Sleigh bells ring… as Hyde Park’s family-friendly Winter Wonderland returns for its 10th anniversary. London’s largest festive celebration is back with rides, Christmas markets, an ice rink, circus shows and even the world’s largest travelling rollercoaster.
Below is everything you need to know about this year’s seasonal celebrations.
Opening night is Friday November 18, at 5pm, and it will stay open until January 2, excluding Christmas Day, when it’s closed.
From November 19, it’s open from 10am until 10pm every day. It’s absolutely heaving during the evenings and weekends, so if possible, head down during the weekdays or earlier in the morning, when you’re more likely to be able to enjoy it all.
As ever, Winter Wonderland is taking over a little of Hyde Park, W2 2UH.
The nearest entrance is Brook Gate, but you’ll likely want to head to the entrance by Hyde Park corner, where the signage is up in all its sparkling glory.
Tube stops nearby are: Bond Street, Green Park (best for step-free access), Knightsbridge, Marble Arch, Hyde Park Corner, Paddington and Victoria.
Visit the Winter Wonderland website for full travel information.
Given it’s their 10th birthday, it’s perhaps no surprise they’ve gone all out this year. Many of the familiar events and stalls are returning for another year, but there are a few new attractions too.
Ice Rink – The picturesque ice rink has the park’s Victorian bandstand as its centrepiece and the ice is illuminated by a canopy of more than 100,000 lights. Sessions run 10am – 10pm, last 50 minutes and there’s a photographer on hand if you want a souvenir snap.
Munich Looping – Take a ride on the world’s largest transportable rollercoaster, which generates G-forces of up to 5.2G, which is equivalent to the amount an F1 driver experiences during a Grand Prix. A memorable experience to say the least, and a first for Winter Wonderland.
The Nutcracker on Ice – Another first for the Wonderland, this special production of the beloved ballet sees Clara and the Sugar Plum Fairy dazzle on ice. The Imperial Ice Stars promise to entertain during this 60 minute show. Suitable for all the family.
Magical Ice Kingdom – Ice sculptures and snow everywhere make this a rather special display. Wander around the fairy forest, see the dazzling ice lake and then head to the ice castle to meet the Snow Queen. Just don’t be alarmed if she gives you the cold shoulder.
Giant Wheel – You’ll be taken 60 metres into the air for a 15 minute ride overlooking the Wonderland and London. Private pods are available.
Two circus shows – Zippos Christmas Circus and Cirque Berserk both offer something a little different: Zippos brings laughs, clowns, acrobats, high-wire stunts, jugglers and the still-astonishing wall of death – gravity-defying motorcyclists whizzing around in a cylindrical chamber of deadliness – while Cirque Berserk is a more avant garde affair, full of daredevils, twisted stunts and their famous Globe of Terror (better not to ask – just go watch). Don’t forget to breathe.
Bar Ice – At a decidedly nippy eight below, it’s just as well sessions in these two ice bars only last 20 minutes. Included in your ticket (£15, plus booking fee online) is a cocktail, served a glass made of ice. There will, of course, be winter cloaks handed out to keep everyone warm. You’ll sit in glistening surroundings, complete with plenty of sculptures.
There will also be a chance for children to meet Father Christmas, who’ll be with his elves in his Santa Land grotto every day from 10am to 6pm. It’s free, children receive a free gift and there’s a chance to purchase an official souvenir photograph, but we’d recommend taking your own picture. Elsewhere there’ll be Christmas markets, lots of rides and plenty of food and drink, and a Sooty puppet show.
The best bars in London
1/50 Oskar’s Bar at Dabbous
39 Whitfield St, WIT 2SF, dabbous.co.uk
The website is pitch black, the bar itself is underlit, but the drinks are a radiant, white ray of beaming perfect light: heavenly. That’s a terrible pun, but they’re big on terrible puns, with drinks including Rye rye rye Delilah, Tequila Mockingbird and Whiskey business.
It’s a touch masculine – lots of dark leather – but you’ll get over that after the first serve, and hey, calling it industrial chic softens the blow. Given plenty of second-rate bars push £12 for gin with dead flowers, drinks here at around a tenner offer terrific value. Oskar Kinberg has built a menu doing different things: ingredients include gin washed with extra virgin olive oil, wild nettles, red wine reductions and shiso. But the results work: these aren’t odd blends for the sake of it, they’re balanced, nuanced, thought through. They’ve some seriously top shelf spirits, too.
