London’s biggest festive funfair is back for another year, but it’s almost over – don’t miss out! Winter Wonderland is a spectacular carnival which runs in Hyde Park from November until January 3rd, attracting hundreds of thousands – if not millions – of people each Christmas season. There are shrieks of delight floating down from the rides and delicious smells wafting from the food stalls, but Winter Wonderland is much more than an ordinary carnival.
The first thing that catches your attention is the Magical Ice Kingdom: a frozen land of crystalline ice sculptures where you can walk through an enchanted forest and encounter a frozen lake surrounded by looming ice giants, and even an ice castle. The temperature inside is set at a constant -8C – much colder than you normally get in London – so be sure wrap up warm before you venture in. Other frozen delights lie in the Ice Bar – an adults-only attraction where you can drink from glasses carved of ice – or the central skating rink. This is one of Winter Wonderland’s main attractions: a huge outdoor rink festooned with fairy lights and arranged around a central podium where live music often plays; it offers a wonderfully magical winter experience.
Thrill seekers can get their kicks on the rides, which include a truly terrifying rollercoaster complete with an obstacle course you must navigate to reach the entrance, as well as a Big Wheel for some spectacular views over the glittering lights of London and back to the nearby Shaftesbury Hyde Park International.
If you’d rather get warm and cosy, you can start by picking up a cup of hot mulled wine or cider from one of the dozens of stalls and bars scattered throughout the carnival. Toast your own marshmallows at the fire pit, or head to the massive Bavarian bar for live music, dancing and hearty servings of hot food in true Germanic style. Food options include plenty of bratwurst and hot chips, as well as fresh doughnuts and churros, pizza made to order, pulled pork and much more. That’s to say nothing of the chocolate, of which there is mountains to be had in the form of chocolate-dipped bananas, Christmas decorations, creamy hot chocolate and plenty of other creations.
Finally, there’s the Christmas market: a European tradition which London was happy to adopt. Many of the goods on offer are handmade, including decorations and jewellery, scarves and clothing; some is made before your eyes, such as the blacksmith’s stall carving personalised messages into tiny horseshoes while you wait. If you’re out of ideas for the last of your Christmas shopping, you may just find exactly what you need in one of these curious stalls.
Winter Wonderland is easily reached from Marble Arch, Hyde Park Corner,Victoria, Green Park and Knightsbridge Underground stations. It’s open from 10am-10pm every day except Christmas Day, and while booking is essential for the Ice Kingdom and skating rink, the most wonderful part of it all is that entry is free!