The best and worst advent calendars revealed
The best and worst advent calendars revealed: Which? test beauty, chocolate and boozy offerings – with surprising results
- Which? tested the best and worst calendars for 2023 to see which is the best
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With just a month to go until the start of advent, many shoppers will be heading to pick up a festive countdown calendar.
From a beauty bargains to chocolate goodies and even children’s toys, there’s dozens of choices to help get people in the festive spirit.
But which are Christmas bargains and which a rip-off?
From Barbie to the Body Shop and Lindt to Lego, testers at consumer giant Which?opened, analysed, tasted, dabbed and constructed from all the advent calendars that might be on your Christmas countdown wishlist.
Natalie Hitchins, Which? Head of Home Products and Services, told FEMAIL: ‘With December just around the corner and many people wanting to spread the cost of Christmas this year, festive essentials like advent calendars are likely to fly off the shelves.
‘Whether you’re looking for traditional chocolate, children’s or slightly more upmarket beauty or booze, we’ve found some advent calendars that offer a compelling countdown to the big day, while others might underwhelm when you open the doors on some days, so it is worth doing your homework before committing.’
The best: M&S Beauty Advent Calendar
M&S Beauty Advent Calendar came out on top of the beauty buys
How are the advent calendars tested?
Which? choose popular beauty, chocolate, children’s and food & drink advent calendars available at UK retailers. We ask our testers to open all the doors of each calendar and score them on the following:
Quality of products Testers taste chocolate, dab make-up, sip wine and build toys to rate the quality of what’s inside each advent calendar in its entirety.
Variety of gifts: They look at the range of gifts included. The best advent calendars have different products every day and are exciting in the run up to Christmas. The worst are boring with lots of repeated gifts.
Aesthetics: They rate each advent calendar on how visually appealing it would look displayed in your home and how easy it is to get at the gifts without running the look of the advent calendar.
Favourites: Testers pick which advent calendars they’d gift to their loved ones and which they’d enjoy opening themselves.
Cost: £45 (when you spend £35 on clothing, home or beauty)
What’s inside: 25 mini and full-size beauty products, worth £340 total
Pros: Excellent variety of products and brands. A good mix of travel and full-size products Comes in a reusable cosmetics bag. Loved by testers
Cons: Have to spend at M&S to buy it
WHICH? verdict: Fantastic selection
WHICH? said: ‘Our testers were very impressed with the offering of products and brands in this year’s M&S beauty advent calendar.
‘Half our panel said they’d happily gift it to a loved one. That’s why we’ve voted it our best beauty advent calendar of 2023 of those we tested.
‘Each product is unique and you get a wide range of haircare, skincare, nailcare and make-up over 25 days.
‘As well as travel size products, the beauty advent calendar includes a few full-size products from popular brands including Benefit, L’Occitane and Ren.
‘Our testers liked the addition of M&S’s in-house brand, Apothecary, too. Some of these cost around £25 to buy individually, so you more than get your money’s worth at £45 for 25 products.
‘Keep in mind that this is a gift with purchase, so you’ll need to spend £35 on clothing or home products at M&S to be able to buy it. If you regularly shop at M&S and you’re a beauty fan, it’s definitely worth a look.
The worst: L’Occitane Classic Beauty Advent Calendar
L’Occitane Classic Beauty Advent Calendar was branded ‘underwhelming’ by Which?
What’s inside: 24 mini beauty products, worth £122
Pros: Festive pop-up box design. Decent range of products
Cons: Small-sized products. Disappointing in the run up to Christmas
WHICH? verdict: ‘Underwhelming
‘Our testers enjoyed the citrus and verbena based body care products included in this L’Occitane beauty advent calendar, but they were left disappointed by the lack of showstoppers in the run to Christmas.
‘Some found the beauty gift on Christmas Eve, the Intensive Hand Balm, had a medicinal and slightly unappealing smell.
‘There are no full-size products included either, unlike other beauty advent calendars for 2023.’
Other beauty calendars
The Body Shop The Advent of Change
The Body Shop The Advent of Change cost £59
What’s inside: 24 mini and full-size beauty products, worth £119
Pros: Good variety of products and scents. Includes some full-size products. Eye-catching design
Cons: A few of the same product type – hand creams, shower gels
WHICH? Verdict: ‘Lovely scents. Body Shop’s colourful, pop-up beauty advent calendar went down well with our testers with its array of products from body butters to soap bars, lip balms and more.
‘Our testers liked that the products from different days complemented each other, such as the Shea Shampoo and Conditioner or Tea Tree Facial Wash and Toner.
