Winchester: the perfect Christmas destination - retailers and tourism businesses join forces

Press Release: 26/11/2014

Winchester Christmas

With a month to go until Christmas Day, Winchester’s Christmas lights are on, the Cathedral’s Christmas Market and Ice Rink are in full flow and the shops and eateries across the city are in festive mode – including a Victorian-themed tourist information centre.

A new campaign – Winchester: The Perfect Christmas – is being run by Winchester City Council, Winchester Cathedral and Winchester BID with Theatre Royal Winchester and Marwell Zoo.

This year, Winchester City Council is working with restaurants and retailers across the district to help include as many as possible in the campaign helping spread the economic impact of the festive season more widely.

Window stickers have been hand-delivered to businesses with a breakdown of some of the activities planned, with national and international journalists descending on the city and district to sample the various activities programmed in by the larger tourism businesses.

As well as publicising family-friendly events, the Destination Management Partnership run by Winchester City Council and Tourism South East is working with the national media and international travel bloggers to raise the profile of the unique retail experiences available in the City, market towns and also Whiteley Shopping Centre.

The City Council is also publicising festive breaks and menus on and offering a memento of Perfect Christmas to members of the public via souvenir baubles for sale at the tourist information centre. Winchester Charity Christmas cards are on sale in the centre and are doing a bustling trade – with approximately 200 more people entering each day in November compared to October (518 vs 320).

As the city is expected to experience an increase in day-visits, the Council is working with Winchester BID to reduce coach parking congestion and both organisations are sponsoring extra services to increase the number of Park & Ride buses bringing visitors into the city. It is hoped that the joint Winchester City Council/Hampshire County Council initiative to install new way-finding posts also help orientate new visitors once they are in the City Centre.

Ellen Simpson, the Council’s Head of Tourism, said:

The international profile of events based in the Cathedral’s Close means we are seeing an increase in footfall throughout the city centre plus a flurry of enquiries about what there is to do right across the district. We’re balancing stories about the cathedral’s world-class ice rink and market with news about new restaurant openings and the joys of shopping on the High Street, the side streets and in a market town for a day – or nipping to Whiteley for a concentrated burst of Christmas shopping under one roof. It is all pulled together on one site – - and there’s even an updated version of the YouTube Christmas in Winchester film that will show at major events such as the Ageas Bowl drive-in movies this December.

Below are some of the district’s most festive happenings this year:

Winchester Cathedral Ice Skating

One of England’s oldest cathedrals truly embodies the spirit of Christmas, providing family events that are integral to the festive celebrations. From 20 November – 4 January, friends and family can skate under the stars behind the stunning backdrop of Winchester Cathedral. This open-air ice rink can be enjoyed by people of all ages and abilities. Sessions last approximately 50 minutes, and tickets cost £7.60 per adult and £4.00 per child*.

*£9.50 per adult and £5 per child at peak time

Winchester Cathedral Christmas Markets

After finishing an exhilarating skate, visitors can head to Winchester Cathedral’s Christmas Markets to indulge in the abundance of German-inspired festive treats and mulled wine. Located in the Cathedral’s historic inner and outer Closes, the wooden chalets are filled with a unique array of homemade crafts, gifts and snacks from high quality exhibitors. This Christmas market will be running from 20 November – 21 December and will be open every day. Free admission.

Marwell Zoo

Marwell Zoo is transforming into a Christmas haven from 22 November – 24 December, hosting an array of activities and celebrations for all to enjoy. Visitors can join the elves in the magical woodland where they will be given a festive treat, or listen to the enchanting Mrs Claus as she reads heart-warming Christmas classics. Tickets are £25 per adult, £12.50 per toddler and £5 per baby.

The Watercress Line Santa Special

This Christmas, lovingly restored steam engines will take passengers on trip a through the scenic Hampshire countryside whilst Santa makes his way around the train, giving out special treats and gifts to all children on board. Parents can sit back and enjoy the trip with a glass of wine and mince pie in hand, before making their way back to the station. Santa specials take place from the 6 – 23 December. Tickets are £18 per child and adult. Baby tickets are £10.

Winchester’s Giant Snow Globe

On 12 and 13 December, a giant snow globe will be located outside Guildhall Winchester. Once in the snow globe, everyone will be supplied with a Christmas-themed photo mount, the perfect memento for a festive filled trip. Tickets cost £10 per group.

*Maximum group of 10 people

Sleeping Beauty at Winchester Theatre Royal

From 9 December – 4 January, the classic pantomime is coming to Winchester Theatre . Combining a twist of fire breathing dragons, a battle with good and bad and a time travelling prince, this pantomime is made all that more exciting. Tickets range from £21.50 - £8.50*.

Space Mission for Santa at Winchester Science Centre and Planetarium

A live planetarium show with a Christmassy twist especially for families – showing at weekends until Sunday 14 December then several shows daily until Sunday 21 December.

I’ve Seen Santa at Winchester Discovery Centre

Funny, festive, family theatre at Winchester Discovery Centre for children aged 3-7. It's Christmas Eve and Little Bear can't wait to see Santa – a heart-warming tale by David Bedford. Tuesday 16 December – Wednesday 24 December.

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