The event first took place back n 2008, when it received a lot of criticism from people used to their (original) counterparts in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. At the time many (including moi) people felt London could have done a much better job with a larger market and no amusement park.
Since then, the event has been growing year after year, and what we found this week was a very large Christmas market with a very authentic feel. You can find many wooden stalls selling everything from Christmas decoration to winter clothes and accessories, as well as sweets and the odd nick-nacks. There was one particular stall selling a tube with a white material to make your very own artificial snow for £3 (USD5, €3,70).
I was there late afternoon and even though the place was very busy, it was still pleasant to walk around. There are some stalls selling food, although the prices are quite steep. I bought an Angus beef sandwich for £6.50 (USD11, €8). But the one thing I love in these markets is a nice and hot mulled wine, or Glüwein as the Germans call it. For those not familiar, it’s warm red wine mixed with spices such as cinnamon, anise, nutmeg and cloves. I found a very cosy wooden cabin with log fire, where I could get away from the cold and enjoy a couple of cups of the drink, which can be bought for £4 (USD6.70, €5) cup. For those who prefer a cold drink no matter the temperature, the large bar called Bavarian Village has a number different German beers.
There is also an ice rink, use of which must be booked in advance via Winter Wonderland’s official website. It was packed with very skilled ice skaters who should be competing on Dancing on Ice. I didn’t join the fun, as I didn’t want be falling over every two seconds!
Families with children will definitely enjoy the event, as there is something for everybody. There is an impressive ferris wheel and the little ones will be able to enjoy the mini-carrousel. Santa Claus also makes an appearance, posing for pictures with the little ones – and the not so little ones in some cases!
Many of the attractions at Winter Wonderland are undoubtedly very kitsch. But isn’t that true with everything that is Christmasy?
Winter Wonderland is open every day (except Christmas day) until 5th January, from 10am to 10pm, and the entrance is free.