Where To Go Instead Of Winter Wonderland
photo credit: Rules
Winter Wonderland is the annual Christmas festival that separates the wheat from the chaff. It is a mental test in what will break you first. Is it the £11 shot of mulled wine? Or is it the dystopian Bavarian village? Maybe it’s the ferris wheel of screams rotating over Hyde Park. With that in mind maybe, just maybe, you should give it a pass. After all, there’s plenty of festive spirit to go around. From mainlining fondue to London’s oldest and most Christmassy restaurant, here are five alternatives to shivering in Hyde Park.
Berlin has WeihnachtsZauber, Budapest has its market at the Basilica, and London has got… so much more than the soggy nightmare that is Winter Wonderland. Head to Southbank Centre’s Winter Market for toasted marshmallows, dutch pancakes, and an alpine-themed curling bar. If you’re looking for a warming sit-down situation, book a private snow globe where you can get all the cheese fondue your heart—and stomach—desires.
Rules first opened in 1798 and lays claim to being London’s oldest restaurant. That means it’s been celebrating Christmas for hundreds of years, and you’d be forgiven for thinking that some of its dickie bow-tied staff have been working at this Covent Garden classic since day one. Plenty of people come here year in and year out, but there’s no need for rose-tinted glasses as this place leans maroon mixed with velvet, glitter, and distinctly un-festive murals of Maggie Thatcher. But every holiday celebration needs its grinch. Food-wise, imagine Henry VIII’s diet with a side of Eton school dinners.
If the idea of sliding around a freezing ice rink isn’t appealing, then let us look deep into your eyes and say, we hear you. We’re also here for you, because Somerset House is one of London’s most beautiful and festive-feeling spaces, whether you’re on the ice or not. We’d recommend getting a bottle of something fizzy and settling in to watch people fall arse over tit. It really is quite entertaining. There are exciting food and drink options as well, including Chalet Suisse—a Swiss pop-up with fondue, macaroni, and salted caramel espresso martinis.
Not only does this Balham restaurant and bar have a private cinema room that you can book out for peak winter cosiness, but their Winter Garden has everything from fairy lights to a snow machine so you can create your own private winter wonderland. Book out the whole space and stick around until 2am (when they close on the weekends). They have a long drinks list that covers everything from pints to pornstar martinis, as well as a Christmas feasting menu. If you’re not looking to book out the whole space know that they’ve got a heated terrace for smaller groups.
You know how there’s always one house that goes all out with fake snow, inflatable snowmen, and enough flashing LED light bulbs to give you a headache? Clos Maggiore is London’s restaurant equivalent. Although there are wild rumours that it’s the city’s most romantic restaurant (if you’re easily seduced by white tablecloths, tweezer-plated French food, and flowers carpeting the ceiling), in December, it’s all about Big Bauble Energy. Think a collab between Cindy Lou of Whoville and the Chelsea Flower Show, with a light-up sleigh outside, and green foliage, twinkly baubles, and fairy lights inside. Plus, the roaring fireplace really has its moment.