Christmas 2021 at The Harvey Centre, Harlow, Essex

(AD) If you want to shop local this Christmas then try heading to The Harvey Centre in Harlow, Essex. I visited this week with my family to see what is happening for Christmas and we had a great time, coming away with bags full of Christmas decorations and gifts. Our visit really got us in the Christmas spirit.

What’s On At The Harvey Centre In The Run Up To Christmas 2021

The Christmas decorations in the main atrium of The Harvey Centre in Harlow
The Harvey Centre Shopping Centre in Harlow, Essex has had a Christmas makeover

If all the decorations around the centre and the huge Christmas tree don’t get you in a Christmassy mood then maybe some of these will:  

Santa’s Grotto

This year Santa can be found in a sparkly Christmas present on the ground floor of The Harvey Centre in Essex. The cheerful elves will great you and show you into the grotto to meet the big man. This popular character has been a regular at The Harvey Centre for decades; some families are now taking their children to see the same Santa that they saw as a child. He is friendly and loves to chat before you pose for an optional photograph and children receive a wrapped gift.  The grotto is small, but well ventilated and great for seeing Father Christmas without a lot of fuss.

There are a few different pricing options depending on what you want. Prices start at £5 for a visit with a gift, or £7 for a 6x4 photo and a gift. there are also packages available where you can get magnets, baubles, frames and more.

The Harvey Centre’s Santa’s Grotto is walk ins only (no prebooking). We went at 10am on Saturday and there was no queue, when we left the centre at around 2pm there was a fairly long queue, but this may be because it was shortly after his lunch break.

The grotto is open Monday to Saturday 10am to 5pm (closed for lunch between 1 and 2 pm) and 11am to 4pm on Sundays (closed for a 15 minute break at 1.30pm). Christmas Eve the grotto closes at 3pm, I guess he has to head off for something important…

My children were a little shy, but enjoyed saying “hi” and getting their present. Santa has different sacks of presents for different ages and interests with my son receiving a really cute cuddly gingerbread man and my daughter a mermaid Barbie style doll. If your child isn’t into dolls etc you might want a quick whisper so he can handover a good match.

Santa's grotto and the price list at The Harvey Centre in Harlow
Visit Father Christmas at The Harvey Centre, Harlow, Essex

Festive Christmas Market

The Festive Market returns to The Harvey Centre every weekend in the run up to Christmas between 11am and 4pm on the first floor outside Cineworld. There are around 5 market stalls selling original items from small, independent local businesses. Each day there are different stalls and when we visited they were selling: personalised clothing,  knitted products including a pretty cool knitted cactus, interesting spirits and personalised gifts. The stall rotations mean that some of the sellers will be there on a few days, but with a different mix each time.

A view of the Festive market at The Harvey Centre
Every weekend until Christmas you can buy from small, local businesses in the Festive Market

View of Christmas market stalls small businesses in Harlow
Different stalls with be there each Saturday and Sunday between 11am and 4pm

close up of handmade Christmas decorations
There are a wide range of creative and handmade items on sale

Free Christmas Crafts Workshops

Phoenix Resource Centre are running free crafts sessions for children on Saturdays from 11am next to the festive market. My children got to decorate paper angel decorations, but over the next 4 weeks they have planned: a Christmas paper wreath, a decorative glove themed box, a cracker and a Christmas card. Workshops are free for all ages, but donations to Phoenix Resource Centre are welcome.

Phoenix Resource Centre is a charity with a shop on the first floor of The Harvey Centre. They collect unwanted products such as packaging, surplus stock and off cuts of material which are redirected or repurposed preventing them from going to landfill.  Many of the items used for the craft workshops are from donated materials.

Image showing the crafts that can be made in the free craft workshop in The Harvey Centre
Free craft workshops taking place on Saturdays until Christmas on 1st Floor of The Harvey Centre

Children sitting down about to make an angel tree decoration
A different craft can be made each week

Bargain Shopping

I love the range of shops in The Harvey Centre which are a great mix of independent stores and popular chains. Whether you are looking for Christmas decorations or presents you will find bargains in shops like: Poundland, Primark, The Works and Wilkos. Get Christmas cards from Clintons, Cards Direct or The Party Monster ( If you have a Spurs fan to buy for then you can get pretty much anything you can think of with Tottenham Hotspur branding in the Spurs Store. Heading out for a Christmas party? Check out the clothes in shops like Minx, Georgi or Choice (a discount retainer selling brands and designer clothes for less). There are also Christmas present ideas galore in the Entertainer, Claires, HMV, numerous jewellery stores and more. If you haven’t been recently you might be surprised what they have on offer.

Stay Refreshed

We had to give the new bubble tea store a try: T’s Bubble Tee. We chose a mango tea with strawberry bubbles and it was yummy. If you haven’t had bubble tea before then it’s a cold fruit or milk tea drink in your choice of flavour and you can have little balls added in the same or a different flavour. The balls (or bubbles) are filled with flavour so when you suck them up the straw they pop in your mouth. 

T's Bubble tea in the Harvey Centre including a view of their menu
We loved the new Bubble Tea outlet

We also stopped by Couzens Bakery to buy some bread pudding which disappointingly my children decided they liked so two wasn't enough! Oh and we popped in to Tesco Metro to get pizza for dinner too.

The Harvey Centre has a large multi story car park attached which is perfect because on cold and windy days it means you don’t even need to go outside. There are also facilities including: toilets, cash machines and free wifi. The small children’s play area on the ground floor is currently closed because that’s where the Christmas Tree is. 

To see their full range of shops and restaurants check out The Harvey Centre website. To stay in the loop about the latest news and events why not follow The Harvey Centre on Facebook or Instagram?

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