34.43

2. Ja Ja Ja Festival

This Nordic festival showcases the best music that Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Iceland have to offer (not to mention some traditional tasty food). Enjoy a full day of quirky live electro-pop at Queen Mary University of London on Saturday. Tickets from £25, nearest station: Mile End.

1. Southbank Centre Winter Festival

Rides, Scandinavian Cider tents and a Christmas market, all with a beautiful view of the River Thames. Get your gloves on, entry is free! Nearest station: London Waterloo.

Screen Shot 2014-11-14 at 17.00.51

5 Awesome Ways to Celebrate this New Year’s Eve

1. The Traditional

Fireballs festival, Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire

B Campbell, Flickr

Image: B Campbell, Flickr

Goodness gracious, blazing balls of fire! Stonehaven’s Fireball festival sees a parade of participants swinging flaming balls above their heads. Following the parade, the fireballs are cast into the sea at the harbour, and the stunning firework display at the Bervie Braes begins. This traditional welcome to the new year has been part of Aberdeen’s Hogmanay celebrations for over four hundred years. If you’re looking to end the night in a more contemporary setting, head back to the market square for a disco until 2am.

Screen Shot 2014-11-13 at 14.15.06

2. The Wild Night

Newquay

iStock_000027857480_Large

If partying into 2015 is what you’re looking for, then heading to Newquay this New Year is for you. The street party and midnight firework show are local traditions, and local bars and clubs offer tempting specials on food and drinks. Bar Help will even hose you down with ‘snow’ to welcome you to 2015.

Screen Shot 2014-11-13 at 14.15.01

3. The Family Outing

Winter Wonderland, Cardiff.

Jon Candy, Flickr

Image: Jon Candy, Flickr

Get your skates on and spend the new year on ice at the Admiral ice rink in Cardiff’s Winter Wonderland. Those of us with less balance can enjoy a great selection of rides and attractions, as well as live music and a free bus service.

Screen Shot 2014-11-13 at 14.19.04

4. The Wild Card

Spinnaker Tower, Portsmouth

Image: Stephen Harper, Flickr

Stephen Harper, Flickr

Fancy toasting the new year 500 feet in the air? You can do just that at Portsmouth’s Spinnaker tower. DJ’s, great views and the world’s largest glass floor make for a one-of-a-kind new year experience at Portsmouth’s world-famous landmark. Tickets are £45 and must be pre-booked here.

Screen Shot 2014-11-13 at 14.15.14

5. The Big Bang

London

Matthias Rosenkranz, Flickr

Image: Matthias Rosenkranz, Flickr

Who can forget the Capital’s explosive welcome to 2014, and this year’s celebration looks to be just as epic! The midnight skies light up with increasingly innovative pyrotechnic displays, using the world famous landmarks along the River Thames. The event draws over 500,000 visitors each year, more than any other new year celebration in the UK, so turn up early to guarantee a good viewing spot. Tickets for the event are £10 and are available here.

Screen Shot 2014-11-13 at 14.15.10

thetrainline’s Top 5 Christmas Market Countdown

Get into the festive spirit with a visit to a traditional Christmas market. We’ve picked 5 top options to wet your appetites! Here we go.

5. Exeter Christmas Market, Exeter

Screen Shot 2014-11-05 at 10.44.36

Set against the stunning backdrop of Exeter Cathedral, Exeter Christmas market is open from 20 Nov – 20 Dec. That’s 31 days to explore a wide range of stalls, 20% of which sell original produce from local traders. Highlights include speciality cheeses, Christmas crafts and live glass blowing demonstrations. Even better, Exeter Central Station is just a few minutes walk away.

Screen Shot 2014-11-05 at 11.10.28

4. Bath Christmas Market, Bath

Screen Shot 2014-11-05 at 11.08.29

Bath boasts one of the largest Christmas markets in the country. For 18 days you can browse over 150 wooden stalls and the street market to the backdrop of carols, all in the impressive shadow of the beautiful Bath Abbey. The market is located in the centre of this vibrant city, so a trip to the shops or retiring to a bar or restaurant is a must. Bath Spa station is just a short walk away. Entry is free.

Screen Shot 2014-11-05 at 11.05.19

3. Christkindelmarkt, Leeds

Screen Shot 2014-11-05 at 10.26.37

Set in the stylish Millennium Square, Christkindelmarkt features authentic German traders and over 150 wooden stalls. There’s a great selection of beers and beverages for the adults, as well as a wide variety of food, jewellery and handmade toys for the whole family. Christkindelmarkt is open from 14 Nov – 20 Dec 2014. Entry is free, the nearest station is Leeds City.

