Winchester Christmas Market, Winchester, Hampshire (December)
Winchester Christmas Market, held in the grounds of the city’s cathedral, is celebrating its 10th year. If you visit on Sunday 11th December, Winchester Farmers’ Market will also be in full swing. With smart independent shops and a thriving restaurant and café scene, you can wrap up all your Christmas shopping in one delicious day out in this historic Hampshire town.
Winchester Christmas Market now celebrating its 10th year, is one of the largest in Europe
1. Get Christmassy at the Christmas Market
Located in the grounds of Winchester Cathedral and centered around an ice rink, there are over 100 chalets to browse at Winchester Christmas Market. Shop for British craft products, Christmas decorations and artisan food gifts.
What to Eat: Get into the spirit with a glass of mulled wine, roast chestnuts, Bratwurst sausages, rich hot chocolate and sticks of sugary melted marshmallows.
Warm up with some mulled wine
What to Buy: Cheese gifts from Godminster – the heart-shaped cheese coated in red wax is a best seller and the Bloody Mary Gift Box with its fiery horseradish vodka is great for the morning after. Infused spirits and liquers from Forager, raw honey and beeswax candles, and artisan ales from Downton Brewery are all good too. For an easy supper, buy a Vacherin Mont d’Or, a sensational seasonal cow’s cheese from France. Add a splash of white wine and a garlic bulb to it and bake it in the oven for 20 minutes. Serve it with new potatoes, slices of ham and cocktail onions and gherkins. If you live in London, you can find Vacherin Mont d’Or at La Fromagerie in Marylebone.
Godminster Cheese Stall
Buy Vacherin Mont d’Or to bake at home
2. Shop for local Hampshire produce at Winchester Farmers’ Market
With over 90 producer stalls, the market is widely regarded as the UK’s largest Farmers’ Market. It takes place all along the High street on the second and final Sunday of each month and was voted best in the country by Guardian Food Magazine.
What to Buy: Garlic products from the Isle of Wight Garlic Farm, wine from Hambledon Vineyard, watercress and New Forest wild venison. If you’re peckish, try an organic buffalo burger from Manor Farm at Broughton.
3. Visit The ‘Made in Hampshire’ Pop-Up Shop
Winchester City Museum is currently hosting a small but unique pop-up shop showcasing more than 30 local, independent makers, producers and artists.
What to Buy: Bottles of Twisted Nose gin distilled at Winchester Distillery with local watercress and lavender, English sparkling wine from Hattingley Valley vineyard and beer selection boxes from Upham brewery.
Twisted Nose Watercress Gin
Hattingley Valley Rosé
4. Have lunch at the River Cottage Canteen
Hugh’s Winchester restaurant is housed in an old silk mill in Abbey Mill Gardens at the lower end of the town (look out for the white columns). With dining space spread over two floors and friendly service, indulge in mouth-watering Christmas specials. Booking essential.
What to Eat: Roasted pumpkin & bramley apple soup with hazlenut pesto, River Cottage ale-braised beef & onions with bashed carrots, thyme and turnips followed by mincemeat & marzipan bakewell with cider brandy crème fraîche.
River Cottage Canteen in Abbey Mill Gardens
Enjoy the festive menu in the restaurant
Give The Gift of River Cottage
5. Shop for Chocolate Gifts at Chococo
Dorset’s favourite chocolatier has a chocolate house in Winchester. If you’re still hungry after lunch, indulge in a Chocolate Afternoon tea. If not, browse the shop for fresh handmade chocolates and gifts.
What to Buy: Chocolate fish & chips are fun gifts for children, bars of salted milk chocolate, dark chocolate orange segments and chocolate bars from Britain’s best bean-to-bar producers including Pump Street Bakery and Duffys.
Chococco Chocolate Shop
Winchester’s Specialist Tea Shop
6. Buy specialist tea from Char
This independent tea specialist has been a Winchester resident for over 10 years. With over 150 loose leaf teas to choose from, you can go potty over the different blends and buy tea accessories.
What to Buy: Winchester Breakfast tea, Lady Winchester, Lapsang Souchong, Smokey Gunpowder, colourful teapots and the National Trust’s book ‘Tea Classified’.
7. Shop for Stylish Christmas Presents at the Hambledon Gallery
The Hambledon Gallery is Winchester’s smartest gift shop. Housed in a beautiful old building its wares are spread over several floors.
Gill Meller’s book ‘Gather’
Vintage style Christmas Cake decorations
What to Buy: Gather, the book by Gill Meller, Head Chef at River Cottage, (food writer, Diana Henry, recommends it as her favourite cookbook of 2016). Sets of enamel pie dishes, Italian-inspired food gifts: amaretti biscotti (for an easy dessert, bash them up and mix with cream and stewed fruit); elegant boxes of fruit jellies and bottles of aged balsamic vinegar. Decorate your Christmas cake with shimmery vintage style mini Christmas trees. Get festive with party hats, paper chains and balloons.
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8. Visit the gift shop at Winchester City Mill
The City’s historic water mill is run by the National Trust. Its well-stocked gift shop has everything you need to get ready to start your Christmas baking
Books For Cooks
9. Have a Cocktail in the bar at the Hotel du Vin
Have a cocktail, a glass of wine or a gin and tonic made using Hampshire’s other famous gin, Bombay Sapphire. If you are staying in the area for a few days, do the gin tour at Bombay Sapphire’s distillery at Laverstoke Mill, near Basingstoke.
10. Dine at Rick Stein’s Restaurant
Go for dinner at Rick Stein’s restaurant, miss the last train home and check in to the Hotel du Vin for the night so you can do it all again the next day.
- Winchester Christmas Market is open until 20th December
- Its popularity makes parking in the town tricky. Use the Park & Ride or travel to Winchester by train
- If you decide to have a foodie weekend break in Winchester, explore the nearby Georgian town of Alresford and enjoy a day out on the Watercress Line (they do santa specials in the run up to Christmas)
- Come back again in February for Winchester cocktail week
Where to Stay
Hotel du Vin Winchester – Housed in a beautiful Georgian building, this was the very first Hotel du Vin. Relax with a glass of wine in the 18th century walled garden, eat in the bistro and get expert guidance from the Sommelier.
Hannah’s B&B in Winchester – Lovely and luxurious B&B in this beautiful home located in central Winchester.
Lainston House – a luxurious country house hotel experience. Lainston House is ideal for food-lovers with its own very smart Season cookery school.
They tell me that dogs are allowed within the Christmas Market but must be on a lead or carried at all times. They do not recommend I visit the Christmas Market at weekends because it gets very busy.