ad* This year the Victorian Christmas Festival returned to Portsmouth Historic Dockyard to celebrate 20 years of the iconic event that’s become a landmark event in the countdown to Christmas.
As November drew to a close and the first day of advent dawned I knew it was time to get a hearty dose of festive spirit.
And, what better way to capture some of that seasonal magic than with a little bit of Christmas cheer, historic attractions and plenty of entertaining characters!
Mulled wine wafted through the air and lively music filled the cobbled streets of the historic dockyard.
Entertainers, acts and music
Then the Rose & Thistle bagpipe band marched down the main street The event was off to a great start!
Years ago this event was spread out over such a large area that I didn’t have the best experience and didn’t see any of the characters, acts or musicians and you certainly couldn’t get around it in a day without feeling completely exhausted.
This was my first visit in a few years and it was a much better thought out event in comparison. This year characters performed on the historic ships, there were stages with timed performances and the streets were lined with performers and roaming characters.
All the attractions and museums were included too, which is incredible value for money, as you can see HMS M33, HMS Victory, HMS Warrior, the Harbour Tour and Action Stations, you even had access to The Mary Rose which isn’t a part of The National Museum of the Royal Navy set up.
Once onboard Warrior I couldn’t help but be enchanted by the fairy lights and traditional trees that brought the ship to life.
It was utterly charming and I’ve never seen the ship look so beautiful.
As you walked past Action Stations and past the stalls the smell of cinnamon and orange garlands lured you in to take a look at the stalls filled with traders selling decorations, gifts and food and drink.
There were stalls everywhere, from the gardens to the entrance, up the main street and either side of HMS Victory. There was even a presence from Love Southsea bringing some fine local Portsmouth traders to the event.
You could get some really lovely bits for Christmas and I came away with some Christmas essential oil, some mermaid gin and a couple of gorgeous decorations for this year’s tree.
Festive food and drink
From The Boozy Bakers to Yum Yum Sweeties, roasted chestnuts and sugared hot nuts there was everything from the sugary festive favourites to every type of cheese you could imagine.
There was also an excellent selection of alcohol from Silent Pool to Mermaid Gin and some bespoke Lord Nelson style tipples.
And, of course there was plenty of mulled wine and cider available across the site to keep the cold at bay. For me, the smell of mulled wine is Christmas and it was a heady mix with all the other seasonal scents in the air.
Part of capturing that festive feel is the food and drink and making sure you can buy some nice food and drink to keep aside for Christmas Day.
New for 2019
Oh my goodness, where do I begin? There was falconry, performances on the ships, stages across the site including a dedicated kids one in Action Stations with storytelling and circus workshops.
New characters wandered the street, there was a whole troupe of dancing girls, a bagpipe band, a new speak easy bar which was so lavish and the shows were hilarious Electric Eden was incredible.
Oh and there was a mermaid and a lady fire breather – I kid you not both were amazing!
I tried to see shows on each of the stages but there was so much going on that I just enjoyed the moment and picked things I really wanted to see.
Santa’s grotto was so magical and full to the bring of Christmas trees and a lot of fake snow.
Santa was incredible and was full of festive cheer, I couldn’t help but be charmed by his wonderful way with the children and how incredibly excited the were after seeing him so they could make a Christmas wish.
My favourite time of day had to be golden hour, that magical light when the sun is setting.
HMS Warrior looked glorious bathed in the warm light of the winter sun! It’s really rare you get to enjoy such a stunning sunset from the deck of the ship so I made the most of the sunset.
My day finished watching the parade of characters and bands and seeing the lights in the shape of a Christmas tree on the mast of HMS Warrior!
I had a wonderful day and there’s so many things I haven’t even mentioned yet like Mr Alexanders Magic Show, Punch and Judy, the extreme juggler, the acrobats, the child Victorian actors, the vintage cycles, Scrooge, the Victorian prisoners and Police, the fortune teller, pick pocket and I still haven’t covered everything yet!
My favourite actor had to be The Bearded Lady, who performed with Aled Price Productions. She danced around without a care in the world making funny innuendos and picking on passers by, she also took part in several stage shows selling off members of the public and other silly nonsense that made everyone laugh. Brilliant!
Oh, and there was a stage and area with ‘snow’ – this became a real photo hot spot and every day I saw people capturing magic moments!
What a great day and an incredible start to the festive season! It really got me into the festive spirit – the countdown to Christmas is on!
ad* – gifted entrance for review But, as always all opinions are my own, I really didn’t rate the previous festival but I really enjoyed this year and I am glad I had the chance to go back visit again.