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Festive favourites

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Published 2022

Winchester is the ancient capital of England and right now it has transformed itself into a Christmas capital. With so much going on, we asked our local ambassadors to share their favourite festive activities.

Unique gifts

Our Independent Business Ambassador Suzy shares her #Indiewinch favourites.

Winchester High Street

Winchester is fortunate to have a festive map outlining the locations of all the independent businesses full of gifts, outfits, food, drinks, presents and ideas for your festive shopping, designed to give locals and visitors the opportunity to see how many independent businesses we have and where to find them across the city. There is simply not enough space here to mention all 200 #indiewinch businesses, as we call them. So here are my personal favourites.

For gifts, I’d start at the Consortium, Mint tea boutique and Eclectic Hound. If you want homewares and gifts, Open House Deli, Autumn House and Earthian have some wonderful products. For foodies and beverages, Toscanaccio, Basil Leaf Deli or The General Store. Plus, you can’t shop without a refuelling stop, where the possibilities are endless. From cake and coffee to cocktails and canapes, Winchester has it all. Wow – we are spoilt!

Lainston House

Lainston House

A digital version of the map can be downloaded here.

Finished shopping? Take it easy at a cosy city pub or country inn, among them the King Alfred, Hyde, and The Plough, Sparsholt, or relax in style at Lainston House.

Styling Christmas

Our Style Ambassador Lauren reveals her favourite shops.

Sometimes the smallest boxes contain the best presents, and I am a firm believer that you cannot go wrong with jewellery at Christmas. My first port of call is always Jeremy France Jewellers, they have been trading for 30 years in Winchester and are experts in their field.

You’re spoilt for choice if you’re looking for some new glad rags to party your way through the festive season. If you’re looking for the latest trends head to Ellie and Bea, they regularly update their stock and their knowledgeable staff can offer 1-to-1 styling advice.

A Christmas-inspired home scent can really help set the mood. Pop to H&B Style to pick up a ‘Bringing Home the Tree’ room spray (a base of precious woods, with an edge of eucalyptus and Siberian pine, sounds divine!).

Styling your home at Christmas is just as important as styling yourself, and Winchester Cathedral are running Christmas Floral Centrepiece Workshops from 20th and 22nd December where you can handcraft your very own table arrangement. If you prefer ready-made, head to the bottom of town between 8.30am – 5pm (Tuesday – Saturday) to visit The Original Flower Stall for a choice of table arrangements and wreaths.

Christmas sounds

Culture Ambassador Charlotte shares the sounds of Christmas in Winchester.

Winchester at Christmas is a really special place and if you listen closely (or not so closely in some cases!) you can hear the spirit of Christmas!

Starting at the bottom of town, you get your first sound, the Winchester City Mill. If you step inside you are transported back to Tudor times when Queen Mary I gave the mill to the City of Winchester. Exploring the mill, you can hear the grinding of the millstone by a dedicated group of volunteers who bag it up ready to buy for all your Christmas bakes.

Carrying on your journey around Winchester, you hear the local coffee shops whipping up your Christmas drink delights and the rushing steps of Christmas shoppers filling the high Street! You are naturally drawn to Winchester Cathedral Christmas Market with the sound of familiar Christmas songs filling the air as you discover what new delights the chalets have this year.

Heading away from the High Street, you pass Winchester College and overhear one of the Guides talking to visitors about the beautiful architecture but also mentioning the many Christmas Carol’s concerts they have coming up.

With every step you take you start to lose the hum of the busy city, but it is replaced with the chirps and songs of nature. Sparrows, Stonechats and of course Robins all make an appearance on this brisk winter walk, and their birdsong sparks a moment of joy amongst the depths of winter.

Special places

Winchester Cathedral at Christmas is a special place for Heritage Ambassador Aisha.

Winchester Cathedral is a place for festive cheer and reflection in the city. No matter the time of year, the visiting school children I work with delight in telling me what they experienced here with their families at Christmas time when they recognise the Cathedral’s Inner Close. Some of them needed a moment of quiet from the busyness outside, lit a candle for a loved one, caught up with friends in our café, looked around the Christmas market for gifts or came to one of our craft workshops for families.

Winchester Cathedral Christmas Market

Winchester Cathedral Christmas Market

During the Christmas Market the Cathedral’s Inner Close, where Benedictine monks once worked and lived, is transformed from a quiet lunch spot or a convenient shortcut through the city into a twinkling, cinnamon-smelling village of chalets during the festive period. Life changes dramatically for staff here at the Cathedral. The wonderful stalls full of goodies from local makers and producers waft tempting smells of Christmas treats and gifts which often result in excited outcries of “let’s just pop over and have one for lunch!” or “Let’s just go for a quick walk…”

The Cathedral and Market truly are the focal point for people from all around the world visiting Winchester at Christmas time.

Away from the high street

Culture Ambassador Madelaine takes us on a festive tour of Kingsgate Village

It sounds like a cliché but there is a hidden corner of Winchester just south of the Cathedral and a few minutes’ walk from the bustle of the Christmas market, where you feel as if you have stepped back in time.

Walking through the Kingsgate Arch, above which a tiny church is situated, visitors enter a world that could have appeared straight out of a children’s book of Victorian times. At Christmas the lights and decorations bring scenes from Dickens’ A Christmas Carol to mind.

Kingsgate Village, Winchester

“Kingsgate Village” is home to just four shops and a pub, but unlike the businesses on the High Street each maintains a completely independent and individual ‘personality’:  Cornflowers Gift Shop, Kingsgate Wines & Provisions (known affectionately by its customers simply as KPO referencing its past as the site of a Post Office), Kingsgate Books & Prints and P&G Wells Booksellers (which lays claim to being the oldest bookshop in the country). The Wykeham Arms, a refuge for generations of Winchester College schoolmasters, and almost irresistibly cosy at this time of year, completes the range of businesses in this must-visit Winchester  destination.

Festive nights

There is always such a lot to keep us entertained thanks to the wonderful people who run the venues across Winchester. Here are a few of our highlights over the festive season.

The Nutshell have a couple of productions worth watching. On December 21 you can catch The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood and is suitable for ages 5+. For younger audiences they have the timeless classic The Snow Queen suitable for ages 5+ on Thursday 22 December.

Looking to entertain the whole family, it has to be a Panto!  You’ll find Cinderella at the Theatre Royal from 30 November – Monday 2 January.

See all the events taking place over the Christmas period.