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Gems of Paris by French Moments

Renowned as one of the best in Europe, the Winchester Christmas market is inspired by traditional German Christmas markets. Visitors enjoy its lively atmosphere and unique location in the shadow of the historic cathedral. I visited it a few days ago and I’m happy to share my photos and impressions with you here on the blog!

Introduction to Winchester Christmas Market

It is estimated that the Winchester Christmas Market attracts over 400,000 visitors each year.

It is a free event open to all, organised by Winchester Cathedral, hence its official name: Winchester Cathedral Christmas Market.

Winchester Christmas Market © French Moments
Winchester Christmas Market © French Moments

An adapted Christmas Market in 2021

The first edition of the Winchester Christmas Market took place in 2006 – so it is relatively new. Cancelled in 2020 during the pandemic crisis, it reopened in 2021 to the delight of visitors.

Like many Christmas markets in Europe, the Winchester market has undergone some changes.

The pandemic crisis took its toll on the iconic ice rink that was at the centre of the market until 2019.

The attraction has been replaced by a large food court with ample seating and a stage for artists to perform.

The organisers have also moved some of the chalets and widened the aisles. By making the market widely spaced, visitors can move around freely as it is not as crowded as in previous years.

Winchester Christmas Market © French Moments
At the Winchester Christmas market © French Moments

Walking through the Winchester Christmas Market

This was my first visit to an English Christmas market. I am familiar with those in France (Alsace and Lorraine) and Germany. Since I live in England, this was an event I wanted to discover. All the English Christmas markets had been cancelled in 2020 and I was looking forward to coming to Winchester during Advent.

The Christmas market is accessed through a passageway to the right of the cathedral’s western façade. It leads to a sort of grassy courtyard, called the “Inner Close“.

Some chalets occupy the empty space between the cathedral’s buttresses.

Winchester Christmas Market © French Moments
A German-inspired Christmas market © French Moments

The Christmas market has small wooden chalets selling a range of Christmas gifts and delicious seasonal treats.

Winchester Christmas Market © French Moments
The Winchester Christmas market © French Moments
Winchester Christmas Market © French Moments
The chalets of the Winchester Christmas market © French Moments
Winchester Christmas Market © French Moments
A stroll at the Winchester Christmas market © French Moments
Winchester Christmas Market © French Moments
The Winchester Christmas market © French Moments
Winchester Christmas Market © French Moments
The chalets by the cathedral © French Moments
Winchester Christmas Market © French Moments
Caramelised almonds © French Moments

A part of the Christmas market is dedicated to local craftsmen:

Winchester Christmas Market © French Moments
The artisans’ part of the market © French Moments

There are traditional Christmas decorations, unique crafts, food gifts and artworks by local artists from Hampshire and as far away as Belarus.

Winchester Christmas Market © French Moments
Christmas decorations © French Moments

Artifactually Christmas baubles

One of the stalls I liked the most was Artifactually. It is a sort of Ali Baba’s cave!

The Artifactually chalet © French Moments
The Artifactually chalet © French Moments

This decorative glasshouse from Guildford (Surrey) offers refined Christmas ornaments at several Christmas markets in England. Each bauble is unique as it is made from blown glass and then individually engraved, hand-painted and trimmed in silver or sparkling gold.

The Artifactually chalet © French Moments
Baubles from Artifactually © French Moments

Artifactually designs and creates its handmade ornaments from the finest materials. The baubles are available in 8 beautiful colours and 6 sizes.

The Artifactually chalet © French Moments
The Artifactually chalet © French Moments
The Artifactually chalet © French Moments
Christmas baubles from Artifactually © French Moments

The food court

The new food court, which is larger than in previous years, houses several food chalets for eating in or taking away. There are traditional bratwurst, burgers and hot dogs, grilled cheese toasties and delicious brownies.

Winchester Christmas Market © French Moments
The food court at the centre of the Christmas market © French Moments

The traditional Fish and Chip cart to remember the nearby sea at Christmas…

Winchester Christmas Market © French Moments
The Fish and Chip stall © French Moments

The Burger Van offers burgers cooked the old fashioned way with a range of toppings to choose from.

Winchester Christmas Market © French Moments
The Burger Van © French Moments

The Gourmet Grilled Cheese Company comes to us from the nearby New Forest. The chalet offers grilled cheese sandwiches made with award-winning British cheeses, including the famous local Lyburn cheese.

Winchester Christmas Market © French Moments
The Gourmet Grilled Cheese Company © French Moments

Chalet Bratwurst. A must with the specialities of a German Christmas market. The Chalet Bratwurst offers traditional German sausages, cooked onions and delicious condiments accompanied by draught beer and a range of soft drinks.

