When it comes to all things Christmas, London truly goes all out. This is especially true regarding the Christmas markets and pop-ups scattered across the city. Aside from the country’s biggest and most popular events (ahem, Winter Wonderland), there are some hidden treasures to discover, such as wreath-making classes, local designer dinners, and festive food markets accessible for a limited time only.
Covent Garden Christmas Market, London’s hub of winter celebrations, is the place to be this holiday season. The Covent Garden Piazza has holiday lights, contemporary decorations, and a famous Christmas tree. A vibrant environment is created by choirs and street performers, supplemented by the market’s assortment of artisanal food worldwide. Discover boutique products, handcrafted booths, and the artistic Apple Market, all wrapped in the distinctive late-night bustle of Covent Garden.
- Covent Garden dates: 7th November 2023 to 3rd January 2024.
- Location: Covent Garden Piazza.
- Christmas Sandwich Festival: 7th to 17th December 2023, between the Market Building and Seven Dials.
- Reason to visit: The 60-foot British-grown Christmas tree is decorated with over 30,000 lights, unique luxury gifts, and lively street performances.
- Recommended tour: This tour of the top 20 sights in London is great for first-time visitors.
- Specialities: Freshly baked mince pies, traditional Christmas pudding, unique flavoured chutneys, plant-based meals, craft drinks.
Taste of Tradition
Mulled Wine: This holiday drink is meticulously prepared by Covent Garden market merchants, who infuse red wine with different mulling spices, citrus fruits, and sugar. The end product is a pleasant, fragrant drink that complements the celebratory atmosphere well.
Vegetarian Sausages: Many booths provide vegetarian choices for people on a plant-based diet.
Vegan Chocolates: To meet the growing demand for vegan delicacies, vendors will offer vegan chocolates. These are manufactured using plant-based components without sacrificing taste or texture. It’s excellent for individuals following a plant-based diet or anybody looking to enjoy a lower-impact sweet treat.
Pretzels: Although not distinctively British, pretzels are available in many European countries. These chewy, baked delicacies are sometimes sprinkled with coarse salt after being twisted into their unique knot-like appearance.
Ben’s Cookies: This cookie bakery is well-known for its chunky cookies. They add a Christmas flair to their menu at this time of year, with tastes like spiced orange chocolate chip or cranberry and white chocolate.
Ornaments: This is the place to go for one-of-a-kind ornaments. Many are handcrafted by local artists and incorporate classic British motifs. You may get decorations made of unusual materials such as glass, wood, and metal. These look lovely on any Christmas tree or as a great holiday present.
Tea Blends and Sets: Several vendors and establishments in the neighbourhood sell premium tea sets. These range from traditional British favourites like Earl Grey to novel combinations like spiced apple and cinnamon.
Artisanal Foods: Several artisanal foods make excellent presents. Flavoured gin from London distilleries, jars of premium preserves, and seasonal packages filled with local delights from surrounding businesses are also options.
Luxury British Beauty Goods: Known for its high-quality cosmetic and beauty booths, you may purchase locally created beauty goods that make ideal stocking fillers at this market. Special Christmas gift packages featuring top-selling items are frequently available from brands such as Molton Brown and Neal’s Yard Remedies.
Southbank Winter Market
Southbank, set against the background of the Thames, is a cultural destination that includes the London Eye and the National Theatre. The market offers an open-air shopping experience surrounded by Alpine chalets. Expect a lively mix of market booths, live entertainment, and a wide variety of street cuisine. Travelling to London at this time of year requires planning. All of the information you need to plan your visit is provided below.
- Southbank Market dates: 2nd November to 26th December 2023.
- Winter Festival dates: 28th October 2023 to 7th January 2024.
- Location: The Queen’s Walk, not far from the London Eye.
- Christmas Eve: 10 am to 4 pm.
- Reason to visit: street food, Unique performances, hot toddies, cosy wooden chalets and pop-up bars.
Flavours of the Season
Along the Thames, you’ll discover street food carts serving unique meals and snacks that appeal to various dietary needs and interests, including these regional delicacies.
Cheese and sweet fondue: Both savoury and sweet fondue are classic Swiss meals that are great for sharing. Melted cheese is served with bread in cheese fondue, whereas sweet fondue is melted chocolate with a selection of fruits and marshmallows for dipping.
Warm beverages: Choose one of the warm drinks listed below to offset the chilly London weather. Mulled wine, hot cider, hot chocolate, unusual teas, and sparkling wines are all available. These are ideal for keeping warm while taking in the festive mood.
Cheese toasties: Gourmet cheese toasties at the market blend several varieties of cheese with seasonings such as caramelised onions, chutneys, and cured sliced meats, making them a local British delicacy. There are several vegetarian and vegan toastie fillings available.
Gourmet truffle burgers: One of the vendors serves gourmet truffle burgers made with high-quality beef patties and truffle-infused spices.
Raclette: Raclette is a Swiss classic in which a round of Raclette is melted and then scraped onto bread with accompaniments, including potatoes, pickles, and cured meats.
