Plymouth is set for a sparkling festive season, with the return of their exciting family-friendly events from organisations around the city:

  • Christmas Lights Switch-on, Thursday 14 November
  • Plymouth Christmas Market, Thursday 28 November to Thursday 19 December
  • Penguins: A LEGO® brick trail, Saturday 30 November to Sunday 5 January
  • Barbican Christmas Lights Switch on, Sunday, 1st December

The Christmas Lights Switch-on marks the start of the festive season. This year, the evening will be hosted by Radio Plymouth as performers and groups, including local schools, choirs and Plymouth Party Princesses – take to the stage on the Piazza to entertain the crowds.

The lights will be switched on at 6.30pm by Santa himself, alongside the Mayflower 400 Town Crier. Once the city centre is illuminated, local four-piece indie, rock and pop band The Sound will end the evening, performing popular tracks from bands such as The Killers, Kings of Leon and Oasis.

Thursday 14 November also marks the start of late-night shopping in the city centre, with many shops open later on Thursday evenings in the run-up to Christmas.

From Thursday 28 November, Plymouth Christmas Market will return to the city centre for three weeks (until Thursday 19 December). More than 50 traditional wooden cabins will fill the Piazza, with stallholders from across the South West selling a great range of products from handmade jewellery and homewares to artwork and clothing.

Some of the region’s favourite food and drink producers will also be in attendance, including the English Spirit Distillery, South Devon Chilli Farm, Roly’s Fudge Pantry, Retro Shotz, Ventons Devon Cyder and Loco About Cocoa.

The Bavarian Bar will return, along with a number of street food stands offering delicious treats such as traditional hotdogs and melting cheese raclette. The giant illuminated bauble will also be located at the entrance to the market, acting as the perfect background prop for festive photos.

Every Thursday to Sunday, there will be entertainment to enjoy in the heart of the market too, including local choirs and bands.

Penguins: A LEGO brick trail is also returning to the city centre this Christmas, having proved incredibly popular last year. The trail will run from 30 November to 5 January, with 19 Rockhopper penguins and one Emperor penguin – all life size and made out of LEGO bricks - to discover.

The penguins will be hiding in city centre shops and cafes and young adventurers need to find the names of all 20 for the chance to win incredible prizes, including a weekend family trip to LEGOLAND® Windsor Resort courtesy of Plymouth Citycoach, or a penguin feeding experience at Living Coasts in Torquay for four people.

Steve Hughes, Chief Executive of Plymouth City Centre Company, said: “There is so much for everyone to enjoy in the city centre this festive season. Not only is there brilliant shopping, with everything from big brand names to unique independents in the West End and Plymouth Market, but there’s so much to keep the entire family entertained.  

“Enjoy one of our brilliant festive events, hunt for LEGO brick penguins, take in a show at the Theatre Royal Plymouth or head to Drake Circus The Barcode to enjoy the new restaurants, adventure golf and cinema.”

Plymouth city centre is easy to get to with plenty of buses and parking. In the West End, Western Approach car park offers inexpensive parking for just £1 an hour, or £5 for the whole day, and Drake Circus The Barcode has created another 420 parking spaces in the north of the city centre.

On Sunday 1 December, Southside Street will be filled with festive cheer for the Barbican Christmas Lights Switch-on. There will be free family entertainment from 12pm, including biscuit making with CaterED in the Tourist Information, a Christmas Grotto from Higher Beings and performances from local choirs.

father christmas and the grinch on a float

Image: Visit Plymouth

Father Christmas will arrive on the RNLI lifeboat outside Cap’n Jaspers at around 4.30pm to spread festive cheer, but watch out for the Grinch who will be roaming the streets and looking to cause chaos.

The Lord Mayor will then join the popular festive characters aboard an open top bus, courtesy of Plymouth Citybus, on Southside Street to switch the lights on at 5pm.

This year, the Christmas Lights Switch-on takes place on the same weekend as light-based festival Illuminate, which is expanding this year with activity on the Barbican to enjoy too.


Also beginning on 1 December is the Polar Bear Explorer. Following its popularity last year, the trail will return with 20 polar bear cubs hidden in businesses from Royal William Yard to Millbay, the Barbican to Sutton Harbour and Bretonside.

polar bears at the aquarium

Image: Visit Plymouth

Trail booklets, available from participating retailers, the Tourist Information Centre or the Visit Plymouth website, include a comic strip which tells the story of George the polar bear cub and how climate change is affecting his environment in a way that is easy for children to understand. Each section of the comic book is missing a key word, which you’ll be able to fill in when you find the matching polar bear cub.

Sarah Gibson, Waterfront Manager and Chief Executive of Plymouth Waterfront Partnership BID, said: “The Waterfront is so much more than just a summer destination. With fantastic unique and independent retailers, some of the city’s best eateries and brilliant family friendly events, there’s plenty to see and do throughout the winter months, whether you’re Christmas shopping or just looking to spend quality time with your family.”

For more information about Christmas in Plymouth, including full event details and travel information, head to