We went to a pretty underwhelming Christmas party last year. The decorations were up, the presents were wrapped, but the guy playing Santa dropped out last minute.
It was just a revel without a Claus.
And with our resolve firmly strengthened never to be the victims of such a festive let-down again, we’ve decided to compile a list of the best winter markets, fairs, and skating rinks popping up around London this year, to make sure your bells are jingled all the way and your halls are thoroughly decked.
And so, without further ado…
Southbank Winter Market
If you haven’t already visited the scenic Southbank Winter Market, with its mini chalets offering mulled wine, street food and Christmassy wares (everything from fried chicken to bratwursts, to vegan specials) garnished with a healthy dollop of fairy-lights, then literally drop everything and go now. And this year they’ll also feature craft beer bar The Hop Locker.
You must have been very good this year.
Details: Until 30th December 11am-10/11pm | Southbank Centre Belvedere Road, SE1 8XX | Free Entry
Leicester Square Christmas Market
Head down to Leicester Square this year, and you’ll find a clutch of Bavarian market stalls, Santa’s Grotto, a shower of glitter and fairy lights, shoews from the Black Cat Cabaret, Al Murray’s Pub Landlord, A Christmas Carol, and even an improvised Jane Austen novel.
Details: Until 7th January 2017 | Leicester Square, W2 | Free Entry; tickets for La Soirée are available HERE.
Tower Bridge Christmas By The River
Tower Bridge, hitherto known only for being mistaken for London Bridge, has only gone and organised a ruddy charming Christmas market and an even more ruddily charming pop up bar, serving craft beers, mulled wine and festive cocktails.
Details: 30 November 2016 – 3 January 2017, 11am-7pm | Tower Bridge City, SE1 | Free Entry
Kingston Christmas Market
They say you are what you eat, and if you’re a fan of German sausage, that officially makes you the wurst.
But it also means you’ll have a whale of a time at the Kingston Christmas market, where German street food will be served up alongside mulled wine and a sprawling colony of market stalls, an Alpine Village and an all-new candy cane forest.
Details: Until 31st Dec | Kingston Market Place, Kingston-Upon Thames, KT1 1JS | Free Entry
Hyper Japan Christmas
Given the out-and-out insanity of Japanese culture, to call this festival Hyper Japan is, if anything, an understatement. And when the festival itself has cosplayers, manga artists, J-pop bands, sake tasting, wasabi demos (trust us, your mind might just be blown) and more, it begins to make sense. And this year’s will also see the launch of the Ramen Experience, allowing you to try four different dishes and understand the differences each one brings to the table.
Details: 24th-26th November | Tobacco Dock, 50 Porters Walk, E1W 2SF | £15-£43
Columbia Road Christmas Wednesdays
It must be fete that after 150 years of operating as a sheep and cattle byway, a Victorian-era shopping arcade and London’s most famous Sunday morning flower market, Columbia Road’s 65 tantalising trinket and tidbit shops will open late on Wednesday nights throughout December, offering up vintage fashion, off-beat artwork, quirky home wares, carol singing and mulled wine.
Details: Wednesday the 29th Nov, and 6th, 13th and 20th of December, 5pm to 9pm | Columbia Road, E2 7RG | Free Entry
Ealing Christmas Market
Not only can Ealing’s Christmas Market boast festive fare, independent craft stalls and hand-designed gifts courtesy of The Wonderland Collective, they’ve also constructed an ice cave filled with gingerbread versions of Ealing landmarks.
Details: Daily from 10am until 24th December | Ealing Broadway Centre, W5 5JY | Free Entry
Crafty Fox Markets
Popping up all over London in the run up to Christmas, Crafty Fox showcases a motley bunch of independent designers, artists and makers, selling everything from unique illustrations to pottery and textiles. There will also be interactive workshops like screen printing, so you can make personalised gifts too – you crafty fox, you.
Details: Various dates and locations | Free Entry
Hackney Flea-Mas Market
If you feel there’s no cheer like yesteryear, look no further than the festive edition of the Hackney Flea Market, which will be brimming with all manner of vintage goods, from clothes and accessories to atomic age electronics and mid century furniture. Also mulled wine.
Details: The Big London Christmas Flea – 19th Nov, 11am-6pm | EPIC Dalston, 3-15 Stoke Newington Road, N16 8BH | Free Entry
Hackney Flea-Mas Market – Dec 16th 11am-6pm | Abney Public Hall, 73a Stoke Newington Church Street, N16 0AS | Free Entry
Urban Makers Market
They say that the best thing about Christmas is giving. This isn’t always true for the people receiving your presents. So make sure you get it right by browsing the Urban Makers Market, which this year features over 100 independent vendors over the weekend, offering anything from wall art to quirky jewellery and fashion.
