Travel Flashback: Southbank Christmas Market

There’s nothing like the Christmas season (festive period, I mean) to make me quite sure that I will never get over missing London.

Not that there was really any doubt. I still haven’t unsubscribed from the TfL Weekly Updates emails, even though there is no reason for me to know which tube lines aren’t running and which Boris Bike stations are closed.

But anyway, I’ve been feeling especially nostalgic lately about London at Christmastime, and I realized there was one bit of it that I didn’t share in last year’s “Christmas in London” post. I thought this week would be a good chance to take a quick break from roadtrip posts for a bit of holiday cheer!

As you might guess, it takes place in my favorite spot in London – Southbank. Come November, a full German-style Christmas market springs up along the Thames, vending everything under the sun.

The first time Amity and I discovered it was right after we’d gone to see a production of Much Ado About Nothing at the Old Vic, starring James Earl Jones. His voice was just as good in person as you’d imagine it to be.  You could tell he was only speaking at conversational level, yet his voice boomed around the entire Death Star theatre as though he was using a megaphone!  I loved it.

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We decided to walk up to the river after the play was over, and we discovered the Southbank Christmas market. I went back a handful of times later on, after or between classes, since it was just over the bridge from LSE. I basically couldn’t get enough.

First of all, the entire place is draped in fairy lights!

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The river walk is lined with little wooden stalls selling food, drink, and festive goods. There’s even a stall selling more fairy lights. Very meta.

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The spread is pretty diverse.  There are, of course, roasted chestnuts and hot chocolate (did I mention Bailey’s hot chocolate? HELLO.), as well as plenty of stalls selling sweets, fudge, and all manner of warm gooey desserts.

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One time last year, Nausheen and I wandered over with a couple of hours to kill before our pub quiz night. We split a handful of hot chocolate samples and picked up a few holiday gifts for family. I loved these handpainted candles with scenes from all over the world on them, and the “smallest book in the world” stall which had holiday classics printed barely larger than a postage stamp (pretty sure it was leftover Flourish & Blotts inventory).

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Past the snacks & goodies, there’s a magical lit-up carousel before you start smelling the mulled wine and hot cider. That’s when you know you’re getting close to dinner…

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Nausheen and I got sucked over to one of the stalls that had steam billowing out from under the eaves, and found skillets the size of car tires overflowing with sausage and stuffing.

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She went with brisket on brioche and I had the turkey dinner sandwich, which was stuffed so full that I trailed shredded turkey behind me all the way back across the bridge. Ah well.

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After walking up the steps to the Golden Jubilee Bridges, we stopped for a last glance back over the twinkling roofs with hoards of happy holiday folk roaming among them.

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Of course, this was last year’s Christmas market. I’ve heard from friends and former classmates that it’s been arranged a little differently this year. Whatever the setup, I’m craving some peppermint cocoa and glühwein straight from Southbank. Londoners – go have some for me, okay? Today’s your last chance! And for more ideas on how to spend the holidays in the British capital, check out Jen’s guide to Christmas cheer in London.

I’ll be comin’ at ya with more western roadtrip excitement soon. Until then, Happy Christmas y’all!

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7 thoughts on “Travel Flashback: Southbank Christmas Market

  1. The christmas market on Southbank is always lovely to stroll through. I love all the pretty lights and the food. I went to Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park for the first time a couple of days ago. It’s like Southbank times 100!

    1. Agreed – Winter Wonderland is like the Southbank market on steroids! I just love Southbank so much though, especially set right along the river, that that’s where I always headed. So envious you’re enjoying the holiday in London – hope it’s been wonderful & Merry Christmas!

  2. I’m so obsessed with the Southbank as it is… nevermind the Christmas markets!! I miss being able to shop at the festive markets. They definitely always put me in the holiday cheer spirit!!! You are so lucky!! Happy 2015!!

  3. We strolled through Southbank but it was still too early for there to be many people or to have a truly festive feel. Now Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park? Insanity. I actually felt like running away screaming I was so overwhelmed.

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