It is that time of year again; department store television adverts are all that is being talked about, I’m A Celebrity – Get Me Out of Here is back on the screen, Christmas trees are making their appearances in town squares and city centres up and down the country, and so inevitably, are also the arrival of Christmas Markets.
There is the usual fascination with going abroad during the festive season, especially to mainland Europe to visit a traditional Christmas Market. People are often mesmerised with visiting Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park, or the Frankfurt Christmas Market in Birmingham. However, this year, there is no need. In fact, only 25 miles from Portsmouth, one train ticket from Portsmouth and Southsea to Winchester for a £6.80 return with a railcard, is all that is needed to get on board with all things festive and merry.
“Winchester’s Christmas Market boasts over 100 wooden alpine chalets.”
Winchester Christmas Market celebrated its 10 year anniversary last year. Still being a young and fresh tradition to the south of England, it has proven popular with locals and visitors alike and has gained a reputation fit to rival those in mainland Europe with close to half a million visitors each year. There really is no doubt in denying that it is England’s Christmas Capital.
Monday November 20th saw the opening of the 2017 festive season in the medieval town, and it is open every day all the way through to December 22nd. Plenty of time to get those woolly mittens wrapped around a warming mug of steaming hot chocolate or a glass of traditional aromatic mulled wine.
Inspired by traditional German Christmas Markets, Winchester’s Christmas Market boasts over 100 wooden alpine chalets located in the Cathedral’s historic close, brimming with goodies, selling everything from traditional wooden toys and arts and crafts, to its German theme of food and drink offerings including festive favourites such as mulled cider, cinnamon churros, mince pies and bratwursts. Prices are as expected for a traditional Christmas Market, ranging from £3-£5 for a beverage, and £3 upwards for food. It is more of an arts and crafts market as opposed to the more traditional ambience of a German Christmas Market, but the atmosphere is still electric with festive music and decorations never going a miss.
“The Cathedral’s in-house team individually select the stallholders each year to ensure quality and authenticity in their products.”
If the Christmas shopping list of gifts to buy friends and family still isn’t ticked off, then a niche Christmas gift from one of the many stalls is the perfect solution. Warm blankets, scarves, tweed clothing, handmade cards, wooden toys, china and glassware are among just some of the popular items available to purchase inside the chalets. The Cathedral’s in-house team individually select the stallholders each year to ensure quality and authenticity in their products. So, even just finding that extra special decoration to put on the tree is enough to get that festive feeling and know that it is something truly unique.
The alpine chalets also surround the open-air ice skating rink which transforms into a magical wonderland for children and adults, with ticket prices at around £8.50-£10.50 for adults and either £5-£7, or £6-£8.50 for children, depending on peak times when visiting.
Its unique location is given a thumbs up from visitors too. The Market can sometimes get too crowded, so it is easy to get a break from the bustling crowds and wander beyond the Close into the centre of the city. Visit the Cathedral, the heart of the festivities, and even The Square and Parchment Street, both with an array of independent shops, cafes and restaurants.
Of course, weekends are the busiest time to visit Winchester’s Christmas Market, so for a more relaxed time it is best to visit during the week. Otherwise, if visiting at the weekend, be prepared to meander through the stalls and ice skating rink along with the rest of the crowd. Ideally, bring cash as most stalls don’t accept cards, and the nearest cash point is back in Winchester’s High Street – not ideal to walk back to if you have already struggled through the waves of the hustle and bustle of other festive goers.
Where: Winchester Cathedral Inner Close.
When: Every day from Monday 20th November – Friday 22nd December.
By Bus: A 5 minute walk from Winchester bus station and coach stops.
By Train: Approximately a 10-15 minute walk from Winchester train station.