London's Winter Wonderland
Christmas Markets are a thing in Europe, London included. London has several of them, but the biggest & most popular among tourists and locals is the one in Hyde Park, Winter Wonderland. It opens from late November to early January, and it’s definitely worth a visit. We went a few times during this winter and can’t get enough of it! If you are visiting London during this time of year, make sure you put this in your itinerary.
Winter Wonderland is open for about 1.5 months. It’s amazing to see what they were able to build so quickly. Apparently, when it’s over, they are also very quick to disassemble everything and put fresh grass in the park.
Imagine a giant carnival or a county fair, but Christmas-themed. That’s exactly what Winter Wonderland is. It was bigger and grander than I thought, and also, very crowded. The only time it wasn’t crowded was during the day time on a week day, but as you get closer to the holiday season, it doesn’t matter when you go, it will be crowded anyways. So, prepare yourself for that!
Everything is outdoors so make sure you dress appropriately. It can get pretty chilly in London during the winter time so wear your thermals (UNIQLO’s heattech has been our life savior) and grab your gloves/scarves/beanies.
Photo on the left is taken right outside a carousel bar, which is so cool (also see photo below)! Funny story - we made plans to meet our friend at the carousel bar one night, not knowing that there are actually TWO carousel bars here… be aware that this place also has bad reception… with delayed text messages trying to find each other and a lot of walking back and forth, 1+ hour later, we finally met our friend!
Nothing better than a hot cup of mulled wine, mulled cider, or hot chocolate on a cold day! I’ve tried them all and they are all yummy, you can’t go wrong with any of them. For the hot chocolate, there are several different stands, but I personally liked the Nutella hot chocolate better than the Cadbury’s hot chocolate. You can find the Nutella hot chocolate at stands that have the giant chocolate fountains.
Bavarian Village tries to mimic the German version of Christmas markets. People also told me it’s similar to Oktoberfest as well. There’s live music, people singing along, dancing, and lots of beer-drinking! And of course, German hotdogs!!
There’s a lot of food to eat here so come hungry. Our favorite was by far the German hotdog wth the cheese filled sausage and crispy onions on top. It’s so good and it’s a must-try!
There’s tons of carnival games here and it typically costs around 5 pounds to play each game. When we went with our friends, boys being boys, they played a lot of the games, but sadly, didn’t get to win anything! We saw lots of other people carrying around huge dolls so we wondered how much $$ they all spent on the games to win the prizes! We felt like kids again running around playing the games.
There’s something to do for everyone here from kids to adults. We’ve seen so many kids excited to see all the lights, rides, food, and etc. There’s also an ice rink here too if you are a skater. There’s tons of rides (each ride costs $$) - some are more basic, kid-friendly rides, some are actual roller coasters and scary looking rides. If you are not big on rides like us, you can just enjoy the food, drinks, and the atmosphere and it’s still a lot of fun!
For dessert, we highly recommend the churros! They are warm and fresh and our favorite is with all the toppings (sugar, cinnamon, and chocolate sauce!!). The churros reminded us of Spain!
If you want something a little more adventurous for dessert, try the biggest cotton candy (or candy floss as said in London) ever! We were just hanging out with our friends drinking and saw someone with this and we just had to get one for ourselves!! We’ve never seen such a big cotton candy in our lives before! Can’t even remember the last time I had cotton candy, but it was some sugar-y goodness!
The 5 of us tried to finish this, and we were not even close to finishing it… we may have had half of it and was done, too much sugar! It is a bit silly, 5 grown adults getting excited about cotton candy, but you know what? as long as we had fun with it, that’s all that matters!! And, yes, we had fun!!
There’s also a lot of shops selling winter-y bits. The one that caught my eye was the store selling cute little christmas ornaments! They also do free personalization here so many locals come here every year to get their annual ornaments as souvenirs.
Ryan and I don’t have much Christmas traditions that we follow, but we do buy one ornament each year to hopefully have a big collection later down the road. This year, we got one from Winter Wonderland and picked one that was more London-ish so we can remember our time in London in future years.
We definitely felt more festive visiting Winter Wonderland multiple times and enjoying every little corner of it. London does it right to celebrate the holiday season for sure!