A HAMPSHIRE market town has been crowned as one of the top three places to visit in the UK for the festive season.

Romsey has been ranked as a runner-up in a search for the best Christmas destinations.

It comes as thousands will take to the streets tonight to take part in the Lantern Parade, an annual event that sees community members light up the town centre.

Scores of local shops will also open their doors for late night shopping with Santa Claus set to make an appearance.

Carrying lanterns, locals will parade through the town for one of the most popular festive events, before residents can also help free Father Christmas with Hampshire Fire and Rescue lending a hand on the Town Hall rooftop.

The Christmas search was launched by website dayoutwiththekids.co.uk in a bid to find the most festive locations through the winter, and received more than 250 nominations.

Hundreds of people turned out to see the town’s light display and winter parade last month, with Santa Claus and his elves turning out to greet youngsters along the way.

Now, the town’s festive spirit has been recognised after being nominated by resident Lyndsey Vidler.

Lyndsey said: “I love how festive and beautiful Romsey looks at Christmas. The town is full of lights, and there are loads of events and special things that I look forward to every year. My children especially like watching Santa get rescued, and the lantern parade is beautiful.”

Broadwater Street, Bell Street and the Market Place will all be closed during the parade that takes place at 4pm until 8pm today.

The winner of the Christmas location search was Barby in the East Midlands, where 24 houses are turned into an advent calendar.

In second was Tenbury Wells in Worcestershire.

Lisa O’Keeffe, brand manager at dayoutwiththekids said: “Christmas is all about community spirit, and it’s been quite incredible to read about all the festivities taking place across the UK.

“Romsey has captured the true essence of Christmas: Family, light-hearted fun, and Santa Claus!”

Other festivities taking place this Christmas in the market town include the Rotary Club’s carols in the Market Place from 7pm on December 18.

Money collected on the night will be matched by the club and donated to Southampton Hospital Children’s Trauma Unit.

On Boxing Day, the traditional Romsey classic car and bike meet will feature from 9am and 1pm.