13 free things to do in Gloucestershire this Christmas

Christmas celebrations in Gloucestershire don’t have to cost a fortune, thanks to SoGlos’s round up of 13 free things to do in the county over the festive season.

By Kaleigh Pritchard  |  Published
Make the most of Christmas without breaking the bank, with these free festive things to do in Gloucestershire.

Gloucestershire is bursting with plenty of free things to do over the festive season, from singing carols and seeing Santa to browsing Christmas markets and cheering on yuletide tractors!

SoGlos has rounded up 13 of our favourites — giving you plenty of great inspiration in the lead up to Christmas and into the new year.

Hear choirs sing Christmas carols at Gloucester Cathedral

Gloucester Cathedral's hugely popular Carols on the Hour event takes place on Saturday 9 December 2023 — and it's free to attend!

Welcoming everyone, regardless of their faith, to enjoy beautiful Christmas music, there are 30-minute performances on the hour, every hour between 11am and 3.30pm. There's also a brand-new Christmas family trail to follow through the impressive building, along with the cathedral's spectacular Christmas tree to get you feeling festive.

Admire Bourton-on-the-Water's famous Christmas tree

Illuminating the pretty Cotswold village from the first weekend of December 2023, Bourton-on-the-Water's iconic Christmas tree is a must-see.

Positioned in the River Windrush so the colourful lights are reflected on the water, it makes for an incredible festive photo opportunity while you explore the Venice of the Cotswolds.

Cheer on the Santa Fun Run in Gloucester

Taking place on Saturday 9 December 2023, Gloucester's Santa Fun Run will see hundreds of Father Christmases — and Mrs Clauses — taking to the streets to raise money for local charities.

Starting at Kings Square, the 5k fun run travels through the city centre, taking in the gate streets, the Cross, Greyfriars and Gloucester Cathedral, so there are plenty of places to bag a spot and cheer on the runners as they spread Christmas cheer.

Browse for handmade gifts at New Brewery Arts in Cirencester

If you're struggling to tick off the names on your nice list, book in a free personal shopping experience at New Brewery Arts on Sunday 26 November 2023, where CEO and curator, Beth Alden, will help you pick out the perfect gifts.

All part of the Joy!: A Seasonal Celebration of Craft event, the craft gallery's winter festivities run right up until Christmas Eve, with a whole host of drop-in craft activities to try out and opportunities to shop for handmade presents from 100 British makers and crafters, too.

Say hello to Santa's reindeer at Trioscape Garden Centre

For some magical festive fun, trot over to Trioscape Garden Centre in Newent to meet Santa's reindeer — for free!

Sure to get little ones in the Christmas spirit, Rudolph can't wait to meet all the good boys and girls on Saturday 9 and Sunday 10 December 2023. Plus, visitors can extend their visit by booking for breakfast with Father Christmas or tucking into a festive lunch in the restaurant and, of course, browsing the garden centre for sustainable Christmas gifts and decorations.

Catch a Christmas tractor parade in the Forest of Dean

For something a bit unique (but still free!), catch the annual tractor parade that trundles through the small and wholesome village of Berry Hill in the Forest of Dean.

On Saturday 16 December 2023, tractors in a range of sizes — draped in fairy lights and Christmas decorations — brighten up the streets, followed by tea, coffee and cake served in The Hut.

Take a winter walk in the Forest of Dean

The Forest of Dean is a magical place to visit all year round, but never more so than at Christmastime. Wrap up warm, pack a picnic and a flask and head out for a winter walk under a canopy of trees at one of Forestry England's six Forest of Dean sites.

Blow away the cobwebs with a hike to the top of Symonds Yat Rock to take in the incredible views; make your way around the thought-provoking Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail from Beechenhurst; test out any new bikes Santa may have delivered from Pedalabikeaway on the Family Cycle Trail at Cannop Ponds; or walk off your Christmas lunch on the plethora of walking trails throughout the forest.

Explore Gloucestershire's Christmas markets

With the smell of spiced mulled wine in the air and twinkling lights overhead, nothing feels more Christmassy than taking a stroll through one of Gloucestershire's festive markets.

From the Winter Markets at Gloucester Quays taking place every weekend in the run-up to Christmas, to the Christmas Arts and Crafts Market lining Cheltenham's Promenade from Thursday 14 to Saturday 23 December 2023, SoGlos has rounded up 11 fabulously festive Christmas markets in Gloucestershire to visit this season. 

Soak up some Christmas cheer at Stroud Goodwill Evening

Stroud plays host to a special goodwill evening on Friday 1 December 2023, with free entertainment for all. See the lantern procession take to the streets from 6pm, sip mulled wine, tuck into mince pies, browse the Christmas market in the Cornhill and enjoy late night shopping at the town's independent stores.

The Five Valleys Shopping Centre is also open for late night shopping, with festive live music to enjoy over delicious street food.

Catch a glimpse of Father Christmas at The Brewery Quarter

Father Christmas is making some very special visits to The Brewery Quarter in Cheltenham this festive season. Catch a glimpse of him during the free Christmas Launch Party on Saturday 25 November 2023, alongside live music, appearances from Trolls, Star Wars and Paw Patrol characters, fairytale story readings and snow showers.

The big man is also popping into various Brewery Quarter venues such as Hollywood Bowl, The Botanist, Creams Cafe and more, on Saturday 2, Saturday 9 and Saturday 16 December 2023 from 11am until 1pm, before heading back to the North Pole.

Enter a SoGlos Christmas competition

There's a host of fabulous festive prizes up for grabs this Christmas on SoGlos, including panto tickets for the family at The Roses Theatre in Tewkesbury; a fabulous festive meal for four people at Cirencester's Téatro; a festive day out at Gloucester Quays, with £200 to spend; and a romantic date night for two at Cheltenham's Novo Club.

Check out all of SoGlos's amazing competitions and find out how to enter for a chance to win something wonderful this festive season.

See over 70 real Christmas trees light up the streets of Winchcombe

A classically Cotswold Christmas, Winchcombe's Christmas Festival is free to attend and takes place on Friday 8 December 2023 from 5pm until 8pm.

More than 70 trees line the streets of the town centre, all lit up with festive lights, with over 40 stalls laden with gifts, food and drink to browse. Plus, shops will be running late night shopping hours, while choirs of carollers, Morris dancers and bands keep families merrily entertained outside.

Kids go free on New Year's Day at Cheltenham Racecourse

While adults do have to pay, under-18s get free entry to New Year's Day racing at Cheltenham Racecourse.

There's a dedicated family fun zone to keep young racegoers entertained, with performances from the Mighty Kids Beatbox Comedy Show; circus activities with the Dapper Chaps; as well as bouncy castles, crafting fun and face painting, with the family-focused event providing a fabulous way to get 2024 off to a flying start.

More on Christmas in Gloucestershire

More from Family