Screen Shot 2014-11-05 at 11.12.43

2. Edinburgh

Screen Shot 2014-11-05 at 11.17.42

Want to know something awesome about Edinburgh? There’s not 1, but 3 Christmas markets in the city centre during the festive period. The European Christmas Market in Mound Precinct and East Princes Street Gardens offers a traditional (and somewhat romantic) take on the Christmas market experience, and boasts all the old favourites alongside artists and one-off gastronomic experiences. The Children’s Market in St Andrew’s Square gives a selection of festive, child friendly shopping experiences and festive treats. Also in St Andrew’s Square, The Scottish Market showcases the finest food and drink Scotland has to offer. Entry to all the markets is free, the nearest station is Edinburgh.

Screen Shot 2014-11-05 at 11.12.48

1. Winter Wonderland, London

Screen Shot 2014-11-05 at 11.27.40

No Christmas market countdown would be complete without London’s epic Winter Wonderland. Not only is there a huge selection of bars, cafes and restaurants to choose from, but a thrilling selection of rides too. Check out the Bavarian village for bratwurst, beer and bands. Or for something a little different, grab a cocktail at Bar Ice with handcrafted tables, walls and sculptures. Top it all off with a ride on the giant observation wheel, and toast the evening with a mulled cider and a beautiful view. Winter Wonderland is open from 21 Nov – 4 Jan, entry is free (certain attractions subject to charge). The nearest tube stations are Hyde Park Corner and Marble Arch.

Screen Shot 2014-11-05 at 11.10.33 1

Got any suggestions? Let us know on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

#WinTrainStuff top 7 Brilliant and Rubbish pictures (so far)

You’ve been sending us hundreds of your Brilliant and Rubbish photos for #WinTrainStuff! We’ve seen everything from superheroes to sizzling bacon! As such, we’ve embarked on the near impossible task of choosing 7 of our top favourites so far.

And finally..

Don’t forget you can still post your brilliant or rubbish picture with #WinTrainStuff to our facebook wall, twitter or Instagram to be in with a chance of winning a Brilliant or Rubbish prize. We’ve also got a whopping £2000 train travel to give away here.

Good luck!

How to have a frighteningly fun Octob’aaargghhh!

Screen Shot 2014-10-17 at 09.46.21

SCARE YOURSELF SILLY

It’s that spooky time of year again, and there are some great Halloween events to to get your blood curdling. Here’s our top pics for what to do in 3 scary cities

London

  • Get scared senseless at the London Dungeon, where the Master of Tricks will take you on a frightening tour with villains such as Sweeney Todd and Jack the Ripper.
  • Experience the fear of all fears with Phobophobia at the London Bridge Experience. Offering a frightful thrill seeking experience for horror fans in the bowels of London Bridge (this one’s more for the grown-ups).
  • The Old Royal Naval College opens their doors for their Horrid Halloween Highlights tour, a trip through the haunting history of the college and the spooky Victorian skittle alley.
  • Head to Shocktoberfest in Crawley, West Sussex. This 18-night event offers an interactive Halloween experience and boasts a new haunted house and zombie paintball. Screen Shot 2014-10-17 at 10.11.01

Edinburgh

  • Take a ride to the dark side with an Edinburgh Ghost Bus tour. Have fun on this theatrical
    Ghost bus tours operate around London, York and Edinburgh.

    Ghost bus tours operate around London, York and Edinburgh.

    sightseeing tour of the city with comedic horror theatre, all on board an original 1960’s Routemaster bus! Tours start from £15, and are also available in London and York.

  • Meet everyone’s favourite gruesome pair, Burke & Hare. At the Edinburgh Dungeon.
  • The National Museum of Scotland have tracked down scary, spooky, weird and wonderful artefacts for Octob-aargh! Featuring some rather scary pirates.
  • Take a City of the Dead Tour. ‘Voted Edinburgh’s best Ghost Tour’ by Lonely Planet, explore the spooky history the underground and graveyards of the city.

Screen Shot 2014-10-17 at 10.34.27 Birmingham

  • Have a tasty Halloween at the Halloween Spook-tacular at Cadbury World. Show off your talents in live entertainment show ‘The Scream Factor’ with this year finalists competing to win the ‘mystery prize’, Presented by Dermot O’Scary. While you’re at it, why not tell us about your brilliant or rubbish talents to win £2000 train travel?  Enter here.
  • Take the kids on a boat trip at the Dudley Canal Trust Children’s Halloween event, featuring light shows, puppetry, and a prize for the best fancy dress.
  • We wouldn’t be thetrainline.com if we didn’t recommend a ghost train! Take a ride on the Severn Valley Railway Ghost Train at Kidderminster. There’s a children’s disco from 17:30, followed by a journey through some spooky stations, and goody bags for all.
  • If you’re feeling medieval, head for an encounter with the headless horseman at Warwick Castle. During the day there’s a pumpkin tour and story telling. For the adults, there’s after dark ghost hunting. Screen Shot 2014-10-17 at 10.51.23

DISCOVER A CITY

Poppies at the Tower of London. Image: Boss Tweed, Flickr.

