There was a time when Harrods could confidently claim that it was the key destination that tourists headed to in London at Christmas. But not anymore. Even though its still a wondrous experience – for young and old alike – the teams of Santas working in the Grotto, the window displays, the toy department and the chance to buy the world’s most expensive box of Christmas crackers (yours for just £550) are all now losing ground to a bigger and brasher destination, namely London’s Winter Wonderland.
Based just up the road from Harrods in Hyde Park (so useful if you decide to give up queuing to see Santa at Harrods), London’s newest Christmas destination has something for everyone. Spread over several acres (so plenty of room to move, unlike another of London’s Christmas favourites, Hamleys toy store in Regents Street), the Wonderland offers something for all ages.
Adults might enjoy the Ski Zillertal Ice Rink – the UK’s largest outdoor rink – or the Giant Wheel, where you’ll be taken 60 metres into the air for a 15 minute ride overlooking the Wonderland and London.
Children might prefer a visit to the Magical Ice Kingdom which is full of ice sculptures and snow before wandering around a fairy forest. Or take them to see an ice lake before heading to an ice castle to meet the Snow Queen.
The Wonderland boasts two circus shows- Zippos Christmas Circus and Cirque Berserk, which both offer something a little different: Zippos offer clowns, acrobats, high-wire stunts, jugglers and the still-astonishing wall of death while Cirque Berserk is a more avant garde affair, full of daredevils, twisted stunts and their famous Globe of Terror.
Elsewhere there are Christmas markets, lots of other rides and lots (and lots) of bars and food concessions.
Be warned if you do decide to go, you’ll need cash, and plenty of it. Although entrance is free, the rides certainly are not. All the rides require tokens (purchased at £1 each) and expect to pay from £2 for children’s rides and £3 for the others.
Although its not as crowded as the big department stores, it does get very busy, so expect to queue.
The Wonderland is open from November 20 until January 3, but note that it will be closed on Christmas Day. It’s open from 10am until 10pm every day and although its absolutely heaving during the evenings and weekends, if you head down there during the weekdays or earlier in the morning, you’re more likely to be able to enjoy it.