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Christmas 2015 in Winchester - things to do

PUBLISHED: 11:02 30 November 2015 | UPDATED: 10:30 02 December 2015

© Joe Low

© Joe Low

Copyright: Joe Low

Come winter, with its cobbled streets adorned with lights, Winchester has a real olde English magic. Throw in cool independent shops, an array of eateries and one of the best Christmas markets in Europe and you have a winning recipe for winter fun says Natalie French

Stargaze

One of the best things about the nights drawing is that it offers more opportunity to stargaze. And if you’re intrigued to learn more about the starscape above, sign up for the adult-only After Dark event at Winchester Science Centre & Planetarium on Tuesday 8 December.

Open from 5.30pm, you can enjoy a hands-on exhibition, a 360˚fulldome film, as well as a 40 minute, presenter-led planetarium live show: Flight Through the Universe. Sit back and relax as you’re taken on a whirlwind tour of the universe in one of the world’s most sophisticated planetarium cinema systems, using high quality data from spacecraft and telescopes.

You’ll start by spotting a few stars, before taking off for a tour of the solar system and then out of our galaxy into the distant universe! Not only will you learn the true position of stars and galaxies, but you’ll travel further than any astronaut and faster than the speed of light! Mind blown, you can step outside into the dark night to look up at the real stars, with a new found appreciation.

The planetarium also offers a child-friendly event during the month where families can blast off into space and help save Christmas! Space Mission for Santa is a live, 30-minute, planetarium show with a Christmas twist – and audience participation makes it perfect for little-ones, up to 10-years-old. Showings every Saturday & Sunday from November 28 to December 20 and weekdays 14 – 18 December. £3.30 - £7.50, under 3s are free if they sit on laps.

Find out more at www.winchestersciencecentre.org.


A Christmas Ceilidh

Hampshire-based, eight-piece, dynamic folk band, Threepenny Bit, will be taking over Winchester Discovery Centre for a night of celidih dancing on December 11. Playing bold arrangements of traditional and original tunes, their infectious stage energy guarantees a fantastic night. The founders of Southampton University Folk Society have produced three albums and have been regulars at festivals across the country. The event is suitable for all ages and levels, as the band’s expert caller will guide you through the steps. 7.30pm, £12, £10 concessions, £14 on the door, www3.hants.gov.uk.


Festive Mooch

Come December, the magnificent medieval Cathedral and its historic close are transformed into a winter wonderland. Over 100 cutesy wooden chalets become part of the pretty setting, selling an array of artisan gifts and delicious seasonal goodies. Winchester Cathedral Christmas Market now draws over 350,000 visitors each year and has earned a rep’ as being one of the best in the country.

This year, you can sign up for a 90-minute, twilight Christmas tower tour. Climb the Cathedral Tower to see the city sparkle below, before enjoying a mulled wine and mince pie in the Undercroft.

Back on the ground, why not soak up the festive buzz by taking to the large, outdoor, ice rink for a moon-lit skate, before indulging in another glühwein, or two.

Christmas Tower Tours run from November 20 – December 18, £15 - min age 12 years old, children under 16 to be accompanied by an adult.

Christmas Market -November 19 to December 22. Ice rink - January 3 2016. Find out more at www.winchester-cathedral.org.uk.


Shop

Winchester High Street is dotted with big names like Mint Velvet, Cath Kidston and Hobbs and you can get your luxury chocolate-fix at Montezuma’s. But it’s the independent shops that give Winchester such appeal. Boutique department-style store, The Hambledon (www.thehambledon.com), offers a menagerie of cool. From clothing, to beauty, quirky cards, books and amazing kid’s gifts, perfect for stocking fillers – old school catapult, anyone?

Some of Winchester’s finest treasures are hidden off the High Street – The Consortium (www.theconsortiumonline.co.uk) on Jewry Street, is chock-full of individual retro and vintage pieces: giant light-up letters, super-snuggly throws and cushions, vintage furniture, Newgate Beef Cuts canvas and retro telephones. Over three floors, you can lose yourself in this delightful labyrinth.

Another must-stop is Catkin and Pussywillow, ‘the florist at the station’, for the most beautiful bouquets with names to match – such as ‘Old Romantic’ or ‘My Fair Lady’ both exquisite mixes of vintage Ecuadorian Roses. (www.catkinandpussywillow.com)


Farmer’s Market

Fill your basket with Hampshire’s finest local produce, from watercress to water buffalo steaks at Winchester’s Farmer’s Market. The largest regular market in the UK, with around 90 stalls, takes place on December 13 and is the perfect chance to stock up on treats for the festive period. www.hampshirefarmersmarkets.co.uk

Slumber

Nestled on Southgate Street, a stone’s throw from the hustle, you’ll find the smallest, and some say: most perfectly formed, Hotel du Vin. Slip inside the beautiful Georgian building and choose from 24 individually-styled rooms complete with tall airy ceilings, a huge bed, Egyptian cotton linen and a heavenly monsoon shower or roll top bath. If you can drag yourself away from the room, it’s worth finding a cosy nook in the low-lit bar and working your way through the extensive wine menu. You may also want to sniff out the cigar shack, armed with your cigar of choice from the humidor. Breakfast here is king and will set you up for a day of further indulgence.

Book a room starting from £199 at www.hotelduvin.com

Feast

Foodies will love Winchester. Take a trip to the Chesil Rectory who won Restaurant of the Year at the 2015 Hampshire Life Food & Drink Awards. Feast at the fiery Teppanyaki bar at Japanese Restaurant, Sakura; dine on Michelin-starred fare at The Black Rat or choose from over 60 varieties of cider and sourdough pizza (including non gluten offerings) at The Stable. In the past year the arrival of both River Cottage Canteen – offering wholesome local, organic and wild delights; and Rick Stein Winchester – famous for über-fresh fish, have helped put the city firmly on the foodie map. But it’s not just restaurants – Winchester has plenty of pubs to keep you hydrated. In fact, you could quite easily spend a (very) hazy day touring them all! The Old Vine is a good lunch-stop, with real ales and Cathedral-views - or for something a little different head to The Black Boy for a traditional boozer with a roaring fire, old tables and chairs and an eclectic mix of art, including a taxidermy dog!

There are plenty of coffee stops too: For the morning after, find a corner in Black, White, Red on Jewry Street and take advantage of the all-day breakfast menu. Smashed eggs on toasted sourdough with avocado, chimichurri, rocket and grilled tomatoes with locally hand-roasted coffee from the Roasting Party will nip any hangovers in the bud. Alternatively, steal a window seat at Caracoli’s Espresso Bar and watch the world wander by.


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