Christmas in Whitby; our definitive guide to the best of the festive season by the sea
Christmas in Whitby is a uniquely charming experience. Thanks to the wide and varied culture that Whitby represents there are a multitude of events, traditions and happenings that are perfect for all the family.
From the traditional Christmas tree competition at St Marys Church to the annual Krampus Run through town to the popular school lantern parade at the Whitby Christmas Festival there are community get togethers throughout the festive season.
In this article we're taking a look at:
Whitby Christmas Festival
Whitby Schools Christmas Lantern Parade
Whitby Christmas Market
Whitby Krampus Run
St Mary's Church Christmas Tree Exhibition
Christmas Shopping in Whitby
Food and Drink at Christmas in Whitby
Places to stay in Whitby at Christmas
Whitby Christmas Festival
Winter in Whitby is like no other time of year. The beach huts are packed away, buckets and spades are replaced by woolly hats and the Fishermen are huddled in the pubs blowing on their fingers after long hours at sea catching the delicious fish Whitby is famed for.
November marks the start of the Whitby Christmas Festival. Kicking off in the early evening with live music and special guest MC's there's lots to draw the crowns.
A favourite with the youngsters is the lantern parade that brings all local schools together to walk through the streets of Whitby with their illuminated creations.
Whitby Christmas Festival takes place at the Marina Car Park and begins on the afternoon of the second Friday in November. The switching on of the lights, which happens around 7:45pm on the Friday – is not to be missed!
Hosted by Whitby Town Council, Whitby Christmas Festival celebrates local Whitby artists alongside regional artisans with an extensive Christmas Market.
Whitby Christmas Festival has something for everyone. There’s market stalls, Santa's sleigh, fairground rides and Santa himself.
During the weekend there is music and dance, storytelling, Derek the Clown, a lantern parade, and fireworks.
Whitby Christmas Festival culminates in a Festive Choir Sing Along on Sunday afternoon at 3pm. All welcome!
Later We’ll Have Some Pumpkin Pie
And we’ll Do Some Caroling
(Rockin Around The Christmas Tree)
Whitby Schools Christmas Lantern Parade
Each November, Whitby school children assemble to parade through the town the lanterns that they make in preparation for the Whitby Christmas Festival.
The Whitby Schools Christmas Lantern Parade commences at 6pm at Pannett Park and walks through town towards Marina Car Park where the Whitby Christmas Festival hosts the ‘Big Switch On'.
It is permissible to join the parade. Simply bring your lantern along on the day and join the end of the parade as it progresses through town. See the Whitby Town Council website for further details.
Whitby Christmas Market
In true Whitby style, the Whitby Christmas Market is a collection of beach huts at Front Marina Car Park filled with local produce, crafts and fancy goods.
Sara Harland commented:
One new business that stood out is The Lickerish Tooth, based at Egton, a gin distillery that has plans in the future for a gin tasting room.
I had a taste of their signature The Harbinger Gin poured from a tea pot, it is a really easy gin to drink with an after taste of black pepper. It made my cheeks warm on a cold November day.
Highlights of the Whitby Christmas Market include local favourites such as Jessica Hogarth, the Whitby illustrator, Furbellow's and Whitby Gin.
The market stalls are open throughout the weekend and offer an exciting array of unique Whitby gifts. Whitby Christmas Market is the perfect place to find that special something for that special someone.
Beyond the main market area at Front Marina Car Park there are all the usual Whitby gems.
Church Street has a traditional Christmas Dickens feel about it with its cobbled streets and charming shop window displays and there is even a hot chestnut stand just to add to the festive feeling.
You can’t beat the traditional panpipe music as you walk cross the swing bridge to add to the flavour of Whitby, that anything goes here!! Whitby is not just for summer, it is also for Christmas as well!
Whitby Krampus Run
The Whitby Krampus Run takes place on the first weekend of December closest to St Nicholas' day.
The Krampus is a Central European folklore tale about a ‘half-goat, half-demon' anthropomorphic horned figure that punishes children that have behaved badly during the year.
Whitby Krampus Run has evolved to become one of the most celebrated events in the Whitby Christmas calendar. Not to be missed!
