The holiday season is when our city is at its most magical. Wide-eyed sightseers and busy seasonal shoppers alike can be found passing by each other on the twinkling streets.
As different as these two crowds seem at first glance, an impromptu chat will reveal one common thread – a shared love of London’s fabulously festive winter markets! Whether you’re interested in seasonal retail therapy or last-minute holiday shopping, you’re sure to find something to like here:
Leicester Square Christmas Market
The first market on our list has set itself up year after year in the heart of London’s bustling tourist district – Leicester Square. Recently, our city’s most famous square has undergone a festive facelift, in the form of twenty-five Bavarian-style wood huts. Hiding behind the charming facades is a winter wonderland of handcrafted wooden toys and festive ornaments, gluhwein and imported savoury treats.
The market’s iconic velvet-clad Spiegeltent has returned once again this year. Outside, the tent is draped in lavish ‘roaring twenties’ fashion, with mirrors and stained glass. Inside waits the perfect end to your cold winter evening. Showstopping cabaret, heart-warming family shows, and side-splitting comedy are all the order of the day in here, so you’ll never find yourself at a loss for late-night entertainment.
Winter Market, Southbank Centre
A scenic stroll over the Golden Jubilee Bridges and across the Thames will lead you to our second pick – Southbank Centre’s Winter Market. More of a riverside festival than a market, you’ll find clusters of merrymakers in every corner. Some will be indulging in street food or splashing out on the handmade artisan gifts brought over by global traders. Others will be enjoying an unforgettable night of daredevil entertainment with Circus 1903.
If the capital’s winter chill proves too much, then the Southbank suffers no shortage of hideaways to warm up in. Bar Under the Bridge pairs classic cocktails with an unashamedly cheese-centric menu. Nearby, the Circus Bar treats its guests to spicy mulled cider or wine beside the glow of cosy firepits.
Those looking for an escape from the crowds can even grab an igloo for a private party!
Christmas by the River at London Bridge City
Next to make the shortlist – and in our opinion the most photogenic of the bunch – is Christmas by the River at London Bridge City. Its 68 chalet-style stalls are set against the beautiful backdrop of some of the city’s best-loved landmarks, including Tower Bridge and the Tower of London. This makes for one of London’s most Instagram-able festive shopping sprees!
Starting at the Queen’s Walk from London Bridge City Pier, the market stretches beside the banks of the River Thames before stopping at The Scoop. Along the way it crams in all the classic festive tropes that we’ve come to know and love. For your artisan gifts there’s The Little Tibet, a treasure trove of luxury Himalayan crafts. What if you’re leaning more towards an evening of accessorising? Nearby you’ll find Akira Woollen Accessories, London Bridge City’s one-stop shop for boutique winter warmers.
Ealing Christmas Market
Last, but by no means least, is Ealing Christmas Market. As homely as it is spontaneous, Ealing Broadway’s namesake market puts its own spin on the city’s usual festive fare. Tucked away behind the rows of traditional wood cabins, it operates a revolving door of weekly pop-ups. One week, stalls could be doling out handcrafted sterling silver, while in another they could be selling alpaca knitwear, so you’ll definitely want to allow for a second visit!
What’s your favourite festive market? Let us know on Instagram, Twitter or in the comments below
Digital editor, Boutique London