Just across from the river from Strand Palace lies the Southbank, which provides seasonal treats all year round, but is at its best during the winter weeks and Christmas. A short saunter over Waterloo Bridge from the hotel, the Southbank has something for everyone.
Starting as it means to go on in November, all through the festive weeks the lights are on and sparkle against the timeless tide of the Thames. Along the riverwalk, Christmas markets and stalls serve up mulled wine and seasonal cheer.
The first stop is a London landmark – the London Eye, which provides views as enticing as dusk sets as it does during the day. Lights across the capital reveal a gleaming carpet of the cityscape and at this time of year, it’s more romantic still, with special edition evenings that offer hot chocolate or Prosecco to toast the town as the wheel slowly turns.
Touching back on terra firma, take a stroll along the Thames. There are stalls galore at this time of year, each as enticing as the next. The aroma of traditional winter warmers, from bratwurst to raclette and sweet treats make the wander a delight. In between all the foodie treats, there are stalls bedecked with crafty Christmas presents, more refined trinkets than tinsel tat – artists and artisan traders have made this promenade their own over the last few years. This winter market along Queen’s walk is as popular with Londoners as it is with tourists – there’s always something quirky but quintessentially London among the chalet-style stalls.
There are also pop-ups aplenty. Cornwall comes to London with spanking fresh oysters, proper fish and chips and festive cocktails and champagne at Applebee’s. The Circus Bar beside the Royal Festival Hall has fire pits ablaze, street food and a secret cinema. Jimmy’s Lodge, right next to Waterloo Bridge, is rightly alike for Londoners for its servings of alpine fondues, aspen fries and venison hotdogs – best enjoyed in one of their private igloos with the best over the water views. Bar Under the Bridge goes full-on Alpen, with heated chalet booths, made cosier still with fleece rugs and board games.
From the 19th of December through to the 5th of January, stop off at Circus 1903 at The Southbank Centre for thrills galore. Featuring artists from all around the world – from acrobats and trapeze artists to life-size elephants created by the puppeteers from War Horse, this is one of the most captivating Christmas shows on display during the winter season – a homage to the golden age of circus.
To step briefly aside from all the Christmas cacophony – as charming and as celebratory as it all is – stop off at The Purcell Rooms for a much-lauded production of Black Beauty. It runs from the 14th of December until the 5th of January, and through a strong story, puppetry and music takes grown-ups and children alike on a gallop that has garnered five-star reviews across the board.
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