3/50 White Lyan
153-155 Hoxton St, N1 6PJ, whitelyan.com
White Lyan looked at other bars, shrugged its shoulders and said: “to hell with it”. No ice, no fruit and, er, no spirits – at least, not that you’ll spot on the shelves. Oh, they don’t really do shelves, either. Everything here lives in a fridge, and is premixed, but not like in that terrible bar you’ve been trying to forget since uni. It’s done deftly, with a touch of science, as cool and clear as its black and white New-York-in-the-80s decor. There’s no chance for going off menu, but little need to: drinks are largely marvellous, bolstered by Mr Lyan’s own refined and remixed spirits.
Their take on classic cocktails are excellent, but be brave and work from the Heaps Mad Shit menu. Odder; better. They’ve also their own wines, a cider, and a very decent lager.
If you’re nearer Blackfriars, head to its sister bar, Dandelyan.
14/50 Sky Pod at the Sky Garden
1 Sky Garden Walk, EC3M 8AF, skygarden.london
The truth of it is, you come for the view, but good God it’s a great view, and 360-degrees at that. Up 35 floors, if you can think of a London icon, you can probably see it. When the weather’s good, get outside for some fresh air. With completely free entry and minimal security fuss, it’s worth making a reservation, though if you’re ok to queue, they’ll have you in. Cocktails aren’t torturously expensive, at around £11.50, and are very enjoyable – the cognac-chocolate-caramel-port mix that is Black and Gold is particularly good- so it doesn’t feel like they’re relying on the sights.
There’s a sense of special occasion, and all the more so with live music on Thursday, Friday and Saturdays. They’re hoping for jazz on Wednesdays, too. If you’re tempted to eat, Fenchurch and the Darwin Brasserie are well worth trying – Fenchurch is particularly good for veggies.
20/50 The Gibson
44 Old St, EC1V 9AQ, thegibsonbar.london
Given the dearth of decent cocktails in Farringdon, the tiny Gibson is a God-send. It’s a parlour pitched somewhere between Edwardian and Art Deco, and drinks aren’t simply poured here, they’re tended to, built, thought about, adored. All unsurprising, really, given the team learnt their trade at the likes of Nightjar and The Connaught.
This place is doing more creatively to push bartending forward than any bar that’s opened up in a while, so ask the team for recommendations and you’ll be presented with something magic. You’ll need to ask, actually, as the menu is a novel and there’s the risk of wasting the evening reading instead of drinking, and that simply wouldn’t do at all.
28/50 Trisha’s (New Evaristo Club)
57 Greek St, Soho, W1D 3DX
Drinks don’t make a bar, and thank goodness, as the stuff served at Trisha’s – named for its owner – is uniformly pretty awful: red and white wine you’d consider an insult if a friend served it at supper, prosecco wildly overpriced, terrible spirits ecetera ecetera. At more than 70, the club is Soho’s oldest, and while nobody who goes there can ever remember anything changing – it’s often quite hard to recall much about Trisha’s in crystal detail, as it happens – nothing needs to. The bad wine and expensive mixers and paint stripper spirits are all part of the point: it’s a glorious drinking den, and marvellous, marvellous fun. There are characters here: the last time we were in, we sat being scared witless by an old East End gangster who said he’s known the Krays. Tremendous. Long may this place live.
47/50 First Aid Box
119 Dulwich Rd, SE24 0NG, firstaidbox2015.com
This place really is worth travelling to Herne Hill to, which must be saying something. The team behind Shrub Shutter have thickly laid on the pharmacy theme here, with ‘cure-all’ drinks. It’s not an idea which sounds like it should work, and yet, how much better life would be if they were one of the emergency services. Expect ‘saline’ drips, syringes, and the likes of plastic lungs – their take on thirst aid – but rest assured, flavours aren’t medicinal in the slightest. At £8 – 10 a drink, it’s reasonable for London, and wonderful to see a bar really trying something new. Bravo.
Media Wisdom Photography – Giles Christopher
You can wander around Winter Wonderland ticketless and for free, but you’ll need tickets for the major attractions. Book them in advance: Wonderland gets Oxford-Street-packed at its busiest and the wait for rides can last a lifetime. Besides that, many simply sell out. Prebooking means you’ll get “fast track” entry.
Tickets can be bought for Ice Skating, The Magical Ice Kingdom, Zippos Christmas Circus, Cirque Berserk, the Giant Wheel, Bar Ice, The Sooty Christmas Show and the Nutcracker on Ice.
For prices, check this page. Bear in mind that peak time tickets cost more than off-peak slots and that there are booking fees online.
What to bring
Wrap up warm: the Winter Wonderland is outdoors, so layer up. This is especially true if you’re making your way to the Magical Ice Kingdom or Bar Ice, both chilled to -8°C. Talk about bracing.
You’ll also need cash, and not just to get your fill of mulled wine. You’ll struggle around the winter markets without it, and all the rides require tokens (purchased at £1 each). Expect to pay from £2 for children’s rides and £3 for others.
For more information, visit hydeparkwinterwonderland.com
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