Ever wondered what it’s like to witness the Royal Family’s traditional stroll to the Sandringham church on Christmas Day? Well, after years of anticipation, we finally did it, and I’m here to share all the details! From the crack of dawn arrival to tactical manoeuvres for the best view, come along with me as I unveil the secrets to experiencing the unforgettable Sandringham Christmas walk with the Royals.
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Sandringham is the beloved country retreat for King Charles III and the place where the Royal Family spends Christmas. During the spring, summer, and autumn, you can tour the house and visit the gardens.
Across the road from the stately home, you will find the Royal Park which is free to visit (although you do usually have to pay for parking). It includes almost 243 hectares with some well-marked walking trails. There is also a new Children’s Adventure Play Area inspired by the Princess of Wales’s 2019 Chelsea Flower Show garden.
Get more information here.
How does the Royal Family typically celebrate Christmas?
Since 1988, the Royal Family has made Sandringham House in Norfolk their go-to spot for Christmas, turning the King’s country estate into a holiday haven filled with warmth and tradition (except for those pandemic years, of course).
The festive fun kicks off on Christmas Eve, with the Royal Family spreading holiday cheer by laying out presents on trestle tables. Picture this: teatime rolls around, and it’s a gift exchange galore.
Come Christmas morning, the King and the rest of the family take a leisurely stroll to St Mary Magdalene. This charming country church was once a favourite of Queen Victoria and dates to the 16th century. The walk to the church is a cherished family tradition where the Royal Family can exchange warm Christmas wishes with the public.
But the Christmas Day magic doesn’t stop there. At 15:00, the nation tunes in to catch the King’s Speech. Plot twist: it’s pre-recorded! This allows the King to share his holiday wishes with the country while keeping the family-focused celebrations in full swing.
So, there you have it – a sneak peek into the Royal Family’s Christmas at Sandringham. It’s a blend of tradition and modernity, creating a festive vibe that’s not only fit for royalty but also feels just like home.
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Our Experience Visiting Sandringham on Christmas Day
After years of convincing Russell, I finally got him to go with me to Sandringham on Christmas Day to catch a glimpse of the Royal Family. We left our Norwich flat a little after 6:00, and thanks to the deserted streets, we got to Sandringham in just an hour.
The flashing police lights blocked the road and directed us to the main car park, where about 20 cars had already gathered. Bonus points: parking was free on Christmas Day.
We strolled past the still-shut visitor centre, café, and toilets, and spotted a media truck with a huge aerial. Nothing was open yet, but we knew the toilets would be unlocked at 8:00. One coffee truck did also open up a bit later.
Then we crossed the road to the war memorial, where they had us all lined up behind barriers, waiting until around 9:45. We busted out our chairs and had ourselves a breakfast party.
While we waited, we chatted with the folks around us. Everyone was friendly. The family in front of us hailed from Cambridge, and their kid had dreams of becoming a royal historian. Nearby, a BBC reporter gave her live report, but she was just far enough away that we could hear her talking but couldn’t make out a word.
When it was finally time to move and grab our spots along the Royal Family’s path, they didn’t let everyone go at once. Nope, small groups got the green light so security could do searches.
Once we passed the security checks, we beelined for the roped-off area to snag a front-row spot. But the sun was straight in our faces, so we made a quick switch to the far side.
As we waited, a man in a suit worked his way down the line and gave everyone the important information. He explained that the Royals probably wouldn’t stop for a chat on their way to the church but might have more time after the service. He also warned us about taking photos – don’t stick your phone in their faces or they will move on. It’s best to let someone behind you take them.
They even handed out programs for the church service. Then, more security, including dogs, rolled in and sniffed everyone in line.
At around 10:53, we saw a group of people in the distance heading our way. Security moved closer so they wouldn’t be in the way of all the cameras.
First up, Charles and Camila, followed by Catherine and William, Edward and Sophie, and Zara and Mike Tindell along with all the kids. The whole crew came after, including Princess Anne, Fergie, Andrew, Eugenie, and Beatrice. The only people missing were Harry and Meghan, who I don’t think were invited.
Since we were already running late for our family Christmas celebration, we decided to head out after the Royals made their way to the church, skipping the walk back after the service. We tried to cross to the other side but had to wait a few minutes. We caught a snippet of the national anthem playing as part of the church service, and as “O Come All Ye Faithful” kicked in, they finally let us cross.
If you’ve got the time, hanging around to see the Royal Family walk back to the house is probably worth it. You will have a better chance of talking to them or getting a close up photo. The church service lasts about 45 minutes, so you can relax and listen while you wait.
We were happy with the photos and videos we got, but it would have been nice to get to see them again. You can check out our video of the Royal Family doing their stroll to St. Mary Magdalene Church here.
Is seeing the Royal Family walk to church on Christmas Day worth it?
Absolutely! More than a thousand people go each year. The experience of seeing the Royal Family walk to church on Christmas Day is entirely subjective and depends on your level of interest in them. As a devoted fan of the Royals, I found it worthwhile to get up early and wait for their procession. It’s something I will never forget, we had an excellent view, and captured unforgettable photos and videos.
Tips for Seeing the Royal Family at Sandringham on Christmas
If you are planning to go to Sandringham on Christmas Day to see the Royal Family, I have a few suggestions based on our experience.
- Arrive Early: To snag the best viewing spots, aim to get there by 7:30, but no later than 8:00. The early bird catches the best view of the Royal Family’s Christmas walk.
- Bring a Chair: Since you might be waiting for a while, bring a comfortable folding chair to make your wait more bearable. It’s the key to happy waiting.
- Dress for the Weather: The British weather can be unpredictable, especially in December. Dress warmly, and consider bringing a blanket for extra cosiness.
- Refreshments are Key: Pack water, drinks, and snacks or even breakfast. Staying hydrated and fuelled will keep your spirits up during the wait.
- Attention-Grabbing Items: Want to stand out? Bring flowers or have a dog in tow. These seem to help catch the eye of the Royals’ and might encourage them to come over to you.
- Plan to Stay for the Service: If you’re hoping for a chance to shake hands or chat with the Royal Family, plan to stay until after the church service. This is when they will have more time for interactions with the crowd.
Remember, these tips are not only practical but will enhance your overall experience of witnessing the Royal Family’s Christmas tradition at Sandringham. Enjoy the festivities!
Best Places to Stay Near Sandringham
If you are not lucky enough to live within a short drive to Sandringham, you might want to consider booking a nearby hotel for the night before, especially given the early morning start. Here are our recommendations.
Dabbling Duck in Great Massingham: Tastefully decorated rooms, some pet-friendly, await you. But here’s the real bonus – their breakfasts are pure heaven, made with homemade or locally sourced goodies. With 13 rooms to pick from, including some in a newly refurbished house, you’re spoiled for choice. And did I mention it’s in the lovely village of Great Massingham? We love to go to the Dabbling Duck because the food and service at the pub is always spot on. Read reviews here and book your room here.
King’s Head Country Hotel in Great Bircham: This family-run hotel offers a warm and inviting atmosphere. Built in the Edwardian era, it seamlessly combines traditional warmth with sleek modern facilities. We were quite impressed with the food when we dined with them during Norfolk Restaurant Week. Read reviews here and book your room here.
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