It’s that time of the year again. Christmas markets, stressful gift shopping, eating your bodyweight in desserts everyday, festive foods being released left, right and centre, and of course, one of the must-dos each year, going to Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland.
Winter Wonderland is a huge event put on every year in London based on the famous German Christmas markets. From this fact alone you can already guess it is not the most vegan-friendly place you can go to. The first time I went was last year with my boyfriend and we now say we’re going to try and go every year because we do have a lot of fun despite how extremely overpriced it is, how crowded it is, and how difficult it is to find some decent vegan food. But we love the rollercoasters and rides as well as the amazing festive atmosphere, music and *some* food, if you know where to look (like on this blog post!)
What is there to do there?
Aside from all of the food stalls, markets, bars and everything you would expect from a Christmas market, you can also pre-book certain events like the circus, ice rink, ice bar, restaurants and so much more. However, looking at the menus at the restaurants, none of them seem particularly vegan-friendly or like they care much for vegan food.
The Tea on Rollercoasters
We love to go on the rollercoasters, although they are super expensive. I recommend the Hangover if you want to see a breathtaking view of London for 3 seconds before plunging to, what feels like, your death. I also recommend the Munich Looping, but I would avoid the Wilde Maus XXL, it is disappointing and not worth £6 (!) You can buy ‘tokens’ from different stands to pay for rides which range between £5 – £10 per ride for adults, but bare in mind most of the rides take contactless as well! We paid for £20 worth of tickets between us at first which paid for one ride at £6 each and one person for an £8 ride, so we ended up using contactless for the rest.
This is the important thing. If you don’t mind being surrounded by meat everywhere, German sausages, animal burgers, animals on skewers, and other disgusting things then you won’t mind coming here. You should know that some of the things I saw literally made me want to throw up (meat eaters are weird AF). There are also some foods like chocolate fountains, waffle cones, pancakes, crêpes and other stuff you might get jealous of your pals eating so watch out for that.
Where to Avoid Eating
A number of places offer vegetarian options and veggie burgers etc but I would avoid eating at these places, even if they tell you the options are vegan. Unless the option is specifically labelled ‘vegan’ in writing – don’t do it. I learnt this after asking around for a few options, and an alarming number of people didn’t seem to know or care enough to check. One woman from the ‘Burger Shack’ told me their veggie burger was vegan when I could clearly tell it wasn’t and she seemed really apathetic to it – AVOID.
Where To Eat
Personally, I’d rather give my money to specifically vegan/vegetarian companies or companies which genuinely put effort into making delicious vegan options. There are two stalls for specific vegetarian food, they are bright and clearly state they are vegetarian only! They offer garlic bread with toppings and pizza, and label the vegan options.
One of their stands also offers a vegan burger (horray!) and I also managed to find only one other stand which offered a vegan burger that I cannot remember the name of, but it wasn’t that good anyway. The best burger of the two was definitely from the veggie stall.
Winter Wonderland also offers a ‘street food’ market where you will find more vegan-labelled food options. You can get vegan hotdogs from Oh My Dog or a vegan chickpea and mushroom curry from Makatcha Eats! Definitely check out the street food section to find some more delicious finds.
What about dessert?
Once you’ve filled up on burgers, hot dogs, pizzas, garlic bread and curries, you may be in the mood for something sweet. Let’s face it, you’re surrounded by all the delicious desserts, you’re bound to want something. I was so excited when I managed to find somewhere that does French galettes, these are made with buckwheat and are gluten free as well as vegan (and labelled vegan!) You can choose different toppings like a variety of fruit, cinnamon and sugar, lemon and more. I went light and only got cinnamon and sugar in mine, after all I had just munched on a pizza and 2 burgers (oops), but nevertheless it was delicious.
TIP: Anytime you see somewhere you may want to eat or come back to, TAKE A PICTURE OF IT and its surroundings. Winter Wonderland is so huge we spent hours looking for places we said we’d come back to because we weren’t hungry at the time. And this is the same issue we had last year – you’d think we would have learnt by now?!
Here is the place that served the delicious French galettes:
Where to Drink
It’s not all about food, Winter Wonderland is full of bars and carts with any drink you could possibly want. They serve mulled cider, specifically Brother’s Toffee Apple, at most places which is vegan-friendly, tasty and perfect for the cold weather.
Only a selection of places have soya milk so you may have to ask around if you’re looking for a tea or coffee (I had to go to 4 stalls before I found one), but they are there somewhere so don’t give up! I’m not 100% sure if there are any vegan hot chocolates around as I didn’t want to take the risk.
Is it worth going?
The big question – is it worth it? Winter Wonderland is a lovely place if you’re looking for somewhere with a good atmosphere to get you into the festive spirit. I don’t think it is worth the money, it can get seriously over-crowded and 90% of the time you’re just walking around. My advice would be to plan your day and know what you want to do beforehand to avoid getting overly stressed out and restless.
How to avoid spending too much:
If you want to spend the minimum amount of money, here are my tips:
- Eat a big meal before hand and only buy something small there if you must (like a French galette for £5 + toppings)
- Get some cash out BEFORE as the cash machines on site charge you almost £3 to take money out and not everywhere accepts card
- Don’t plan to go on any rides unless you want to fork out the cash, they’re not worth the money but some are quite good
- Spend minimal time on the fairground games because you will get addicted and they’ll eat up your money
- There’s enough to do there that doesn’t involve spending money like listening to the live music, sitting by the firepit and chatting, browsing around the stalls, or having a cute Christmas photoshoot with your friends (there are so many great photo opportunities!)
What to do instead of Winter Wonderland
Most towns and cities have VEGAN Christmas markets where you can eat everything and probably at much better prices. Make sure you look up whether your town has one coming up.
London Vegan-Friendly Christmas Events
- Zero-Waste Christmas Market at Hoxton Arches (December 8th)
- Animal Aid Christmas Fair at Kensington Town Hall (December 9th)
- Doggy Style Christmas Market at 26 Leake Street (December 9th)
- Urban Makers Christmas Market at Ecology Pavilion (December 8th and 9th)
Other London Christmas Markets
- Ally Pally Christmas Carnival at Alexandra Palace (until December 16th)
- Winterville at Clapham Common (until December 23rd)
- Winter Market at Southbank Centre (until December 27th)
Of course, there are many more so do lots of research! Look locally and watch out for pop-ups you may not want to miss! Winter Wonderland can be great but it is over-rated at times, overpriced all the time, and isn’t the most vegan-friendly place you can enjoy Christmas.