‘Some of the products felt a bit samey, for example there were several shower gels and hand creams, but there’s a lovely range of fruity scents among these to try. Our testers particularly enjoyed the hydrating Mango Hand Balm.
12 Days of Liz Earle Beauty Advent Calendar
12 Days of Liz Earle Beauty Advent Calendar has just 12 products
What’s inside: x12 mini and full-size beauty products, worth £169
Pros: A good mix of travel and full-size products. Festive design. Includes limited edition Christmas products
Cons: Only 12 days
WHICH? verdict: ‘Complete beauty package. Despite only including 12 products over 12 days, this beauty advent calendar gives someone who might want to try Liz Earle everything they’ll need for their skincare routine.
‘Some of the products inside the autumnal style gold box include a full-size cleanser, hydrating mask and retinol booster. There’s also a nice selection of skincare minis that don’t feel like filler products.
‘As a nod to Christmas, our testers enjoyed the addition of the festive scented Cedarwood & Frankincense Hand Cream too.
Boots 24 Days of Premium Beauty Treats Advent Calendar
Boots 24 Days of Premium Beauty Treats Advent Calendar comes in a ‘big bulky box’
What’s inside: 24 mini and full-size beauty products, worth £467
Pros: Lots of full-size products. Good variety of products. Excellent value for money
Cons. Big, bulky box
WHICH? verdict: ‘Good for trying new brands. It’s the priciest beauty advent calendar we tested, but you more than get your money’s worth at £467 worth of products for £99.
‘If you’re not particularly brand loyal, it gives you a chance to try newer brands, such as Byoma and Arkive, as well as the beauty classics, including Lancome and Bobbi Brown. There’s no skimping on full-size products either. There are 14 included, ranging from lipsticks to cleanser, eye cream and more.
‘Keep in mind you’ll need space to store the large, bulky box though, which opens out into drawers like a jewellery box.
Hotel Chocolat The Grand Advent Calendar, £75, was the ‘best’ according to Which?
Best: Hotel Chocolat The Grand Advent Calendar
What’s inside? 24 chocolates, hot chocolate and chocolate flavoured spirits
Pros: Delicious chocolates. Excellent variety of gifts. Festive design. Loved by our testers
Cons: Pricey compared to other chocolate advent calendars
WHICH? verdict: Top of the chocs. As you’d expect there are lots of chocolate gifts inside Hotel Chocolat’s The Grand Advent Calendar including a chocolate wreath, snowmen and champagne truffles. But you also get some genuine surprises, such as chocolate lip balm, cacao gin, and some more we’ll leave you to discover yourself.
‘Half our testers voted for it as one of their favourites and said they would love to receive it as a gift.
‘There’s no denying that it’s incredibly expensive, but it contains a huge amount of chocolate and other gifts that’ll go down a treat in the run up to Christmas. That’s why it gets our nod as the best chocolate advent calendar of 2023 of those we tested.
Other chocolate advent calendars
Venchi Advent Calendar
Venchi Advent Calendar cost £42
What’s inside: 24 assorted chocolates
Pros: Delicious chocolates. Elegant design. Reusable boxes. Loved by our testers
Cons: Not as impressive as others we tested
WHICH? verdict: Elegant. Half of our testers said they would gift the Venchi advent calendar to a loved one and we can absolutely see why.
Its elegant, chocolate box design with green ribbon and tasty selection of treats impressed. Our testers also felt the boxes that housed the individually, enticingly wrapped chocolates were sturdy enough to be reused.
Although the chocolate itself didn’t blow our testers away, they appreciated the variety.
Lindt Festive Select Advent Calendar
The Lindt chocolate was branded a ‘classic’
What’s inside: 24 assorted chocolates
Pros: Excellent variety of Lindt chocolates. Exciting gift on Christmas eve
Cons: Not the most eye catching design
WHICH? verdict: A Christmas classic
You can’t go wrong with Lindt chocolate at Christmas and our testers certainly found this to be the case after trying the Lindt Festive Select Advent Calendar.
They enjoyed tasting the variety of Lindt chocolates inside and particularly liked the big chocolate surprise you get on Christmas Eve.
It’s not a standout chocolate advent calendar, but you get a lovely array of delicious treats for under £20.
Charbonnel et Walker Advent Calendar
Charbonnel et Walker Advent Calendar has 24 chocolates
What’s inside?: 24 assorted chocolate truffles
Pros: Tasty chocolates. Festive design
Cons: Not as much variety as other chocolate advent calendars
WHICH? verdict: ‘Delicious truffles. Our testers enjoyed opening this chocolate advent calendar – it ticks all of the boxes in that it’s beautifully decorated and contains 24 delicious truffles.
