As the nights draw in the picturesque towns and cities of the South are transformed in to winter wonderlands, coming alive with twinkling lights, festive entertainment and delicious, seasonal aromas. Discover the magic of Christmas by visiting the enchanting local destinations, many of which wholeheartedly embrace the festive spirit with Christmas markets, Victorian scenes, grottos, ice rinks and spectacular seasonal events.
Traditional Christmas Markets
For a traditional European take on Christmas enjoy the historic landmarks and fresh, crisp evenings with lashings of mulled wine and mouth-watering treats at one of the South's continental markets. The Winchester Christmas Market (20 Nov-21 Dec 14) attracts over 350,000 visitors each year and is recognised as one of the best in Europe. Inspired by the traditional German markets, the pretty wooden chalets surround an open-air real ice rink, all in the shadow of the impressive Winchester Cathedral.
Stay at The Old Vine, a grade II listed, 18th Century inn located opposite the Cathedral green and enjoy excellent real ales, fine wines and a roaring log fire in their cosy, oak-beamed bar.
Magical Family Fun
Magic and enchantment is at the heart of a great family Christmas. At Mottisfont House & Gardens near Romsey, Hampshire the stunning estate is transformed in to the mythical world of The Nutcracker from the 29th November 2014 to 04th January 2015. The magic comes to life as the story unfolds through mechanical toys and puppets, lantern theatres, moving silhouettes, sound and film.
Stay at The White Horse Hotel in the heart of Romsey. Over 600 years old this historic coaching inn now offers 31 stylish and individually designed bedrooms and suites, fantastic food and a delightful afternoon tea.
A Victorian Christmas
Experience the spirit of a Victorian Christmas at beautiful Osborne House on the Isle of Wight on the 6th and 7th December 2014. Meet Queen Victoria and explore the festively dressed rooms of her pretty seaside palace. Try your hand a traditional games, marvel at the skilful Victorian falconer, take a ride on the carousel and revel in the festive sounds and aromas.
Stay at the Prince of Wales pub, located directly opposite the entrance to Osborne House and within minutes of charming Cowes, steeped in maritime history.
Food Glorious Food
Gourmet cuisine delights (and lots of them!) are essential at any Christmas celebration and there's nothing more Christmassy than the aroma of warm spices. Visit The National Trust's Winchester City Mill between 10am and 3pm on the 10th December 2014 to enjoy the scents of seasonal spices at their festive baking demonstrations. And be sure to pop in to the mill shop to pick up some freshly milled flour and home-made preserves.
Stay at the cosy and sumptuous Hotel du Vin, just a stone’s throw from Winchester Cathedral. So beautiful and homely are their 24 individually designed bedrooms you may never want to leave.
Saturnalia – Christmas Roman Style
One of the most unusual ways to kick-start the season has to be Christmas Roman-style at Butser Ancient Farm near Petersfield. On the 19 December at 1pm & 2pm the farm will host ‘Saturnalia,’ a Roman ceremony including the lighting of candles, giving of gifts and awakening of the Roman God Saturn. There will also be festive storytelling in the Grand Roundhouse around a roaring fire in Tales of Winter Magic on 19th.
Stay at The Old Drum, a contemporary country pub with two stylishly decorated and luxuriously appointed rooms in the beautiful market town of Petersfield on the edge of the stunning South Downs National Park.