Hyde Park Winter Wonderland 2012 has had mixed reviews; some people claim that you can spend all day there, whilst others believe that it's not worth a visit at all. Having experienced the disappointing Southbank Christmas market already this year, I was, perhaps pessimistically, expecting the latter.
However, even from Hyde Park Corner, it's clear that it's worth a visit, just for soaking up the atmosphere. The big wheel juts up into the sky, guiding visitors towards the lively fairground, making it easy enough to spot in the rolling landscape of Hyde Park.
Entrance is free, and it's well worth a wander around. The entrance is lined with festive stalls, creating a well-lit boulevard leading vistors gently towards the larger attractions. Traditional German sweet stalls gave way to craft stalls, food stalls... several of the stalls were familiar from my previous trips to the Leeds Christmas Market.
Further on, the German food market creates an olfactory reminiscence of Christmasses long since passed.
Although the layout is initially confusing, with decisions over which path to take to avoid missing any of the fun, it soon becomes clear that the entire area is set out in a circle, so the best option is to choose one direction and stick to it. With large landmarks such as the big wheel and other rides, maintaining a sense if direction is straightforward, although in darkness, it all looks very similar.
The main attractions such as the ice rink and ice kingdom get booked up in advance, so making a reservation is key. We opted just to go ice skating, and although it was on the pricey side, it was definitely worth it. The ice rink forms a ring around the Victorian bandstand, complete with a central Christmas tree, and the sky above is lit with a criss cross of fairy lights, making an oh-so-romantic scene.
My inner adrenalin junkie was tempted by the zip-wire, which allows people to skim across the top of Winter Wonderland, sailing over the heads of unsuspecting visitors below.
Hyde Park Winter Wonderland is 100% worth a visit. If you're stretched for time or money, just pop in and have a wander around the stalls, preferably at night if you fancy some festive atmosphere. If you've got more time, spend a whole afternoon here, as there's plenty to eat, drink and do.