Markets tend to be somewhat underwhelming ‘One Pound Fish’ type affairs, where you can buy fire-damaged duvet covers, knock-off video games and lamb chops that fell off the back of a van. BUT, put the word ‘Christmas’ in front and you’ve a whole ‘nother proposition.
Christmas markets are things of beauty, re-tooled garden sheds decorated with wreaths, liberal lashings of gluehwein and the perma-stench of cinnamon heavy in the air. Places where you can purchase a £20 bauble, acquire a Germanic nutcracker for your window sill or inhale a bratwurst sold for several times the going rate. Emulating the Christmas Markets of Europe and beyond, what could be more magical or Christmassy? So here are our top choices of London Christmas markets – egg-nog yourself out…
When: Monday 25th to Tuesday 26th November
Rather than simply buying your usual trinkets, sipping gluwein and heading home, perhaps you could do some good and spread some actual Christmas cheer along the way? Well you can, courtesy of historic Guildhall. Set in the heart of the City of London, the market provides a shopping experience that also gives back in the form of helping the Red Cross!
The two day event will include canapés and bubbles (to drink, not for the bath), over 100 stalls and even an evening fashion show! Plus prizes to be won and a silent action. Sponsored by SoftBank Investment Advisers, the event is a great way to help a brilliant cause and to buy some Christmas essentials.
When: Tuesday 26th November to Sunday 5th January
You don’t have to trek to the Alps to experience an Alpine market, because this one’s in London. And it’s just like being in Austria. Except for the huge, looming structure of Tower Bridge, one of the world’s most best known buildings. Festive happenings combine with hot toddies and delivious food to complete the lineup for the fifth year of Christmas by the River.
When: Tuesday 14th November to Thursday 31st December
If Christmas is approximately 2,000 years old, there’s been a market in Kingston’s Ancient Market Place for more than half of that. It seems unlikely that medieval traders would have passed on the opportunity to flog sticks of stripy rock, tasteful tinsel or toasted marshmallows from B&Q garden sheds, so it’s probably safe (if historically dishonest) to suggest that Kingston’s Christmas Market’s the oldest Christmas market in the world.
This is a South West London alternative to central options, and the ideal place to come if you’re ‘sarf of the river in need of some nogged egg.
When: Various Dates
Coming to Kings Cross this winter, Canopy Market’s Christmas Market will be a mulled-wine fuelled chance to pick up any number of foodie gifts. Open each day in the run-up to Christmas the covered market, each week will have a different theme. Look forward to butchery, cheese-ery (possibly not a word) not to mention workshops and classes. Oh, and there’ll be a backing track of live jazz.
When: Saturday 30th November
Returning to Hackney, Merrymaking Christmas Market at Here East brings festive workshops (it’s a ‘yes’ if you’re into candle pouring or pom-pom decoration!), plus all the usual Christmas market shizz. Shoppers can buy ethical products from designers, including ceramics, homeware, jewellery, artworks and beauty products.
And after you’ve shopped and candle-poured, head canal-side for a full range of restaurant and foodie outlets.
When: Friday 22nd to Sunday 24th November
When it comes to all things sauna or Christmas, look to Scandinavia. Sadly they’ll be leaving their sauna game back in the Arctic Circle, but Rotherhithe will be getting an influx of all things Christmas and Scandi this November when Albion street, between the Finnish and Norwegian Churches, brings Nordic gifts and various food options too (reindeer meat, anyone?) It’s not gonna be big, it’s gonna be hygge…
When: Friday 8th November to Sunday 5th January
London’s Southbank is not only a magical setting, but incredibly accessible for anyone looking to pop into a Christmas market on the way into catch a show, en route back from work or as an act of last minute desperation on a Tinder date.
Traders from around the world will meet to tout their seasonal gifts and trinkets, but far more importantly streetfooders will bring their very best in terms of bratwurst and raclette (including Igloo kings Jimmy Garcia) as well as more esoteric takes on Christmas cooking from Asian, Indian and Greek pop-ups.
When: Thursday 28th to Saturday 30th November
When Mayfair restaurant Novikov puts on a Christmas market, it’s clearly not enough having several storeys, two restaurants and various bars. Instead the market spills out in style, taking over the whole of Mayfair Place.
Returning in 2019 as ‘bigger and better’, all traffic will be closed off and the street will thrive with hand-picked stalls and traders selling a multitude of gifts not to mention food and drink.
When: Tuesday 21st to Friday 24th November
If you’re into your food and drink (and, statistically, as a Handbook reader you probably are) then you probably mark off the changing seasons by how close we are to bi-annual foodie sensation Taste of London.
So as Christmas approaches we look forward to Tobacco Dock being transformed into a winter wonderland packed with some of our favourite restaurants and chefs as traders vie with workshoppers and demonstrators for guests’ attention.
When: Wednesday 27th November to Tuesday 24th December
Ealing is synonymous with Christmas. Okay, it’s not, I lied, but nevertheless it’s the home to Ealing Christmas Market and rather than venture all the way into central London to experience the magical atmosphere of Christmas By The River or to the Southbank Christmas Market, you could just dial down the wonder and opt for Ealing Broadway Shopping Centre.
Open for a month of Christmas shopping, the market occupies a good square-footage within the shopping centre, with cabins devoted to all manner of festive products. Centred around the centre’s large Christmas tree, Ealing Christmas Market is back for a fourth year.
Belgravia Christmas Sunday
When: Sunday 1st December
Home to some of London’s most extravagant shops (there’s a dog grooming shop called Mungo & Maud, and I’m equally obsessed with the fact it exists and the cost of everything in it!), but Belgravia’s Elizabeth Street will play host to it’s annual Christmas Sunday event this December.
Transformed for one day only into a pedestrian Christmas extravaganza, this is as close to magical that a crowded street selling Christmassy whatnots can muster.
When: Saturday 7th December
‘It’s the most waaaa-steful time of the year’ as the Christmas song didn’t go, but should’ve. Christmas comes with unnecessary packaging, wasteful gluttony and tonnes and tonnes of unwanted gifts. Okay, maybe let’s keep the gluttony in there, but for the rest the Zero Waste Christmas Market is there.
All the brands at the market are low impact, zero waste, ethical and sustainable. It’s a plastic-free and low-carbon zone, perfect for buying gifts that aren’t going to harm the planet. Even the food and drink options (including vegan, natch) ensure they’re using reusable and compostable serving plates and cups.
When: Thursday 21st November to Sunday 5th January
And then there’s Winter Wonderland. Cynics might accuse it of being a hugely overrated, over-subscribed, un-authentic, over-priced tourist trap.
All the same, if you can somehow brave the crowds, if your wallet is full enough and your courage-level is at approximate ‘SAS Who Dares Wins’ levels, then check out over 200 Bavarian cabins selling all manner of Christmas items at the Hyde Park extravaganza…