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How to spend Christmas in Winchester in Hampshire

Christmas lights in Winchester (c) Robin Waldman
Christmas lights in Winchester (c) Robin Waldman

Robin Waldman concludes his year-long column with a stroll around the most Christmassy city in the UK

So long, farewell

Christmas is a sentimental time and for us there is a little emotion in writing this article as it is our final regular feature. In the future we will contribute to the magazine when we have extra special Hampshire places and moments to share with Hampshire life readers. So, we sign off appropriately with a piece full of sparkle and light! Across Hampshire during the Christmas season there are so many wonderful places and events to visit that bring out the festive spirit in us, so it was hard to choose what to tell you about. We have decided to share our meanderings to one of our favourite areas, Winchester city and the surrounding countryside.

Great British Life: Special crafts in the Christmas market (c) Robin WaldmanSpecial crafts in the Christmas market (c) Robin Waldman Merry market

Winchester, with its Christmas market in the Cathedral grounds, high street decorations and magnificent tree by the Buttercross, is a magnet for locals and visitors alike. The market attracts more than 400,000 visitors each year and it’s hard to believe it only started in 2006. Sadly, since Covid, there is no longer an ice rink, but this has allowed for a much bigger space for eating and drinking surrounded by the stalls in their wooden chalets circling Cathedral Close. What makes this market so special is the unique and exclusive gifts and decorations that can be found, many from Hampshire-based businesses.

Great British Life: A festive feel in Winchester (c) Robin WaldmanA festive feel in Winchester (c) Robin Waldman Secret side streets

However, what we love about Winchester at Christmas is the way you turn a corner and encounter an enchanting, Harry Potter-esque street scene that is less crowded and, we feel, more magical than the main market. One of our absolute favourites is Kingsgate village. Walk away south from the market, through the old wooden Winchester Cathedral Gates in Cathedral Close. You then pass under the arch of Kingsgate and usually there is a Christmas tree with twinkling lights and the delights of the Christmassy shops to enjoy.

Great British Life: St. Swithun-upon-Kingsgate Church (c) Robin WaldmanSt. Swithun-upon-Kingsgate Church (c) Robin Waldman Quiet contemplation

If it’s open, it is always a pleasure to go up the old steps next to the arch and enter St. Swithun-upon-Kingsgate Church, which as the name suggests, is a tiny church that sits above the archway itself. It has a serenity and simplicity that, even if you are not of the Christian faith, provides a peaceful haven for quiet contemplation. As you go under Kingsgate there are shops and the old bookshop, PG Wells. All will make you breathe in the spirit of Christmas, following in the footsteps of Jane Austen near the house she lived in.

Great British Life: Winchester is full of independent businesses (c) Robin WaldmanWinchester is full of independent businesses (c) Robin Waldman Winchester's indies

Many of the shops around the city are independents and so you can find some wonderful hand-crafted Xmas presents from places such as The Hambledon and The Consortium. You can find full shop listings along with all the information for what’s on for families throughout December on the Winchester bid website, winchesterbid.co.uk.

Great British Life: Winchester Guildhall in lights (c) Robin WaldmanWinchester Guildhall in lights (c) Robin Waldman Festive food and lights

If you cut round the back of the Cathedral, you come out by Winchester Guildhall, which is usually lit up to bring a magnificence to the south end of the High Street. Here you'll find foodie treats at Patisserie Valerie and Chococo, and Rick Steins or Shoal are two perfect plaices (excuse the pun) for a fish supper to finish off your day.

Great British Life: Farley Mount Country Park (c) Robin WaldmanFarley Mount Country Park (c) Robin Waldman From city to country

Winchester as a city is special because of its proximity to so much wonderful countryside. So, to bring a different kind of light and sparkle to end our mid-winter edition we head out to Farley Mount Country Park, a mere ten minutes from the city bustle. From the road, a gradual uphill trek leads to a left-hand track that takes you directly to Farley Mount Monument. This is a monument built by the owner for their very special horse in the 18th century.

Great British Life: Trig point, Fawley (c) Robin WaldmanTrig point, Fawley (c) Robin Waldman Highest heights

The white chapel-like building occupies a perfect hill-top position on a small mound with incredible 360-degree views, including as far as Fawley on a clear day. It’s a beautiful spot to appreciate the winter landscape. This trig point marks one of the highest points in Hampshire at around 174 metres. The country park and surrounding areas offers many routes for walking and cycling at all times of the year.

Great British Life: A crisp winter's day (c) Robin WaldmanA crisp winter's day (c) Robin Waldman A winter beauty

We were lucky to have a day with hoar frost and sunshine to transform the landscape into a sparkling winter wonderland. Unlike snow, which blankets everything, the hoar frost makes each element glisten with a clear, icy coating of individual crystals. A photographer’s delight! So, up close, the hoar frost on cow parsley skeletons with the sun rising provides a fitting end to our one-year series of articles, sharing so many of our favourite Hampshire places.

We hope you have enjoyed reading them and if you want to continue to follow our Hampshire adventures find us with @ourhampshire on Facebook, Instagram and tiktok.

READ MORE: Winchester second happiest place to live in Great Britain



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