There’s no shortage of places to get into the Christmas spirit. But if you want more of a festive feel than a crushing mass of bargain-hunting, with some carols thrown in, one of the many London Christmas markets might be more up your street.

There are plenty, and they’re usually filled with crafty stalls and creators selling their goods. So you can get something a little more unusual, and maybe even a story to go with it. The market is often only half the story too, with fairgrounds and festivities surrounding them, not to mention ice rinks and Santa’s grottos, with reindeer rides even making an appearance at some. Whether you just want to wander amidst the happy shoppers and enjoy the seasonal feels or tick off your shopping list, the winter markets in London are a must-do this Christmas.

If you’re looking for a bit of sparkle, do check out our top picks for London Winter Illuninations this year.

Leicester Square Christmas Market

The central London square gets a festive makeover that runs from early November until early January. Christmas in Leicester Square is filled with over 25 traditional market stalls, lots of food and drink stalls and Santa’s Grotto. There’s plenty of entertainment on inside the giant 1920s Spiegeltent. This year’s lineup includes kids’ shows like Schlomo’s Beatbox Adventure for Kids and Captain Flinn and the Pirate Dinosaurs: The Magic Cutlass. Night shows are for grown ups, including Lickable: The All Senses Christmas Cabaret, Literary improv from Austentatious and the cabaret/circus/comedy show La Clique. Entrance to the market is free, but you’ll need to pre-book for ticketed events.

Winter Festival at the Southbank Centre

The Southbank is fairy-lit and beautiful all year round, but it’s particularly twinkly and magical during the winter months. A big part of that is the Southbank Centre Winter Festival. It’s a seasonal highlight for Londoners and visitors alike with plenty of outdoor and indoor activities. Traditional, wooden-hut market stalls festooned with lights line the river bank each year as well as food stalls and cute pop-up bars. Follow the scent of mulled wine to explore hand-made gifts, crafts and eat cheese Bar Under The Bridge.

Once you’re done strolling, head into the Southbank Centre for warmth and entertainment. The line-up is a mix of free and ticketed events. Free events include Words Unwrapped poetry and storytelling and Drag Syndrome at Christmas. And you can kick off your sluggish Boxing Day feelings at Queer Tango on the Thames Winter Special. Cosy up in the Winter Pop-Up Cinema for for festive favourites like The Muppet Christmas Carol and Home Alone. If you’re feeling something live, you can watch comedy and cabaret too. While you’re in the area, be sure to check out our guide to cheap and free things to do in nearby Waterloo.

Hyde Park Winter Wonderland

With everything from ice skating and a ferris wheel to an ice bar, this winter wonderland has everything you need to get in the festive spirit. There’s free music across the site, over 100 fairground rides as well as SantaLand for kids. Get tickets in advance to certain activities like ice skating and the ice bar to avoid missing out.

This year’s attractions include a massive (70 M) observation wheel, the Winter Wonderland Comedy Club, Cirque Berserk, Paddington on Ice and ice sculpting workshops

London loves a riverside festive market, and while it doesn’t have a major cultural venue like nearby South Bank, the stretch of the Thames between London Bridge and Tower Bridge has all the ingredients for a Christmas market and festival. There will be cosy vibes at the wooden cabins and homemade gifts from independent traders. You’ll also find bars selling mulled wine and cider, craft beer and festive cocktails. You can top that off with some creative workshops if you’re feeling crafty. Check out our dedicated page below for more images and a full schedule

E17 Designer’s Christmas Markets

An annual Christmas market in Walthamstow, with stalls from independent creatives and makers. Expect to see a wide range of stuff from homeware, stationery, clothing, artworks, ceramics, glassware, leather accessories and skincare.

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There are actually two E17 London Christmas markets in two different locations during December, you can check out the traders for each one. Christmas Market 1 takes place on December 7 at Walthamstow Community Hub and Christmas Market 2 will be at One Hoe Street on 15 December. Pick up some cake and up of mulled wine while you peruse too. Check our full page for a detailed overview.

The St John’s Hospice Christmas Fayre

The annual fundraising Christmas Fayre returns to St John’s Wood High Street again, with festive favourites like Santa’s Grotto, fairground rides and plenty of stalls selling jewellery, clothing and accessorie. Local choirs, dance groups and band will be performing, and this year there will be horse and carriage rides too. So if stockpiling for Christmas stockings while listening to carols and sipping on mulled wine—if that’s not your perfect festive Sunday, we don’t know what is. Plus you’re supporting a charity. Last year’s event raised £15,000.00 for St John’s Hospice.

The Winter Forest at Broadgate Circle

The area around it might be flanked by big offices, city types and concrete but during November and December Broadgate Circle will be transformed into a festive winter forest lined with pine trees and full of cosy cabins, twinkly lights and plenty of food and drinks stalls.

Entrance is free, but some events will be ticketed will proceed going to local mental health charity to mental health charity Mind in the City, Hackney and Waltham Forest. Highlights including Quiz Nights, Gin tastings, well being and craft workshops a Santa’s Grotto, film screenings At Everyman Broadgate and live music.

Hackney Christmas Market

Hosted by the good folks behind Hackney Vegan Village and Ethical Emporium, Hackney Christmas Market returns triumphant and bigger than ever. With around 50 independant traders, you’ll find a wide range of gifts ideas, with a decidely environmentally friendly skew.

Bonus Festive Events

If you’re all shopped out from London Christmas Markets, try these bonus events for those festive feels:

Christmas at Kew

Enjoy London’s favourite Gardens at their most beautiful. The illuminations here are tasteful and create a magical trail with millions of flickering lights. You can see singing trees, giant flowers and kaleidoscopic projections on the palm house.

Ice Skating at Somerset House

Somerset Skating
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Skate, slide and try not to slip at Somerset House this winter as they open up the ice rink again for everyone from professionals to beginners. There will be special music events in the evenings called Skate-Lates with well-known names providing the soundtrack to your skating. While you’re in the area, check our guide to cheap and free things to do in nearby Waterloo.

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