How to make the most of the Southbank Christmas Market
When visiting the Southbank Christmas Market, spend no more than 2 hours here, and make it the first thing to do on your bucket list, but take your time here. The market isn’t really that big, so people don’t usually spend all day here, unless you want to spend time in the bars drinking and socialising. We’ll talk about that below.
The Southbank Christmas Market has different terms, “Southbank Winter Market” and Southbank Winter Festival” but it’s just one market. Don’t be confused about whether there are more than one market in Southbank, however, it’s ideal for families with young kids. If your kids don’t mind coming out at night, then, they’ll enjoy the atmosphere.
To get there, take the tube to Westminster Tube Station, cross Westminster Bridge over the River Thames next to Big Ben, and when you see the London Eye, you’ll be in Southbank already. Alternatively, you can get off at Waterloo Train Station, and walk towards the Southbank Centre. You can also get off at London Bridge too. It’s further away, but if you want to enjoy a nice walk on the strip of the Southbank, then feel free to do so. Click for 31 things to do in the Southbank including the Tower of London. Trafalgar Square is situated in the West End, and it’s just a 10 minute bus ride and 14 minutes walk from the Southbank. It’s better to walk, because you’ll get the chance to get up close and personal with the horses in Horse Guard Parade. They’ll be there after the Changing of the Guards in Horse Guards Parade at 12 pm. I haven’t had the chance to check out what’s going on at the Southbank Centre for Christmas since COVID, but hopefully, this year, I’ll be able to review the events.
Southbank Christmas Market
Feel the cold breeze and fresh air during winter. In London, during the December months, we hardly get blizzards or snow, and the wind can boost your immune system. You’ll see rows of wooden Christmas market stalls illuminated in the dark, and the sparkly lights from the Starflyer, where they’ll swing you around up into the air up to 75 metres high. You’ll hear screams, laughter, and the music sound from the carousel that’s always there no matter what season you visit. Hear “Jingle Bells” and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” by the River Thames while sipping mulled wine and cider, eat fish and chips, and burgers in the open-air beer garden by the River Thames. The River Thames can be industrial during the day with shipping containers, stationary boats, cranes, and the drilling sound building work, but at night, it does get intimate with the Christmas Market in place. The Christmas Market is by Waterloo Bridge, so you can still hear trains driving past, but it’s not going to ruin your time here. The cranes and building work stops operating during the evening, so it’s recommended to visit at night if you want a quiet and peaceful atmosphere. The weather will get at least a degree or two colder, but bring a thick jacket with you during the day and night. It can be sunny one minute and cold the next.
Go through the Enchanted Forest, where you’ll go through a small wood, and you’ll see a small wooden bridge taking you to more Christmas stalls selling chocolates and marshmallows on a chocolate fountain. Why not grab something to drink at the wooden cabin and socialise at the bar with your friends? It’s always crowded with people there, but there is less seating though. You’d have to stand up to drink with your friends. There are also tables and chairs to sit on while you take a break from Christmas shopping at the market.
Bar Under the Bridge Southbank
Bar Under the Bridge Southbank has been advertised very well on the media, and this is where people should go when visiting the Southbank Christmas Market. On the website, Bar Under the bridge looked festive, crowded, and colourful. There was a picture of people playing ping pong, people buying drinks from the bar, and a burger bar. The website stated that board games were available, so it looked promising.
I followed the sign to “Bar Under the Bridge” and the further I went, the darker it became. Bar Under the Bridge turned out to be small, and it wasn’t as lively as I thought it was. It was just a normal bar away from the crowds. You could also hear the train going past above you. As I stepped inside, there were 4 people each sitting in the five booths, and no one seemed to be playing ping pong, there weren’t any board games like they said on the website, the Burger Bar looked small and there weren’t many people ordering. I thought it was cheaper to buy the burger at the Christmas Market. I didn’t expect the Bar Under the Bridge to be like this; however, I was tempted to see what it was like, maybe it would be crowded but it was completely the opposite. However, Bar Under the Bridge is a nice quiet getaway from the busy Christmas Market and served a good selection of alcoholic drinks.
Circus Bar Southbank
Another bar that was advertised very well is the Circus Bar Southbank. It’s also situated further away from the market, and away from the busy crowds. The Circus Bar was quite difficult to find, but I followed the sign and stepped inside of what looked like a circus tent. There was an arrow that said “To the Circus Bar” at the entrance. If you’ve read the information on the website, I feel it’s kept its promises with the atmosphere, the food and drink, and the people compared to Bar Under the Bridge.
As I entered the tent, there were four large tables with around 12 people sitting on each. The environment was busier than the Bar Under the Bridge, it was my kind of scene. People were socialising, queueing up to buy their drinks, and in the middle of the tables, there were heater lights shaped like coals. On the far end of the circus tent, I saw another area full of bean bags and deck chairs where you can watch films. Check out their website for film timetables, but there were people that were there socialising. It was intimate and sociable at the same time. I recommend the Circus Bar Southbank for an intimate environment with enough people that won’t make you claustrophobic. 36 people in a big circus tent are enough to make your experience in the Circus Bar great.
Overall, the Southbank Christmas Market is very festive, there are lights everywhere and it’s a great place to socialise during the Winter months. People don’t spend a whole day here though, they’ll be there for an hour or two, then leave. As for the stalls, there was a selection of different Christmas products that you couldn’t get in the high street as they were all hand made. Although quite expensive, it’s worth having a look. There was also a selection of hot street food, such as fish and chips, burger and chips, steak, roast pork and many more.
As for Bar Under the Bridge and Circus Bar, I felt relaxed though in both bars, even though Bar Under the Bridge didn’t have anything going on. Both bars are intimate, but if you want to socialise, visit the Circus Bar. If you’re on a budget, the drinks here are quite expensive, but if you’re going to only be here once, then one drink won’t harm you.
Feel free to stroll the Southbank area by night. You’ll see all the famous attractions like St. Paul’s Cathedral and Shakespeare’s The Globe Theatre and Museum. The Southbank area at night can be breezy but when the wind sweeps your face, you’d feel the cold fresh air. It’s intimate, quiet, and peaceful after you’ve visited the Winter Market.
If you want gifts and buy something different for your loved ones, go to the Southbank Christmas Market. If you like to hang out in the cold, and feel the fresh breeze, drink mulled wine and eat hot street food to warm yourself up, then the Southbank Christmas Market has it all. Hang out at the beer garden overlooking the River Thames, put your feet up and enjoy the cold night air. Not for you? Go to the Circus Bar and just slump yourself into the bean bag and socialise. Whatever it is you want to do, there’s a lot going on than you might expect.
Just don’t judge the market before visiting. I thought it might be boring before I had a chance to see it. The market was quite simple with just hot food and drink and a few Christmas decorations and products, but I found that there was quite a selection of things to do and buy. Peek into the Southbank Centre’s website for Christmas events for the family to enjoy.
Compared to most Christmas markets around the world (where it’s over the top), the Christmas markets in London are simple but there are plenty of things to do, you’d be surprised that you have little time to experience everything. The quality of the photos you see online is what you get in real life. If you love the Southbank Christmas Market, check out Winter Wonderland in 2021, and Leicester Square Christmas Market.
Right now, be safe and take care.
Till next time!!!