Duck sandwiches and wraps: Slow-cooked duck, either confit or shredded, is served in sandwiches or wraps with complementing sauces and veggies.
Crafting Christmas Magic
Jewellery: Handcrafted jewellery is created by local craftsmen and sold at some stalls. These objects frequently have British trademarks and traditional motifs.
Artisanal Chocolates: Chocolatiers give a range of quality chocolates in their artisanal chocolates. These range from basic truffles to innovative varieties and are frequently made with locally sourced and Fairtrade ingredients.
Gourmet Foods: Gourmet foods are available in the market. Fine teas, spices, and quality preserves are great for elevating any holiday feast.
Winter Skin Care: Good skin care is essential throughout the harsh London winter. Locally manufactured lotions and balms are available at stalls, which use natural and frequently organic components.
Books and Prints: Books and prints are sold by vendors, many of whom are local illustrators and authors. These make meaningful gifts, particularly for individuals who value London’s literary and cultural cultures.
Ornaments: Christmas decorations, especially hand-painted baubles, are widely available. Many of them honour London’s landmarks and are popular Christmas decorations.
The London Bridge Christmas Market, also known as Christmas by the River, features a variety of festive stalls selling food, drink, and a selection of unique products ideal for stocking stuffers. As you wander the market, you can take in the stunning views of the River Thames, Tower Bridge, and the City skyline, distinguishing it from other markets in London. The market includes winter huts along the riverfront packed with crafts, pop-up bars, and various street food vendors. In addition, the market intends to conduct seminars, tastings, and storytelling events, which will be great for individuals wishing to participate in celebratory activities.
- London Bridge Christmas Market dates: Likely dates: 14th November 2023 to 2nd January 2024.
- Location: London Bridge near the Jubilee Walkway along the Thames.
- Christmas Eve: 11 am to 5 pm.
- Reason to visit: Stunning Thames views, diverse winter cabins, central location.
- Recommended tour: London’s Top 20 Sights tour.
- Specialities: Classic mulled wine, artisanal mince pies, British cheese boards, gourmet British sausages, spiced apple cider.
Gourmet Sausages: For those searching for a substantial snack, an assortment of sausages, generally served in a bun with a range of handmade sauces, appeals. Meats are frequently supplied by local butchers, assuring quality and taste.
Spiced Apple Cider: Spiced apple cider is available with or without alcohol. The warm, spicy drink is produced from local apples and is a good palette cleanser between bites.
Pretzels: These salty, hand-twisted sweets pay homage to German Christmas market customs. They are freshly cooked and are frequently served with mustard or cheese dips.
Roasted chestnuts: A centuries-old snack, roasted chestnuts are a simple yet gratifying alternative. They’re frequently packaged in paper cones, making them convenient to transport while you explore.
Artisanal Mince Pies: Mince pies may be found all around the UK over the holidays, but the ones here are produced by local bakers following traditional recipes. The crust is buttery, and the inside contains dried fruits and spices.
British Cheese Boards: A market focusing on British cheeses may offer you a taste of the dairy diversity of the country. There’s something for everyone, from aged cheddar to soft blues supplied by local dairies.
The Art of Christmas Gift-Giving
Handmade decorations: Several kiosks sell handcrafted Christmas decorations made of glass, wood, and ceramic. These one-of-a-kind decorations can range from traditional patterns to modern interpretations, making them suitable for various Christmas tree styles.
London-Themed Merchandise: As you’d expect from a city as iconic as London, souvenirs with traditional symbols like the red bus, the Underground sign, and the Union Jack are available. Items like mugs and keychains serve as useful reminders of your vacation.
Local Art Prints: Some sellers offer prints of local artwork to anyone interested in London’s art scene. These frequently represent London landscapes or cultural landmarks, offering a souvenir of the city.
Hand-knit Scarves and Gloves: These winter accessories are practical and fashionable. Made from high-quality wool. Colours and designs abound, frequently knitted by local craftspeople using British wool.
Gourmet Food Hampers: Several booths put together gourmet food hampers with local cheeses, jams, and even wines. These ready-made hampers are fantastic gifts for foodies.
Hyde Park Winter Wonderland
Winter Wonderland features an astounding selection of activities, making it a standout event in London throughout the holiday season. You can glide over the UK’s largest open-air ice rink, take in the breathtaking vistas from the Giant Wheel, and enjoy a variety of heart-pounding thrills. Live music, including performances by choirs and carolers, enhances the ambience. Furthermore, a Magical Ice Kingdom with a completely new theme emerges each year, enabling you to explore a world of ice and snow. Winter Wonderland’s Christmas market, which has hundreds of lovely kiosks, has become a symbol of London’s holiday festivities.
- Hyde Park Winter Wonderland dates: 17th November 2023 to 1st January 2024.
- Location: Hyde Park, London (near Hyde Park Corner).
- Opening times: 10 am to 10 pm.
- Popular rides: Giant Wheel, Ice Slide, Ice Mountain, Wave Swinger.
