Is it really that time of year again where everyone is starting to develop a thirst for mulled wine, pen their annual missives to Father Christmas and plan their January ski holidays? Just where has 2016 gone?
While every year also invariably seems to involve trudging around a soulless, crowded shopping centre looking desperately for some last-minute shopping, if you’re in London there’s an alternative. In fact, there’s no better way to get in the festive mood than by attending one of the capital’s wondrous winter markets – especially if there’s some snow in the air.
So without further ado, here’s my guide to finding some seasonal spirit, hearty food and drink, and gift ideas galore at three of London’s coolest Christmas markets.
Southbank Centre Winter Market
One of London’s best-known festive fixtures, the Southbank Centre Winter Market features a parade of cute wooden chalets running alongside the River Thames, just a short stroll from the majestic London Eye and the transport hub of Waterloo station.
This is the perfect place to soak up the atmosphere of Christmas time London with a cup of mulled wine in your hand and your wallet in the other ready to purchase some of the handmade crafts on offer and start ticking off that Christmas gift list.
It’s open now until Sunday 8 January 2017, from 11am until 10pm Sunday to Thursday and 11am to 11pm Friday to Saturday, so there’s no excuse to leave your present shopping until Christmas Eve.
Real Food Christmas Market
Christmas is a time of gorging oneself silly for many, so if your festive appetite needs sating then why not head along to the Real Food Christmas Market outside Kings Cross station?
There you’ll find a delectable range of seasonal treats including artisan cheeses to pair with your red wine on those long, cold December evenings and probably a few mince pies or two as well for right there and then.
I’m pleased to say it’s a genuine Christmas experience too (none of this decorations up in summer, selling mince pies in September nonsense) as it doesn’t open until 14 December and closes on the 23rd. Head to Kings Cross square between 12 and 7pm daily to eat and be merry.
Christmas in Leicester Square
For those looking for a Christmas experience with all the trimmings, tourist hub Leicester Square in the heart of town is serving up a festive extravaganza with market stalls (free), a Santa’s Grotto (£10) and a La Soiree show (from £38.50).
For those of you unfamiliar with La Soiree, it’s an adults-only riot of “cabaret, new burlesque, circus sideshow and contemporary variety” – not something you find at your usual festive market and a fine experience in itself.
There’s also a display on in the square called Westminster’s Winter Windows – a colourful tapestry of art designed by pupils from local schools. So there really is something for everyone.
Like the Southbank Centre’s Winter Market, Christmas in Leicester Square is on until 8 January, but you’ll want to book your paid-for tickets well in advance, as availability is limited.