Christmas market promises to be de-'Light'-ful

Christmas is officially starting this week with the Christmas lights switch on and the first day of the Christmas market on Thursday 16 November 2023. The Christmas market will run until Tuesday 2 January 2024 giving everyone a chance to enjoy it after the family festivities are over

Bargate laser show mockup

The free Countdown to Christmas event, organised by GO! Southampton, including the official switch-on of the lights, will extend with free entertainment over the opening weekend. Find the full schedule of events at Visit Southampton.

On Thursday 16 November Christmas characters will be parading the streets during four hours of entertainment from 4 pm. The mass-karaoke sensation Massaoke will also be in full swing from 6pm.

To officially mark the start of the Christmas celebrations in the city, the legendary Christopher Biggins, who is this year’s star of Mayflower Theatre’s panto, ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’, will be switching on the Christmas lights. Christopher Biggins will be joined by Scrooge himself, who is played by 15-year-old Alex Lockhart, from MAST Mayflower Studios production of ‘A Christmas Carol’, but he’s promised there won’t be a ‘bah humbug’ in sight.

As for the lights themselves, everybody loves sparkly Christmas lights and they don’t come much sparklier than these. A spectacular light projection show will light up the historic Bargate and will run every 30 minutes, between 5pm and 9.30pm each night until 24 December with the first showing on Thursday at 7pm.

The light show is run by the Projection Studio, a double Guinness World Record breaking projection company and a supplier of large format projections to the London 2012 Olympic Games.

But that’s not all which is making the Christmas market bigger and better this year. In addition, there will be rides in Guildhall Square extending the Christmas market into this area of the city centre. These will include one of the UK’s tallest Ferris wheels and the gravity-defying AtmosFear, which swings riders up to 80ft into the sky, whilst spinning them around 360 degrees.

For smaller visitors, there is a dedicated Christmas Fun House for children at the Bargate with rides, crafting and Father Christmas at the weekend.

The market itself will once again feature picturesque individually designed alpine-style chalets. There are more than 30 independent stallholders offering a range of gifts including candles, clothing and jewellery, handcrafted Christmas decorations and of course plenty of food stalls. You can find all the details on stall holders.

But there’s even more going on this Christmas in our city. WestQuay is once again hosting an ice rink, GO! Southampton has not only put together four days of entertainment for the switch on event but also a Christmas trail and there are a range of family activities at the City Art Gallery and SeaCity Museum.

For the opening weekend, there is 'Gonks at the Gallery' at Southampton City Art Gallery on Saturday 18 November. A free Christmas family craft activity where you create your own Christmas Gonk to add some festive flair to your home. Drop in anytime between 10.30am – 3.30pm.

Father Christmas will also be at Tudor House & Garden. You can find dates and times on the Tudor House website.

Leader of the Council, Councillor Satvir Kaur said:
"We are so excited to announce all our great plans for Christmas this year and I’m especially looking forward to the free light show at the Bargate. We know that Southampton is a top destination for both local residents and visitors alike, attracting tens of thousands to our city during the festive period, contributing considerably to our local economy.

"We’ve been working hard with partners to ensure the festive season is bigger and better than ever this year, and there is something for everyone; of all ages and backgrounds, but also with more free activities, so no one misses out."

S&D Leisure Managing Director, Stanley Reeves, commented:
"This year’s market will be bigger and better than ever. Southampton has a real treat in store with the daily light show which will spectacularly light up the Bargate and is set to music. Christmas is a time for sparkling lights and we will have plenty of those as well as free entertainment for the whole family."

Stephen Manion, Executive Director at GO! Southampton said:
"Christmas in Southampton is always a magical time and with plenty of fun and excitement for the whole family, this year's bigger market will attract more local residents and visitors to the city centre. This is great news for our retail and hospitality businesses."