London is home to some wonderful markets. Borough, Spitalfields, Covent Garden, Smithfields, Camden, Portobello Road, Columbia Road but when it comes to Christmas markets, the city often lacks the smell of mulled wine spices and gingerbread in the wintertime. Although London is slowly playing catch up with the continent, a few Christmas markets are making an appearance, happily signaling the start of the festive season.
There is something distinctively more satisfying to perusing a market in the (dry) open air than there is to bumping shoulders with gift-crazed shoppers in an indoor mall or department store. Perhaps it is the knowledge that it’s easier to make an escape, or the fact that you can sip on some mulled wine as you walk. At least here the kids can go on a few fairground rides and yes you can buy some presents as well, but there isn’t the same sense of urgency as there is under the fluorescent lights of the shop floor.
The three Christmas markets in London this year are all centrally located and all take their cue from Germany. In fact if you want to check out other Christmas markets across the UK, you have the option of reading online in German or English.
All the markets are free to wander around but there is a charge for fairground rides and special attractions. Oxford Street Market is closed on some dates and all the markets are closed on Christmas Day so check ahead.
Cologne Christmas Market in London, South Bank
Nearest tube: Waterloo
Dates: 20th November – 23rd December 2017
Times: Sun-Thurs 11am-8pm, Fri-Sat 10am-10pm
The second Cologne Christmas Market on the South Bank will extend from the London Eye to the Southbank Centre. Traditional wooden chalets will line this short stretch of the Thames, offering Christmas ornaments, trinkets and handmade gifts for sale.
For children there will be a carousel and Santa’s Secret Village (tickets required). Refreshments include Glühwein, Cologne beer, gingerbread, crepes and bratwursts so plenty to keep you fed and watered as you make your way through down the river.
Hyde Park Winter Wonderland
Nearest tubes: Hyde Park Corner and Knightsbridge
Dates: 19th November to 3rd January
Times: Mon-Sun 10am-10pm
Probably the largest of the three markets and with many attractions to keep children entertained, Hyde Park offers up 20 acres and 50 chalets full of Christmas fun. In the Winter Wonderland you will find a mock Bavarian village serving food, real ales and hot cider.
For the kids (big and small), a huge outdoor ice rink, big wheel, snowtube slide, carol singing, and bandstand entertainment and many other fairground rides will be set up in the park although charges will apply to most of these.
Oxford Street Christmas Market
Nearest tubes: Bond Street and Marble Arch
Dates: 20th November to 3rd January
Times: Tues-Sat 10am-9pm, Sun 10am-7pm
This is the first year for the Oxford Street Christmas Market and situated as it will be between Bond Street and Marble Arch underground stations, expect it to be a busy one. The famous Oxford Street Christmas lights will provide festive illumination to the arts and crafts stalls.
To keep you going there will be Glühwein, bratwurst and some non-alcoholic warm punch for younger visitors but in terms of entertainment for children, Hyde Park and the South Bank probably have more to offer.