Details: 9th & 10th December | Mile End Ecology Pavilion, Haverfield Road off Grove Road, E3 5TW | Free Entry
BEST FAIRS AND POP UPS
Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park
A 10th anniversary is usually associated with plain ol’ tin. Winter Wonderland, however, have decided to celebrate with a kingdom of ice sculptures made from 500 tonnes of ice, an observation wheel, skating rink, over 100 rides and games, a Bavarian beer garden, street food, Christmas market stalls, a fire pit and an ice bar.
Let’s hope those last two aren’t next door to each other.
Details: Until 1 Jan 2018, 10am-10pm | Hyde Park, W2 | Free Entry, with some ticketed events HERE
Winterville in Clapham Common
Oh. Em. Gee. Winterville is going hard for Santa’s good list by giving Londoners a collection of festive treats including an ice rink, a wintery popup cinema, a rollerdisco (they’re Christmasey, right?), some crazy golf (okay maybe not this one, but it’s still fun), a fairground, and street food from none other than Street Feast.
Details: 23rd November-January 1st | Clapham Common, SW4 9DE | Free entry
Christmas at Kew
Kew Gardens literally has the world’s largest collection of living plants… but apparently that’s not quite impressive enough for some people, so they’re adding a mile of insanely pretty lights, plus lasers, installations, a fire garden, vintage rides, and more. Hopefully, that should do it.
Details: 22nd November-January 1st | Kew Royal Botanic Gardens, W9 3AB | £7-18
BEST ICE RINKS
Natural History Museum
It’s one of the classics for a reason – now in its 12th year, the rink with its magnificent museum backdrop will, as usual, be accompanied by a carousel and rinkside cafe and bar to fulfill all your hot beverage needs. It will also, unlike usual, have a nine-foot Christmas tree decked out with 6,000 fairy lights and over 1,000 glittering Swarovski ornaments.
Details: Until Jan 7th, 11am-9pm | Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, SW7 5BD | £12.65
It’s the ultimate rink, with beautiful surroundings, DJ nights and a pop-up Fortnum & Mason with tea caddies, hampers and stocking fillers. Pop into the F&M Lodge, and you’ll find cocktails, fondue for two and welsh rarebit. And this year, they’re debuting Skate Lates for ice-capades that go on into the wee hours.
Details: Until Jan 14th | Somerset House, Strand, WC2R 1LA | From £7.50
If you’re after something less traditional and a little more Rockefeller, head to Canary Wharf’s rink, nestled between soaring skyscrapers that look all the more impressive and imposing if you’ve fallen over on the ice. This year they’ll have LED lights installed underneath the ice, which will create 16 million different colours (apparently a thing) under the ice as you skate, as well as a heated viewing deck to host the Bambis of your group.
Details: Until Feb 24th | Canada Square Park, E14 5AB | £9.95
It’s the UK’s biggest outdoor rink, built around a Victorian bandstand centrepiece which will host live music to speed you on your way. The ice is illuminated by more than 100,000 lights – but then, frankly, anything less would be an embarrassment to London’s most twinkly festive pop-up.
Details: Until Jan 1st, daily from 10am-10pm | Hyde Park, W2 2UH | From £9.50
Tower of London
The Tower of London rink is impressively nestled within the moat, so you can skate as the Tudor royals might have done, only without the unnerving risk of breaking through the ice.
Details: Until Jan 2nd, daily 11am-10pm | Tower of London, EC3N 4AB | From £13.50
Winterville in Clapham Common
Proudly boasting the first ever rink on Clapham Common, Winterville’s 600 square meter surface is open seven days a week, and is made from real ice.
Details: 23rd November – January 1st | Clapham Common, SW4 9DE | £14
If Henry VIII hadn’t been so mercilessly riddled with gout, no doubt he would’ve enjoyed a spin on the ice rink now perched outside his majestic abode. The mandatory mulled wine and mince pies can be found at the nearby cafe, alongside other delights of the palace grounds, including a cracking maze.
Details: Nov 24th – Jan 7th | Hampton Court Palace, East Molesey, KT8 9AU | £14
JW3’s piazza is transformed to become home to their ice rink, which is surrounded with warming seasonal food, mulled wine and hot choco. It’s also open on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
Details: Dec 3rd – Jan 7th | 341-351 Finchley Road, NW3 6ET | £13
Although it’s home to an ice rink all year round (it’s where the Dancing On Ice stars train), Ally Pally steps it up a notch around the festive season, and this year it’s hosting ice discos every Saturday.
Details: All year round | Alexandra Palace, Alexandra Palace Way, London, N22 7AY | From £9.50
Skylight have let things slide…
…because they’ve added a rooftop ice rink to their covetable spot on a Wapping carpark rooftop (with unobstructed views of London’s finest stretches of skyline) this winter. And they’re throwing in cocktails, street food, and DJs just to top it all off.
Details: Until 14th January | Penning Street Car Park, Wapping Lane, E1W 2SF | Entry free, £10 for skating
(Main Image Credit: Andrew West. Image has been modified)