‘The festive sweet shop design would look wonderful displayed among your Christmas decorations too.
‘While it’s a lovely calendar it didn’t impress as well as our top picks. Not enough of our testers said that they would buy this, mainly due to its lack of variety. It repeated chocolate flavours more often than the Venchi advent calendar.’
Fortnum’s Chocolate Truffle Selection Advent Calendar
24 assorted chocolate truffles are inside the F&M calendar
What’s inside: 24 assorted chocolate truffles
Pros: Delicious truffles. Excellent variety of flavours
Cons: Not the most eye-catching design. Tricky to to get chocolates out the doors
WHICH? verdict: ‘Decent for the price
‘You get a variety of festive flavoured truffles inside this chocolate advent calendar, including Christmas pudding, maple and spiced praline.
‘Our testers found the truffles okay but weren’t blown away by what they tried.
‘They also felt the box was less impressive than other chocolate advent calendars on offer and mentioned that they struggled to get the chocolates out from behind each door.
Best: Lego City Advent Calendar 2023
Lego was named the best calendar by Which?
What’s inside: 24 Lego surprises, 250 Lego pieces
Pros: Excellent variety of Lego to build. Exciting gifts in the run up to Christmas. Can be added to existing Lego sets
Cons: Confusing box design
WHICH? Verdict: Fun to build. The 2023 Lego City Advent Calendar is packed full of figures and accessories that can be added to other sets after Christmas is over.
Our testers enjoyed the festive-themed Lego figures that include Santa Claus, Mrs Claus and a reindeer sleigh, and some said they would enjoy being gifted it.
The consistency of the gifts behind each window is also excellent, and it gets even more festive in the run up to Christmas.
Our testers found the design of the box a bit confusing though. Numbers were tricky to locate, so younger children might need help opening the doors.’
Other children’s advent calendars
Pokémon Trading Card Game Advent Calendar
Pokémon card calendar is £40
What’s inside? Pokémon cards, coins and sticker sheets
Pros: A good variety of gifts. Lasts beyond Christmas
Cons. Hard to get the cards out the box
WHICH? Verdict: ‘Exciting for little Pokémon fans. If your child is obsessed with Pokémon, we think they’ll love the selection of gifts in this children’s advent calendar.
‘They’ll be able to add to their Pokémon card collection with foil cards and booster packs hidden behind the windows.
‘You don’t get a pack of cards every day – for example there are sticker sheets and coins on some – but these filler days aren’t too frequent.
‘Our testers found it hard to get the cards out the windows without bending them, so little hands might need some help.’
Barbie Dreamtopia Advent Calendar
Barbie Dreamtopia Advent Calendar was a hit
What’s inside? A Barbie doll and 24 accessories
Pros: Toys can be added to existing Barbie sets. Good value for money
Cons: Some toys feel flimsy. Not the most festive box design
WHICH? Verdict: ‘Exciting from day one. Barbie Dreamtopia begins with a bang thanks to the Barbie doll gift on day one, which is sure to get December off to a fabulous start for any Barbie fan.
‘What follows each day thereafter are clothes and accessories for the Barbie doll. These include wings, a mermaid tail, shoes, jewellery and more. Some of these felt a bit flimsy (and there are quite a lot of small pieces to stop from getting lost) but overall there’s plenty to keep little Barbie fans entertained.
‘A Barbie doll from Mattel starts from £13.99. Considering the amount of accessories that are packed into this advent calendar, we think it’s pretty good value. The accessories can be used with other Barbie dolls, too.’
Nintendo Super Mario Advent Calendar
24 Super Mario characters and accessories cost £30
What’s inside: 24 Super Mario characters and accessories
Pros: Fun and festive box design. Some toys will last beyond Christmas
Cons: Gifts are hit and miss
WHICH? verdict A mixed bag. At a first glance, this advent calendar is super exciting for kids who love Super Mario with characters on the front of the box holding Christmas presents.
Some gifts are wonderful, such as the Santa Mario and Snowman Luigi figures, but some are very underwhelming. Our parent testers felt their kids would be left disappointed if they opened the door to reveal a plastic gold coin, as you get on some days, for example.
Playmobil Christmas Sleigh Ride Advent Calendar
Playmobil accessories and a figure was the worst rated of the toys
What’s inside: Playmobil accessories and a figure
Pros: Toys can be added to existing Playmobil sets. Strong Christmas theme
Cons: Some gifts are underwhelming. Younger kids may need help from parents
WHICH? verdict: ‘Disappointing. Our panel liked the strong Christmas theme that runs through this calendar, with 24 pieces that you collect each day to form a Christmas Sleigh Ride scene.