Find out more about Whitby Krampus Run to confirm timings and learn how to take part.
St Marys Church Christmas Tree Exhibition
Sara Harland explores the magic of St Mary's Church Christmas Tree exhibition in this festive foray around town with her fast growing teenagers to bring the local perspective to this seasonal spectacle.
St Mary’s Church is one of the most prominent land marks in Whitby. It sits high above the east side of Whitby, looking over the harbour, with the 199 Steps leading up to its graveyard – the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s writing of the Dracula novel.
It was founded around 1110 and has been modified each century ever since. Each year at Christmas, St Mary’s Church hosts a Christmas Tree exhibition.
The exhibition displays over 90 personally decorated trees entered by local businesses, schools and also by family members for loved ones that are no longer with them.
I love going up to see these trees as the atmosphere and the ambience of this beautiful church is a magical experience.
This church at Christmas brings back lots of my childhood memories, as my primary school East Whitby would hold their carol service here and still does.
The whole school would go on a bus to get there, which was exciting enough in self; once you were there you would look out for which ever relative would be looking down at you from the balcony.
Once you had located your family member, you would lock eye contact with them for the whole carol service and then from deep within your soul, you would sing every song with such emotion to your family member!
This would-be songs such as the Little Donkey, you would feel each step that little donkey had taken on that dusty road and the turning the song into the ultimate power ballad, you would sing –“Little donkey carry Mary Safely on her way” with such passion!
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree
Thy Candles Shine So Brightly
(O Christmas Tree)
My children are growing up and letters to Father Christmas have been replaced with WhatsApp messages with Amazon links to what present they would like.
The magic is slowly fading but going to see these Christmas trees really makes you feel that Christmas is about spending time with loved ones.
So, knowing that my teenager would not want to come, I had paid her off with money that she has “earned” this week from doing things that are not in her normal remit like you know, putting her shoes away, putting her pots in the sink and making her bed!!
I still had my 11 year old to see to, so various deals were negotiated so that he would accompany me on this trip as he was being dragged away from his virtual Sims family to socialise with his real family!
First deal to be completed for my son’s company- a visit to my son’s favourite café on Church Street, The Blitz. This café is has a second world war theme, the menu is based around dishes from this era.
The whole café is decorated in a vintage theme and even the passage way to the toilet has sandbags on the wall. The food is great; no rations portions in sight and this place also has a tapas menu on a night.
After filling our faces, it was off to tackle the 199 steps and up to the Church. Christmas in Whitby would not be complete without a visit to St Mary's Church Christmas Tree Exhibition.
Second deal was, a trip to the Hunter’s Sweet Shop on Church Street for strawberry bon bon sweets and a gob stopper lolly pop.
This shop is a traditional sweet shop, so the sweets are measured out for what ever quantity you would like.
So, with my son with his pockets filled up with sweets, we went on our freezing cold exploration up the 199 steps with views of the North Sea crashing into the harbour mouth.
St Mary’s Christmas Tree Exhibition did not disappoint, the detail and time people had put into them were spectaular and touching.
Trees that are decorated to remember loved ones at Christmas are a wonderful way of remembering people that won’t be with us at Christmas time.
Once the bad memories fade from losing loved ones, remembering them at Christmas can bring back a flood of happy past memories. It can bring a smile to your face, thinking about them at Christmas and past traditions.
It is 10 years since my Dad passed but thinking about him on Christmas morning makes me laugh because it was the only time he cooked – he made the bacon sandwiches!!
The Whitby Fisherman’s Amateur Rowing Club had been planning their tree since summer, and local people had been writing their loved one’s name of wooden oars to be hung on this tree.
Local charities and causes have all donated trees and decorated them with their own unique style.
Local businesses trees were fantastic, a local café Marie Antoinette made a tree out of tea cups! Christmas in Whitby is a fun, family friendly time of year.
Viewing these trees was special enough but with the backdrop of this exceptional church with all its history, made the experience more memorable. It was so cold you could see your breath!
To warm us up, off me and my son went to Mademoiselles, a café bistro on Skinner Street for a hot chocolate with the works in their gin den.
