The East Midlands’ Most Insta-worthy Christmas Backdrops

Britain has more festive photo opportunities than you can shake a selfie stick at. We’ve collected 16 of 2019’s best locations from in and around the East Midlands, including classic wintry landscapes, kaleidoscopic illuminations, pristine ice rinks, traditional Victorian scenes and two Viking tipis from which you can pillage a mince pie and glass of mulled wine.

If you’re planning a trip by train over Christmas, our Best Fare Finder tool can help you find the nearest station and best ticket price.

Winter Wonderland, Nottingham City Centre

Nottingham’s Old Market Square has been transformed into the ultimate urban winter wonderland, including the East Midlands’ largest real ice rink as its centrepiece. Nearby there’s an ice bar with giant frozen Christmas sculptures that provide the ideal icy backdrop for a festive photo. After a close-up with a see-through Santa, head to Altitude Bar – a cosy rooftop chalet with glass walls and 360-degree panoramic views of the colourful rides and 70 Bavarian-style market stalls below.

If you’ve got the shutter speed for it, snap a photo of friends or family as they hurtle down the toboggan slide on King Street. Or for an easier snap, try a low-angle shot of the unique Helter Skelter bar.

Dates: Market Square stalls, bars and ice rink until December 31. Christmas markets until December 24

Prices: Free to enter, attraction prices vary and can be found on the official site.

Check out trains to Nottingham city centre.

A Woodland Christmas at Wollaton Hall, Nottingham

Wollaton Hall is the perfect place to capture a photo that’s fit for a Christmas card. Herds of Red and Fallow deer roam 500 acres of grassland and woodland, while inside the Elizabethan country house, the city’s Natural History Museum holds a collection of 750,000 objects, including fossils, taxidermy and rare specimens from around the world.

Christmas at Wollaton Hall includes a trail around the site, a chance to meet Santa, craft markets, concerts and a tour of the hall and its traditional festive decorations. For photos full of atmosphere, look for the Christmas Lantern Adventure Tour.

Dates: November 30 - January 5
Price: General admission is free. For tour prices, see here.

Wollaton Hall and Deer Park is a 15-minute drive from Nottingham railway station.

THOR’s Tipi Bar, Nottingham City Centre

‘Cosy’ doesn’t quite cover the uniquely indulgent atmosphere of THOR’s Tipi Bar – a Viking-themed pop-up bar with canvas tipis that house wooden tables and chairs, furs and an open fire pit. Hundreds of lights adorn the tipis to create a warm refuge from the cold winter night. Inside you’ll find sweet treats, warm cider, hot cocoa and fine ales. From its first Tipi Bar in York, THOR’s has expanded to seven cities in 2019, including Lincoln and, for the first time, Nottingham.

Over 250,000 people experienced this Yuletide take on Viking heritage last year, so why not don your horned helmet and set sail (or rail) to see it for yourself?

Dates: In Nottingham until December 31
Prices: General admission is free

14 minutes’ walk from the station in Nottingham.

A Storybook Christmas at Newstead Abbey, Nottinghamshire

Once home to the poet Lord Byron, Newstead Abbey is a historic house set in 300 acres of Nottinghamshire’s finest gardens and parkland. Inside are Victorian room settings, while in the surrounding grounds are lakes, waterfalls and cascades that create classic wintry backdrops. This Christmas you can discover the romance and mystery of the Abbey by stepping into a storybook-themed tour. You’ll join the Webb sisters, who once lived in the house, as they hunt for their pet mouse on Christmas Eve. Floral displays and music fill the house as you pass through various rooms with fairy tale themes.

Dates: Every weekend in December, from 11 am - 4 pm.
Prices: Adult - £12, children aged 5-15 - £5.00, under-4s free, family - £30

The Robin Hood Line runs from Nottingham to Worksop via Newstead.