- Popular attractions: Magical Ice Kingdom, Christmas Circus, Ice Sculpting.
- Reason to visit:
- Giant Wheel with unmatched views
- Largest open-air ice rink in the UK
- High-energy rides and attractions
- The heart of London location
- Specialities: Hot mulled wine; authentic German bratwurst; sweet churros with chocolate; artisan hot chocolate; roasted chestnuts, Bavarian specialities.
Eat, Drink, and Be Merry
Mulled Wine: Originating in Germany but popular across Europe, this spiced and warmed red wine is ideal for a cold winter evening.
Mince Pies: These little, sweet pies stuffed with various dried fruits and spices are a British Christmas tradition that may be purchased at the food booths.
Traditional German Sausages: Popular at Christmas markets, these sausages range in flavour from bratwurst to currywurst. Each is expertly grilled and served with a selection of bread and sauces.
Churros: These Spanish doughnut-like sweets are deep-fried till golden and crisp, then sugar-dusted. They’re frequently served with a cup of thick hot chocolate for dipping.
Candy Floss: Candy floss is a cloud of spun sugar commonly stained pink or blue and served on a stick or in a plastic bag.
Toffee Apples: A festive symbol, toffee apples are entire apples wrapped in a crunchy toffee or sugar candy covering and served on a strong wooden stick.
Festive Fun on Every Corner
Christmas Market: Stroll through a winter wonderland as you visit over 100 classic wooden huts in Hyde Park. They’re brimming with one-of-a-kind presents, traditional Christmas decorations, and gastronomic delights that will transport you into the holiday mood.
Bavarian Village: A taste of German heritage in the heart of London, with comfortable chalets, outdoor seating, taverns, cafés, and restaurants. Feel the festive spirit as you try Bavarian beers and traditional German fare.
Après Ski Funhouse: Enter a multi-level ski-themed walk-through that takes you to the alpine mountains with steep moving steps, unstable flooring, and a one-of-a-kind double slide.
Bar Ice: Step into Winter Wonderland’s trendiest bar, where you can enjoy 80’s après-ski themes, amusing drinks and an ambience bursting with icicles and snowy patterns.
Canadian Mountain Funhouse: The largest mobile funhouse in the world, Canadian Mountain Funhouse, has five storeys and over 70 stunts spread over numerous themed chambers, including a courthouse and an aqua path.
Leicester Square Christmas Market, formally known as ‘Christmas in Leicester Square,’ is central London’s holiday centre. It adds a touch of traditional beauty to this bustling metropolis with approximately 25 wooden cottages decked with fairy lights. The market’s attraction is enhanced by a ‘Spiegeltent,’ a mirrored tent that holds various festive events, from family-friendly concerts to late-night cabarets.
- Leicester Square Christmas Market dates Likely dates: 8th November 2023 to 7th January 2024.
- Location: Leicester Square, London.
- Reason to visit: Bustling London location; unique artisan gifts; mulled wine; festive food; lively street performers.
- Recommended tour: London walking tour with a local guide.
- Specialities: Hot chestnuts, mince pies, local craft ales, roasted hog, traditional Christmas pudding.
Street Eats and Festive Treats
Pimm’s Winter: A seasonal staple in London, Pimm’s Winter is a heated, spiced variation of the famous British summer drink. It’s usually served hot with apple juice and comprises a mixture of Pimm’s, orange slices, and a variety of warming spices.
Mulled Wine: This spiced, heated wine is a popular Christmas market staple, and you’ll enjoy its rich, warming tastes. The spices infuse the wine with a unique, fragrant flavour that will keep you warm while you tour the market on a cool winter evening.
Mince Pies: A British Christmas would be incomplete without these delectable delights. These miniature pies with dried fruits and spices provide a festive taste.
Cheese Toasties: The British enjoy their cheese toasties, and you’ll find them at the Christmas market stocked with a range of local and foreign cheeses. They are often served fresh from the press and are pleasantly melty on the inside, making them ideal for a fast, comforting nibble.
Eccles Cakes: These delicious pastries from the North of England are filled with currants and flaky, buttery crust. Eccles cakes, often dusted with sugar, give a delicious ending to your Christmas market food tour.
Christmas Cheer in Every Bag
Christmas Decorations: Among the holiday favourites available at Leicester Square are hand-painted glass baubles, wooden ornaments, and delicately carved decorations. These decorations frequently reflect the British Christmas spirit through traditional symbols and styles.
Christmas Jumpers: Christmas sweaters are known for their vivid patterns and a hint of British humour, and they make a fun and comforting present.
British Teas: Various fine British teas, ranging from classic Earl Grey to seasonal blends, are a great present for the tea enthusiast.
British Cheeses: Many stallholders sell a variety of cheeses manufactured in the UK. A collection of British cheeses is an excellent present for the gourmet in your life.
Soaps and Bath Products Made by Hand: These wonderful stocking stuffers are generally crafted using natural materials and emphasising sustainability. They’re great for folks who want a little indulgence, as they come in various fragrances and ingredients.