CHRISTMAS markets will form the centrepiece of Bolton’s festive celebrations — as town hall chiefs reveal plans for a return of Bolton’s Christmas festival.

A traditional Christmas market, festive bar, Santa’s Studio, fairground attractions and live music stage will help visitors get into the seasonal spirit.

The countdown to Christmas will officially start on December 3 when the festive lights across the borough are switched on — however Covid guidelines means there will be no big switch-on in the town centre.

On the same weekend, an Advent Trail will be launched in the town and district centres, with families following the clues to find 24 images.

Every weekend, families can enjoy the fun of the fair and meet Santa's reindeer.

There will also be a games zone in the former Hays Travel unit, and a crafts zone in the old Specsavers, featuring magical shows, arcade games and more.

Food and drink, including many seasonal favourites, will be available at the Festive Bar in Victoria Square from December 11 to 24.

A heated space will feature a live music stage with more than 40 local artists along with local school choirs performing to shoppers.

The festivities will ramp up over the ‘Big Weekend’ from December 16-19.

A traditional Christmas Market will see more than 50 traders take up residence in the town centre for four days selling a wide range of gifts and treats, providing the perfect opportunity to finish the Christmas shopping.

The planned 'Santa's Studio' will be a modern take on the traditional grotto - allowing youngsters to enjoy a live Zoom call with the man himself all the way from the North Pole.

This will ensure little ones can still tell Santa what want for Christmas but in a Covid safe environment.

On Saturday, December 18 the spectacular ‘Winter Owls’ light show will be projected onto the town hall.

The specially commissioned display incorporates stunning winter scenes as the owls come home to roost for Christmas and is billed as a be a real “must-see event”.

Bolton Council’s deputy leader Cllr Hilary Fairclough said: “After a year off, Bolton’s Christmas celebrations are back and better than ever.

“We all deserve to have some fun this Christmas and with so much on offer in Bolton this year, there really is something for everyone.

“We want people to visit Bolton town centre and shop locally this December and I’m sure our seasonal offer will bring in the crowds.”

All of this year’s Christmas activities have been planned to create Covid-safe environments for all visitors with appropriate precautions in place and advice on offer to keep everyone safe.

Tickets for Santa’s Studio will be available from the Christmas Festival website from Monday.

This year’s Christmas events are sponsored by Bolton Gin Company, Bolton School and Robertsons.