Christmas is often a stressful time of year – nothing new here. The tree needs to be put up, the dinner needs to be cooked and your bank balance is probably going to take a serious hit. Yes, the usual debacle. However, with a number of Christmas markets dotted around London, shopping for presents need not be the hassle that it usually is. Or, it you may at least find that you enjoy the hassle a little more than usual. In fact, it’s quite possible to have a fun day out whilst you browse and find a unique gift for that one person that’s always impossible to buy for. Here, in no particular order, is a selection of some of the best Christmas markets London has to offer.
South Bank Christmas Markets
At the South Bank Christmas Market you can experience the atmosphere of an authentic German market without leaving London. The markets run from November 15 right up until Christmas Eve. Once you arrive at the markets, you’ll find that the smells from the traditional Bratwurst stalls and the rich aroma of mulled wine will guide you as you walk along the river. The carousel takes centre stage and there are over 70 wooden stalls in total, selling handmade crafts, delicious foods and authentic German goods. Though it may be costly, and your current account balance may suffer if you buy too much, you might even find some unique last minute Christmas gifts for your friends and family. If you’re not looking to buy, it’s free to browse and soak up the festive atmosphere this market has to offer. The best time to visit is once it gets dark, as the lights from the stalls transform the South Bank as they twinkle in the reflection of the water, making for a magical experience.
Winter Wonderland Hyde Park
Whether you’re looking for a romantic festive evening or a fun day out with the kids, Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland is not to be missed this Christmas. The market is so called, as starting from November 22 and running until January 5 (Christmas Day excluded) Hyde Park corner is transformed into a magical winter wonderland. Once inside you can go ice skating, take a ride on the giant observation wheel or even go to the circus.
Wrap up warm in preparation for exploring the Magical Ice Kingdom. Once inside you’ll see hand crafted ice and snow and experience temperatures of -8°celcuis for an authentic arctic experience. If rides and attractions aren’t your thing, you can wander around the Bavarian markets. It’ll be hard not to be drawn in by the live music, delicious smells and the exciting festive atmosphere. Of course no winter wonderland would be complete without the man himself. Kids can visit Santa for free and if they’ve managed to stay off the naughty list this year, they might even receive a special gift too. Where entry into Winter Wonderland itself is free, for most of the attractions you will need to buy a ticket. You can pre-purchase tickets for most things online, however tickets are also available for purchase once you arrive.
Real Food Christmas Market
Three times a week in the South Bank Centre square, fresh and great tasting food is available for purchase at the Real Food markets. Starting from mid-December however, the markets take on a festive feel. From then on, you’ll be able to pick from a selection of seasonal goods, ranging from rich chocolates to an assortment of cheeses, all great additions to the end of the perfect Christmas dinner. It’s a great place to visit if you want to buy some quality ingredients to make Christmas just that little bit more special.
Covent Garden Christmas Markets
On the run up to Christmas, Covent Garden is transformed in homage of the most wonderful time of the year. Here you’ll be able to admire the 32ft topiary reindeer or at selected times you can even pet some of the real thing. Covent Garden also boasts a spectacular 60ft Christmas tree adorned with thousands of LED lights to match the lights that dazzle inside the market itself. An added addition to this year’s festivities is an adult’s-only pantomime that comes with a bit of a twist. This year, for the first time, in and around the streets of Covent Garden, Look Left Look Right theatre company have devised an interactive experience where audience members will be paired off and sent to search for Cinderella and Prince Charming who have gone missing after having a bit of a row. The pantomime is entitled ‘Once Upon a Christmas’ and will run from November 18 to December 20.
Handmade Christmas at the O2
Between December 13 and 15, the O2 expects a staggering 60,000 people to enter through its doors, all of who are set to visit the Handmade Christmas event. Hundreds of stalls will offer unique gifts not available on the high street, made by some of the UK’s best crafters. With sections including jewellery, art, fashion as well as food and drink, there’s something for everyone. Visitors will even be treated to craft demos where they themselves can learn to create their very own gifts. Best of all, it’s all indoors, so no matter the weather you’ll be able to browse the stalls in comfort.