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All you need to know about Preston in Christmas 2023

The city sparkles at Christmas. Photo: Visit Preston
The city sparkles at Christmas. Photo: Visit Preston

Santa’s steaming into the city by rail, you can meet him at the market, steer his sleigh at Barton Grange or see him at Ho-Ho-Hoghton Tower. With Christmas Carols, free parking, late night Christmas shopping and more, it really is the season to visit Preston.

Small enough to feel like home and large enough to have something to discover around every corner, Preston has been named the best place in the north west to live and work for the third year running according to the Good Growth for Cities Index.

A city of art both indoors and out, The Harris - Preston’s free museum, gallery and library - is currently undergoing an exciting £16m regeneration project to redefine the space for 21st century audiences and will reopen in spring 2024. The Harris library, shop and various other services have temporarily moved to the Guild Hall, and a familiar artwork from the Harris collection, Pauline in the Yellow Dress has been reimagined and brought outside by talented mural artist Shawn Sharpe.

Great British Life: Shawn Sharpe's mural 'Rose in the Yellow Dress' Photo by Orok Brooks, The Flying IboShawn Sharpe's mural 'Rose in the Yellow Dress' Photo by Orok Brooks, The Flying Ibo

Updated with the city crest’s iconic lamb, Shawn’s version titled Rose in the Yellow Dress - on the wall of The Northern Way pub on Friargate - proudly celebrates Preston. It’s a follow up to his earlier mural Mother on the wall of Hogarths gin bar on Church Street, a 14m x 8m artwork which caused slight controversy for being painted on a listed building without planning consent. However, thanks to its ‘non-permanent’ nature, planning officers gave it retrospective approval amidst an outpouring of local support.

There’s art to enjoy in all corners of Preston. The Birley is an artist-led studio and project space in the city centre which hosts workshops, exhibitions and live events, and UCLan’s PR1 Gallery features two levels of exhibitions from the university's students, staff, and alumni. PR1 Gallery also welcomes many touring shows and is open weekdays with free entry.

Preston is a historic city with its name supposedly derived from ‘Priests’ Town’ suggesting religious origins in the Anglo Saxon period. Visitors to Preston can find history in the varied architecture and also in the antiques and vintage shops across the city. Preston Antique Centre is set over multiple floors of a vast former cotton mill and offers free entry to browse a huge treasure trove of antiques and collectables.

Great British Life: View of the River Ribble from Avenham Park. PHOTO: Kirsty ThompsonView of the River Ribble from Avenham Park. PHOTO: Kirsty Thompson

On yer bike!

Preston offers the best of both a glittering city atmosphere and an easy escape to the countryside, with stunning rural scenery and quiet nature reserves like Brockholes just a stone’s throw away.

If you want to blow away the cobwebs with fresh air and green space, there are a number of parks including the expansive Avenham and Miller Parks complete with cafe and Japanese rock garden. Another opportunity to get out and get fit comes in the form of the Guild Wheel; a 21-mile cycling and walking route that encircles Preston and showcases all the different landscapes that surround the city.

A taste of Preston

Cafes, coffee shops, bars and restaurants are plentiful. Why not visit Rise. in the morning? A cheery brunch spot at the entrance to the Victorian Miller Arcade. For lunch (or coffee and a cake) Bruccianis is a lasting staple on Preston’s high street featuring décor and details that reflect its 1930s heritage. There are countless restaurants to choose from for your evening meal, and Fino is a particular favourite serving modern tapas above PLAU Gin & Beer House on Friargate.

PLAU is a popular and historic Friargate venue with vaults that are being taken over by Rivington Brewing Co throughout autumn and winter. Ben Stubbs, founder of Rivington Brewing Co, said: ‘We're mega excited to have a pop-up in the iconic Vaults at PLAU over the Christmas period. We're looking forward to bringing a variety of styles, collaborations, events and beer launches to one the most unique bars in the country.’

Friargate will also play host to another pop-up over the Christmas period; the return of the seasonal Winter Lodge. This is Preston’s only dedicated Christmas bar and the alpine-style venue features cosy seats, wooden huts, tartan blankets, and 10,000 fairy lights - not to mention the mulled wine, draught beer, warm brandy, and hot chocolates.

Seeing Santa

Apparently the big chap in red loves Preston so there are plenty of opportunities for families to catch up with him and check you’re all on the nice list. It’s free to see Father Christmas at Preston Market on December 9, he has a grotto for the season at Ribby Hall, you can take a magical VR sleigh ride at Barton Grange, meet him by the fire in Hoghton Tower’s banqueting hall, or hop on a festive vintage train with him from the Ribble Steam Railway Museum near Preston Docks for a magical 45-minute rail journey.

Great British Life: Take a seat outside Preston Market with the Wallace and Gromit statue. PHOTO:Kirsty ThompsonTake a seat outside Preston Market with the Wallace and Gromit statue. PHOTO:Kirsty Thompson

Seasonal songs

According to the movie Elf, ‘the best way to spread festive cheer is singing loud for all to hear.’ So why not take the opportunity to hear (and join in) with some Christmas classics throughout December; 100 singers from different choirs will kick off the Christmas season on December 2 with carols and Christmas music on the Flag Market, you can catch Preston Playhouse’s Christmas Cavalcade the same day featuring the Freckleton Band and singers from Preston Musical Comedy Society; there will be Victorian Carol Singers at Preston Market on December 9; Sunday December 10 is the Christmas Concert in Winckley Square; and the illustrious Magio Strings will be filling Fishergate Shopping Centre with Christmas harmonies on December 8 and 14.

And on the subject of Christmas Carols - arguably the finest retelling of Dickens’ classic tale - A Muppet’s Christmas Carol is the family film of choice playing in the Guild Hall Foyer on Saturday December 16.

Show-ho-ho time

It’s panto season at Preston Playhouse and this year the cast are sharing a glitzy, dance-filled version of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves December 8-20.

For a performance that’s a little less sparkly and a bit more spooky, Samlesbury Hall (Lancashire’s most haunted hall) has a new Christmas ghost story Lot 13. Families looking for a ‘spine-chilling experience’ will follow the ghostly Christmas tale through time and through various rooms of the hall as each scene of the story unfolds. This promenade theatre experience takes around 40 minutes and is set simultaneously in the present day and in the roaring 20s. Performances last approximately 40 minutes and begin at 6pm, 7pm, 8pm, 9pm and 10pm on December 17, 18, 19, 20, 21 and 22. Tickets must be booked in advance.

Great British Life: Bustling shops along Fishergate. PHOTO:Kirsty ThompsonBustling shops along Fishergate. PHOTO:Kirsty Thompson

Christmas shopping yule love

The city has a mixture of independent shops and boutiques alongside the big-name retailers on Fishergate and in the bustling shopping centres like St George’s. There’s also Preston’s much-loved markets with their combination of traditional traders and modern stalls. Look out for regular outdoor markets, the impressive market hall with its Wallace and Gromit statue, the innovative Box Market where independent traders occupy repurposed shipping containers, and a host of varied events held at the Flag Market - including a Christmas Makers market on Saturday 9 December.

Preston even manages to take the stress out of Christmas shopping with free parking and late night opening hours. (Check Preston Council’s website for all the relevant dates and times).

Ding dong merrily on the high street.

Visitpreston.com



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