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Take a look across the network to find the Christmas shopping extravaganza that suits your needs. Then why not hop on a train, sit back and prepare to get your shop on?
There’s nothing better than a market to fill you with Christmas cheer. Exploring a wonderland of Yuletide chalets and snaffling up handmade trinkets and homemade treats in the company of family and friends is guaranteed to put the warmth back into your cheeks. So here’s a quick selection of Christmas markets that are only a train ride away...
In a heavenly setting on Cathedral Green, this market combines gifts, food and drink, and then, even more food. Go to the website linked above for a full list of all the different stalls, but rest assured you can choose from duck wraps, hog roasts, savoury crepes and even paella, all before you’ve hoisted a single shopping bag. With so much on offer, including incredible handmade gifts, this is a market that will really excite the senses – you try walking past the smell of the freshly cooked churros! You’ll find all this Christmas joy under an hour from Yeovil and a six-minute stroll from the station.
Open 10am-7pm Monday-Wednesday, 10am - 9pm Thurs-Sat and 11-5pm Sundays.
Bristol is just over an hour from Salisbury and this Christmas, as ever, the laid-back port city is offering a full-on Christmas market all the way to Christmas Eve. There are around 55 chalets, each packed with original homemade gifts. You can also take a break with some bratwurst and something warming to drink at the Jägerbarn Bar and Food Village at the Podium. And Bristol has distractions galore for anyone in your party who isn’t completely mesmerised by the bling of baubles or the twinkle of tinsel.
Open Monday to Sunday 10am to 8pm, food and drink is available until 10pm.
Held in the lee of the cathedral, Winchester Christmas Market is a cracker. The mulled wine doesn’t stop flowing and there are some fantastic Christmas Tree decorations too. Then it’s time to get your skates on and enjoy the ice rink right in the heart of the market. An ice rink! And, for the social media snapper in your life, send them up the 213 steps to the top of the cathedral tower for some fantastic panoramic shots of the city. There’s also a stunningly beautiful sculpture by Antony Gormley in the cathedral’s crypt if you want to take 10 minutes out for a cultural and spiritual break. Winchester is a smidgeon over an hour from Waterloo and the market is only 10 minutes from the station.
Open 10am-6pm Sunday-Wednesday, 10am - 7pm Thurs-Sat.
It almost goes without saying that few places do Christmas wonder like London. But we should still point out how brilliant and convenient Southbank Centre's Winter Market is. Just a six minute saunter from Waterloo station and you’re in a city transformed into a Nordic hamlet – all under the gaze of the London Eye with views of Big Ben, St Paul’s and the Houses of Parliament. Waterloo is an hour and 4 minutes from Windsor and this market is well worth the trip. Traders from across the capital are here with quality artisanal gifts, there’s food galore (you can eat fondue in a snow globe!), and there’s even a Finnish sauna on the Southbank roof.
Open 11am-10pm Sunday-Thursday, 11am - 11pm Fri-Sat.
All in One – Shopping Centres
If you prefer your Christmas cheer with a roof, heating and elevators, then what you need is a shopping mall. This is a pretty direct way to organise your christmas shopping and, with the right amount of research, you can even plan your route so that you stock up on your favourite food stops in between picking up your gifts.
With an Apple store, Fred Perry, H+M, Harvey Nichols and many more besides, Cabot Circus has all the retail bases covered. Plus it’s just a 15-minute river walk from the station. So if you want to get all your shopping done in one place there really is no better option. And once you’ve completed your super-efficient, high-speed shop – what on earth can you do with your time? Ah, now there’s the rub… the belly rub. There are loads of food outlets here covering everything from pizza and takeaway sandwiches to the aforementioned Harvey Nicks where you can unwind with a glass of sparkling, a spot of light lunch, and a magnificent view of the city.
If that’s not enough, Cabot Circus is also four minutes from Bristol’s Christmas Market (see above) so you can mix and match your big brand buys with your homemade fare.
Southampton is just an hour and three minutes of Christmas motorway-free travel from Guildford, and WestQuay (which boasts 800,000 square feet of shopping) is a 10-minute wander from the station.
At WestQuay if you have the lists they’ll have the gifts. The real deal sealer here though is the 740 sq metre ice rink. So if you go in a gang (or what we also refer to as a family) you can either shuttle shop in groups, or do a mass retail splurge then head to the ice for some gliding and sliding. BTW that ice rink: it has a log cabin aprés ski bar. Just saying.
Open until 9pm every night up to christmas and 10pm on Saturday 23rd, The Oracle has got your panicked, last minute back. In addition to being just six minutes from the station, The Oracle has also turned its dining zone, The Riverside, into a cornucopia of continental Christmas cheer… Feast on churros, bratwurst, mulled wine and German beer. Or, if the fancy takes you, head to one of the 30 restaurants on offer to sate your wining and dining needs. Reading is just five minutes over the hour from Waterloo and a very simple six-minute stroll from the station.
If you crave the authentic, there are plenty of places across the network that offer great shopping as well as lots to see. So if you want to make a day out of your Christmas shop, step this way.
Just an hour from Bristol you’ll find the town of Frome (rhyme it with ‘room’ not ‘rome’). Frome is so full of independent stores it’s like a Dickensian Christmas market all year round, but with more elbow room. There are too many shops to mention them all, but for the vinyl lover there’s Raves From The Grave, or for someone who likes a little swish, and needs a special dress for the Christmas party season there’s Deadly Is The Female. Frome is a beautiful place to wander and browse and also has the best model shop in the the south west – we said it was eclectic!
If all this isn’t enough and you crave more from your day then you can catch a 12-minute train to the tiny village of Bruton where even more quirky shopping experiences await.
Finally there’s Bath. Famed for its architecture, high-end high street retailers and Roman relics, its independents are often hidden from view. But there are plenty and they are brilliant. To keep your finger on the pulse follow @BathIndieChat on Twitter.
To find the very best in independent publishing from high fashion and cutting edge art to architecture and even local fanzines you have to go to Magalleria. For great cards, art and gifts head to the tiny parish of Widcombe just behind the station and Flamingo. And for a tasty morsel and some great homeware head to The Foodie Bugle.
All of this is wrapped up in a UNESCO World Heritage city that is filled with world-class independent eateries and hostelries, and all just one hour from Reading.