CHRISTMAS SHOPPING IN SUSSEX
Splurging is to December what saving is to January – essential. Whether you want to pick up some cheeky stocking fillers, or a work of art to take pride of place in a loved one’s living room, you will find it in the eclectic emporiums of Sussex.
We’ve picked out a few of our favourite big hitters – towns with high street shopping and ceilinged centres galore; a few smaller Sussex towns where specialist shoppers will delight; and our top three yuletide markets this year to give you (and your eager credit card) some festive food for thought.
by Polly Humphris
BIG AND BOLD
Churchill Square Shopping Centre, www.churchillsquare.com
Suited to both the big festive spenders and the thriftier shoppers among us, Brighton’s Churchill Square Shopping Centre has over 80 shops and is a haven for high street fans. From Topshop and River Island to H&M and New Look, clothing-wise you’re spoilt for choice; department stores BHS and Debenhams have homeware and beauty products covered; and shops such as Tiger – perfect for silly stocking fillers – the Lego Store, and The Entertainer toy shop cater for kids brilliantly.
Located slap bang in the middle of town, just a 10-minute walk down from the Brighton train station, or a five minute stroll up from the beach, Churchill Square is open seven days a week and is convenient too with lots of ample parking and a whole host of buses that pull up right outside its doors.
The Lanes and The North Laine, south of Brighton Station, www.visitbrighton.com
A bit like the Diagon Alley of JK Rowling’s imagination, but with fewer wizards and more people, The Lanes and The North Laine are a twisting, turning and iconic Brighton maze of roads, alleyways and cat-creeps packed to the rafters with edgy, creative shops. You want a Star Wars print babygrow? You got it. You want a beautiful piece of original art? You’ve got that too. From decades-old jewellery shops and independent bookstores selling first editions, to 50s kitsch emporiums and places to pick up cool, vintage pieces of clothing, The Lanes and The North Laine are an experience in themselves as well as being great shopping destinations.
Entered within two minutes’ walk south of Brighton train station, you’ll enter North Laine first and The Lanes progress on from there as you walk towards the seafront across North Street. Shops are open seven days a week and for every place to spend your money present buying, there’s a coffee shop or café in which to grab a homemade cake or a fresh light lunch to fuel you as you go.
One of Chichester’s biggest draws is its wealth of character – as you wander round the city centre, you’re not only treated to an array of great shopping, but to 2,000 years of architecture including the majestic 11th-century cathedral that dominates the skyline. And we do mean wander – Chichester’s compact shopping area is pedestrianised, so you can browse the more unique book and antiques shops which sit neatly alongside fashion giants such as Marks and Spencer, River Island and Monsoon, or head straight for handy one-stop-shop department stores House of Fraser, or the sizeable John Lewis, which is located just off the A27 at the Portfield Retail Park.
The Arndale Shopping Centre, Terminus Road, www.eastbournearndaleshopping.co.uk
Little Chelsea, Grove Road and South Street, www.littlechelseaeb.co.uk
Unless you live there and are in on it, Eastbourne is a bit of a well-kept secret when it comes to shopping and has a staggering mix of appealing places for you to splash your Christmas cash in. Its shopping centre, The Arndale, sits just a short walk from the seafront with more than 70 popular high street shops including HMV, Next and Dorothy Perkins; the charming Victorian streets of Little Chelsea are ideal for finding art, crafts, collectible antiques, and sportswear (guaranteed to put a smile on even the surliest of teenage faces); and the Enterprise Centre at Station Parade is fit to bursting with intriguing boutiques selling everything from woodwork and pop-up pottery, to children’s clothes and independent jewellery brands.
Swan Walk Shopping Centre, Redkiln Way, www.swanwalkshopping.co.uk
An historic market town Horsham may be, but don’t let that decidedly non-commercial description fool you – for a small town, it still packs a pretty good shopping punch, not least in the form of Swan Walk, its large, well laid out shopping centre. Anchored by retail giants, BHS and Marks and Spencer, great for clothing, home gifts, and, of course where the latter is concerned, delicious luxury food, and peppered with other popular names like Fat Face and Crew Clothing for fashion, as well as Cargo Embargo for funky homeware, Swan Walk is very central and easily accessible by train and bus.
If you choose to drive, parking is provided at Swan Walk itself in addition to a 900-space multi-storey adjacent to the centre; parking is free on Sundays and on Thursdays from 4pm in the run up to Christmas.
QUAINT AND QUIRKY
The Old Print House Shopping Arcade, Tarrant St
Arundel Arts, Craft and Antiques Market, Tarrant St
A place of tradition and heritage, but with a cosmopolitan edge, Arundel has become something of a Sussex icon. While its cobbled streets and infamous 12th-century castle are a constant reminder of its important historic past, beside this you you’ll also find contemporary art galleries and independent boutiques. Very much a community, and one that thrives on the spirit of unity promoted by that, local shops are at the forefront of Arundel’s attractions, so you can easily combine a day of sightseeing with a few hours’ browsing for one-off Christmas gifts.