Christmas Shopping In Whitby
Christmas in Whitby is a magical experience. The festivities are taken seriously and the Christmas Festival is a nod to that.
Whitby is well known for its gothic leanings and being home to the tale of Dracula. But did you know that there are lots of unique independent shops in Whitby?
Our guide to Christmas in Whitby sets out all the possibilities for shopping during the festive season. Wish-lists at the ready!
As the beach huts are packed away and the donkeys are stabled for the winter, Whitby becomes a town of woolly hats and scarves rather than buckets and spades.
By mid-November, Christmas in Whitby with its festive tinsel adorned trees, twinkling lights and the aroma from the hot chestnut stands, has landed.
The cobbled streets resemble a Charles Dickens novel with their charming brightly lit shop windows displaying their festive wares.
Our Finest Gifts We Bring, Pa Rum Pum Pum Pum
(The Little Drummer Boy)
If you’re looking for something a little different, from somewhere a bit different, to give as Christmas gifts this year, then look no further than the independent shops during Christmas in Whitby.
Honeyz is a family run business launched in 2005 and selling the finest, most gorgeous, natural, and fun homemade bath products. Made daily and only in small batches, Honeyz use only the finest ingredients in their wares.
Now, I know what you’re thinking, that bath products are not an unusual gift, but you’re wrong! At Honeyz you will find unique creations such as massage bars for rubbing into your skin after your bath and shampoo bars that look like soap but are a shampoo. Weird but fabulous, yes?
If that wasn’t enough, have you thought about having a Christmas soap cake? No, well, I bet you will now. Honeyz offers a bespoke soap cake making service with your input on colour, design, and fragrance welcomed. Imagine your family’s reaction to your Rudolph and Santa created from soap!
The Green Dragon
The chances are the men in your life are not going to be half as impressed with a soap cake, bath bombs or bath marbles as your female friends and relatives are. Don’t despair, however, as Whitby offers a great array of gifts for the men too.
They stock international beers, largely Belgian and American, and a fantastic range of locally sourced ones too. With a choice of over 200 varieties, you are sure to find something the men in your life will love.
From beer to glass although not the sort of glass you put your beer in! Rather, Whitby glass makes the ornamental sort such as lucky ducks, flowers in vases, animals, and teddy bears.
They also stock the John Beswick Snowman collection based on the Raymond Briggs story.
Whitby Glass have been working magic with glass since 1958 and I dare you to try pass and not enter. A glistening, brightly lit window displaying all the colours of the rainbow means it’s just not possible. You will not be able to resist the urge to go in.
Christmas in Whitby would not be Christmas without a little chocolate shaped like Santa, a snowman or Rudolph, and in this Whitby will not let you down.
Simply head to Justin Chocolatier close to the 199 steps beneath Whitby Abbey and enter chocolate heaven. This gem of a shop also sells the best tasting fudge, chocolate slabs and cannonball truffles.
Speaking of being let down, no trip to Whitby Christmas shopping would be complete without visiting at least one of the fine Whitby Jet Shops. We recommend Ebor Jetworks on the historic East side of Whitby where you will find this fantastic 17th-century workshop.
Owned by Sarah and David Steele, Ebor Jetworks create fabulous gift and jewellery pieces using only the finest and hardest Whitby Jet. Jewellery collections include British icons, Whitby jet and macronite, the ammonite collection and antique pieces.
Gifts include thimbles, key-rings, cocktail swizzlers, and money clips. Be assured no one will be let down by the gift of Whitby jet at Christmas!
Ok, kicking off with the weird but wonderful we have Natural Wonders where you will find……..drum roll………. All things fossilised! Yes, that’s right, the coast that Whitby is on is known as the Jurassic coast where lots of fossils have been found making it’s the perfect place for a fossil store.
Opened in 1998 by Byron Blessed, Natural Wonders has every kind of fossil that you can imagine from ammonite to trilobites, vertebrates, and dinosaur. They even have museum quality pieces. These, however, are not for the faint of pocket and can run into the thousands of pounds!
