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The best way to spend a day in Chester this Christmas

PUBLISHED: 13:52 02 December 2019 | UPDATED: 13:52 02 December 2019

Chester Cathedral Christmas Tree Festival. Picture by Mark Carline.

Chester Cathedral Christmas Tree Festival. Picture by Mark Carline.

Copyright Mark Carline (c) 2015

Take time out from your busy schedule to spend a day in Chester this yuletide.

The Cross and Bridge Street, ChesterThe Cross and Bridge Street, Chester

Chester is lovely at any time of the year but Christmas is its time to shine with many glittering reasons for good cheer in our favourite festive city.

Whether it's browsing the shops for those all important gifts in The Rows, taking a walk along the River Dee on a crisp cold day, pulling up a chair at one of the city's cosy, crammed-full-of-history bars or taking in the twinkle of the festive lights and displays, you are sure to have a smile as wide and as long as Watergate Street.

There's the Chester Christmas Market, too, which runs until December 22nd. With something for every age, it will turn even the most ardent of Scrooges into a joyful Christmas elf - perhaps. Read more about it on page 144. If not, there's the Winter Watch Parade - held on December 5th - where misfit The Lord of Misrule, devils, dragons and spectacular fire-breathing skeletons combine. The historic event dates back to the 1400s when city leaders handed over the keys to the City Watch, the early police, and is now a highlight of Chester's Christmas calendar.

Cathedral interiorCathedral interior

In the Morning

Gingerbread is king in Chester this Christmas. Sculptures of city icons will be constructed from the popular festive biscuit and dotted around the city, and shops will compete for the best window display. It's a part of Chester's role of Britain's gingerbread city. You can also browse a giant chain of gingerbread figures that have been created by local schoolchildren. If there are younger members in your family, they will love the Gingerbread Village, open until December 22nd, where there will be storytelling and craft sessions.

Wander towards Chester Cathedral for the Christmas Tree Festival - it runs from November 30th - December 5th. The cloisters will be filled with more than 40 trees - a spectacular sight. This year's event is based around sustainability, recycling and reusing. There's a nativity trail for little ones to follow, too, and you can take in the grandeur of this incredible building during your visit. Squeeze in a visit to The Grosvenor Museum and its Period House which has had a Christmas makeover - you can see how people in the city would have celebrated the season over the past 350 years. It runs from December 1st - 31st. If you're feeling energetic - and like to dress up as Santa - you'll love the Santa Dash on December 1st. It supports two great local charities, The Hospice of the Good Shepherd and the Countess Charity, too. If running isn't your thing, it's worth a watch. Because who doesn't want to see thousands of Santas dashing through Chester?

The Lanterns at Chester ZooThe Lanterns at Chester Zoo

Afternoon onwards

A Christmas visit to Chester means a visit to the shops. Whether you're looking for that Christmas party showstopper from Matthew O'Brien - he dresses the great and good of the county so seriously knows his stuff - or pre-loved cherished pieces from the brilliant Lily's Vintage (you'll find no fast fashion here), the city has you covered. If you're looking for some extra Christmas bling - because let's face it, who doesn't deserve a bit of extra sparkle - or if you're planning a Christmas Day proposal, Kayes Diamonds is the place. They've been making people happy with their fine jewellery since 1948. If vintage is the only way to go for you, head to The Rows to Powells or Lowe & Sons' Victorian showroom in Bridge Street, home of an abundance of Chester hallmarked pieces.

As the day turns into night take a trip to Neverland, too, via Storyhouse Theatre, as the JM Barrie classic Peter Pan comes to the city - and isn't a panto essential for the festive season? If you want to explore a little further out of the city The Lanterns at Chester Zoo is a must-see. This festival of light turns the popular attraction into a magical land filled with illuminated characters and animals - there are nine worlds to explore and it runs until December 23rd. Look out for the giant octopus.

Christmas dinner, the Sticky Walnut wayChristmas dinner, the Sticky Walnut way

Day On A Plate

Whether it's one of the best neighbourhood restaurants - we're talking about Gary Usher's gloriously cool Sticky Walnut in Hoole - or fine dining without the fuss at Simon Wood's Wood Chester in Hotel Indigo - consider your Christmas culinary needs covered. There's the much lauded Joseph Benjamin and Porta Tapas too. All places have Christmas feasts to impress - and go far beyond the traditional turkey and tinsel.

Need to get away from the high street hustle and bustle? Try Artichoke, an all-day eatery and funky bistro with cake, cocktails and cracking food in a former steam mill. It's waterside in the Canal Quarter and the Sunday roast is a particular hit.

If you're looking for that one-off experience, the wonderfully quirky Oddfellows in Bridge Street is hosting Afternoon Tea with Santa on December 15th. Children get to meet the big man and receive a gift, of course, but all of the family can feast on a special festive afternoon tea. If you get thirsty, seek out cocktail heaven The Botanist or if craft beer is more your festive drink of choice, The Cellar is where you should head.

The Cheese Shop in Northgate Street is an institution in the city. It was founded by farmer's daughter Carole Faulkner more than three decades ago and is an absolute essential for any fromage fan. It's packed with festive goodies including bries, stiltons and the finest Cheshire cheeses - ideal for that all important Christmas cheeseboard.

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