Pre-Christmas shopping breaks in Kent

Sophie Hewitt

2nd November 2021

We love Christmas and while the build up to the big day is always full of fun and festivity (just take a look at our top Christmas events), sometimes you just need a little bit of time to relax, treat yourself and remember to enjoy the magic of the season.

While we’re not saying ditch all the Christmas prep for a weekend, we are recommending making sure you truly soak it up and savour the festivities with a pre-Christmas break that combines that all important shopping and that all important touch of sparkle, care of an overnight stay and a little indulgence.

Canterbury

Oh, Canterbury, you will always be on our list when it comes to a pre-Christmas shopping staycation. Pair those cobbled streets with boutique shops and big brand names in Whitefriars, and add a sprinkling of local makers and mulled wine, care of the Christmas market, and you’ve got the perfect shopping experience.

Ticked off every name on your list? It’s time to cosy up with dinner and drinks in the likes of The Foundry with their famous spirits and beers, or Shepherd Neame’s The Parrot with its open fires and local brews. After dinner, we recommend settling in for the night at ABode Canterbury in the heart of the city for a real taste of luxury. And when in Canterbury, the Cathedral is a must-see with Evensong with Carols making for a spectacular pre-Christmas treat.

Folkestone

Our favourite summer spot, The Folkestone Harbour Arm is being transformed into a festive wonderland this year, with a Christmas market offering gifts, a band, carols and of course, those glittering sea views. Wrap up warm and grab a bite from The Goods Yard, settle in for a festive flick on the big screen, or make the pilgrimage to the end of the arm for drinks at The Lighthouse.

After you’ve explored the Harbour Arm (you’ll need an empty stomach and a full afternoon), make your way up the Old High Street for boutique shops and galleries, and pull up a chair in one of the many, many restaurants and bars. Dig into sour dough pizza at Luben, Basque-inspired delights at Pick Up Pintxos, or fine feasting and warm hospitality at The Pullman. With a belly full of local food and drink, it’s time to make your way just up the road and snuggle up in one The View Hotel’s Signature Rooms for amazing views and ultimate comfort.

Tunbridge Wells

For those interested in the finer things, Royal Tunbridge Wells has a regal history and a pretty splendid shopping scene! The Pantiles is one of our favourite spots to pick up those unique gifts, with enough choice to keep the pet lover, the foodie, the photography whiz and luxury brand lover happy this Christmas.

And that impressive colonnaded walkway holds plenty of tempting treats for while you’re here too! Tuck in at Sankey’s and enjoy Champagne and seafood, delicious seasonal dishes paired with Insta-worthy décor just up the road at The White Bear and the very best in craft beer and international brews at Fuggles Beer Café. Round off your evening with a stay in the elegant Royal Wells Hotel, just minutes from Tunbridge Wells Station.

Faversham

With a brewery at its heart and Macknade Fine Foods just up the road, you’ve got to head to Faversham for your Christmas food and drink shopping! As the South East’s leading food hall, you won’t be able to leave Macknade without grabbing a bite for yourself from the Food Village, but don’t get too distracted as you’ve local cheeses, wines, Italian cured meats, fresh bread, delicious baked goods and soooooo much more to pick up while you’re here. Trust us, the Christmas hamper never looked more tempting!

Remember when we mentioned that brewery? You’ve got to pick up some Shepherd Neame goodies while you’re in Faversham! Choose from mini kegs, mixed cases and beers including Spitfire, Bear Island and Whitstable Bay for a sparkling Christmas drinks selection! Full of food and good beer, we recommend retiring to The Sun Inn, the cosy, beamed pub that comes with plenty of character and Christmas cheer!

Ashford

With 90 top designer brands at up to 60% less, Ashford Designer Outlet is where we go when we want to really outdo Santa’s elves! With premium brands including Reiss, Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger, you may want to think about getting that Christmas wardrobe while you’re here. Once you’ve shopped, tick another thing off the list and get those gifts wrapped up (before you keep them for yourself) at the on-site premium gift-wrapping station – didn’t we tell you it was the place to go to rival the Big Man?

Once the shopping is all wrapped up, you’ve got some foodie choices to make! Settle in for Wagamamas, Pizza Express, Five Guys and more at Ashford Designer Outlet, or hop down the road for street food and craft beers at Coachworks, fresh local produce at Macknade, Elwick Place, or into the Curious Brewery taproom for a freshly brewed pint. After all that eating, drinking, shopping and indulging you don’t have to go very far for your bed as Hampton by Hilton Ashford International sits down the road and across from the station. Settle into your brand-new room with its luxurious Hampton bed and you’ll be asleep in moments.

Medway

A tumble-down castle, a breath-taking cathedral and cobbled streets featured on the pages of Dickens, Rochester and Christmas are a match made in heaven. Peruse boutique shops along the high street like Copenhagen Blue, Fieldstaff Antiques and Estella Boutique (name that Dickens novel!), or enjoy live music, gifts and tastes of Bavaria at the Rochester Christmas Market in the gardens of that fairytale castle.

Oliver’s Bar and Restaurant or The Vines make for tempting dinner choices in the heart of Rochester, while just up the road in Chatham, Copper Rivet’s Pumproom restaurant offers fine dining and cocktail sipping. Turn in for the night just a pebble’s throw away at Ship & Trades and you can expect incredible views and comfortable rooms.

Sevenoaks

If you’re looking for a slice of the quintessential Kent countryside this yuletide, you needn’t look further than scenic Sevenoaks, with its rolling landscape and Christmas card-worthy village scenes. Browse the brilliant selection of high street brands in Sevenoaks town, before venturing out to its nearby villages where you’ll find an array of incredible producers, bearing local gifts and goodies. From tempting tipples at The Mount Vineyard to sumptuous scents at Castle Farm, you’ll find something for even the trickiest of recipients here!

A festive road trip around this scenic spot is sure to leave you longing to explore further, and there’s simply no better way to extend your Sevenoaks stay than by kicking back for the night in your very own home-from-home. From beautiful barns to cosy cottages, Original Cottages have a special spot for you this season in Sevenoaks.

Tonbridge

Get ready to ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Castlemas’ if travelling to Tonbridge throughout this December. No, we haven’t got the lyrics wrong, we promise! The magic of Castlemas arrives to Tonbridge Castle from 10th to 19th December, featuring a special shop local Christmas market, ‘Jingle Bell Ball’, and an enchanting 300 seat ‘Igloo Theatre’ located on the castle lawn. With something for all ages from creative workshops and live music to a Santa’s Grotto experience (all with a sprinkling of snow), Tonbridge is the perfect place to kick start this year’s festive celebrations and shopping… Truly a Claus for celebration!

With a belly full of mince pie and mulled wine, it’s time to round up your friends and family and retreat for the night at nearby Oak Tree Cottage. With space for up to seven guests, and a stone’s throw from the local pub, this is the perfect pad for pre-Christmas get-togethers with loved ones.

For even more Christmas inspiration, take a look at what else we've got coming up this season in Kent...