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, take in those Christmas lights, sit by the fires - you get our drift.
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.
Plus, if you're worried about lugging the shopping around or need an easy journey, many of these stops are on the Southeastern network so you'll not need to worry about driving - making a stressful season even more care-free!
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. For local produce with a cosy atmosphere, head to the Corner House for delectable dining, who also have five beautifully presented rooms above their restaurant. And when in Canterbury, the Cathedral is a must-see with Evensong with Carols making for a spectacular pre-Christmas treat.
For those who want to be transported to a truly winter wonderland, venture over to Wildwood just outside of the city, where you'll be able to book onto reindeer experiences, meet Santa at the Grotto and create a luxurious wreath for home. Plus, you'll know that spending time here results in animal species being returned to Kent and that you are looking after our natural world.
Our favourite summer spot, The Folkestone Harbour Arm is being transformed into a festive wonderland this year once again from the 17th November, 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's, 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 home for the night to snuggle up in one of Keepers Cottages pleasant houses from sea views to lofts.
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.
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, 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!
From Christmas gifts made by local makers, to wine tasting and wreath making experiences, and of course all you need to create that tongue-tantalising locally-sourced Christmas dinner, our friends at Produced in Kent are in the know when it comes to the best Kentish produce. Take a look at their Christmas directory for all the inspiration you need to craft that perfect Kentish Christmas.
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 new openings Hackett, Clarins and Columbia, you may want to think about getting that Christmas Day wardrobe while you’re here – didn’t we tell you it was the place to go to rival the Big Man? Plus - head there with the kids and meet Santa in his Lodge!
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 the Outlet, or hop down the road to the Curious Brewery taproom for a freshly brewed pint with food such as steaks, pizzas and vegan burgers. If you can't make it, be sure to check out their gift sets and mix up boxes - ideal for those hop aficionados. 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 across from the brewery. Settle into your room with its luxurious Hampton bed and you’ll be asleep in moments.
If you're still in the area the next day, venture to the beautiful Weald countryside and the Chapel Down Winery where you can pick up their catalogue of wines, food and drink from nearby suppliers plus some luxury hampers from local food and drink businesses - cheers to the festive season!
Another very popular winery is Gusbourne, whose Nest is the place to stock up on all of your wine needs for the Christmas season. Their cellar door is open 10am to 5pm daily and stocks a wide range of sparkling and still wines to choose, as well as offering gift boxes for individual presents for friends and family, or tour vouchers for all of their experiences that can be redeemed at leisure.
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.
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!
As you'll likely have kids in tow at this time of the year, Reuthe's is playing host to Santa on select dates in December, offering kids the chance to have Breakfast with Santa or take part in a Children’s Christmas Disco. Their popular Christmas Markets will also be running from the 2nd December once more - from 10am to 2pm.
A festive road trip around this scenic spot is sure to leave you longing to explore further, and with beautiful barns to cosy cottages, Bloom Stays have a special spot for you this season in Sevenoaks.
Across the National Trust's top sites are a some of Kent's smallest charming shops! For gifts suitable for the most regal of the family, take a wander around Knole's two shops which are just waiting to be discovered. The gift shop is a browser's delight, with an array of items to tempt you from souvenirs to homewares, accessories, unique gifts from local artists and craftspeople and delicious treats. Or for those who enjoy peace and tranquillity, lose yourself amongst the shelves of timeless and modern-day classics in Knole's very own bookshop.
For the best country Christmas gifting, head to Sissinghurst's shop, where you can find a delectable array of fruity jams, tasty curds, biscuits and tantalising wines which are all of course sourced nearby and go into the upkeep of the special properties. If that wasn't enough, give a gift that keeps giving with a literary title from the on-site second-hand bookshop
Meandering like the rivers to the sea are Margate's backstreets full of new and independent shops and restaurants. From family members who crave the handmade candles and unique scents, pre-loved clothing items which fit beautifully or a thoughtfully select book, the town has it all. Once you've exhausted yourself and ticked off everything on the list (we're hoping!), head over to No.42 Guesthouse which has the wonderful seaviews from rooms and restaurants. Plus over the Christmas period you can join them for all of the festive fun, but zero of the work, with two or three night packages on offer with complimentary carols, dinner and breakfasts.
With over 300 stores under its roof, Bluewater is the Kent destination for Christmas shopping to cover everyone's wishes! If you're heading up as a family but you've got a member of the party who's not feeling up to ticking off the list, explore the myriad of experiences there - from the Pirate Cove Adventure Park to Winterland, which has a myriad of rides, games to food and drink - yes they've even got a Yorkshire Pudding Wrap!
The new and improved Southeastern app makes travelling by train easier. Get live personalised travel information delivered straight to your phone, with no need to queue at the station as you can buy and download digital tickets anywhere, plus you can check how busy your train will be and plan a quieter time to travel. The app has been designed with accessibility in mind making it easier to book and track Passenger Assist requests.
For even more Christmas inspiration, take a look at what else we've got coming up this season in Kent...