‘Building the scene though meant negotiating fiddly pieces that our parent testers felt younger kids would need help with. Some of the daily gifts were also parts towards the build that weren’t really identifiable as a thing. Our testers felt opening these would leave a child a little underwhelmed.
‘Need some Christmas gift inspo? Read our reviews of the best trampolines and best remote control cars’
BOOZE & SNACK CALENDARS
Best: Drinks By the Dram Premium Gin Advent Calendar (2023 edition)
Drinks By the Dram Premium Gin Advent Calendar was rated the best
Cheapest price: £89.95 at Drinks By the Dram and Master of Malt
What’s inside: 24 3cl bottles of gin from different producers
Pros: Excellent variety of gins. Festive design. Loved by our panel
Cons: Relatively expensive for a little over a standard bottle of gin.
WHICH? Verdict: ‘Excellent variety for gin lovers. As well as the stylish little wax-covered bottles inside this advent calendars, our testers were impressed with the spectacular variety of gins behind each of the 24 doors. Half our testers voted for it as one of their favourite advent calendars to gift to a loved one.
‘It features popular brands, such as Tanqueray and Hendrick’s, as well as plenty of niche distilleries from around the world.
‘The total volume of gin in the calendar is equivalent to a little over a standard bottle. You can purchase a whole bottle of premium gin in the region of £30 to £40, so it’s not a cheap advent calendar. However if you’re looking to be introduced to new gins that you won’t find in your local supermarket, then this is the advent calendar for you.
Other beer, booze and snack advent calendars
Virgin Wines Beer Advent Calendar
Virgin Wines Beer Advent Calendar cost £79.99
What’s inside: 24 330ml cans of ales, lagers, pilsners and stouts
Pros: Excellent variety of craft beers and regions. Popular with our panel
Cons: Uninspiring box design
WHICH? Verdict: ‘A superb selection of beers
‘This beer advent calendar was popular with our testers. Nearly half said they’d gift it to a loved one or would enjoy it themselves.
‘Our testers praised the mix of big and small brewers inside the calendar, as well as the fantastic array of pale ales, session beers, stouts and pilsners to sample throughout the 24 days.
‘The wreath design on the box they felt could have been improved upon, but the quality of beers inside more than makes up for this.
The Snaffling Pig Pork Crackling Advent Calendar
The piggin’ christmas calendar left testers ‘wanting more’
What’s inside: 24 5g packs of pork crackling
Pros: Creative flavours. Eye catching box design
Cons: Small pack sizes
WHICH? verdict: ‘Left us wanting more
‘There are some fun flavours of pork crackling inside this advent calendar including pigs in blankets, maple syrup and smokey barbecue. However our testers found these a bit hit and miss – saying some were tasty but some a bit sickly.
‘They also felt let down by the amount of pork crackling inside each bag. They’d hoped for it to be a bit more generous.
Joe & Seph’s Popcorn Advent Calendar
Joe & Seph’s popcorn calendar is a fun alternative
What’s inside: 24 7g bags of popcorn
Pros: Creative flavours. Generous pack sizes. Fun and festive box design
Cons: A few repeat flavours
WHICH? verdict ‘Something a bit different
‘Our testers enjoyed sampling the 14 different flavours of popcorn inside this snack advent calendar. Favourites included mint chocolate and toffee apple & cinnamon, but some flavours, such as buck’s fizz, didn’t get as big a thumbs up.
‘The amount of popcorn in each bag is generous and although there are some repetitions, our testers enjoyed the unique, tasty flavour you get on Christmas Eve.
‘The colourful box design, inspired by ‘Where’s Wally?’, is striking and would look fantastic displayed at home.
John Lewis Wine Advent Calendar
John Lewis Wine Advent Calendar was ‘very bulky’
What’s inside: 24 18.7cl bottles of red, white and rosé wine
Pros: Excellent variety of wines
Cons: Very bulky box, Quality of wine is a bit hit and miss
WHICH VERDICT? ‘For fans of New World wines
‘While our testers enjoyed sampling the selection of New World wines from Chile, Moldova and California and more, they weren’t wowed by the quality.
‘It’s a fun novelty to enjoy in the run up to Christmas, but if you fancy yourself somewhat of a wine buff you’ll probably be left a bit disappointed.
‘The box that houses all the wines is heavy and bulky, so you’ll need plenty of space at home to store it too.
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