Southbank Winter Festival is an annual event taking place on London’s Southbank. It celebrates the winter season with festive decorations, live music, food, markets and activities for the whole family. The festival takes place in from early November until mid-January and is free to attend.
Included in the Winter Festival is Southbank Christmas Market. Start dates and opening times are listed in this Christmas guide.
Southbank is located on the south bank of the River Thames in London. It’s a vibrant cultural area that is home to some of London’s most iconic landmarks, including the London Eye, the Royal Festival Hall and the National Theatre.
People visit Southbank for its unique cultural experiences, lively street performers, delicious street food, stunning views of the River Thames and general atmosphere as a hub of activity. It’s especially busy during the Christmas and New Year period.
Southbank Christmas Market 2023
The Christmas market in Southbank is unique in that it is one of the few outdoor markets in the heart of London. You’ll find a mix of traditional Alpine-style wooden chalets, street food stalls and live entertainment.
Visitors can find a range of unique gifts, festive foods, and plenty of opportunities to take in the Christmas spirit with mulled wine, hot cider, hot chocolate, unique teas and sparkling wines.
You’ll find stalls serving a variety of delicious dishes and snacks, catering to different dietary preferences and tastes, including these Southbank specialties.
- Warm drinks: To combat the chilly London weather, the Southbank Christmas Market has a selection of warm drinks, including mulled wine, hot cider, hot chocolate, unique teas, and sparkling wines. These are perfect for warming up while enjoying the holiday atmosphere.
- Cheese and sweet fondue: At the market, visitors can enjoy both cheese and sweet fondue, which are traditional Swiss dishes perfect for sharing. Cheese fondue typically consists of melted cheese served with bread, while sweet fondue typically features melted chocolate with a selection of fruits and marshmallows for dipping.
- Swiss-style raclette: Another Swiss favourite available at the market is raclette, which consists of melted cheese scraped onto a variety of accompaniments such as potatoes, pickles, and cured meats.
- Dutch pancakes: Known as poffertjes, these small, fluffy pancakes are a Dutch delicacy often served with toppings such as powdered sugar, syrup, and fruit.
- Gourmet cheese toasties: A local British favourite, gourmet cheese toasties at the market come in various flavours, combining different types of cheese with ingredients such as caramelised onions, chutneys, and cured meats. These are a great option for vegetarians, and you’ll find vegan toasties too.
- Truffle burgers: One of the market stalls sells mouthwatering truffle burgers, which combine high-quality beef patties with truffle-infused ingredients, creating an indulgent meal.
- Duck sandwiches and wraps: These sandwiches are made with slow-cooked duck in various preparations, such as confit or shredded, and served in sandwiches or wraps with accompanying sauces and vegetables.
- Lobster rolls: At Southbank Market, lobster rolls consist of freshly prepared lobster served in a buttered and toasted roll, often accompanied by a side of chips or salad.
- Choco fruit: For a sweet treat, visitors can enjoy choco fruit, which consists of fresh fruit, such as strawberries or bananas, dipped in melted chocolate and sometimes decorated with various toppings.
- Toasted marshmallows: A classic winter treat at the Christmas markets in London, toasted marshmallows are available on their own or as part of an American s’mores-inspired dessert.
When planning to visit London from another city or country during Christmas, it’s essential to begin organising your trip well in advance.
To make the most of your holiday experience at the Southbank Christmas Market, I’ve gathered essential information, including market dates, opening hours, and other key details to know before you head off on your festive adventure.
Dates and Location
Southbank Christmas Market dates: Likely dates: 2nd November to 26th December 2023. The Winter Festival continues until 7th January.
Location: The Queen’s Walk, not far from the London Eye.
Opening times: 11am to 10pm. Closes at 11pm on Fridays and Saturdays.
Christmas Day: Open.
Admission: Free, no tickets required.
Christmas lights: Yes, switch on date: 2nd November.
Ice skating: Not at Southbank but elsewhere in London.
Vegetarian: Yes, plenty of options.
Vegan: Yes, plenty of options.
Gluten free: Yes, but limited.
Pet-friendly: Yes. Dogs are allowed on a lead.
Parking: Please take public transport to help limit congestion.
Reason to visit: Unique performances, street food, hot toddies, cosy wooden chalets and pop-up bars. Not to mention the brilliant location on the River Thames.
Recommended tour: While you’re in the area, take a river cruise on the Thames or skip the line to go up the London Eye.
Specialties: Mulled wine, dutch pancakes, Duck wraps, chocolate fruit, truffle burgers, hot toddy.
Where to stay: CitizenM London Victoria is centrally located and not too far from the Christmas market.
Hotels near Southbank Christmas Market
Finding a hotel in London can be difficult if you don’t know the city well and the best areas to stay in. If you want to stay near the Christmas market, then this studio near the London Eye is a great option.
But I generally wouldn’t recommend staying in this part of the city if you’re visiting as a tourist. Where to stay obviously depends on why you’re in London. But if you want to be fairly central with shopping, theatre and museums at your door, I think Covent Garden or Soho are great options.