Winchester Christmas Market © French Moments
The Chalet Bratwurst © French Moments

The Franc-Comtois chalet Fromage and Co. It reminds me of the Montbéliard Christmas market where I discovered similar stalls. The chalet offers fricassee comtoise, fried potatoes, grilled Montbéliard smoked sausage, served with a choice of raclette cheese or melted comté.

Winchester Christmas Market © French Moments
The Franc-Comtois chalet Fromage and Co © French Moments

The stage

In the centre of the square is the stage, which hosts local bands from all over Hampshire, including choirs, community groups, school choirs, street musicians and jazz bands.

Winchester - school choir © French Moments
School choir on the market’s stage © French Moments
Winchester - Jazz music on the market's stage © French Moments
Jazz music on the market’s stage © French Moments

My impressions of the Winchester Christmas Market?

I found this Christmas market to be very charming and, although it doesn’t match the finest Alsatian Christmas markets, it deserves its title as one of the finest in England. The market is ideally situated in the shadow of the stunning Gothic cathedral.

Winchester Christmas Market © French Moments
At the Winchester Christmas Market © French Moments

My daughter (8 years old) was disappointed, however, that there were no chalets offering toys or children’s items (except for one craftsman with some great mechanical constructions).

There was no children’s carousel or merry-go-round, which might have helped make the Christmas market more suitable for kids…


Christmas in Winchester

If, like me, you’re in the mood for a bit more walking and sightseeing to see the Christmas lights in Winchester, follow the guide!

Winchester Cathedral

Winchester Cathedral has been a place of worship for over 900 years. Built from 1079, it is one of the most beautiful medieval cathedrals in Europe. It is also one of the longest.

Winchester cathedral at Christmas © French Moments
Winchester cathedral at Christmas © French Moments

The shrine is the burial place of many bishops of Winchester, Anglo-Saxon and English monarchs (such as Egbert of Wessex, King Canute and William Rufus).

During Advent, the cathedral’s facades are illuminated in shades of pink and blue. The magnificent western facade is illuminated in pink.

Winchester cathedral at Christmas © French Moments
Winchester Cathedral at Christmas © French Moments
Winchester cathedral at Christmas © French Moments
The west front of Winchester Cathedral © French Moments
Winchester cathedral at Christmas © French Moments
The park of the cathedral © French Moments

Winchester Cathedral Inner Close

The Christmas market is located behind the cathedral in the Inner Close. This is the historic area of the cathedral and contains a number of historic buildings from the time when the cathedral was also a priory.

Of particular note is the Deanery, which dates from the 13th century. It was originally the home of the prior and the birthplace of Arthur, Prince of Wales, in 1486. Not far away is Cheyney Court, a mid-15th century half-timbered house that included the porter’s lodge at the priory gate. It was the Bishop’s courthouse.

Cheyney Court, Winchester © French Moments
Cheyney Court, Winchester © French Moments

Great Minster Street

Great Minster Street, along the western side of the cathedral grounds, is very picturesque.

Great Minster Street, Winchester © French Moments
The picturesque Great Minster Street, Winchester © French Moments

At nightfall, the windows of Minster House reveal pretty Christmas decorations and a lit tree.

Minster House, Winchester © French Moments
Minster House, Winchester © French Moments
Minster House, Winchester © French Moments
The door of Minster House, Winchester © French Moments

You only have to stray a little from the beaten track to discover enchanting night scenes…

Great Minster Street, Winchester © French Moments
Great Minster Street, Winchester © French Moments

Winchester City Museum

The Winchester City Museum documents the history of the city from the Iron Age to the present day on three floors.

The Winchester City Museum at Christmas © French Moments
The Winchester City Museum at Christmas © French Moments

Amongst the exhibits are Roman mosaics, a collection of Anglo-Saxon jewellery and a fascinating model of the original medieval settlement from that period.

The Square and its narrow passage

From the Museum Square, a narrow passageway leads to the High Street, past the almost hidden church of St Lawrence-in-the-Square.

The Square, Winchester © French Moments
The Square, Winchester © French Moments

This was the site of King William the Conqueror’s palace, built shortly after the Battle of Hastings.

The site of King William the Conqueror's palace in Winchester © French Moments
The site of King William the Conqueror’s palace in Winchester © French Moments

The Buttercross

Once on the High Street, turn around to see the Buttercross. This is a monumental cross dating from the 15th century.

