There are few more popular reasons to go on a European city break this time of year than to sample the dainty, charming Christmas markets of the city you’ve chosen for your visit. And, let’s be honest, London’s no exception to that rule. In fact, when it comes to Alpine-chalet-stall-populated markets, the UK capital has several different options for the visitor who’s maybe staying at an upmarket accommodation in Chelsea London and planning a charming day or evening of gift-browsing and -buying…
Angel’s Market at Winter Wonderland
(Hyde Park W2 2UH; open: 10am-10pm 22nd November 2018-6th January 2019)
To be fair, Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park offers far more than just a Christmas market. Effectively a multi-festive-themed-event attraction, it’s the capital’s biggest (and best?) draw in the run up to Christmas; well, it vies with the city’s many and various shopping outlets in that department, at least. The thing’s free to enter – but beware, several of the individual events require paid-for tickets – yet free too is Angel’s Market itself, a swathe of up to 200 separate Bavarian-style wooden chalets, all covered in fairy lights, and vending everything from handmade gifts to seasonal decorations and jewellery to clothing and food to more food and yet more food.
You’d be a fool to miss out on the ticketed stuff too, though, given there’s the shows Peter Pan on Ice and The Snowman Experience, as well as ice sculpting workshops (all of them perfect for kids), in addition to skating on the nation’s biggest outdoor rink, gazing down from a giant observation wheel and many a fairground-style attraction.
Christmas by the River
(London Bridge SE1 2DB; open: 11am-10pm 29th November 2018-2nd January 2019)
If you fancy a festive market with an iconic backdrop, then this is the one for you. Set against the unbeatable sight of Tower Bridge (unrivalled when all lit up at night), ‘Christmas by the River’, which is actually positioned on the stretch of the South Bank between London Bridge and Tower Bridge, offers up as many as 68 chalet-style stalls selling and serving artisan gifts, food and drinks, as well as hosting tastings, arts and crafts workshops and storytelling for little ones.
Christmas in Leicester Square
(WC2H 7LU; 9 November 2018-5th January 2019)
While Trafalgar Square’s resplendent with a gigantic Christmas tree each year (courtesy of the nation of Norway), the capital’s centre of entertainment for almost the last 350 years, Leicester Square, has always been devoid of something specifically seasonal to brighten its wintry appearance this time of year. But no more. For, this year, the cinema-and-casino-and-restaurant-packing piazza with be alight with festive delight thanks to a pop-up Christmas market in the central gardens (25 stalls’ worth) and eclectic shows performed in an awesome 1920s-style Belgian Spiegeltent, such as The Burlesque Carol Concert and cabaret comedy greats Frisky and Mannish live for one night only.
Southbank Centre Winter Festival and Christmas Market
(Belvedere Road SE1 8XX; 9th November 2018-27th December 2019)
Finally, the South-Bank-proper’s Christmas market this year will feature 29 separate traders drawn from across the world for the run up to and including the actual festive season (ideal then for those staying at the likes of the San Domenico House Chelsea London for Christmas itself). There’ll also be a pair of pop-up bars and the awesome wintry temporary fondue restaurant that’s Jimmy’s Lodge (it involves private igloos – yes, really!) and, not to be missed, performances of Circus 1903, a globally renowned Edwardian-era circus show that involves life-sized elephant creations courtesy of the folks behind the War Horse puppets, as well as acrobats, contortionists and high-wire performers.