Guest Post by Kristy Atkinson
Growing up in Australia I always dreamed of experiencing a proper white Christmas one day – or at least a cold one! While Christmas on the beach is all well and good, movies like Love, Actually made me desperate to visit London at Christmas and finally I did! During my time living in London, Christmas was definitely the most magical, particularly because I got to visit all the amazing Christmas markets. Here are all the details about my personal picks for the most magical Christmas markets in London:
Southbank Centre Winter Market
The Southbank Centre gets a Christmas makeover from the end of November until early January, with the charming winter market as the main event. Wooden chalets are set up next to the Thames, and all the trees are strung with fairy lights, which makes it so enchanting to wander along here day or night. You can buy gifts from traders selling handmade items from around the world, or just sip some mulled wine and listen to the carol singers. There are also plenty of enchanting winter performances to catch at the centre during the winter market.
Christmas by the River
Another gorgeous market on the banks of the Thames is Christmas by the River. This takes place within the London Bridge City area, with German-style chalets for shopping set up, as well as plenty of twinkling lights. If you’ve been visiting Tower Bridge then this one is a good choice to pop into for some gifts, as well as to have a Christmas cocktail, mulled wine, hot cider or craft beer at the ski-themed bar The Scoop.
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Leicester Square Christmas Market
Possibly the easiest London Christmas Market to visit is the one that’s set up smack dab in the middle of Leicester Square. There are stalls selling food, drink and gifts clustered around the Shakespeare statue in the centre of the square, as well as lots of pretty Christmas lights strung from the trees. If you’re in the area to see a movie at one of the cinemas in Leicester Square, or just on your way to Piccadilly Circus then it’s a pretty spot for a warming mulled wine or to grab some last-minute gifts.
Greenwich Christmas Market
The Greenwich Markets are open seven days a week all year round, so they aren’t technically Christmas markets, but they do have special late-night hours on Wednesdays and plenty of Christmassy extras during the festive season. Head there on November 20th for a beautiful lantern parade and to see the market’s Christmas lights be switched on. There’s also mulled wine and Christmas music to enjoy while you wander around London’s only market set within a World Heritage site.
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Like the Greenwich Markets, the shops and stalls in the cobbled piazza of Covent Garden are always there but get an extra dose of magic during Christmas. I always love coming here to see the massive Christmas tree, giant reindeer and all the other incredible decorations. One year there were lots of Lego models of London landmarks complete with Santa’s sleigh on the roof of the Houses of Parliament. As well as all the stalls and shops, Covent Garden has many excellent cafes and usually plenty of buskers to entertain you.
Zero Waste Christmas Market
If you’re looking for Christmas shopping without all the waste, then the Zero Waste Christmas Market is a wonderful choice. Only in its second year in 2019, this innovative event brings together more than 50 zero-waste brands so you can do your shopping while still reducing your environmental impact. It takes place in The Boiler House event space in Brick Lane and you do need to buy a ticket for a time-slot to attend. There’s a zero-waste gift wrapping station as well as workshops and seminars alongside the stalls to help you plan a greener Christmas.
Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park
My absolute favorite London Christmas Market is Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland. Really it’s much more than a market because there are rides, an ice-skating rink, performances, pop-up restaurants and bars, as well as so many other fun attractions. But the market part looks like something out of Germany, with gorgeous wooden stalls, lovely festive decorations and more beautiful, handmade gift ideas than you can poke a stick at! Open from the 21st November until the 5th January, it’s free to enter and wander around, although you’ll want to bring cash for all the attractions, treats and shopping.
Somerset House Christmas Arcade
I mentioned Love, Actually earlier, and if you remember the opening scenes showing people ice-skating in front of a big imposing building, then you know what Somerset House looks like at Christmas time! While it’s most famous for the ice-skating rink there’s also a sort of pop-up mall organized in the West Wing of the building, where you can shop for bespoke Christmas presents from the posh Fortnum & Mason department store. It’s not exactly a market, but it’s still a must to at least visit, perhaps go ice-skating or have a decadent tipsy hot chocolate in the Fortnum’s Lodge.
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Festive Fayre at Hampton Court Palace
Hampton Court Palace is home to one of the most unique Christmas events, with the Festive Fayre. It takes about an hour to get there by train from the center of London, but is absolutely worth the trip! Hampton Court Palace is a very cool place to visit at the best of times and during the Festive Fayre, the courtyards are filled with stalls for shopping. This is the perfect event for foodies, with live cooking shows and celebrity chefs as well as a LOT of delicious treats to eat yourself or buy as gifts. The interior of the palace is decorated to show what an Elizabethan Christmas was like, there’s a big ice-skating rink in front of the palace and sing-along festive music.
Kingston Christmas Market
Not far from Hampton Court Palace is Kingston-Upon-Thames which holds a very popular Christmas market. You could even combine both for an extra-festive experience! The Ancient Marketplace of the town is transformed with traditional wooden cabins that will make you feel like you’re somewhere in Europe, even with a little ‘Alpine Village’ on the front lawn of the All Saints Church. There are lots of beautiful and unusual handmade gifts to buy, along with a fire pit for toasting marshmallows and a vintage carousel for the children. If you want to get out of the hustle and bustle of the city, this is a perfect choice.
about the Author
Kristy grew up in Tasmania, Australia and then moved to London to teach English as so many Aussies do! While there she began her blogging adventures on Tassie Devil Abroad and met a Dutch guy who convinced her to move once again. She now lives in the Netherlands with her Dutch fiancé and four weird cats, continuing to blog about travel in the Netherlands, Europe, Australia and beyond. For more about London at Christmas time, make sure you check out her Christmas in London weekend itinerary.