Attenborough Nature Reserve, Nottinghamshire

Attenborough Nature Reserve is a beautiful complex of flooded former gravel pits and islands that provides a habitat for a range of wildlife. This Christmas, there’s Wreath Making and a Winter Bird Identification Walk. If you’re lucky, you might catch a glimpse or snap a photo of a murmuration of starlings – the ultimate winter wildlife spectacle.

Dates: Wreath making: December 6, Winter Bird Identification Walk: December 7

Prices: Christmas Wreath Making: £37.50 + booking fee, Winter Bird Identification Walk: £7 + booking fee

The nearest station is Attenborough.

Lincoln Christmas Market 2019

For four days in December, the cobbled streets of Lincoln’s Cathedral Quarter become even more scenic as hundreds of stalls, plus food, drink, music and merriment, nestle into the medieval square and surrounding area.

Many cities have Christmas markets, but Lincoln has the UK’s oldest thanks to its friendship and twinning with the town of Neustadt in Germany. From 11 stalls in 1982 to over 250 this year, you’ll find handcrafted presents, locally created art and a trove of other goodies, all just a few steps from Lincoln cathedral, which, bathed in yellow floodlights, provides the perfect Gothic backdrop for a Christmas market selfie.

Dates: December 5 - December 8
Price: Free

The market is a 10-minute walk from Lincoln train station.

Illuminated Medieval Wall Walk, Lincoln Castle

This year, you aren’t limited to ground-level photos while eating, drinking and shopping your way around Lincoln’s Christmas market. Head to the castle to experience the Illuminated Wall Walk. From your vantage point on the castle’s medieval wall, you’ll have a magical view of Lincoln Cathedral’s West Front and soaring spires, as well as the merry hustle and bustle of the market below.

The sun sets at about 3.45 pm during the three days of the Christmas market, so join an early walk to capture hues on the horizon of hazy orange, yellow and red in panoramic shots across the city and surrounding countryside.

Dates: December 5-8, 4 pm - 9 pm
Price: Adults - £8, family - £21.50, concession - £7.00, children aged 5-16 - £5.50, under-5s - free.

The castle is a 10-minute walk from Lincoln train station.

THOR’s Tipi Bar, Lincoln City Centre

‘Cosy’ doesn’t quite cover the uniquely indulgent atmosphere of THOR’s Tipi Bar – a Viking-themed pop-up bar with canvas tipis that house wooden tables and chairs, furs and an open fire pit. Hundreds of lights adorn the tipis to create a warm refuge from the cold winter night. Inside you’ll find sweet treats, warm cider, hot cocoa and fine ales. From its first Tipi Bar in York, THOR’s has expanded to seven cities in 2019, including Lincoln and, for the first time, Nottingham.

Over 250,000 people experienced this Yuletide take on Viking heritage last year, so why not don your horned helmet and set sail (or rail) to see it for yourself?

Dates: In Lincoln until December 31
Prices: General admission is free

Just 3 minutes on foot from the train station in Lincoln.

Santa Runs in Skegness​

Why settle for a photo with a solo Santa when you can get a selfie with hundreds at the same time? There are Santa Fun Runs, Dashes, and Jingle Jogs being held across the Midlands for good causes, including Skegness.

Date and time: 8 Dec, 10:30 – 13:00

The nearest train station is Skegness

Christmas at Chatsworth

When not providing filming backdrops for films like Pride and Prejudice and The Duchess, the Baroque stately home of Chatsworth House in Derbyshire enchants visitors with over 30 rooms and expansive parkland on the bank of the River Derwent. This Christmas, visitors are transported on a journey around the globe through an immersive experience full of lights, scents and sounds of lands, far, far away.

In one of Chatsworth's most ambitious events to date, festive displays related to Morocco, India, China, Japan, America and more will be combined in an eclectic experience. There’s even a hot air balloon basket for a one-of-a-kind photo opportunity.

Date: Until January 5 2020

Price: Adult - £25, children aged 4-16 - £15, Children under 4 - free, family - £69.