I suggest staying at the Covent Garden Hotel for its location and lovely rooms.
If you’re looking for somewhere more moderately priced, then CitizenM London Victoria is a great option.
Location of Southbank Christmas Market
There many fun and festive Christmas markets in the UK. Read my guide to discover where to go, things to do, and the best ways to experience UK food, history, and culture.
What to Expect at Southbank
What to Buy: Unique Gifts
At the Christmas market, you can find a mix of unique and festive gifts and products, perfect for treating yourself or your loved ones. Some typical items available at the Southbank market include:
- Handmade crafts: Discover unique, artisan-made crafts such as pottery, woodwork, glassware, and textiles, which make thoughtful and unique gifts.
- Jewellery: Browse a selection of handmade jewellery, including necklaces, bracelets, earrings, and rings, made from various materials like silver, gold, gemstones, and beads.
- Festive decorations: Find charming Christmas ornaments, garlands, wreaths, and other decorative items to adorn your home or gift to friends and family.
- Artwork: Explore a range of art pieces, including paintings, prints, photography, and sculptures, created by local and international artists.
- Clothing and accessories: Shop for cosy and stylish winter wear, such as scarves, hats, gloves, and socks, as well as other fashion accessories like bags and belts.
- Candles: Choose from a variety of scented candles, diffusers, and other home fragrance products to create a warm and inviting atmosphere during the holiday season.
- British gourmet foods: Delight your taste buds or gift loved ones with specialty food products like artisanal chocolates, gourmet sauces, jams, honey, spices, and oils.
- Traditional Christmas treats: Indulge in classic holiday sweets like mince pies, gingerbread, German stollen, and Italian panettone, perfect for sharing or gifting.
- Handmade toys: Find unique and charming handmade toys for children, including dolls, wooden puzzles, and games, ensuring hours of entertainment and imaginative play.
- Beauty and skincare products: Pamper yourself or your loved ones with natural and organic beauty and skincare products, such as soaps, bath bombs, lotions, and balms.
- Eco-friendly and sustainable products: Shop for environmentally conscious and sustainable gifts, including reusable bags, water bottles, and bamboo or recycled products.
- Books and stationery: Browse a selection of books, including cookbooks, children’s stories, and novels, as well as beautiful stationery items like notebooks, journals, and greeting cards.
Remember that the Southbank Christmas Market features a mix of local and international vendors, so you’ll likely encounter a diverse range of gifts and products catering to different tastes and preferences for local and international audiences.
Southbank has its own website with details on things to do in the area this winter. This includes winter exhibitions, classical music, comedy shows, art exhibitions and Christmas pantomimes. Visit them for the best ways to experience Southbank alongside the Christmas market at Christmas.
Sustainable Christmas Tips
As residents and visitors to Southbank and London, many of us are increasingly concerned about climate change and sustainability. To help lower our impact during our time at the Christmas markets and throughout the city, consider taking these small actions:
- Shop thoughtfully: Be selective in your purchases at the Christmas markets and focus on quality over quantity, ensuring you only buy items you genuinely need or appreciate.
- Opt for eco-friendly transportation: When exploring Southbank and the rest of London, choose to walk, cycle, or use public transport, reducing your carbon footprint and allowing you to discover the city at a more leisurely pace.
- Stay in a green hotel: Look for accommodations that prioritise sustainability, such as those powered by renewable energy, offering waste reduction programs, and using eco-friendly materials.
- Minimise plastic use: Avoid single-use plastics and choose products made or packaged with sustainable materials, such as biodegradable or reusable alternatives.
- Choose local, organic food: When dining out, opt for eateries that serve locally sourced, organic ingredients, which not only supports local businesses but also reduces the carbon footprint associated with transporting food.
- Limit meat and dairy consumption: Consider trying delicious plant-based options available at the Southbank Christmas Market and throughout London, reducing the environmental impact of your food choices.
- Support local arts and culture: Attend local events, exhibitions, and performances, contributing to the city’s vibrant arts scene and supporting the creative community.
- Rethink air travel: If feasible, consider alternative modes of transportation to reach London, such as trains or buses, which generally have a lower carbon footprint compared to flying.
Adopting these eco-conscious habits during your visit to Southbank and London can positively impact the environment and enjoy a more sustainable, authentic travel experience.
Southbank Christmas Market starts on 2nd November and ends on 26th December. The Winter Festival continues until 7th January.
The Christmas markets in Southbank are held at Queen’s Walk, along the Thames in Southbank.
The Christmas markets at Southbank open at 11am and continue until late.
Southbank’s Christmas markets close at 10 pm, except Fridays and Saturdays when it closes at 11pm.
Please comment below if you want to leave a review of Southbank Xmas Market.
Recommendations are independently chosen based on personal travel experiences and extensive research. This post contains affiliate links to hotels and tours in Southbank, UK. This means I get a small commission from any bookings at no extra cost to you.
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