England’s ancient capital has become better known in recent years as England’s Christmas Capital. Visitors have been flocking to Winchester from all over Europe to admire the city in all its festive splendour and enjoy its wide range of yuletide events.
Whichever way you like to celebrate this joyful season, there is something for you in Winchester. Whether it’s rejoicing in the awe inspiring Cathedral, getting your ice skates on, laughing your socks off at the pantomime or finding that unique and special gift for someone.
There are also many ways to make merry, including the Winchester Wine Festival brought to you by Masters of Wine and TV presenters Susie Barrie and Peter Richards and the Ginchester Christmas Market celebrating the vibrant regional drinks scene.
For a city that truly embraces Christmas, it’s hardly a surprise that Winchester topped the Royal Mail’s UK happiness index earlier this year. Below we highlight some of the best events and places to get happy in Winchester this Christmas.
Thursday 21 November – Sunday 22 December (ice rink open until 5 January 2020)
The bustling Winchester Cathedral Christmas Market is recognised as one of the best in Europe. Here you’ll find wonderful gifts, decorations and festive foods, a delightful Food Court, a British Crafts Village, and over 100 chalets to explore.
The market surrounds one of the UK’s top-ten outdoor ice rinks where you are guaranteed rain-free festive skate under a see-through roof. After twilight, it’s the perfect place to skate under the stars in the light of the Cathedral.
The market is free to enter. Tickets for skating are available from 1st September from the Cathedral Box office (01962 857276 and www.winchester-cathedral.org.uk). There is also chance to book a Christmas or Twilight Tour of the Cathedral (run the same days as the market) and gaze down from the top tower.
Saturday 30 November 2019 – Sunday 5 January 2020
You can’t beat a trip to the panto for a perfect family Christmas outing. This year Theatre Royal Winchester presents Dick Whittington brought to the stage by James Barry and Simon Slater – the creative team behind Theatre Royal Winchester’s highly successful 2018/19 panto, Beauty and the Beast.
Dick Whittington tells the story of Dick and his cat who travel to London to seek fame and fortune, only to be met by the sinister King Rat and his rabble of Revolting Rodents. With hilarious gags, original songs and audience participation, it’s going to be puuurrrrfect for all the family.
Tickets are already available from the theatre Box Office, or by calling 01962 840440, or visiting www.theatreroyalwinchester.co.uk where you can also find details about relaxed, audio described and BSL interpreted performances, as well as a touch tour.
Saturday 14 December – Tuesday 24 December 2019
Wind Song Theatre is performing a wonderful family show at Winchester Discovery Centre. Following the success of their previous show ‘Footprints in the Snow’, they are back with another festive treat packed with whacky characters and toe tapping music.
It is almost Christmas and Pip is up to his beak in letters sent to Santa. As head of special requests at the North Pole’s Post Room it is his job to make sure that the children’s hopes and dreams are communicated clearly. But with an over active, wandering imagination and a special dream of his own will the presents be ready in time?
Bringing original stories to the stage, Wind Song Theatre create dynamic children’s theatre to inspire young minds, which are accessible for all.
Tickets available from https://www.hants.gov.uk/winchesterdiscoverycentre –
£8 each or 4 for £28. The show is recommended age 3+ (but adults and older kids will love it too).
From Saturday 16 November – Tuesday 24th December
Celebrating their 10th Anniversary of ‘Christmas at Marwell’, you can make your family’s Christmas magical and join Jingle and some of his new friends in an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ themed Christmas.
Head down the rabbit hole and step into a curious wonderland of topsy-turvy delights. Begin with refreshments fit for the queen of Hearts. Next join a tea party and Mother Christmas as she recounts an enchanting tale. The elves await you in the garden of fun to help your little one create a ‘magical’ elf door. Finally, don’t be late … it’s time to meet Father Christmas, and he has a surprise for you! Families can also pose for a magical family photo as a lasting memory of the day.
Daytime sessions include all day zoo access from 10am, a Christmas ‘wonderland experience’ and a new Cheshire cat trail, whilst evening sessions include a Mad Hatter character welcome, ‘Wonderland’ train ride to Marwell Hall and garden games to play.
Each experience lasts around 60-80 minutes.
Tickets on sale 23 September via www.marwell.org.uk/Christmas
Weekends: 30 November – 15 December 2019, Daily: 19 December – 6 January 2020
Looking for something a little different? Then head to Winchester Science Centre where you can immerse your family in dinosaur exploration. Featuring imaginative storytelling and activities brought to you by the owners of popular children’s book series The World of Dinosaur Roar! Take part in a huge dino dig to find creatures from the past, handle real and replica fossils. You can also meet Trixie the baby triceratops and find out all about her from our friendly rangers.
The dino fun is in addition to a brilliant hands-on science and space exhibition, including live themed science shows and planetarium show. For the festive season there will also be a Father Christmas grotto in place.
Tickets: General Admission, £13.20 per person, includes all dino themed events and activities, and live science experience. Planetarium and Grotto tickets sold separately. Save up to 25% on general admission when booking online at least three days in advance www.winchestersciencecentre.org
Saturday 21 – Monday 23 December
There is a chance to see the big man himself just before he heads on his mission around the world to deliver toys to good girls and boys. He will be at the Great Hall, which is also home to the symbolic Medieval Round Table, handing out gifts to toddlers through to 10 year olds.
Tickets are £12.50 and booking is essential via www.hants.gov.uk/shop
Saturday 29 – Sunday 30 November
Wine Festival Winchester is a chance for adults (no matter how much or little you know) to enjoy a feast of fabulous wines, food and other drinks in the company of married Masters of Wine and TV presenters Susie Barrie and Peter Richards.
As well as the hundreds of wines on pour by a range of exhibitors, from English sparkling wine to vintage port, there’s also masterclasses, music, merchandise and a charity prize draw.
Tickets cost £35 for general entry and £10 per masterclass and can be purchased via www.thewinefestival.co.uk
Saturday 7 December 2019
The Ginchester Christmas Market is a chance to celebrate all that is great about the region’s drinks scene – naturally with a focus on local spirits! Set in the magnificent surroundings of Winchester’s Great Hall, the market features artisans and distillers, including Bombay Sapphire, Winchester Distillery, Gorilla Spirits, Conker and Chococo.
The Ginchester Christmas Market is great opportunity to discover new favourite spirits as well as pick up some Christmas gifts for the drinks connoisseurs in your life!
There are three sessions during the day and tickets cost £15 and are available via www.ginchester.co.uk
If you are looking for the perfect place to stay for your festive visit to Winchester then the Holiday Inn is it. As well as great accommodation, including an all you can eat buffet breakfast, there are various themed party nights and a chance to kick back completely on Christmas day and let someone prepare the lunch. The hotel has just launched its new ANA Spa to add some further pampering to your stay.
For more details about party nights and packages visit https://www.hiwinchester.co.uk
4 November: Christmas Lights Switch On
16 November – 24 December: Christmas at Marwell
21 November: Christmas Market and Ice Rink Opening Ceremony
21 November – 22 December: Winchester Cathedral Christmas Market
21 November – 5 January: Winchester Cathedral Ice Rink
28 November: Lantern Parade
29 November – 30 November: Winchester Wine Festival
30 November – 5 January: Dick Whittington, Theatre Royal Winchester
7 December: Ginchester Christmas Market
13 December: Christmas Concert at Winchester Cathedral
14 December – Tuesday 24 December: Pip’s Post Room, The Discovery Centre
21 December – 23rd December: Santa at the Great Hall
Take a look at www.christmasinwinchester.co.uk for a full list of events and celebrations.