The Old Print House Shopping Arcade, which sits just minutes from the High Street, is home to some very distinctive shops – you can pick up original prints and paintings, art & crafts, contemporary giftware, quality handmade furniture and vintage vinyl, as well as handbags, scarves and accessories. Located at the foot of the High Street, Pallant is an independent specialist food shop selling an impressive selection of cheese and local wines, not to mention foot-long pasta! – and the town’s incredible Arts, Craft and Antiques Market is a group of 16 shops where you’ll find everything from cheap and cheerful bargains to really special investment pieces.
McCully and Crane, Cinque Ports St, www.visit1066country.com
The epitome of olde-worlde charm, we bet you half a shilling that you’ll settle in nicely for an indulgent cream tea at one of Rye’s gorgeous little tearooms before you even start your Christmas shopping. Should you be able to drag yourself way from the scones and out into this medieval market town’s cobbled shopping streets, you’ll find quite a bit more than the antiques for which it’s famed.
Not to be overlooked, antique shops in Rye are truly unique; where some specialise in really high-end one-offs, others focus on specific historic periods and you’ll chance upon military memorabilia, old books, ancient glass, brass ornaments and chandeliers among a whole lot more. Look out for McCully and Crane, a quirky, modern shop bedecked with bright blue walls that showcase their inspired collection of objet trouvé and daring lighting beautifully. Country Ways on Strand Quay is a charming throwback to the kitchens of the 50s, selling interesting crockery, old-fashioned weighing scales and gingham tablecloths, and The Tiny Book Store, in Church Square, is just that – a diminutive, one-roomed bookshop packed full with limited edition treasures.
Tucked away in East Sussex, snuggled protectively between the South Downs National Park and miles of unspoilt coastline, Lewes is a chocolate-box town whose narrow High Street and rows of Tudor cottages wouldn’t look out of place on the front of a Christmas card. In fact, you can probably buy some Lewes-themed Christmas cards from one of its many independent shops. It might be a small town, but it is brimming with an eclectic mix of curious shops and businesses, from the antiques hub at the bottom of Cliffe High St to more modern offerings selling gifts, art and lovely, stylish homeware.
Closet and Botts on the High Street advertises itself as a homestore, but is so much more than that; an Aladdin’s cave of all things vintage, its chic aesthetic instantly puts you in mind of France and it’s a great place to shop for unusual gardenware and outdoor furniture, kitsch stationery, sewing paraphernalia and gorgeous collectible crockery. Lewes Flea Market on Market Street offers shopping in the similar vein, but its extensive size means it can afford to be less carefully curated, so you’re just as likely to come out with a gilded mirror that you didn’t need alongside some equally fabulous gifts that you did.
OUR TOP THREE SUSSEX CHRISTMAS MARKETS
Horsham: The Best of British Markets
The Horsham Best of British Christmas Markets takes festive and wraps it up in a great big mulled wine scented, mince pie flavoured hug. Taking place every Sunday throughout December from the 1st, and every day from Saturday 19th up to and including Christmas Eve, this yuletide marketplace held at the town’s Carfax is a celebration of stalls stocking the best of British gifts, crafts, food and wine. Alongside artisan stocking fillers made of natural materials, you can browse jewellery and furniture made by UK designers, soap and beeswax products, exceptionally cute kids’ clothes, plus everything you need for your Christmas table from homemade Christmas puddings, field fresh sprouts and other vegetables, sumptuous locally reared meats and all sorts of Sussex cheeses to complete your spread.
Chichester Christmas Market
Now in its sixth year, the Chichester Christmas Market has gained momentum annually and has become something of a Sussex celebration. Besides over 50 stalls lining the pedestrianised areas of North Street and East Street and showcasing all manner of traditional and more unusual gifts and stocking fillers, there’s also a live nativity that will take place daily outside Marks and Spencer complete with Mary, Joseph and a donkey! A lot of the stalls sell delicious artisan products like homemade chutney and irresistible all-butter mince pies, and there’s plenty of seating areas provided along the way too, so if you can’t wait until you get home to tuck in, you can sit back with a piping hot mulled wine, listen to the local choir singing carols and test your delicious wares.
Worthing: Steyne Gardens Ice Rink and Christmas Market
Christmas is a magical time of year and there’s something undeniably magical about ice-skating, so Worthing’s Steyne Garden has cleverly combined the two by adding a festive fair of stalls selling all things Christmassy to its existing Ice Rink. Open every Saturday and Sunday up to and including Sunday 21st, the stalls will line either side of the pathway at the northwest side of the Gardens and will be selling locally made gifts and unique Christmas decorations alongside food and drink to take home or enjoy before you hit the rink. Easy on the mulled wine before you get your skates on though!