While it wasn't quite as fun and festive as years past, for reasons I need…
Watching Soccer in England Over the Holidays? Beware These Travel Hassles
We at Groundhopper Guides have always said that Christmas time, or the “festive season,” is one of the best times to watch football in England. But there are some things to consider if you intend to be there, not the least of which are the weather and the travel hassles.
First, let’s consider why it’s such a great time to be over there.
Lots of games: In the Premier League and Football League around Greater London, from the weekend before Christmas through New Year’s Day, there are always more than a dozen games to choose from — more if you’re willing to take a train an hour or so out of town to a place like Brighton or Southampton. And that’s just in London! The same is certainly true of Manchester, which is a hotbed of soccer.
FA Cup Third Round: This is the round of the annual competition, held in early January, when all the clubs from the Premier League and Championship enter the fray. You wind up with great matchups of big club vs little club, which can, in turn, offer an affordable way to get into some of the bigger grounds. For the 2023-24 season, the FA Cup Third Round will be on the weekend of January 5-8, with the draw being announced the week of December 4. Here is the full 2023-24 FA Cup schedule.
London at Christmas: The great city is sparkling with lights, the shopping is fun, Winter Wonderland is in Hyde Park, the churches are packed, and the parks are open.
The Downsides of England Over the Holidays: Weather, Tickets and Travel
These aren’t really “downsides,” and certainly not reasons to skip it. Just things to consider.
For the weather, just assume it will be about 38 degrees at the most, and raining. Enough said there. At least virtually all the seats at games are covered.
Tickets will be harder to come by than usual, with all the kids out of school and the whole thing being a big tradition. (Think Thanksgiving weekend for American college football.)
Travel, transport, and closures are the big issues to consider. Here are the highlights:
- On Christmas Day, there are no buses or trains anywhere. You cannot get around, or out of, London or any other place via public transport on December 25. It’s all walking, renting one of those Santander bikes, going on a bus tour, or taking a taxi or Uber — and you can imagine how this affects prices. If you’re arriving at Heathrow this day, use the National Express Coach to Victoria Station if you don’t want to spend £75 on a cab.
- On Boxing Day, everything is on reduced schedule, especially inter-city train travel. If you’re planning to attend a game this day outside of London, you may need to be in that place for Christmas as well.
- New Year’s Day is the same as Boxing Day. Everything is running, but reduced.
- Throughout the period, transport can be challenging as this is when the rail networks in particular do their big planned “engineering works.” This means that even inter-city train routes often are not running, and/or are covered by “Rail Replacement” buses. This can really mess up your travel, so keep an eye on the National Rail and Transport for London websites.
- Rail strikes have been going on in the UK throughout 2023, and last we heard, more were planned for the period just before Christmas. They don’t usually strike over the holidays, but limitations on overtime and sick time can — and will — cause trains to be cancelled or delayed on very short notice. Keep an eye on this page at UK National Rail for the latest.
Going on a groundhopping English soccer trip always takes a lot of planning and doing it over the holidays requires another level of such planning. But it is oh so worth it!
Looking to see a game in England during the holidays? Fill out this form and let us know which fixtures you’re interested in, and we’ll send you a quote.