It’s time for England’s ancient capital to transform into England’s Christmas Capital as visitors flock from all over Europe to enjoy Winchester’s festive splendour and yuletide events.
Whatever way you like to celebrate this joyful season, Winchester has something for you. Whether it’s rejoicing in the awe inspiring Cathedral, getting your ice skates on, laughing your socks off at the Pantomime, finding unique and special gifts or devouring festive foods.
There are also many ways to make merry in Winchester this Christmas, including the Wine Festival brought to you by Masters of Wine and TV presenters Susie Barrie and Peter Richards and the Ginchester Christmas Market, which celebrates the vibrant regional drinks scene.
Winchester truly embraces Christmas; here are some of the highlights…
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 will find wonderful gifts, decorations and festive foods, a delightful Food Court, a 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 skating under a see-through roof. As night falls, it’s the perfect place to skate under the stars against the backdrop of the light of the Cathedral. The market is free to entre. Tickets for skating are available from the Cathedral Box Office (01962 857276 and www.winchester-cathedral.org.uk). There is also a chance to book a Christmas or Twilight Tour of the Cathedral and gaze down from the top tower.
Another colourful spectacle not to be missed is the Lantern Parade though the city on Thursday 28 November. Starting from the Cathedral at 6.30pm and finishing with a stunning fireworks display in the Outer Close.
Other Winchester Cathedral Events
All services are free of charge. Ticketed events can be booked via the Cathedral Box Office at www.winchester-cathedral.org.uk; 01962 857 275.
Waynflete Singers: Elgar’s The Kingdom
Saturday 7 December, 7.30pm
A magnificent work with Elgar’s typically beautiful and expansive orchestration and lyrical choral lines. Tickets: £12.50 – £39.50.
Family Carol Services
Sunday 8 and Sunday 15 December, 3.30pm
Family-friendly afternoon carol services led by the Cathedral Choir.
Christingle Service for Children’s Church
Sunday 8 December, 3.30pm, Undercroft/Wessex Learning Centre
The Cathedral invites children from years 1–7, accompanied by carer/family, to an Advent children’s service.
Cathedral Christmas Concert
Friday 13 December, 7.00pm
An evening of music, laughter and delight, featuring Winchester Cathedral Choir and award-winning comedian Hugh Dennis. Tickets: £20–£40.
Saturday 14 December, 1.00pm, 3.00pm and 7.15pm
The enchanting Christmas film The Snowman will be shown on the big screen in the Cathedral Nave with music provided by a live orchestra. Presented by Carrot Productions.
Tickets from £16.
Cathedral Carol Services
Tuesday 17, Wednesday 18 and Friday 20 December, 6.30pm
Wonderful services filled with beautiful music sung by the Cathedral Choir. The first service is ticketed; all are welcome at the second and third services.
Christmas Storytelling for Pre-Schoolers
Friday 20 December, 11.30am
Join us in the Cathedral to make Christmas angels and help to tell the story of the Grumpy Innkeeper with actions. No booking required, Cathedral entrance charges apply.
Chamber Choir Concert
Saturday 21 December, 1.00pm
An hour of varied music chosen to soothe and inspire, performed by the Cathedral Chamber Choir. All are welcome.
Benjamin Britten’s Ceremony of Carols
Sunday 22 December, 3.30pm
Sung by the Choristers of Winchester Cathedral, all are welcome.
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.
Other shows not to be missed…
A Christmas Carol
Tuesday 19 – Wednesday 20 November
Olivier Award winner, Guy Masterton brings Dickens’ festive classic to the stage. He recreates Scrooge, Marley, Tiny Tim et al in this enchanting show that will get you in the Christmas spirit!
Christmas with Tenors UnLimited
Tuesday 10 December
‘The Rat Pack of Opera’ perform a selection of festive favourites, classics, pop songs and musical showstoppers.
Santa’s Christmas Countdown
Monday 16 December
A fun, family musical show filled with festive songs. Children get to meet Father Christmas himself post-show and receive a present from him.
The Scummy Mummies Christmas Show
Tuesday 17 – Wednesday 18 December
Due to popular demand, comedians Helen Thorn and Ellie Gibson return with the perfect Christmas antidote for stressed out mums.
Christmas with The Spitfire Sisters
Thursday 19 December
The three-part vocal harmony group return to their home-town to perform a Christmas show with a vintage twist.
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/shop/home.php?cat=533 –
£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 24 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 via www.marwell.org.uk/Christmas
Weekends: 30 November – 15 December 2019, Daily: 19 December – 6 January 2020
For a truly ROARsome day out this Christmas head to Winchester Science Centre where you can immerse your family in a world of dinosaur-themed activity and visit Santa’s science grotto.
An exciting partnership with the owners of popular children’s book series The World of Dinosaur Roar !sees their beautifully illustrated dinosaur characters brought to life through a dinosaur trail, animated short story and hands-on activity zone, designed especially for younger children. In addition, and for all ages, the Science Centre team is inviting children to take on the role of a palaeontologist at Dino Dig and Fossil Forensics, and meet a dinosaur ranger and their baby triceratops and handle real and replica fossils at the mini Fossil Festival.
All dino-activities, including a live science show, are included in General Admission.
For those of you in search Santa, you won’t be disappointed. An explosive science-themed grotto provides children and their families with a 45-minute relaxed workshop with Santa and his magnificent master elf. Children will get to make a Christmas cracker, complete with science-gift, meet Santa and take home a present. Grotto tickets are £8 per person with admission.
A trip to the Science Centre wouldn’t be complete without a whirlwind tour of the Universe in the Planetarium, and because it’s Christmas, the live show includes a Christmas (and dinosaur) twist. Planetarium shows are priced at £3.50 per person with admission.
General Admission: £13.20 (with GiftAid). Save up to 25% on general admission when booking online at least three days in advance via www.winchestersciencecentre.org
Saturday 21, Sunday 22 or Monday 23 December
Let the magic of Christmas enchant you in the beautiful historic Great Hall, the perfect setting for an authentic festive experience.
Book a visit to their friendly Father Christmas and receive a gift as well astake part in themed craft activities. Tickets are limited for this exclusive event and must be pre-booked in advance. This event is recommended for babies and children up to 10 years old.
There will also be a pop-up Christmas Cafe will serve hot and cold drinks along with a selection of festive treats.
Visit www.hants.gov.uk/greathall for times and tickets.
Saturday 29 – Sunday 30 November
Wine Festival Winchester is a chance 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 are also masterclasses, music, merchandise, a festival wine walk and charity prize draw.
Tickets cost £35 for general entry and £10 per masterclass and can be purchased via 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 a 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, 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, the hotel has just launched its new ANA Spa to add some further pampering to your stay.
The Holiday Inn is hosting some fabulous themed party nights too including the Ultimate Elton John tribute Night on 29th November and Basil’s Christmas Carol on 6th December.
On Christmas Day you can kick back completely and let someone prepare the lunch or party into the New Year with all your favourite soul and Motown hits performed by Pop Duo The Estelles.
For more details visit https://www.hiwinchester.co.uk
14 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
07 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
For further information see: www.christmasinwinchester.co.uk