The Buttercross, Winchester © French Moments
The Buttercross, Winchester © French Moments

With its pinnacles, the cross stands on five octagonal steps. As it is situated in the High Street shopping street, the steps were suitable for the merchants’ goods. Butter, cheese, eggs and milk were probably all sold from the steps of the cross to the good people of Winchester. Hence its present name…

The High Street

Winchester’s great illuminated Christmas tree stands on the High Street towards the Westgate.

Winchester's Christmas tree on the High Street © French Moments
Winchester’s Christmas tree on the High Street © French Moments

I decided to walk along the High Street towards the Guildhall.

There are some beautiful half-timbered houses, some of which are beautifully decorated and lit up for Christmas.

High Street, Winchester © French Moments
High Street, Winchester © French Moments
High Street, Winchester © French Moments
High Street, Winchester © French Moments

The Guildhall

The imposing neo-Gothic Guildhall building stands at the end of the High Street, towards the statue of the Anglo-Saxon King Alfred the Great.

The Guildhall of Winchester at Christmas © French Moments
The Guildhall of Winchester at Christmas © French Moments

Built in 1871 during the Victorian era, the Guildhall is a civic and conference centre. On the ground floor, there is a café and the Winchester Tourist Information Centre.

Abbey Gardens Public Garden

The garden in front of Abbey Gardens Manor is beautifully lit at night.

Abbey Gardens Manor, Winchester © French Moments
Abbey Gardens Manor, Winchester © French Moments
Abbey Gardens Manor, Winchester © French Moments
The gardens of Abbey Gardens Manor, Winchester © French Moments
Abbey Gardens Manor, Winchester © French Moments
The Christmas lights in Abbey Gardens © French Moments

Visiting tips

The best time to visit Winchester Cathedral Christmas Market is after dark, from 4 pm.

The Christmas Market is open until 6.30 pm Sunday to Wednesday and 8 pm Thursday to Saturday.

Getting to Winchester by car

Winchester is situated not far from the port cities of Southampton and Portsmouth (with their ferries to France), on the M3 motorway from Southampton to London:

  • 23 km from Southampton (Ferry Terminal) – about 30 min drive
  • 47 km from Portsmouth (Ferry Terminal) – about 40 min drive
  • 110 km from central London (1h45)

Parking in Winchester

Although separated from the city centre by the cathedral building, Winchester Christmas Market is in the heart of the city. Ideally, you should use public transport and park-and-ride facilities to come by bus. This is what we did to get there.

Park and Ride combined with the bus is by far the easiest way to get to the historic centre and the Christmas market.

The bus stop at the Barfield Park & Ride Car Park - Winchester © French Moments
The bus stop at the Barfield Park & Ride Car Park © French Moments

Coming from Southampton on the M3 motorway, we parked the car at the Barfield Park & Ride car park. From there, the shuttle bus took us to the city centre in less than 5 minutes (stop: Broadway Abbey Gardens).

Getting to Winchester by train and plane

Winchester railway station has direct links to Southampton and London.

The nearest international airport is Southampton Airport. It is less than 20 minutes away by car or train.

Where to stay in Winchester at Christmas

There are many hotels and B&Bs in Winchester.

Some of the best hotels in Winchester include the excellent Hotel du Vin & Bistro, which has old-world charm and quality bedding.

The charming Wykeham Arms is an old inn with quaint rooms that offers a superb dining experience.

If you’re looking for cheaper, slightly more modest hotels, consider a stay at The Winchester Hotel & Spa, popular for its central location and attractive decor, or the modern Holiday Inn Winchester, which offers bright, comfortable rooms and suites near the city centre.

Click on this link or browse the map below for other accommodation options in Winchester:



Booking.com

Christmas in Winchester © French Moments
Christmas enchantment in Winchester © French Moments

Find out more!

The Winchester Christmas Market runs from late November to Christmas (in 2021: 19/11 to 22/12).

Did you like what you read? If so, please share this article on Facebook or Twitter! 🙂

Pin the Winchester Christmas market for later

Winchester Christmas Market for Pinterest © French Moments

Christmas Markets in the UK for Pinterest


 

Gems of Paris by French Moments
About the author

Pierre is a French/Australian who is passionate about France and its culture. He grew up in France and Germany and has also lived in Australia and England. He has a background teaching French, Economics and Current Affairs, and holds a Master of Translating and Interpreting English-French with the degree of Master of International Relations, and a degree of Economics and Management. Pierre is the author of the Discovery Course on the Secrets of the Eiffel Tower and the Christmas book "Voyage au Pays de Noël".

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