Matlock is the nearest train station to Chatsworth, and buses from Matlock run directly to Chatsworth.

Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire

Hardwick Hall is one of Britain’s greatest Elizabethan houses, with dozens of vantage points for taking breathtaking photos of winter landscapes and historical architecture. On walks in the winter sunshine, you’ll see berries in holly hedges, pass through kissing gates and follow in the footsteps of Bess of Hardwick, who shaped the countryside 400 years ago.

For a captivating view of the surrounding Derbyshire countryside, climb the North Steps to emerge amongst chimneys and turrets on the mansion’s rooftop.

Date: November 23 - December 22

Prices: House and Garden Christmas 2019: Adult - £13.00, children - £6.50, family - £32.00

Hardwick Hall is a 15-minute drive from Chesterfield train station.

Victorian Matlock Christmas Market, Matlock

In the heart of the peaks and dales of Derbyshire, Victorian Matlock is one of the East Midlands’ largest free outdoor Christmas events. This year it celebrates its 25th anniversary with over 200 stalls, festive entertainment, celebrity light switch-on and a firework display.

For a quirky Christmas photo, stick around for Santa’s Christmas Parade on Saturday 7th December, when illuminated Christmas characters and sci-fi lookalikes from the famous Matlock Bath Illuminations join a coach and horses on a walk through the town.

Date: December 6 - December 8

Price: Free

The Derwent Valley line offers a picturesque way to arrive by train. The nearest station to the market is Matlock.

Christmas at Renishaw Hall, Derbyshire

Renishaw Hall opens its doors to visitors in November and December, offering warming festive food, winter garden walks and guided tours of its historic hall. Renishaw has been the Sitwell family home for nearly 400 years, which means the house provides a truly authentic traditional English Christmas backdrop.

Date: November 28 - December 1, December 5 - December 8

Prices: Adult - £7.00, concessions - £6.50, children - £3, family - £10-15. Booking essential for festive Hall tours.

Renishaw Hall is a 20-minute drive from Chesterfield train station.

Christmas at Haddon Hall, Bakewell​

Author Simon Jenkins called Haddon Hall ‘The most perfect house to survive from the Middle Ages’. Visitors can stroll through the traditionally dressed chambers of Haddon, each with a roaring fire, and see some of the finest craftsmen, chefs, florists and makers in Derbyshire, who will be demonstrating a wide and intriguing variety of essential Christmas skills.

Dates: December 1 - December 23

Online prices: Adult - £16.75, concession - £15.75, children - free, student - £14.25

Haddon Hall is a 20-minute drive from Matlock Bath train station.

Jubilee Square, Leicester

The Wheel of Light returns by popular demand to Leicester’s Jubilee Square until January 6th. At a height of 110 feet, this observation wheel offers an unparalleled view over the Square, which is decorated with 2,000 twinkling pea lights and 900 baubles, including a peek at the skaters in the nearby ice rink. The rink has a clear roof so you can enjoy the ice in any weather. There’s also a 45-metre outdoor ice trail to make the experience even more magical.

Dates and times: Ends January 6

Price: General admission is free

Jubilee Square is a 10-minute walk from Leicester train station.

New Market Square, Leicester

You can experience a mix of traditional and modern attractions in Leicester’s New Market Square this Christmas. Visit Santa and his elf for free in a snow-covered grotto, then go next door to see the dark winter sky bathed in light by a giant illuminated inflatable sphere. The 4-metre installation, named LightWeight, displays videos and animations across the surface of the globe, including portraits of visitors via a facial recognition camera booth.

Dates and times: Grotto: December 7 - December 22, LightWeight: December 12 - December 21

Prices: Free

New Market Square is a 10-minute walk from Leicester train station.

If you feel inspired to take some photos that are enviably festive without the need for filters, our Best Fare Finder tool can help you find the cheapest train tickets for your Christmas adventure.