01 November 2023

REINDEER runs, food fairs and Christmas stockings are just some of the festive favourites on offer in Sunderland this year.

Sunderland BID, in partnership with Sunderland City Council has announced a raft of activities set to take place in the city centre in the run up to Christmas and beyond.

And Thursday 16 November marks the start of the festivities with the switching on of the annual Christmas lights in Keel Square.

Karen and Steve from Metro Radio’s breakfast show will be on hand to get the party started at 5pm with the event scheduled to run until 7pm.

The date also sees the start of a four day long festive continental market at High Street West and the launch of the BID’s Christmas Stocking Trail, accessed via the free Sunderland Experience app.

The annual trail, which runs until 7 January, will have seven augmented reality festive figures to find, as well as four real-life, six feet high Christmas stockings decorated by different schools which will be placed at various city centre businesses.

And, on 3 December, children and the young at heart can take part in the ever-popular Reindeer Dash at the Bridges, in support of local charities.

Everyone who takes part gets a set of antlers and a red nose and can then put their best hoof forward to run the 1k course around the centre. 

Then, on 17 December, Sunniside Gardens will play host to a pop-up food market with a Christmas twist, with stalls selling a wide variety of locally sourced dishes and produce.

Other attractions in the city include the return of the Bridges’ Christmas grotto and a return of the centre’s virtual reality experience with a new, seasonal theme and a Makers and Bakers Market featuring a range of food and gifts on 2 Dec.

Angelo’s Ristorante at Sunniside is also hosting its own event, with a Christmas Fair on 19 November with a whole host of stallholders as well as the opportunity to sample some mulled wine.

Visitors can also enjoy one of the highlights of the festive calendar – Sunderland Empire’s celebrated pantomime.

Beauty and the Beast runs from 8 December to New Year’s Eve, featuring former Emmerdale star, Charlie Hardwick plus the return of Miss Rory as Rorina La Plonk.

Live entertainment fans can get their fill from the packed programme at The Fire Station, which runs throughout November and December.

Among the highlights for those who want to get in the spirit of the season are Royal Northern Sinfonia – Christmas by Candlelight on 1 December and A Jazzy Christmas – Paul Edis and Friends on 18 December.

“And this is just the start,” said Sharon Appleby, Chief Executive of Sunderland BID.

“In the coming weeks we will be adding extra events and bringing more information about what to expect in a programme that looks set to be one of your biggest and brightest ever.”

Councillor John Price, Sunderland City Council’s Cabinet Member for Vibrant City added: “We know that families are looking for free and fun things to do at this time of year and the programme of events happening in the city centre really ticks all the boxes.

“It’s great to see the popular Christmas AR trail back this year and fantastic to see so much for everyone to enjoy in the countdown to Christmas.”

For more information, visit