Today, one of the UK’s biggest Christmas markets threw open its doors for Brits to get into the festive mood.
Winter Wonderland, in Hyde Park, has been running since 2007 and has only grown bigger and more exciting with each passing year.
In fact, this year it even made it into the top 10 best Christmas Markets in the world – ranking in second place.
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The enormous market features a whole slew of entertainment for fun lovers – from family rides to soaring rollercoasters, shows, ice bars, a massive ice kingdom and a Bavarian club-style bierkeller.
Winter Wonderland also flaunts tonnes of food options, traditional craft stalls and funfair-style games to play.
Last night, I took my first steps into Winter Wonderland 2022 – and it’s full of big hits with a couple of down sides.
First up, I got stuck into the food and drink options as soon as I arrived. People who love traditional German market dishes will be thrilled as there are plenty of bratwurst stands some selling currywurst and others loading their hotdogs with cheese and sauerkraut.
I also loved the traditional Hungarian dish Langos – a hot fried dough topped with sour cream and cheese like a soft fluffy pizza. Delicious; if you see it then definitely try it! Veggies and vegans are catered to including stalls selling vegan bratwurst and plant friendly meals – head towards the blue gate to find them.
While those who don’t love sausages, burgers and pizza should head to the Ferris wheel as there’s an entire row of street food stalls – from bao buns to Indian dishes and Thai curries. Those on a budget who don’t want to spend too much should head to the Lidl stand where pigs in blankets are just £3.
Desserts abound with the stand out choices being dulce de leche stuffed churros and mini pots of crumble. Yum!
Winter Wonderland has gone all out with its ride selections this year as while there’s plenty for little ones to enjoy there are some big players too.
The Giant Wheel may seem a little expensive – it costs £10 per adult – but you’ll get sky high views across the market and can even see London’s skyline from St Paul’s Cathedral to the Shard, Battersea power station and Canary Wharf. You’ll go round in the pods around four times in total.
Eurocoaster is a fab rollercoaster for riders who love jolts and feeling the fright as your feet dangle above the ground. Meanwhile, Munich Looping is the ride to run to if you want high speeds, plenty of loops and to scream your socks off.
This year there’s another stand-out ride that has to be mentioned. Dr Archibald doesn’t involve fast speeds or great views, but its an entirely new experience that tech-lovers will go crazy for. As Winter Wonderland's only Virtual Reality coaster you’ll have a headset strapped on and be transported into a strange digital world.
There’s plenty to do if you don’t mind being cold at Winter Wonderland this year – a classic ice slide lets you scoot down the slope in a rubber ring and even small children can enjoy the thrill. There’s also an ice rink which costs £9.45 per adult and £6.75 per child under 12.
Drinkers need to book fast, because this year Winter Wonderland has an incredible ice bar that sinks to – 10C. You’ll be given a cloak and gloves to stop you freezing over and be treated to tasty cocktails served in a glass made of ice. Very cool (pun intended). The bar is Acres-Ski themed and throbs to the DJs beat. The ice bar costs from £14 to enter off-peak.
Also new to Winter Wonderland is the Magical Ice Kingdom – a story about a King and Queen told through carved ice sculptures. You’ll walk through the path to see polar bears, castles, warriors and a stunning carriage all formed of crystal clear ice. Just make sure you’re wrapped up warm as it is painfully cold inside. Access costs from £8 per adult.
Brits who prefer classic Christmas markets can head to the stalls where there’s plenty to pick up as gifts. Soaps, candles and hats are all available as well as truly stunning jewellery, crystals, bags, lanterns and more.
Sweets, chocolates and tree decorations made from wood, glass and fabric are all available too – though prices may be higher than you’ll find elsewhere. There’s also a huge lit up Christmas tree to fill you with festive vibes.
Mulled wine costs around £5.40 and is deliciously spiced, but be warned many stalls don’t offer lids with your cups so bringing your own reusable cup could be a good shout.
The negative aspects of Winter Wonderland are ones that tend to plague the market each year. It is cold – so make sure you bring a hat, coat and gloves or you’ll be uncomfortable in no time. There are some areas with open fires such as the Bavarian Village and The Fire Pit. There's also a heated bar – part of which spins around as you drink – at the Carousel Bar.
Thousands of feet trampling through the park after rain also means there’s lots of mud on the ground. Wear sturdy, flat shoes to avoid going home covered in sludge.
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Winter Wonderland is also expensive with savoury food generally costing between £8 and £10. Rides also cost a lot to enjoy and so do some extras like the Ice Bar, Ice Kingdom and Cirque Beserk in the big top. If you want to save cash then go during off-peak hours when entry is free (you do still need a ticket) .
In my mind, while Winter Wonderland has aspects of a Christmas market it's more of a fun fair. A massive fun fair with beer, mulled wine, shows, ice and shopping. If you don't want to spend a fortune then go early in the day for a wander round, but anyone who attends in the evening and wants to eat, drink and be merry could quickly find themselves out of pocket.
Entry to Winter Wonderland costs nothing during off-peak hours, £5 during standard times and £7.50 at peak times. Children cost the same as adults, but infants are free at all times.
You can find out more and book tickets at hydeparkwinterwonderland.com.
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