Winter Wonderland, London’s yearly festive extravaganza, opens today in Hyde Park. But with heaving crowds, the event isn’t for everyone. So what are the best Winter Wonderland alternatives for 2018?
Promising the usual mix of beer halls, ice skating, Christmas markets and fairground rides, Winter Wonderland is set for another bumper year.
Key features include the Bavarian Village, where you can enjoy singalongs over Bratwurst and German beer, and a bigger-than-ever ice rink. New attractions for this year include an immersive cinema showing Christmas classic The Snowman, ice sculpting workshops and a dedicated comedy club.
However, while entry is free, the cost of attractions can quickly add up, and the event can get extremely busy during evenings and weekends. So what are the best alternatives for those looking to get into the spirit of the season?
London’s Winter Wonderland alternatives
Where: Clapham Common
When: 15 November – 23 December
Described by its organisers as “London’s alternative festive experience”, Winterville brings a more hipster vibe to world of Christmas attractions. Also offering an ice rink and street food aplenty, Winterville boasts two cinema screens nestled in the centre of a festive maze, showing holiday classics and singalong favourites. Other attractions include a roller disco, a UV indoor crazy golf course, circus attractions and a fairground. There are also options for both kids and adults, with workshops and performances for the little ones and a variety of bars and an 18+ puppet show for those looking for more of a wild time.
Christmas at Court
Where: Hampton Court Palace
When: 1 December – 6 January
Get a Tudor take on Christmas with a host of festive experiences at Hampton Court Palace. The former royal residence is putting on a vast selection of activities and events over December designed to bring yuletide cheer to the season. Highlights include a visit to Henry VIII’s kitchens, where you can learn about the weird and wonderful dishes of Christmases past. There is also a Festive Fayre happening on 7 – 9 December, where you can buy delectable gifts, and you can get kids in the mood with family friendly craft activities every weekend. There’s even an ice rink for the length of the season, and carol singing on select weekends.
When: 24 November – 17 December
For a distinctly adult take on the festive season, head over to The Vaults for Christmess. Promising to be “the dilapidated bohemia of the deep south meets Vaudeville strip clubs”, the event offers a wild night of live music, drinks, dancing and seriously good food. The menu is based on New Orleans’ Reveillon Christmas lunches, with 12 courses of tasty treats, and there’s booze aplenty, including festive cocktails and absinthe bars. Plus, there’s even a Bizarre Bazaar for unusual Christmas gifts. Add in singing waitresses and a wild house party vibe and you’ve got yourself a festive night to remember.
When: 15 November – 30 December (Thursday to Sunday)
For a more subtle, sophisticated take on the festive season, head over to Chiswick House and Gardens where the 18th century landscape and sculptures are being transformed by a host of modern light installations. After Dark sees you follow a dedicated trail accompanied by a custom soundtrack and snap pictures of the dramatic illuminations. There’s also a street food area set up in the walled garden, and if you’re looking for a special way to end the night you can book a table at the dedicated supper club.
Kingston Christmas Market
When: 15 November – 31 December
It often seems like you can’t move for Christmas markets in London, but Kingston Christmas Market is one of the best. Alongside the standard wooden cabins laden with handmade gifts and tasty festive treats, there is live entertainment, street food and the usual vast supply of mulled wine. The setting, in the area’s historical marketplace, adds unique atmosphere. For families there is an additional appeal in the form of Candy Cane Forest, a children’s entertainment area that opens from 15 December. This features fairground rides and entertainment for the little ones, making it an ideal spot for a weekend trip.