We’ve already visited the Christmas markets of Berlin, Stockholm and Copenhagen and warmed up a little in Rome. Today we’re back in Britain to see what the capital has to offer. The number of markets keeps on growing and there is an appealing trend away from the more garish flashing lights and plasticky decor of years past towards a more traditional approach.
London, England – A wealth of Christmas markets to choose from
Image (c) AKH Communications/PWR Events
Hyde Park Winter Wonderland
Hyde Park undergoes a Christmas makeover again this festive season with the largest outdoor ice rink in Britain encircling the Victorian bandstand lit by over 100,000 bulbs. The Magical Ice Kingdom is even bigger than last year and is also the largest such attraction in the UK, sculpted from 200 tonnes of ice and snow. You can explore the frozen paths and wander in an ice forest – watch out for ice trolls and if you are feeling brave join the knights in their battle to slay the evil ogre. Or chill out (literally) at the Ice Bar, a new addition for 2013. There are plenty of other rides and attractions including a Giant Observation Wheel and two circuses arranged by the family friendly Zippos circus – ‘Cirque Berserk’ and ‘Christmas Circus’. You will need to buy tickets for most of these activities but entry to the site itself is free and includes Santa Land and the Christmas Market. The atmosphere is great and the market stalls offer a wide range of gifts and decorations. There are open fires to provide warmth if the mulled wine and hot cider don’t do the trick.
Open 23 November 2013 – 5 January 2014
Christmas Craft Fair and Santa’s Grotto at Sutton House
You’ll have to get moving as it takes place this weekend but for a pre-Christmas treat for the children it’s hard to beat this event at East London’s oldest family home, Sutton House. Santa has found a window in his rather hectic schedule to show up at this two-day event hosting pop-up craft stalls and craft workshops along with the bearded fellow’s grotto. With carol singers, mulled wine and mince pies aplenty this will be just the thing to put the whole family in the Christmas spirit.
Open 7 December 2013 – 8 December 2013
Image (c) Londontown.com
Southbank Centre Christmas Market
Once again the traditional German-style wooden huts are back at Queen’s Walk for the Southbank Centre Christmas Market. On the waterfront between the Southbank Centre and the London Eye the stalls do a roaring trade in toys and gifts as well as food and drink – chomp on a Bratwurst washed down with Glühwein and enjoy some gingerbread to finish. From the 13th to the 15th of December you’ll have the chance to buy edible gifts at the Chocolate Festival too. Children can make their own Christmas cards at one of the stands and there’s also a pocket-money stall with affordable gifts to suit these austere times. To add to the festive atmosphere choirs will sing carols and Christmas songs twice a day.
Open 15 November 2013 – 24 December 2013
Image (c) Londontown.com
Covent Garden Christmas
If the crowds and hassle of Oxford Street with its bawdy lights are getting you down, come to Covent Garden for a different take on Christmas. The piazza is the main focus but some of the neighbouring streets are also included in the festive fun. As well as the stalls selling all manner of handicrafts Covent Garden Christmas offers a wide range of activities which this year includes a nativity scene far removed from those you remember from your schooldays. Created by visual artist Martha Fiennes, it promises to be mesmerising – even Martha doesn’t know what to expect next as her ever-changing, ethereal, digital artwork has been coded to evolve in a random and unpredictable way. There will be carol singing from some of London’s most loved choirs. Out of the Blue take centre stage on Saturday 10th December and on Saturday 17th, a local community choir will be entertaining the crowds. You’ll have the chance to meet a real Rudolf with reindeer petting every Saturday until December 21 and don’t miss the world’s first ever super-sized LEGO Snow Globe (more on this in a separate article this week),
Open 6 November 2013 – 2 January 2014
Camden Lock Night Market
Another alternative Christmas market takes place in the evenings at Camden Lock – the night market offers seasonal shopping where you can buy fashion items, vintage goods, accessories, arts, crafts and products for the home. You can also savour globally inspired street food while enjoying the market’s own live radio show. All in all it makes for a very atmospheric night out on a chilly December evening.
Open 12 December 2013 – 14 December 2013
Real Food Christmas Market – Southbank
Christmas isn’t just about decorations and gifts, right? It’s also all about the food. This year, why not avoid the crush at the supermarket and source your nosh directly from the producers? At the Real Food Market at Southbank Centre Square you can wander the stalls with the obligatory mulled wine or spicy cider in one hand and a freshly baked mince pie in the other. How about hand-made, artisan chocolates, a wide selection of farmhouse, raw-milk cheeses, pickles, chutneys, sparkling wines, spirits and the very best meat products – turkeys, geese, lamb or beef. Make sure you order early then come down and pick up your free-range turkey or goose from the Thoroughly Wild Meat Co at the ‘farm gate’ price. You can also pick up a traditional hand-made Christmas wreath and even a Christmas tree too. The trees are grown in Kent and the supply is managed by the Forestry Commission to ensure that more trees are planted each year than are harvested. Don’t forget that real trees use about 10 times fewer materials and five times less energy than artificial trees – and are just, well better, surely?
Open 19 December 2013 – 22 December 2013