Poppies at the Tower of London

Manchester

  • Take a walk through knowledge at Manchester Museum. Tour the Vivarium, where you can see live reptiles and frogs in their natural habitat, and meet a fossilized Tyrannosaurus Rex named ‘Stan’.
  • Go shopping in Trafford Centre, with it’s 280 shops and restaurants.
  • Get constructive with the kids at Legoland Discovery Centre, also in Trafford Centre. You can enjoy indoor rides, building workshops and a 4D cinema. For some spooky Lego fun, check out their ‘Brick or Treat’ event, until 2nd November. Nearest stations: Manchester Piccadilly & Manchester Victoria.
  • Visit Horonation Street. From 27-31 October, ‘Coronation Street The Tour’ is taking a Halloween twist! Walk the path of Coronation Street’s killers and victims with ‘Murder Walks’. Screen Shot 2014-10-17 at 10.56.27

Bristol

This vibrant West Country city has a great selection of things to see and do this half term.

  • Step back in time on Brunel’s SS Great Britain, the world’s first great ocean liner. Don’t forget to see the impressive Clifton suspension bridge, also based on a design by Isombard Kingdom Brunel.

    Clifton Suspension Bridge. Photo: B. Sutherland, Flickr

    Clifton Suspension Bridge. Photo: B. Sutherland, Flickr

  • Bristol museum and art gallery hosts an extensive collection of art, nature and history, including a life-size replica of the Wright Flyer, the first powered aircraft.
  • In the evening, why not warm up with a meal in one of the city centre’s many bars and restaurants. If you’re a fan of top quality cocktails, make a reservation at The Milk Thistle, a prohibition themed bar across 4 floors, also offering a canapé and buffet menu. You’ll also be in the right place to enjoy Bristol Cocktail week, 20-26th October.

Screen Shot 2014-10-17 at 10.56.51

London

  • It’s not all about Big Ben and St Paul’s Cathedral. Why not take a look at the Tower Poppies, an installation at the Tower of London by artist Paul Cummins. 888,246 ceramic poppies are gradually filling the tower’s famous moat up to November 11 (nearest station: Tower Hill). When you’re done, hop over the river to see some naval history on board HMS Belfast.
  • If you’re a fan of a mystery, you can discover the story behind Sherlock Holmes, ‘The man who never lived, and who will never die’ at the Museum of London, and If you’ve got a sweet tooth, The Chocolate Show is at London Olympia from 17-19 October. (Nearest station: Kensington Olympia)
  • Catch a show! If you’re a fan of theatre, you save up to 60% on your ticket price with a train and theatre deal from thetrainline.com. View the latest offers here.

Screen Shot 2014-10-17 at 10.11.01

 GET YOUR COAT, WE’RE OFF TO THE SEASIDE!

Blackpool Pleasure Beach

The sun might have taken leave of us for a while, but there’s still plenty of family fun to be had at Britain’s beautiful seaside

Blackpool

Screen Shot 2014-10-17 at 11.09.44 Blackpool zoo hosts the Halloween Spooktactular from Sat 25th October – Sun 2nd November. Boasting pumpkin carving at the Pumpkin Grotto, a Blood-thirsty Birds Quiz trail, and scary story telling. Brilliant for the family. Tickets start from £11.50. While you’re on the seafront, you can even check out the supposedly haunted ghost train on the Pleasure Beach. Don’t forget to stay until it’s dark to catch the world famous Blackpool Illuminations, which shine up to 9th November.

Screen Shot 2014-10-17 at 11.11.42Brighton

This classic Sussex city destination boasts a wide range of great restaurants, museums and events throughout October. The Booth Museum of Natural History houses exhibits including a killer whale skeleton and dinosaur bones. Brilliant for the kids. For the grown-ups, head to Brighton Marina for some outlet shopping and dining, or catch a laugh at the Brighton Comedy Festival, running throughout October.

Margate

The original British seaside resort isn’t just about sandy beaches and ice Screen Shot 2014-10-17 at 11.11.55creams. Margate has developed into a buzzing hub of cafe culture, retro shopping and contemporary art. Grab lunch with a view at the Harbour Arm, go vintage shopping in the Old Town and get your fill of contemporary art at the Turner Contemporary Gallery. If you’re feeling particularly dramatic, you could call in at the Tom Thumb theatre, one of the smallest theatres in the world, which was formerly a Victorian coach house.