I get it. Winter Wonderland? Kind of a big deal. But what if I told you there was more than one festive funland to drink too much cider and lose all your friends this season? Have you ever been to a rooftop ice rink? Got drunk in a hot tub by the Thames? Met actual Santa (or a very good lookalike)? If you’re looking for some alternative Christmas festivals to liven up those long evenings, we’ve got eight greats that might just fit the bill, baby.
Whether you’re in the market for a brain, a heart, some courage, or just a tiny dog, this East London pop-up is the place you’re gonna find it. Follow the Yellow Brick Road to the Queen of Hoxton where their Emerald City rooftop is bringing you marshmallows for the roasting and cocktails for sipping. And the best part? If you click your heels three times, you’ll magically whisk home. That’s a massive lie, but there’s the night tube and stuff.
Can’t make it out to Val-d’Isere? Get your après ski fix down in the Val-de Wandsworth Bridge as Winterland returns to the waterfront with your designated alpine escape. This year the Fulham pop-up will have it all, from DJs, games and Christmas cocktails, to cute igloos for you to chow down in, and hot tubs - hot tubs! - where you can sip prosecco under the stars.
Another spot with a passion for all things polar, Skylight is bringing all the fun and potential for injury with Europe’s only rooftop ice rink. Alongside spins and slips you can grab some delicious sips and eats too, as they roll out a neat little menu of warming street food and seasonal cocktails. I’m sure mulled wine is as good as anything for that broken shoulder.
Wish it could be Christmas everyday? That is a big and very expensive ask that will most likely end in gout. However, at Ice Bar they can guarantee you a perpetual winter. Adventure over to the Heddon Street hideaway for a unique drinking experience that will have you trussed up like an arctic explorer and sipping on chilled fizz among ice sculptures and colourful murals.
Planning a big group trip to bustling Christmas pop-up? Between too much mulled wine, no space to stand and your thirsty pal who makes one too many jokes about sitting on Santa’s lap, it’ll be nightmare scenes from the get-go. Instead, book a spot for up to 12 of you in Kens Bar & Garden where their chic igloos are offering you plenty of space to enjoy food, drinks and good company at a safe distance from any unsuspecting Santas.
Southbank Centre Winter Festival
With sonic sandpits and immersive installations, the Southbank Centre is the art freaks’ table in the high school cafeteria of seasonal pop-ups. When you’re not toting your cultural capital at topical cabaret shows and photography exhibitions, the SC has got more than a few spots for you to refuel. Duck into their circus-themed bar overlooking the river, or head below Hungerford Bridge for street food and craft beers.
The Winter Forest at Broadgate Circle
Head over to Broadgate Circle from November and you’ll find their usual sea of city sorts, and people who arrived too early for their train, switched up in favour of Scandi-style surroundings and seasonal treats. Alongside showcasing some of the excellent bars and restaurants in the area, including Nyoke and Mr Fogg’s, they’ll be offering you the chance to get involved with quiz nights, film screenings, live music and the chance to meet Santa.
Christmas At Kew
The more wholesome way to do festive fun this year, Kew Gardens’ Christmas glow-up is much more than just a gathering for families and those couples who feel the need to be touching at all times. They’ve got mulled wine, hot cider and sourdough pizza, alongside rides, laser shows and the most categorically Instagrammable trees in London.
If you're looking for more winter pop-up inspiration, we've got a guide to the very best of them.