It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas in England’s ancient capital. Winchester is getting all dressed and ready to welcome visitors to celebrate this joyful season.
Where better to enjoy some Christmas cheer than in the country’s most festive city and across our rural historic market towns. The festive season kicks off on 18 November when the Christmas lights are switched on by local heroes with a stage show on The Broadway area outside the Guildhall.
Then, awe-inspiring Winchester Cathedral becomes the focal point with the opening of the world-famous traditional Christmas Market from the 19 November.
With history at every turn in Winchester, you can imagine yourself in Christmases past, and you could even uncover a dinosaur at Winchester Science Centre! There is also a chance of seeing Santa and wild and rare animals at Marwell Zoo.
There are also plenty of places to make merry with award-winning local tipples and delicious feasting in this foodie hotspot. As well as a stunning array of independent shops for finding those unique and special gifts.
Winchester truly embraces Christmas and here are some of the highlights:
Winchester Cathedral Christmas Market
Friday 19 November – Wednesday 22 December
Winchester Cathedral is at the heart of the city’s celebrations. It’s Christmas Market, services and festive activities offer a unique and magical experience.
Winchester Cathedral’s Christmas Market is recognised as one of the best in Europe. It is renowned for its unique location, handpicked high-quality exhibitors and bustling atmosphere. The authentic wooden chalets sell a range of tempting seasonal treats and delightful Christmas gifts.
There is a wide variety of food and drink to enjoy in the food court whilst being entertained by buskers, local choirs, and performers.
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.
Friday 03 December, 7.30pm
To herald the Christmas season and bring the Christian message of hope and joy, the Waynflete Singers perform Handel’s much-loved oratorio, Messiah.
Tickets: £15 – £45
Saturday 04 December, 2pm and 4pm
Immerse yourself in the splendour of the Cathedral Nave for a special screening of family favourite, The Snowman, accompanied by a magnificent live orchestra.
Tickets: £15 – £32
Family Carol Services
“A Magical Journey”
Sunday 05, 12, 19 December, 3.30pm
Family-friendly carol service exploring the story of Christmas with carols, stories, lights and laughter.
The Choral Foundation Christmas Concert
Friday 17 December, 7.00pm
A spectacular concert of Christmas music performed by the Choral Foundation.
Cathedral Carol Services
Monday 20, Tuesday 21, Thursday 23 December
Wonderful services filled with beautiful music sung by the Cathedral Choir and traditional Christmas readings.
Dinosaurs return with Science Dino-mite this Christmas at Winchester Science Centre
Weekends and school holidays from Saturday 27 November 2020 (excluding 24 to 27 December) – Sunday 16 January 2022
Enjoy the sights, sounds and science of Christmas past… way past. Dinosaurs are returning to Winchester Science Centre for a roar-cus festive season. There are also some special guest appearances from Santa Claus himself.
Dino rangers have sprinkled prehistoric cheer around the Science Centre ready for a Jurassic adventure. Mini palaeontologists can join their archaeological excavation team on the hunt for buried bones in Dino Dig. You can even hold real and replica dinosaur teeth and claws that have been fossilised millions of years ago. There will be special guests including real-life palaeontologists and experts.
It’s not just dinosaurs though.
There are two live Planetarium shows, huge live science demos and awesome interactive exhibits to excite and inspire all ages.
Everything above is included in the general admission price of £13.20 (including Gift Aid). Children under three go free. All visits need to be pre-booked. See www.winchestersciencecentre.org for more details.
Christmas at Marwell
From Wednesday 01 December
Wrap up warm and get closer to the wonders of the natural world with a magical visit to Marwell Zoo this winter. Meet hundreds of exotic and endangered animals from Amur tigers and snow leopards to meerkats and penguins.
There will be magical decorations and festive scenes around the park from an enchanting princess carriage to Santa’s sleigh and flying reindeer. Father Christmas will also be making some special appearances at the zoo on weekends and select dates in December.
There are festive food and drink options so you can cosy up with a hot chocolate or treat your little ones to some Christmas delights, perfect for warming up on a winter’s day.
Festive Fun at Marwell activities are available to book seven days in advance and are included in the standard ticket price. For more information visit www.marwell.org.uk/Christmas/
On Stage this Christmas
Saturday 04 December 2021 – Sunday 02 January 2022
Entertain the whole family with a traditional Christmas panto at Theatre Royal Winchester. This year they bring you Aladdin, with magic, mirth and mayhem abound in this timeless rags to riches tale. With original songs, a great cast and hilarious script, this family show will be pure Genie-us!
There is a feast of other shows taking the stage so check out www.theatreroyalwinchester.co.uk for the full programme.
Winchester Gingerbread Trail
Saturday 20 November 2021 – Tuesday 04 January 2022
To keep everyone entertained as you wander round, the Winchester Business Improvement District has arranged the Winchester Gingerbread Trail. Find the 10 Gingerbread characters located across Winchester city centre, to discover 10 unique letters. You can collect a trail sheet at Visitor Information Centre, Winchester Discovery Centre and Winchester City Museum, and there is a chance to win a hamper.
Other things to enjoy on a visit to Winchester
Winchester offers great shopping opportunities to find that perfect gift. There is a vast array of independent shops, popular High Street brands and vibrant street markets. There are also great places to eat and drink during your visit. Winchester has a lively café culture and dining opportunities to suit all budgets.
Winchester City Museum takes you back into Victorian times via a breath-taking scale model of how Winchester looked 150 years ago. There are three galleries to explore dating back to Winchester’s origins as an Iron Age trading centre to Anglo‑Saxon glory, the last journey of Jane Austen to the hunt for King Alfred’s remains.
Winchester College was founded in 1382, Winchester College is believed to be the oldest school in the country. The Winchester College Treasury houses the school’s unique collections of art and archaeology. These include artefacts from Egypt, Greece and Rome, casts of the Parthenon Frieze, and Chinese ceramics from the Tang to Qing dynasties. The Treasury is open to the public daily 2-4pm.
Details for all these attractions can be found at www.visitwinchester.com.
Room at the Inn
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’s tranquil ANA Spa can add some further pampering to your stay. There is also a chance to celebrate with some themed party nights, festive afternoon teas and a banquet to see in the New Year.
Visit www.hiwinchester.co.uk for full details.
We want everyone to have a happy and healthy visit to Winchester. We urge visitors to keep up to date with the latest government advice and respect and protect others, so that we can all enjoy the festivities.
18 November – Christmas Lights Switch On and Snow Globe in The Square
19 November – 22 December Winchester Cathedral Christmas Market
20 November – 04 January Winchester Gingerbread Trail
04 December – 02 January – Aladdin Pantomime
01 December Christmas at Marwell
18 December – 22 December Santa at the Great Hall