The festive season is well and truly upon us, and with Christmas fast approaching, what better way to get into the Christmas spirit than to visit a Christmas market!
Originating in Germany, Christmas markets date back as far as the 13th century, and have become a tradition that has spread across the globe. German-style Christmas markets have popped up all over the UK and luckily for us there are two right on our doorstep; Southampton Christmas Market and Winchester Cathedral Christmas Market
From the 15th of November, Southampton City Centre is adorned with lights and Christmas decorations as the much anticipated ‘Christmas Festival’ arrives. Back-to-back wooden chalets line the centre of the street and the smell of caramelised nuts, waffles and bratwurst sausages waft in the air. Two large bars are nestled between the wooden stalls, serving an array of christmassy booze to fuel the buzzing crowds. The open air bars are packed with people – bobble hats off to you if you can get a seat. Serving hot cider, mulled wine and Baileys hot chocolate, your alcohol blanket will be extra warm. Christmas music blares out of the speakers and you (and everyone else) can’t help but sing along. As you wander around the stalls that sell all sorts of gifts and goods, look out for Santa and his sleigh shooting across the sky/zip-line – a magical sight. With easy access, free admission and Southampton voted “one of the most christmassy cities in the UK”, it would be foolish not to go.
For the adventurous and perhaps more sophisticated of us, head over to Winchester to visit its highly regarded Christmas market. Right by the cathedral, Winchester Christmas Market is recognised as one of the best in Europe; evident in the long queue that snakes around the side of the cathedral. Don’t let this put you off, as it is fairly fast moving and you can bop to some Christmas carols as you wait. On entering the Christmas market you are transported to a quaint German village comprised of beautifully decorated alpine chalets. The stalls, selling handcrafted goods, decorations and a variety of food and drink, are perfect for purchasing a (thoughtful) last minute gift. An ice rink forms the centrepiece of the market – fun for the coordinated and penguin-pushers alike. There is a bustling atmosphere, and an aroma of mulled wine and spiced fruit muddling in the air. The flowing procession of people grind to a halt in one special place – the food court. Serving up various culinary delights and alcohol infused beverages, the food court is the place to be. Munch on some roasted chestnuts whilst you watch the steam evaporate from the giant cauldron of mulled wine. The cathedral’s chiming bells add to the christmassy aura, and as the sun sets the cathedral is lit up with brightly coloured lights. Winchester Cathedral Christmas Market is charming and merry, and definitely worthy of its great reputation.
Though not quite Winter Wonderland, the local Christmas markets are great for a festive outing with friends and family… or even a date.
Tips: Bring cash, warm clothes and Christmas cheer of course!
Dates, opening times and admission:
Southampton – 15th Nov – 23rd Dec. Chalets open 10am-8pm (bars open until 10pm) Mon-Sun. Free admission.
Winchester – 17th Nov – 20th Dec. Sunday-Wednesday 10am-6pm, Thursday-Saturday, 10am-8pm. Free admission.