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. I’ve put together this guide to help you plan your day and avoid my mistakes!
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 the food is good if you know where to look.
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 so go with caution.
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 into, 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. It’s important to know where to go and plan ahead as you can end up walking around for hours (like us). As it’s such a meat-heavy place, I wasn’t surprised that a lot of the people there didn’t even know what vegan was and thought it was interchangeable with vegetarian. So I’d only eat food that is specifically labelled vegan as one woman from the ‘Burger Shack’ was adamant their veggie burger was vegan when it very clearly wasn’t.
Personally, I’d rather give my money to specifically vegan/vegetarian companies anyway 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!) 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. I was so excited when I managed to find somewhere that does French galettes, these are similar to crêpes but made with buckwheat and are gluten free as well as vegan. You can choose different toppings like a variety of fruit, cinnamon and sugar, lemon and more. Here’s a photo of the stall:
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 couldn’t find them again.
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, but they are there somewhere so don’t give up!
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.
Going to Winter Wonderland on a budget:
If you still want to go but don’t want to fork out on too much, here are my tips for spending less but still having a good time:
- Eat a big meal beforehand and only buy something to eat (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 as they are definitely overpriced, only plan to go on one if you really want the experience
- Spend minimal time on the fairground games because they are addictive and made to 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.