It’s the most wonderful time of the yeeeeeear…ding…dong…ding…etc. I absolutely love the build up to Christmas, probably way more than Christmas it’s self. All those parties, sipping hot mulled wine in your cosy woolly bobble hat, ice-skating and lots of Christmas markets. Amazingly, Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park, London has managed to roll all of those fun winter activities into one, and then some! It’s like Disneyland meets Oktoberfest, there’s fairground rides, market stalls, skating, theatre, circus, live music, food and lots and lots of BOOZE!
Winter Wonderland has been running for 10 years now and I think I’ve been going every year (at least twice) for the last 5 years. To me it really marks the beginning of the festive season and I literally skip through the gates each year. Although I love everything about the place, I also know people who detest it because it’s; busy, expensive and maybe a bit tacky. But c’mon, Christmas is tacky, right?! Anyway, down with the negative Nancy’s, Winter wonderland is fabulous in my books, but there are definitely a few things you need to be aware of before you go, so you can make the most of your visit.
I’m sure this goes without saying, but you need to get public transport there. It’s central London, the roads are a nightmare and there is definitely nowhere to park. I always get the tube, either to Marble Arch or Hyde Park Corner but you could also use Knightsbridge station, which also backs onto the park or Green Park, which is a 5-minute walk from the park. Hyde Park station is by far the busiest and is exit only during events like this so you’ll need to use one of the other tube stations for your journey home.
There’s plenty of the usual fairground stuff: Burgers, chips, hog roast, candyfloss, but also loads of other stuff. There are lots of gourmet food trucks, giant sweetie carts, chocolate fountains plus German fair like Bratwurst, pork knuckle & dumplings, BBQ salmon and giant pretzels. Personally, I’m a sucker for a bratwurst with loads of mustard and curry ketchup, yum!
Drink There are bars EVERYWHERE! As soon as you walk in you could buy a mulled wine or a beer to walk round with, browse the market stalls and take in your surroundings. But there are also big designated entertainment areas such as the Bavarian Village, which is where the whole Oktoberfest meets Disney comes in. Giant beer halls with, Oktoberfest style sing a longs, live music and Steins. Another fave of mine are the carousel bars that rotate while a singer dances round the outside, it’s totally bonkers! There are other areas that are designed like Alpine lodges and also an Ice bar, so plenty to keep you entertained. You will see lots and lots of Christmas parties at Winter Wonderland. Bars stop serving at 9.45pm though; so don’t get caught out if you want a last refreshment before home.
Winter Wonderland has all the usual fairground rides: waltzers, swings, roller coasters and those things that spin you around upside down like a salad drier, bleurgh. I’m not great with heights, so most rides make me want to puke. The usual set up applies at Winter Wonderland though: buy tokens at a token hut (there are plenty around) and pay for the rides with the required amount of tokens.
This is where the Disneyland factor comes into Winter Wonderland; there are 2 different circus shows (one adult oriented and one family show), The Nutcracker on ice, Santa Land and Ice Skating. I’ve been to the adult circus show, which was a bit like Cirque du Soleil, jaw-dropping stuff. If you want to see one of these shows or go ice-skating I’d definitely recommend booking in advance, as they can get booked out quickly.
Like most events like this it’s not cheap. There is no entry fee to Winter Wonderland, so you could just go for a wander round, enjoy the music and the atmosphere and not buy a thing. But if you want to buy food, drinks, go on rides, see a show it gets a bit spendy. Average prices are:
Roast pork & dumplings: £15
Pint of beer: £5.50
Mulled wine: £5.50
Rides: around £6
Skating: starts at £7.50 child/£9.50 adult
Shows: start from £9 child/£11.50 adult depending on which show & time
As a word of warning, most vendors are cash only, there are ATMs on site, but there are big queues, so bring plenty of cash with you. You can buy show tickets from the box office by card though.
Winter Wonderland is super popular so expect large crowds, at times you can only move at a shuffles pace and queues for the toilets, rides, refreshments are massive. If you want to avoid the crowds, weekdays before 5pm or super early on the weekend are good times to go. The event is open 7 days a week, 10am to 10pm until January 2nd, including Christmas day! Which as anybody who as visited London on Christmas day before would know, EVERYTHING is closed, including public transport. So if you’re in town and looking for something to do, this is a great place to head, just make sure you book a cab if you’re going on Christmas day!
I’m hoping to go back to Winter Wonderland before I leave town for Christmas, plus sample a few more Christmas markets (I seriously have a problem). Where should I go to next?