Its the festive season! We’re midway through December which means we can officially start talking Christmas officially. I mean I already started with my Christmas card making as is the way of things as a crafter. It is also the season for Christmas markets which I also enjoy checking out. I’ve decided to try and go for as many as possible as and when I see them. I don’t think I have ever seen so many Christmas markets/fayres called “Winter Wonderland” as I have this year. Maybe Alice in Wonderland has given me unrealistic expectations of what a “wonderland” is, but these so called “winter wonderlands” really are underwhelming. Maybe if I was a child it’d feel more magical?
I’ll start with the London Christmas markets/Winter wonderland as I went to a total of 3 of these (since I have been to London a few times in November). I went to Leicester Square, Southbank Centre and Hyde Park (the so-called Winter Wonderland). All of these markets/fayres are free to enter and I thought it’d be nice to go and check them out when I had some spare time. I’ll start with Southbank as it was the first one I went to.
This setting looks like it would be really nice in the evening with all the lights and the setting of the river bank. I like the little huts that the stalls are in along the river. Initially I thought that the stalls along the river were the only ones, but then I noticed the actual entrance. A lot of the stalls along the river were food stalls. I was salivating just from the smell to be honest. I wanted to eat all of the noms. There were one or two stalls selling gift-type items like candles but that was about it on the river bank. On entering the actual market area, there is a security guard who checks your bag. Not 100% what they’re after because it was a pretty cursory glance she took through my bag. Once inside, the area is set out kind of like a little village arrangement that you can walk around with little huts. I have no idea what this area is like when this event is not on, but I’m pretty sure its not like this. We took a wander through the little village deciding to go left first. Most of what was in there was again, either food stalls or stalls selling typical “London” souvenir-type items. There were a few stalls selling hats and scarfs etc. and a few with Christmas decorations but to me it was more of a food market with the odd few other stalls thrown in. There was also a cider bar which looked pretty cosy. I decided to indulge in something chocolatey. I considered getting a Bailey’s hot chocolate but upon seeing the cost, re-considered. I think there was considerably more that they could have done with the stalls because the area was so quaint and scenic. Was a bit of a shame really.
Next I visited the market in Leicester Square. This was again, an enclosed area with a bag search on entry. (Again, a very cursory glance). The slight difference is the box office at the entrance for the seasonal performances. This market was set out more like a regular market. The stalls were pretty much the same as the one at South Bank. A lot of food stalls and some gift stalls but they were all the same stalls. I would have thought they’d take the opportunity to put some different stalls in to add a bit of variety. We took a wander around this one. I’m sure it looks really cool at night with all the lights but it was still daylight when we were there.
The final one I checked out was the biggie, the Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park. I went to this one of a different day (entirely different week as well actually). It was very helpfully signposted from the tube stations (as I have an absolutely terrible sense of direction). There was another bag search here, however this time we weren’t allowed to take in open bottles. This wouldn’t be an issue if I didn’t have all my luggage with me and an open 2litre bottle of pepsi max….It still had most of it left in there as well and I refused to just throw it away (that’s just plain wasteful!) So out of principal, I stood at the side of the search area and drank as much of it as humanly possible before binning whatever was left. I’m not 100% what the logic was there and what they thought I would be doing to endanger others with just under 2 litres of pepsi, but there we go. This place was absolutely huge so there was a map to help navigate it. This was, to me, mostly a fair ground. There were loads of rides and rollercoasters everywhere, other attractions such as shooting galleries and “penguin races”, not to mention bars and food stalls of course. It was divided down in to different areas or “lands” such as Santa Land, Bavarian Village etc. I found that on the whole, although it was free to enter, if you wanted to do anything you had to pay. So even things like looking at ice sculptures you’d have to pay to go in. I wandered around and once again found that the stalls selling gift items were the same as the other markets. (These have seriously been no help with my Christmas shopping). There were the odd few extra stalls but there was nothing particularly different or original there. The Bavarian Village was a good place to stop and eat, although it was a total sausage fest (literally). There were some cool looking rides around the fair ground (not that I went on any as I was on my own and had all my luggage with me), but I’m sure they’d be great for the kids. I was taken aback by just how many bars there were around some parts. Like every other stall was a bar. No wonder they wanted to take all drinks off people on entry. I ended up mostly just wandering and eating. This is another place that I’m sure is really cool at night and would be awesome for families to go to. I think calling it a Wonderland is kind of overstating it though!
I hope that if anyone visits any “Wonderlands” or Christmas Markets in the limited remaining lead up to Christmas, you enjoy and are filled with…”wonder”…..Until next time, stay wonderful 😉