Why The Harvey Centre in Harlow Is Perfect For Christmas Shopping

AD A visit to The Harvey Centre this December will help you get in the Christmas spirit. From the decorations and Christmas music to the grotto and great range of shops this Harlow town centre shopping area is feeling festive. Enjoy tasty treats and find a great selection of Christmas presents from local small businesses and familiar big name stores. You might even spot The Grinch…

happy children on a bench surrounded by christmas decorations in The Harvey Centre, Harlow
The Harvey Centre in Harlow, Essex is feeling Christmassy

Why Visit The Harvey Centre This Christmas

Santa’s Christmas Grotto

If you are looking to see Father Christmas in Essex this year and haven’t yet booked anything then head to The Harvey Centre. You will find Santa sitting in a sparkly present every day in the lead up to Christmas. There is no prebooking at this simple grotto with friendly elves so visit whenever suits you. On Wednesdays you can even bring your dog along to meet Santa and get a photo and treat! Children are welcome all week including on Wednesdays, but dogs can only visit on Wednesdays. 

There are a few different pricing options depending on what you want, but it starts at £6 per child for a visit and gift or £8 for a visit, gift and the smallest size photo. There are also packages available where you can get photo prints, magnets, baubles, frames and more.

The grotto is open Monday to Saturday 10am to 5pm (closed for lunch between 1 and 2 pm) and 11am to 4pm on Sundays. On Christmas Eve the grotto closes at 3pm, I guess Santa has something important to do…

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. This year my son got a car and my daughter a bracelet making set.  In the past my daughter has received a mermaid so if your child isn’t into dolls etc you might want a quick whisper with an elf so Santa can handover a good match.

A sparkly oversized present which is home to The Harvey Centre's Christmas Grotto
Visit Santa in his sparkly Harlow home

Christmas Events At The Harvey Centre

The Harvey Centre regularly has free entertainment which children will love (it’s worth following them on Facebook or Instagram to find out what’s happening). 

On Saturday 16th December between Midday and 3pm The Grinch will be visiting The Harvey Centre. You can get a photo with him, pick up some sweets and children can even turn into The Grinch thanks to the festive face painters. This is all free with no prebooking.

view from the upstairs of the Harvey Centre towards the Christmas grotto
Buy your Christmas gifts in The Harvey Centre from small businesses, independent shops and big name stores

Festive Christmas Market Shopping

Every weekend in the run up to Christmas (until 23rd December) you will find an amazing smelling stall at the bottom of the escalators between the Spurs Store and Clintons. Small Candle Company has a great range of candles, wax melts and related gifts for Christmas. They look and smell beautiful.

If you are looking for a special Christmas ornament then head towards The Entertainer and outside you will spot a special stall selling baubles and other decorations which can be personalised with a name of your choice while you wait. 

If you are visiting on 23rd December then make sure you head upstairs where you will find an extra special Festive Makers Market outside Cineworld. This is a great way to buy original gifts from local businesses. It’s worth noting that this Makers Market is every month so remember to come back and visit next year too. 

The Makers Market is open between 11am and 4pm, although some stalls are set up and ready to sell slightly earlier. In November there was an impressive number of sellers with everything from cute crochet cuddlies (@bubbacrochet) to vegan tiffin (@hoorayforcake) and personalised jumpers (@Sewcutebylouise). A few of the sellers selling fresh or personalised items may not be at the December date as it is so close to Christmas, but expect lots of brilliant last minute present ideas.

A stall with a range of christmas decorations that can have a name added
Personalised Christmas decorations while you wait

Amazing smelling handmade candles and wax melts from a small business in The Harvey Centre
Candles, wax melts and more from Small Candle Company

What Else Can You Expect From The Harvey Centre?

Shops at The Harvey Centre

The Harvey Centre has some of the best shops in Harlow town centre. If you are looking to buy toys then The Works, Poundland and The Entertainer (closed on Sundays) have lots of choice. For beauty gifts you have Superdrug and the Perfume shop. Clothes and accessories for all tastes can be found in Primark, Claire’s Accessories, Linzi, Choice and several independent stores. For Gamers check out Geek Retreat and Marquee Models. There is a wide range of places to buy jewellery and watches from small businesses like All About Sparkles, Elara Jewellers, Charles Fish and Time 4 U to F. Hinds and H. Samuel and Warren James. For more niche presents you have the Spurs Stores, Top Gift Phone Accessories and HMV. Don’t forget to check out Cards Direct and Clintons for your Christmas cards. 

There is also the Calendar Club on the ground floor next to the Grotto selling a huge range of calendars and diaries until 5th January.

The calendar club shelves showing calendars and libraries
The Calendar Club can be found on the ground floor until 5th January


If you fancy some food or drink during your visit to The Harvey Centre then there are lots of options to choose from. We love to pick up some tasty treats from the independent baker Couzens or grab a bubble tea from T’s Bubble Tee. There is also a fresh fruit and vegetable stall outside Primark or Royalshakes which will turn a wide range of chocolate bars into a milkshake. If you fancy more of a meal then there is Wimpy, Subway and Burger King. You even can grab your dinner take home from Tesco Metro or Iceland.


If some members of your family need more motivation to come with you (as if seeing Santa isn’t enough) don’t forget that The Harvey Centre also includes a 6 screen Cineworld cinema, Quasar, The Panic Room (escape room) and Glo Crazy (a glow in the dark mini golf course). The last 3 are accessed from just outside on Harvey Centre Approach. 

For little ones there is a small play space on the ground floor which is great for toddlers if they need a little break from shopping. This has been the location of the Christmas tree in previous years, but this Christmas it is still available.


The Harvey Centre has a multi story car park right next door with direct access to the centre so you don't need to go outside in the rain to go shopping. The car park off Haydens Road (CM20 1AP) is £1.10 for up to 3 hours Monday to Friday, £2.20 for up to 3 hours on Saturday and 50p all day on Sunday (differing rates for longer stays Monday to Saturday).  Handily you pay when you are leaving so you don’t need to decide in advance how long you will be staying. I try and park on the ground floor or level 3 where you can walk straight into the shopping centre. On other floors you will need to take the steps or lift to get to the shops which is still pretty easy.


There are toilets in The Harvey Centre which is always really helpful when shopping with children. You will find them between Cineworld and the exit on the upper floor. These include parent and baby rooms (which I haven’t checked out) and a disabled toilet accessible with a radar key.

What more do you need this Christmas? 

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