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The charity making life better by water

Christmas shopping by the canal

Christmas shopping can be stressful. But relax. We've put together a list of high streets just a hop skip and a jump from some of our favourite canals and rivers. So if it all gets too much, you can escape the crowds and clear your head by the calming water.

Our canals and rivers flow through hundreds of cities, towns and villages along the 2,000 mile network. The great thing about visiting one of these places for your Christmas shopping is that whenever you feel the need to escape the Christmas chaos, you can relax and unwind by the waterside. While your kids can get some fresh air and maybe even feed the ducks (as long as it's not bread of course).

Birmingham City Centre, West Midlands

Boat turns at Birmingham Brindley Place junction, with the cityscape in the background.

Why not combine one of the biggest Christmas markets in the country with the country's biggest canal city? Make for the towpath and make your shopping experience better by water. Birmingham City Centre's regneration has seen the central shopping districts merge with modern shopping malls, cafes and bars along its waterways. Just one of 13 distinct canals that make up the Birmingham Canal Navigations, the New Main Line Canal is bang in the heart of the city. Check out the stretch between the Mailbox at the Gas Street End and Brindley Place.

Download our family friendly guide to Brindley Place

Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire

Grand Union Canal at Berkhamsted

Berkhamsted, nestled alongside the Grand Union Canal in Hertfordshire, is a great destination for anyone who likes browsing. Its picturesque high street boasts several antique shops, perfect for picking up a thoughtful gift and there are plenty of gift shops too. If you visit on a Saturday there's a bustling street market and when you're done with shopping there are a number of cosy cafes or canalside pubs where you can get a drink and a bite to eat before heading home.

Download our family-friendly guide to Berkhamsted

Hebden Bridge, Yorkshire

Hebden Bridge

Hebden Bridge on the Rochdale Canal has a huge variety of small independent shops including second hand book stores, independent clothes shops, craft stores and more. There's even a shop where you can paint your own pottery for a personalised present. When you're ready for a break from shopping, the canal is a great place for a stroll, before you dive back into the galleries and quirky stores.

Download our family friendly guide to Hebden Bridge

Gloucester, Gloucestershire

Gloucester Docks courtesy SkyCam

Gloucester Docks has seen a huge transformation in recent years to become a massive shopping and entertainment hub. Gloucester Quays shopping mall features top brands and family favourite resturants. But it's set within the stunningly restored Victorian docks where the Gloucester & Sharpness Canal and the Severn Navigation meet. So if you're tired of waiting in queue, take the weight off your feet and go gongoozling in Gloucester.

Download our family friendly guide to Gloucester Docks

Oxford, Oxfordshire

Isis Lock, Oxford

Oxford on the Oxford Canal is a shopper's paradise. The city centre combines modern shopping centres with a wide variety of independent shops selling everything from collectors' edition books to vintage clothing and wooden toys. There are several distinct shopping areas in the city with the historic covered market an essential stop-off. Once you're done with the shopping you're in the perfect location to find a cosy traditional pub and reward yourself with a meandar along the towpath.

Download our free family guide to Oxford

Chester, Cheshire

The canal through Chester

Chester is home to the oldest shop front in Britain and has been drawing in shoppers for hundreds of years with its unique half-timbered medieval 'Rows' galleries, boasting two levels of fascinating shops. Make sure you take time to visit the town's undercover market and side streets lined with outlets you won't find anywhere else in the world. Round your day off with a trip to the Shropshire Union Canal where you can take your time and clear your head.

Download our free activity guide to Chester


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Last Edited: 02 December 2019

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