Who wouldn’t want to own a Megalodon tooth though, right? More affordable pieces are also available including piranha-like extinct fish, T-Rex claws, Triceratops teeth, and fossilised spiders.
You don’t, however, need to be into these things to find a wonderful Christmas present here as their ranges of jewellery have been made with everyone in mind.
For those serious about their witchcraft, all pieces have been made with respect and dedication to the goddesses and deities involved.
Whitby Photograph Shop
If you or your loved one’s love Whitby you can take a real piece of it home with you when you buy a photographic product from Whitby Photograph Shop.
All photographs here have been taken by Glenn Kilpatrick who loves Whitby and photography and it shows.
There is a scene for everyone including the Abbey, harbour, Whitby in the snow and my personal favourite Whitby fog at the bottom of the 199 Steps, it’s stunning. You can also have these scenes in a variety of ways such as coasters, phone cases, calendars, and prints.
It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas
Everywhere you go
(It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas)
Food and Drink at Christmas in Whitby
Chances are that after climbing and descending the 199 Steps and shopping Whitby’s delights you will now be chilly, hungry, and in need of a hot chocolate to warm you up.
At Christmas in Whitby there are many options when it comes to warming your cockles and satiating your hunger. In this penultimate section we recommend our favourites.
Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire
Jack Frost Nipping At Your Nose
(The Christmas Song)
The Willow Branch
Located on Golden Lion Bank, the Willow Branch is a coffee lounge offering light lunches, cakes, and scones, freshly ground coffee, hot chocolate and tea. They also hold a liquor license in case you’d like a little warming nip!
Bothams Of Whitby
Dating back 150 years this family-run bakery and cafe is still in the hands of the original proprietors family and uses the original recipes.
This shows in their famous Whitby Gingerbread loaf which is plain and simply to die for! Do not be fooled into thinking this bakery and cafe is just a bakery and cafe, however, as it’s not.
Bothams Of Whitby also offers a fabulous range of gifts ideal for giving at Christmas. These include mugs, afternoon tea gift vouchers and for the men in your life malt whiskey hampers, landlords suppers and kipper hampers.
I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas
I Don’t Think Santa Claus Will Mind, Do You?
(I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas)
For a more detailed look at the food and drink available in Whitby at Christmas, here's our guide to:
The Duke Of York
With its traditional hospitality, you can relax and enjoy the harbour views at The Duke Of York. With an affordable menu packed with pub grub favourites, you’re sure to find something you fancy.
Food is served from 12-9pm daily in their historic decor lounge that has been trimmed up with harpoons and bronze propellers.
The Black Horse Inn
In the heart of old Whitby town is the fabulous Black Horse Inn with its fascinating history. Not only has this building being a pub, but it has also been a funeral directors, spirit warehouse and even, dare I say it, brothel!
With its Victorian style and 16th-century roots, you may expect the usual pub food here, but that’s not what you’ll get. The Black Horse Inn favours tapas with delights such as Yorkshire cheese boards, tapenade, bread, and oil dips and olives with pate all being on offer.
Places to stay in Whitby at Christmas
There are so many places to stay in Whitby. Some businesses close during the winter months but there are still many fantastic local bed and breakfasts, holiday cottages and hotels that are perfect for Christmas in Whitby.
The Leeway Quality Boutique Bed and Breakfast in Whitby is centrally located and caters for guests all year round. Hosts, Karen and Garry, are the epitome of Yorkshire hospitality.
Luxury comes as standard at The Leeway. Complimentary toiletries, fair trade tea and coffee and lavender pillow mist are but a few of the treats in store for guests. It's like Christmas comes early at The Leeway!
Enjoy one of Whitby's best sea views at The Riviera. Stay in four poster style on the seafront with hosts, Emma and Zed.
Located on the West Cliff, just a stones throw from the Khyber Pass, this stunning Whitby guest house provides an Christmas experience to remember.
Stay close to the action at Marine View. Tucked away behind the hustle and bustle of Whitby's iconic Church Street, Marine View is ideally located in the heart of the old town.
Holiday Cottages in Whitby offer one of the best selections of properties in the town. There are cottages available to suit everyone. Christmas in Whitby in a private family holiday cottage could be right up your street.